A sleepless Thanksgiving night has resulted in some stat-crunching and I came up with a few reasons why NDSU is a dangerous team in this postseason.
#1. The Bison take care of the football. As another poster noted on a different thread, there is exactly one team in the playoff field that is negative in the giveaway-takeaway category (UNH), highlighting the age-old trend of not winning football games if you cough the ball up. QB Jensen has been ultra-efficient this season and has thrown just two interceptions all year, though a potential third was called back on a roughing the passer penalty. Though Jensen's accuracy (and thus production) took a bit of a dip in the last three games of the season due to a nagging turf toe injury, his statistically-worst game comes with a 50% completion mark, which still isn't bad. He was able to bump his accuracy back up vs. WIU and with a week of rest, one has to think he'll be able to better acclimate himself to his injury and get back to midseason form.
#2. The Bison can keep teams out of the endzone. Here's one from the stat books: 48 TDs scored vs. 20 TDs allowed on the season in a conference that includes five teams in the top 51 scoring offenses in the nation. That, combined with a scoring defense allowing 14.91 points per game, is what has allowed the Bison to win eight of their ten games by double digits, and the one loss was by three points. With the Tampa-2 "bend but don't break" scheme Defensive Coordinator Scott Hazelton runs, the Bison are allowing just three trips to the red zone per game, and opponents score just 75% of the time there - thus, the Bison know how to stiffen defensively.
#3. The Bison players and coaches have been here before. Coach Bohl is used to the view from the top from the 06-07 years and led this team to an improbable playoff run last year with a disciplined rushing attack and strong line play. This team is dominated by underclassmen who cut their teeth in the playoffs last season and who put their noses to the grindstone this year to replicate the success they had last season. One thing this coaching staff excels at is adjustments - take a look at the scoring by quarter across all eleven games this year:
That indicates an ability to make offensive changes after the first quarter (when frequently we've found ourselves knocking on the door as the first quarter ticks out) and more so at halftime. The lone spot of concern is that the fourth quarter has been the proverbial "fertile ground" scoring-wise for opposing teams.
SCORE BY QUARTERS 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total
-------------------- --- --- --- --- ---
North Dakota State.. 55 132 111 70 - 368
Opponents........... 23 51 34 56 - 164
#4. Home advantage through to Frisco. Self explanatory. Even UNI coach Mark Farley attributed our win over the Panthers to the crowd, and with his distaste for NDSU, that seems high praise. Tickets are going and the Fargodome should be packed - since 2006, the Bison are 26-8 at home (including a dominant 1-0 in the FCS playoffs ) and the marketing team is gearing this fanbase up to get wild during the playoffs.
Just a few and I'm sure I'll dig up something else in the morning. Just some things to ponder, and I'm sure NDSU isn't the only team that exhibits these characteristics. Injuries are a concern for the Bison, and our rushing attack isn't what it was last year, but the team as a whole has improved at nearly every level since last season - we're ready to rock and roll.