The Bobcats (11-1, 6-1) will hardly have to adjust their game plan for the visiting Sam Houston State Bearkats (SHSU) (9-3, 6-1 Southland) on Friday. The Bearkats knocked off Cal Poly in the second round of the FCS Playoffs, 18-16, and play a game similar to Stony Brook’s.
SHSU is the seventh-ranked rushing offense in the league, just below the Stony Brook Seawolves’ sixth ranking. The Bearkats average 273.9 yards rushing per game, but the SHSU passing offense is not as efficient as Stony Brook’s, though they’re ranked ninth in total offense and second in scoring offense.
They average 186.6 yards passing per game. That offense certainly didn’t show up against Cal Poly considering their 57th ranked defense, so don’t expect the Bearkats to blow up the scoreboard despite their 42.3 point-per-game average, especially in front of 20,000 Bobcat fans, in 33-degree weather.
The Bearkat defense may be a problem for MSU running backs Cody Kirk and Orenzo Davis. They’re ranked third against the run, so look for the slippery DeNarius McGhee to make things happen with his legs like he did Saturday against Stony Brook. He will once again probably be the leading MSU rusher. There will also be opportunities in the air, as SHSU is ranked just 75th in overall pass defense, so McGhee and the Cats should go to the air early. Look for wide receiver Tanner Bleskin to have a huge game.
The Bobcats and Bearkats are even on special teams, though SHSU may start with better field position due to their return game and MSU kicker Rory Perez has the fourth best field goal percentage in the league.
Expect the game on Friday to be similar to the Stony Brook game. MSU and SHSU have nearly identical time-of-possession averages. Both teams will attempt to win the time-of-possession battle by moving the chains any way they can, and whoever wins that battle may win the game. It is imperative that MSU scores first and plays from ahead, as game time will disappear quickly when the ball is in the hands of the Bearkats.
Prediction: Cats win, 24-16
Eastern Washington defeats Illinois State, 34-28
North Dakota State defeats Wagner, 28-14
Old Dominion defeats Georgia Southern, 31-24