Northwestern State currently ranks in the top 20 in the FCS in yards allowed, and yards gained. The offense is legitimately explosive, with the ability to give the Bearcats fits if UC plays as loose and conservatively as they did in the back end against Illinois.
For me it all starts with their coaching staff, as it always does. Robby Brown won a national championship at the division II level by blending elements of the Air Raid* with a potent running attack. The end result was not dissimilar to what Dana Holgoreson did with Oklahoma State and West Virginia, but the philosophy is different. The Blazers went under center a lot, and ran a surprising amount from under center. At NSU the approach has changed slightly, they still run a fair amount, but they are exclusively in shot gun and don't seem to deviate from their 11 personnel often.
*Valdosta State is, of course, the ancestral home of the Air Raid
It all starts with Zach Adkins for the Demons. He is their junior quarterback and the fulcrum of the offense. When he plays well, as he did against Southern, the offense is lights out. When Adkins is off the Demons as a team contemplate boarding the struggle bus for the day/night.
There isn't one go to player outside of Adkins for the offense. They split time between two running backs, Robert Walker (who leads the team in carries and yards) and Daniel Taylor (who leads in yards per carry). The passing game is similarly balanced. Bryant Mitchell and Ed Eagan lead the way; both have 10 catches, around 140 yards for the year. Then there is a drop off to the next level guys like Cody Jones and Shakier Ryan. This is an interesting offense, and one that will stress the Bearcats laterally like Illinois did, but it is hard telling just how much punch this group has projecting up a level.
If there is a concern with the Demons defense it has to be with their ability to get to the pass rusher. They have seven sacks on the season, six of them coming against Southern. In the world of FCS football Southern is like a good MAC school. Take from that what you will.
This is the year of the FCS upset, which makes me incredibly leery of labeling this game as a tune up game for the Bearcats. But any opponent would be a good chance to tune up the offense and defense. But it kind of has to be. The coaching staff still has to figure out where all the pieces of the puzzle fit, particularly on offense. Even with the changes that are coming, this is a game that the Bearcats should win, even if it won't exactly be comfortable.
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