YSU - Youngstown State quarterback Kurt Hess probably had the game of his career against UNI two weeks ago. The junior was 20 of 28 with four touchdowns and truly managed the game well. On the season, he's thrown for 765 yards, has a 66 percent completion percentage and hasn't thrown an interception yet. He will need to duplicate - and even go a step farther - this week against a tough NDSU defense.
NDSU - Brock Jensen might be the only quarterback in the Missouri Valley Football Conference that can even be talked in the same category with Hess. The junior on the season has thrown for 841 yards on 69-of-98 passing. Like Hess, he's thrown eight touchdowns and also doesn't have an interception. This is an epic quarterback matchup.
EDGE - Even
YSU - The running back tandem of Jamaine Cook and Torrian Pace has been a steady, consistent force for the YSU offense so far this season. Cook is averaging 110.5 yards per game and has scored five touchdowns. Pace has been used more in short downs, rushing for 209 yards and four touchdowns. He's also been a go-to on goal line touchdown runs. If the two can find some running room in against a strong defensive line and keep drives going, it will mean good things for YSU.
NDSU - Starter Sam Ojuri will not play against the Penguins on Saturday after pleading guilty to misdemeanor petition fraud this past week. However, the Bison till have leading rusher John Crockett. The sophomore has rushed for 329 yards and four touchdowns. With Ojuri out of the lineup, the next running back to go to is Deveon Dinwiddie, who has 130 yards on the season.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - Will Shaw was back to his old way against UNI, catching five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Quietly behind Shaw is Christian Bryan and Andre Stubbs, with 160 and 131 yards, respectfully. The receivers will face a very tough secondary this weekend, so limiting drops will be a key. If they get their hands on it, they have to make it count.
NDSU - Zach Vraa is overwhelmingly Jensen's favorite target with 22 catches for 350 yards and two touchdowns. A lot of those yards came against Prairie View A&M in the third week of the season, when he caught for 156 yards.
EDGE - Even
YSU - Three words to describe the Penguin line are consistent, smart and gelled. The line is making its fifth straight start together this year, which only adds to the consistency of the line. This season, the front five have only allowed two sacks and create running lanes a mile wide for Cook and Pace to run through.
NDSU - Those same words can describe the line for NDSU. Led by left tackle Billy Turner, the line also has only allowed two sacks through four games. The YSU running game has put up a few more yards than that of the Bison, but again, this is a very even matchup in front. This is definitely an area that whichever line produces the most, might mean the outcome of the game.
EDGE - Even
YSU - Kyle Sirl will be getting the first start of his career on Saturday, which is much deserved. He's been playing solid and had a breakout game against Albany with two sacks. The line has been probably the best part of the defense this year, limiting the opposition to 408 yards, an average of 102. The defensive front will face a tough offensive line, so it needs to stay strong and follow assignments. As defensive end Aronde Stanton said this week, they need to limit their mistakes.
NDSU - If there is one thing the Bison like to do is get after the quarterback. Tackle Leevon Perry has 2.5 sacks and nose guard Ryan Drevlow has 10 tackles, including a sack and a tackle for loss. They have limited the opposing running attack to 61 yards per game, but I doubt they have faced a running back like Cook this year. It will be interesting to see what YSU can do on the ground against a tough line.
EDGE - NDSU
YSU - Coach Eric Wolford made the move this week to start Ali Cheaib over Teven Williams and Travis Williams over Dugem Nwadiogbu. Those are great moves for the linebackers as Cheaib has been playing well, and was instrumental in the final drive against UNI. He has 14 tackles on the season. Travis Williams is YSU's most physical tackler and leads the team with 19 tackles. This group hasn't had a big, game-changing play this season, but one today could be a huge boost.
NDSU - The three leading tacklers on the Bison defense are the three starting linebackers. Middle linebacker Grant Olson has a team-high 27 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. Travis Beck at the WILL spot has 19 tackles, 3.5 for loss and 3 sacks.
EDGE - NDSU
YSU - The Penguins secondary needs to have the game of their lives. Against UNI, the Penguins allowed 290 yards in the air and three touchdowns. The defensive backs got their first interception of the season against UNI, with Jeremey Edwards picking off Sawyer Kollmorgen. Dom D'Alesio had a nice game against the Panthers two weeks ago, breaking up three passes - including the ball that could have been the game winner. This unit has had an extra week to prepare, let's hope it pays off.
NDSU - The only defensive player that Wolford pointed out this week was cornerback Marcus Williams, who he said is the best corner on the FCS level. He already has two interceptions on the season. Strong safety Bryan Shepherd has 11 tackles on the season. The pass defense has allowed 143 yards per game. That could mean good things for Hess and the YSU offense.
EDGE - NDSU
YSU - Field goal kicker David Brown remembers the Fargodome quite well. He kicked two field goals there last year, including the game winner. On the season, Brown is 3 for 3, all from the distance of 20 to 29 yards. Another big factor in this game will be field position, meaning Nick Liste's punting will be quite important. He's averaging 38.8 yards per punt and his long on the season is 55. The game is indoors, a great environment for kickers.
NDSU - Adam Keller takes the field goals for the Bison, and is 8 for 11 on the season. He's 5-of-5 from 20-29 yards, but is 4 of 6 from farther distances. His long on the season is 43. Like the Penguins, the return team of the Bison haven't done much in the return game, as no touchdown or significant runs have been made.
EDGE - YSU
In the six-game history between NDSU and YSU, the games have come down to a total of 27 points. Expect the same this year. North Dakota State has the edge on the defense, but I think YSU has the advantage on the offensive side of the ball. Also, there are some incidentals that favor YSU. One, YSU has faced adversity this year and has had to come back to the win the big game - North Dakota State has not. Also, YSU is coming off a bye week, which means two weeks of preparation. NDSU is coming off a win over UNI.
The two times the Penguins have played in the Fargodome have both been victories. I'm going with the trend to continue.