I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Friday, November 30, 2012

NDSU vs. SDSU Round 2: Playoffs

All eyes in the Dakotas will be fixed on Fargo tomorrow for Round 2 of the playoffs when #1 Ranked NDSU (10-1) takes on #21 SDSU (9-3).

The teams met three weeks ago in the regular season, and I discussed the players and game plans at length in a previous blog post. That game ended with NDSU winning 20-17 and limiting SDSU to 209 yards of total offense. Tomorrow's game will be the 100th meeting of the teams, but their first ever playoff meeting. NDSU leads the series 54-40-5, but it's playoff time, and this will be a great challenge for both teams!

It is always difficult for teams to play multiple times, and these teams know each other well and are very similar in their style of play. So what should we watch for in this game? A battle. NDSU is playing great football right now. They currently lead the nation in time of possession at @ 35 minutes per game, and they are averaging 8.6 plays per series.

SDSU: They have to break the trend of NDSU's powerful defense by getting first downs, extending drives, eliminating mental mistakes, and establishing positive yards on 1st down. SDSU cannot put themselves in 3rd and long situations very often or the NDSU defense will walk off the field with a turnover. QB Austin Sumner must be willing to take what the defense gives him until they make a mistake, and then he must find a way to capitalize on that mistake.

Defensively, SDSU just cannot give up any big plays! NDSU will continue to pound at them with their run game and will hit short passes to extend their drives. But the difference maker for the NDSU offense has been the one or two big plays they complete each game. A swing in momentum, controlling field position and capitalizing with points is usually all the NDSU defense needs to get a win. SDSU's defense has to prevent any big plays and win 3rd down situations in order to take down NDSU.

NDSU: There are two things NDSU will hope to use: 1) Defense. NDSU wants to be able to let their defense dictate the pace of the game with 3 and outs, a couple of TO's, controlling field position and playing with a lead. This is what NDSU was able to do the first time the two teams played, and it was a successful strategy for them. 2) Crowd. NDSU will have a sold out crowd, and that creates a hostile and incredibly loud playing environment. The sell out will not be a surprise to SDSU, but it is still a very difficult atmosphere to handle. NDSU's defense has held 10 of the last 12 opponents under 250 total yards, and the crowd is a huge factor when they play at home.

It will be a great game. Enjoy!

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