Which West Texas A&M offense will show up this week? The one that turned the ball over 3 times, and never got rolling in the first half against Washburn? Or the one that racked up 40 points and over 400 yds in the second half? The answer most certainly lies somewhere in the middle, though Buffalo fans better hope its much closer to the second half performance than the first.
When West Texas A&M has the ball - The Buffs are known as a passing team and rightly so. Their running game, though improved over the past few seasons, was held in check last week, though playing from a deficit most of the game limited their opportunities. This week they face a tough run defense - only 2 teams (UNO, Pitt St) have rushed for over 200 yds, and only 2 others over 100. The Bearcat pass defense - Range from 89 yds (Pitt State) to 285 to SBU. 5 games over 200, 2 below 100. Only 8 Ints, but 30 sacks. WT's offensive line needs to give Null time to find open receivers. If NWMSU can pressure Null without blitzing, it will be a long day for WT.
When NWMSU has the ball - the Bearcats have a good rushing offense - 200+ yds in 7 of 10 games, Xavier Omon is the star, rushing for 100+ yds in every game, with the exception of the MoSo blowout. WT's run defense has been good this year, allowing under 120 yds per game. WT's linebacking corps has been the strength of the defense all year, but with Steve Allen nicked up, Brock, Grimslid and Scott will all need to have great games. Their passing offense also had 200+ yds in 7 of 10 games, but only in 3 of last 6. Joel Osborn played almost the entire last two games (Emporia State, and Missouri Southern) going 39-52 for 426 yds 3 TDs, but 4 Ints (all against Emporia State). Brandon Swain and the other Buffalo linemen will need to get consistent pressure on Osborn (or Mathews if he plays). This might be the best area for WT to get a turnover or two.
Northwest Missouri went through a stretch of 4 consecutive games decided by a total of 13 points, including a 7 point win over Fort Hays. They have not been as dominant as in the past few years, but they have a lot of veteran leadership who have been there done that. Lastly, do not forget one of the all-time great coaches, Mel Tjeerdsma. Nothing against Coach Carthel, but this is the biggest area where one team has a decided advantage over their opponent.
Prediction - WT will have a hard time running the ball, and NW will get enough pressure on Null to force a TO or two. NW will run the effectively, and will keep their defense off the field long enough to keep them pretty fresh. Steve Allen could be the difference here. A WT win would not be surprising, but we will go with experience and the Bearcats win a close one 28-24.
(But we've picked WT to lose a couple of times this year, and it hasn't happened yet.)