FCS playoffs: Wofford-Northern Iowa a tight battle
The Sports Network
By Sean Shapiro, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 3rd, 5:05 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: UNI-Dome (16,324) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Surface: MondoTurf. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Shawn Kenney and Rob Harley. Home Record: Wofford 4-1; Northern Iowa 5-0. Away Record: Wofford 4-2; Northern Iowa 4-2. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: Wofford - Southern; Northern Iowa - Missouri Valley. Nicknames: Wofford Terriers; Northern Iowa Panthers. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: Wofford (12); Northern Iowa (2). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Wofford (NS); Northern Iowa (5). Head Coaches: Wofford - Mike Ayers (24th year 162-110-1 at Wofford, 27th year 173-131-2 Overall); Northern Iowa - Mark Farley (11th year, 98-39 at Northern Iowa and Overall). All-Time Record: Wofford (481-475-36); Northern Iowa (619-382-47). Playoff Records: Wofford (4-4); Northern Iowa (18-15). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Wofford 4 (2003, 2007-08, 2010); Northern Iowa 15 (1985, 1987, 1990-96, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007-08, 2010).
GAME NOTES: Earlier in the season, Wofford had an opportunity win the Southern Conference and likely would have been seeded for the playoffs. However, losses to Georgia Southern and Furman have forced the Terriers to travel on its possible path to a national championship. That road starts in Cedar Falls, a place Northern Iowa hasn't lost this season.
The nation's leader in rushing yards (356.2 ypg), Wofford will rely heavily on the triple option against Northern Iowa's usually stout run defense (120.6 ypg). Fullback Eric Breitenstein (122.1 ypg) is the focal point of the offense; however, running back Donovan Johnson (81.6 ypg) and quarterback Mitch Allen (63.6 ypg) also rank in the FCS' Top 100 for rushing yards.
Northern Iowa's offense is a more balanced unit, but quarterback Tirrell Rennie (73.9 ypg) and running back David Johnson (66.4 ypg) are one of the best non-option running duos in the FCS. A smart senior quarterback, Rennie limits turnovers and has posted a 20-to-2 touchdown-to-turnover ratio, one of the main reasons for the Panthers' fifth-ranked turnover margin (plus-15).
On defense, Northern Iowa (16.2 ppg) is a group deep with talent, led by linebacker L.J. Fort and defensive tackle Ben Boothby. Fort led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in tackles (151), while Boothby was the leader in tackles for loss with 16.
For the Terriers, defense has been more of an after-thought to the top-ranked rushing offense in the nation. Allowing 28, 24, 31 and 27 points in its last four games, Wofford's defense will need to turn up the pressure against Northern Iowa, or hope the high-powered offense can reach the 40-plus points it had against Elon and Western Carolina.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 31, Wofford 27
11/30 11:47:12 ET