Friday, December 3, 2010

Bearcat Playoff Preview: Central Missouri

#3 NWMSU - 35
#2 Texas A&M - Kingsville - 31

Well, a dog fight it was, but the Cats flexed a little offensive muscle and pulled it out with another late scoring drive. The Bearcats continued their giant FU to the Lone Star Conference by defeating another LSC team in the playoffs that beat them during the regular season. It seems that's becoming something of a habit for the Cats, they now stand 7-1 in the playoffs against teams that beat them in the regular season and are 8-0 against the LSC under Tjeerdsma.

But the Cats weren't the only MIAA team to make quick work of the LSC, Central Missouri took care of Abilene Christian 55-41. Which brings us to this week's D2 Quarterfinals and our preview.

#4 Central Missouri Mules at
#3 Northwest Missouri State Bearcats
Bearcat Stadium, Maryville, MO Saturday December 4, 1:05 pm CST
TV: Metro sports KC, Online live here

The Offense
Central finished the year #5 in the nation in total offense and #53 in scoring offense. In the first meeting Czerniewski and crew racked up 429 yards of total offense, but only managed one touchdown and three field goals. Look for the Mules to air it out again against the Cats as they are the most prolific passing attack left in the playoffs.

Northwest in the meantime will look to minimize the mistakes that hurt them in the first meeting. A lost fumble, interception and missed field goal hurt the Cats and made a field goal in the final seconds necessary. They will again look to have success on the ground as they did in the first game to keep the Mules offense off the field.

The Defense
The first meeting, surprising, looked more like a defensive slug-fest between two top-ranked units. The game which saw the Mules playing well above their average performance. Central's defense is still 120th in total D and 75th in scoring D this season. Central's strength is on the offensive side of the ball no doubt. But when these two teams met in the defacto conference championship, the Mules proved they can step up to the plate.

Northwest has relied on it's defense in the its last four games to hold serve. Their offense has done just enough and has leaned on this unit to get the job done. And really, they have. Central is a big challenge that the Defense handled at Central just four weeks ago. I really don't see anything being different in The Ville this time around.

The Prediction
First off, it's great to see the best conference in D2 have two teams in the region finals. Either one of these teams is capable of going all the way and taking home the title.

The first meeting went nothing like I thought it would. What I thought was going to be a shoot out, turned out to be a defensive coaches wet dream. But, as anybody my age knows, it's tough to duplicate the epic times we once had. I think the first meeting, as epic as it was, will be hard for the Mules to duplicate. Northwest's overall team quality will overcome Central's offense. Plus, Mel will have a plan to exploit the Mules. I think we'll see the Cats jump out to an early lead which the Mules won't be able to recover from. Look for the Cats run game to play a huge role and notch a couple of scores. NW 31 UCM 20.

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