The University of Northern Colorado (1-2) returns to Nottingham Field on Saturday to play Northern Arizona (1-2) in their Big Sky opener.
Both the teams would like to start the conference slate with a win, but it could go either way. The Bears are looking for redemption after a poor game against Lamarr last week, while the Lumberjacks are coming off a win and looking to keep the momentum.
Northern Colorado 18 – Northern Arizona 21
The Bears conference opener will likely be a close one that can swing either way, but UNC’s limited personnel could affect the team’s ability to win.
Northern Colorado expects its players and several coaches to be down about 25% due to COVID-19 protocols. The university believes these were false positives, but affected players and coaches are still to quarantine and will not be available this week.
Graduate quarterback Dylan McCaffrey will return though. He was cleared this week after Houston Baptists were eliminated in the second half of the game. McCaffrey and Junior Connor Martin ready to go – as opposed to relying only on Martin – may give the offense some variety.
On paper, the teams look similar. Their average total offense is about 300 yards, the defense makes about 66 tackles per game and they both average penalties over 55 yards in the first three competitions. They also struggle for fourth place.
UNC is strong on its return game, sacks (10) and field goals. The NAU offense, however, improved when converting to third place, moving the chains 41% of the time.
Ultimately, the defense should perform the same, so the outcome will likely be slightly reduced, whatever the offense rhythm comes into, and the team that plays the hardest.
“I’m more concerned with myself, correcting the mistakes we made before, and making sure we don’t make the same mistakes again,” UNC coach Ed McCaffrey said during his weekly news conference on Wednesday. “I think the effort will be there. I think our guys have a good attitude, a good mindset… but it also executes the plays we’re aggressively calling for. When we need them, The play has to be played on defense in critical moments.”
Predictions for Games Around Big Sky
Sacramento State 18 – Idaho State 21Cal Poly 18 – Montana 32Montana State 38 – Portland State 24UC Davis 35 – Weber State 30East Washington 45 – Southern Utah 28