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First look: No. 3 Eastern Washington vs. No. 1 North Dakota State, FCS national championship

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 3, 2019, 4:03 p.m.

North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick (12) hands the ball off to North Dakota State running back Lance Dunn (10) in the Bison’s victory over EWU in 2017 in Cheney. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick (12) hands the ball off to North Dakota State running back Lance Dunn (10) in the Bison’s victory over EWU in 2017 in Cheney. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

What is it? Eastern Washington (12-2) of the Big Sky Conference meets North Dakota State (14-0) of the Missouri Valley Conference in the FCS national championship game.

Where is it? Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

When is it? Kickoff is 9 a.m. PT on Saturday.

Where can I watch it? The game will be aired on ESPN2.

Who is favored? NDSU, winners of six of the last seven national titles, is favored by 14.5 points.

How did they fare in in the playoffs? In Cheney, EWU downed Nicholls State 42-21 in the second round, UC Davis 34-29 in the quarterfinals and Maine 50-19 in the semifinals. In Fargo, NDSU handled Montana State 52-10 in the second round, Colgate 35-0 in the quarterfinals and South Dakota State 44-21 in the semifinals.

Why EWU will win: NSDU has shut down everyone it’s faced (11.8 points allowed per game), but it’s yet to face an offense as dynamic as Eastern’s. Behind dual-threat quarterback Eric Barriere, the Eagles (44.5 ppg) are as menacing on the ground (263 ypg) as they are through the air (277 ypg). EWU’s senior-laden offensive line pushed around two of the country’s top rushing defenses (Maine and Nicholls State) and can give Sam McPherson enough room while keeping Barriere clean. EWU’s defense ranks second in turnovers (32) and may give its offense a game-changing opportunity.

Why NDSU will win: It has no glaring weakness. NDSU has a Walter Payton Award finalist, a future pro and a two-time national champion in quarterback Easton Stick; one of the best offensive lines in FCS history; another NFL prospect in running back Bruce Anderson; and arguably the best defense in the country, led by gifted sophomore linebacker Jabril Cox. This is a dynasty for a reason, and the Bison will be looking to send Chris Klieman to Kansas State (he accepted the head coaching job at KSU earlier this month) on a high note.

What happened last time? Behind running backs Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn, NDSU racked up 375 rushing yards in a 40-13 rout of EWU on Sept. 9, 2017 at Roos Field in Cheney.

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