What to expect from the Beehive Bowl: playoff edition
There were a few cries on social media for the two trophies – the Big Sky champion’s trophy and the Beehive Boot – to be put on the line, but Saturday night’s installment of the Beehive Bowl rivalry is about to hit new heights of awesomeness.
Southern Utah and Weber State, co-champions of the Big Sky in 2017, will have serious doses of bragging rights on the line in what should be an epic matchup in the second round of the Division I FCS Championship playoffs. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. and airs online via ESPN3, and you can rest assured each team’s trophies from the season that was will be locked safely away in their respective trophy cases.
There’s more important stuff at stake – like a trip to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs. Here are some numbers of note from each team, with how they ranked in the Big Sky and nationally:
-Scoring offense: SUU 35.5 ppg (2nd, 12th), Weber State 34.5 ppg (4th, T-15th).
-Scoring defense: SUU 27.8 ppg (3rd, 79th), Weber State 16.8 ppg (1st, 12th)
-Total offense: SUU 457.3 ypg (3rd, 9th), Weber State 399.1 ypg (9th, 40th)
-Total defense: SUU 411.4 ypg (5th, 92nd), Weber State 336.5 ypg (1st, 37th)
Broken down a little further, Weber State and SUU have similar rushing numbers on offense – the Wildcats average 189.2 ypg and the T-Birds average 182.3, good for fourth and fifth in the Big Sky, respectively.
SUU has a clear edge in passing compared to Weber State. The T-Birds average 275 yards through the air (sixth in the Big Sky) compared the Wildcats’ 209.2 (11th). In terms of stopping the pass, Weber State has that advantage, ranking second in the Big Sky at 219.3 ypg, and SUU ranks 10th at 266 ypg.
Both teams are excellent at slowing down the running game. Weber State is on top of the Big Sky at 117.2 yards per game and SUU is third at 145.4.
Weber State could claim an advantage of having played last weekend, and history could be on the Wildcats’ side. In last year’s bracket, three of the eight national seeds – No. 3 Jacksonville State, No. 6 The Citadel and No. 7 North Dakota – failed to advance to the quarterfinals despite enjoying Thanksgiving at home.
SUU has its best shot at advancing as long as the offense keeps clicking. In four of the T-Birds’ last five games, they’ve put up 46, 47, 47 and 48 points. The margin of victory has been by at least 14 points in the last six.
Please remember – no wagering.
-To reflect what will be a busy day on campus this Saturday, the start time of SUU’s men’s basketball game vs. San Diego Christian has been changed to a 12:30 p.m. tipoff at America First Events Center. They dropped a 101-82 decision at UNLV on Nov. 25 and are 2-3 on the season.
If the T-Birds can win at Pepperdine tonight, they have a chance to go above .500 for the first time since Feb. 9, 2012. SUU beat Western Illinois that night and improved to 13-12 before dropping five of its final six games to finish 14-17 overall in its final Summit League season.
-Elsewhere around the Big Sky, it was an attention-getter when Portland State gave No. 1 Duke a serious scare Thanksgiving night in the PK80 Classic. The Vikings led the Blue Devils for much of the first half before running into foul trouble in the second and falling 99-81.
Five Portland State players ended up fouling out and Duke enjoyed a 42-12 advantage in free-throw attempts.
Only time will tell how that game helps shape Portland State under new head coach Barrett Peery, but if history is any indication, the Vikings have my vote as a Big Sky title contender.
Follow Tom Zulewski on Twitter @TommyZee81 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.