CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa hosts Pioneer League champion San Diego on Saturday in a first-round FCS playoff game at the UNI-Dome.
UNI (8-4, 6-2) has never played the Toreros, but is 5-0 all-time against Pioneer League opponents. San Diego (9-2, 8-0) is coming off a 47-28 win at Jacksonville and its only two losses this season came in weeks 1 and 2 on the road at Cal Poly (3-8, 2-6) and UC Davis (5-7, 3-5).
Here are three things to watch for in Saturday’s game:
1. Climate control — While it’s difficult to gauge how Saturday’s game will play out between the non-scholarship Toreros and UNI, there’s at least one factor that doesn’t hurt San Diego. The climate-controlled UNI-Dome will give the Toreros a home away from home. A number of Toreros were quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune this week celebrating the fact they’d be playing in a dome for their first-round playoff matchup. Is this just the break San Diego needs to bring its high-powered offense to Cedar Falls and pull off its third first-round win in the past four seasons? We’ll find out.
2. Who plays, who doesn’t? — UNI’s rash of injuries has been a main storyline for nearly the past month and that hasn’t changed heading into Saturday’s game. Receiver Deion McShane dressed and participated in warmups for the first time in six weeks against Western Illinois last Saturday, but Isaiah Weston (lower body), running back Tyler Hoosman (ankle), tight ends Matthew Vander Slice (upper body), Jayden Scott (leg/knee) and Briley Moore (shoulder) all remain questionable with Hoosman being doubtful. It appears UNI will once again be required to win without some of its best playmakers.
3. Unstoppable force vs. immovable object — San Diego’s prolific offense that averages 499 yards and 42 points per game quickly caught the attention of UNI Coach Mark Farley and his players this week. The Panthers won’t enter Saturday’s first-round tilt lacking any knowledge of the horsepower of their opponent’s offense, but they will lack familiarity against the multiplicity of an attack that’s unlike anything they’ve seen this season according to Farley.
UNI vs. San Diego, FCS Playoffs
Time: 1 p.m. CT
Watch online: ESPN3
Radio: KGYM-AM 1600
Listen online: TuneIn
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Line: UNI -12
Prediction: UNI 38 San Diego 28
QB Will McElvain makes a few plays, running backs Trevor Allen and Sam Schnee continue to do enough and UNI’s defense flexes its muscle when it has to in the second half to secure a first-round win and set up a rematch against South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D., next Saturday.