With 14 starters back, both kickers, and a revamped offense things are looking up around Memorial Stadium these days. Will that translate into a second playoff run for Bubba Schweigert? Can the Hawks stay healthy and overcome a absurdly tough schedule?
These are questions the that will only be answered as the season unfolds.
Here are UND Football 360 we see ourselves as “cautious optimists”. We will point out when things are going well but will also quickly address the ‘fly in the ointment’, so to speak. Some teams are a great matchup for UND year in and year out. Others seem to have their number. All factors are taken into account.
Here is how we see the 2019 season unfolding for the hometown squad:
AUGUST 31 – 4:00pm
The Drake is a sneaky team to research. They are picked 3rd in the Pioneer preseason poll and are always a solid team. They play good defense and try to win through fundamental football. The PFL label throws people off because it’s technically a non-scholarship league but most people know better.
The Bulldogs promoted DC Todd Stepsis to head coach over the winter so we are assuming not much will change. The last time they came to the Alerus Center UND cruised to a 21-0 lead at half and ended up having to hang on to win 21-18. We expect a four quarter effort this time around for the home opener.
At #1 NORTH DAKOTA STATE
The battle for North Dakota resumes this year as UND and NDSU lock horns down in Fargo in a non-conference tilt. The Hawks join the MVFC next season meaning this rivalry will resume on a yearly, alternating basis just like the old days.
The Bison are the defending national champions and bring back several key pieces, despite losing a ton of starters/experience. The key to their season could be QB play as there is reportedly going to be a camp-long battle between Iowa State transfer Zeb Noland and freshman Trey Lance. Their defense will always be high-end so scoring points will be at a premium in this game.
We don’t think UND is quite ready to take down the Bison in the Fargodome this year.
SEPTEMBER 14 – 4:00pm
Vs #20 SAM HOUSTON STATE
The return game of the home-home contract takes place at the Alerus Center this season. The Hawks and Bearkats engaged in a epic 24-23 duel down in Huntsville last year that saw Noah Wanzek grab a back-shoulder TD on 4th down to win the game for UND. The Bearkats return 9 starters on defense but need to replace some pieces on offense. After finishing a disappointing 6-5 last season, SHSU is looking to get back to their usual 8-10 win ways. We just don’t think UND will be one of them, especially when it’s the annual Potato Bowl!
At #7 EASTERN WASHINGTON
UND has never beat EWU and the results out in Cheney have been absolutely abysmal. Here are the scores for games played out in Cheney – 55-17 & 54-3. With All-American QB Eric Barriere back the EWU offense should be a juggernaut once again. Their defense was much improved last season, which helped propel them to the national championship game in 2018. The health of the UND defense will be a key in this game as they will need all hands on deck to slow down the Eagles high-flying offense.
OCTOBER 5 – 1:00pm
Vs #3 UC DAVIS
The Aggies threw the ball an astounding 585 times in 13 games last season, which averages out to 45 per game. QB Jake Maier accounted for 3,900+ yards and 34 TD’s last season. His main weapon, Keelan Doss, is gone but the way that offense functions it probably doesn’t matter. The Aggies are focusing on improving their defense in 2019 but overall Dan Hawkins has done a remarkable job turning Davis into a title contender. That being said, we feel the Hawks will sense that this game is vital to their season hopes and play accordingly.
At IDAHO STATE
Here we go again. The Bengals have been a thorn in the side of UND for years now, essentially knocking them out of the playoffs TWICE with upset wins on homecoming at the Alerus Center. Wait a second…….you’re telling me the road team has won every matchup in this series during the D1 era? WUT? It’s true, folks. For some reason the visitor plays better in this series and we don’t know why it would change in 2019. Doesn’t matter who has what coming back – trends are your friend.
At CAL POLY
UND heads out to beautiful San Luis Obispo to cap the second of two LONG back-to-back road trips. Poly has been down the past couple seasons (1-10 in 2017, 5-6 in 2018) as they haven’t been able to get the triple-option going with the same fluidity as in the past, while getting gashed on defense to the tune of 37 pts/game. However, they do return most of their defense so there should be improvement there.
On offense, QB is up in the air and they lost the greatest fullback of all-time in Joe Protheroe. The Hawks always play well vs. the triple option. Running a 3-4 helps and UND typically has a good game plan for how to take the ball out of the QB’s hands. We see that continuing in 2019 as UND has won the last two games in this series.
OCTOBER 26 – 12:00pm
Vs #14 MONTANA STATE
The Bobcats broke their playoff drought last season and even won a first round game to finish the season 8-5. They return 17 starters and will be a physical bunch, once again. Jeff Choate has a new DC in Kane Loane, a former Bobcat coach and player who returned last season after the abrupt departure of Ty Gregorak. The annual question mark at QB is alive again as the Cats have decided to move do-everything athlete Troy Anderson back to his normal position of linebacker. This game could go either way, honestly. Two evenly matched teams and with MSU having a bye week to prepare/heal up we think that could be the difference.
At #11 WEBER STATE
The Wildcats have been an ever-improving team in coach Jay Hill. Built on defense and toughness, Weber State has become a Big Sky power and a national title contender. Last season Weber came in to the Alerus Center and controlled the game on both sides of the ball, leaving town with a hard-fought 35-30 victory. Odgen is a beautiful place to watch football but hard to win at.
NOVEMBER 16 – 1:00pm
Vs NORTHERN COLORADO
UND comes back home to begin back-to-back games vs. two of the preseason bottom feeders in the Big Sky. The Hawks always beat Northern Colorado – having won the last five in a row in the series. Don’t see that changing in 2019. We have UND slated to be 5-4 entering this game and knowing that if they win these last two they make the playoffs.
NOVEMBER 23 – 1:00pm
Vs SOUTHERN UTAH
Southern Utah has been about as up & down as an football program can be. The won the Big Sky title in 2015 and 2017 but finished 1-10 in 2018. They gave up 42 pts/game last season and not surprisingly hired a new defensive coordinator, which we assume will improve that unit. Motivation will be a big part of this one as there is a real chance the T-Birds are out of the playoff running by this point due to their challenging schedule.
There you have it. The entire 2019 UND Football season game-by-game – and with it we are telling you that the Hawks will be 7-4 and playoff bound.
Two home swing games will decide the season — SHSU & UC-Davis. Win those two and we feel they make the playoffs.
We would love to have some interaction with you about how you think the 2019 season will go. Feel free to comment below with your predictions!