The stage has been set for the biggest game of the year in the National Club Football Association (NCFA).
On Sunday, the No. 1 Miami of Ohio Redhawks (4-0 division, 7-0 overall) will host the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (4-0, 4-0) in the final regular season game for both teams. But there is much more at stake than just a victory over a divisional rival.
This matchup has become the de facto Great Lakes East division championship game. And in the NCFA, only the division champions are eligible for the playoffs. While the winner of this game will likely be ranked first and favored to win the national championship, the loser will find their 2015 campaign over.
Both teams have more or less cruised through their seasons until now. The Redhawks eked out early wins over Coppin State and DePaul, but have steamrolled their divisional opponents and have held the top ranking for five weeks. Meanwhile, the Spartans, who received a first place vote in the coaches poll this week, have only had one close game, a five-point victory over defending national champion Oakland.
The Spartans and Redhawks are paced by solid quarterback play with eerily similar statistics. Michigan State is led by Vinny Costanzo, who is completing 51.3 percent of his passes. He has amassed 549 yards to go with six touchdowns and four interceptions. His quarterback rating is a solid 125.5. He is also coming off his best rushing game of the year, running for 29 yards and a touchdown against UM-Flint.
Costanzo will be going toe-to-toe with Miami quarterback Ryan Gannon, whose stats are slightly better because he has played two more games than the Spartans. Gannon has completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 660 yards this year. He has thrown for four touchdowns and three interceptions. His quarterback rating of 119.8 is slightly worse than Costanzo’s. His rushing ability does add another factor for the Redhawks offense; he has run for 316 yards and four touchdowns this year.
With two winning quarterbacks and the season on the line, you can expect a down-to-the-wire contest that will be remembered for a long time. Unfortunately, the loser of this showdown will not play again this year.
MSU walked past the Kodiaks of the University of Michigan-Flint last Sunday, 55-0. The defense pitched their second shutout of the season and totaled seven takeaways all day (five interceptions, two fumble recoveries). Scott Robak scored twice on defense, with one interception returned for a touchdown and a fumble recovery in the end zone. Pat Loewen tacked on a 63 yard pick-six as well.
The Spartan offense was solid all day, paced by running back Austen Cox (11 carries, 106 yards, 1 TD) and quarterback Vinny Costanzo (10 for 17, 70 yards, 2 TD).
Michigan State, who led 34-0 at the half, went deep into the depth chart during the second half, giving many of the nearly 60 players on the roster a chance to play the sport they love. In contrast, the host Kodiaks, who have not won a game since 2013, only had 25 active players.