The Joe Biden Factor Favors Delaware
Some heady company will be on hand as Delaware takes on Eastern Washington for a national championship
By Sam Partridge
College Sporting News
Thereís no way to know if the most famous fan in FCS will be in Frisco, Texas for the divisionís championship game.
Unfortunately, the Secret Service tend to be sticklers with those kinds of details. However, you can be sure that the Delaware Blue Hens and their faithful would love to see Vice President Joe Biden at Pizza Hut Park on Friday night since they've won both games he attended this year.
(Editor's note: Late reports tell CSN that the vice president will indeed be in attendance and security has been tight near Pizza Hut Park all afternoon).
Biden was absent from the semifinal win over Georgia Southern due to more pressing business on Capitol Hill, but the governors of both Delaware and New Jersey (Chris Christie, a UD grad) were in attendance at the game.
All three men know what it takes to mount a successful campaign and Iím sure theyíd all agree that this football season in Newark, DE has certainly fit the bill.
In a number of ways, the FCS season is a campaign for the office of National Champion.
After the pre-season straw poll establishes early favorites, the candidates set out to rack up endorsements (wins) and gain popularity with the voters.
Garner enough wins and a team can gain itís conferenceís nomination (AQ) to the playoffs. Fail to do so and itís up to lobbying the NCAA committee for a write-in slot on the playoff ballot.
Reaching this point in a campaign is not a novelty for Delaware.
The Blue Hens won by a landslide over Colgate in 2003 and lost in 2007 to an Appalachian State team taking FCSí highest office for three years in a row.
So far this postseason, Delaware has knocked off a smart, small-town rep from eastern Pennsylvania (Lehigh), a solid, hard-working, veteran New Englander (New Hampshire) and up-and-coming Southerner with a great ground game (Georgia Southern).
These varied opponents have attacked the Blue Hens in different ways but K.C. Keeler and the Blue Hen war room have used veteran leadership and great defensive strategies to complement a balanced attack.
Itís only fitting that Delawareís final opponent would present another unique challenge in the form of an upstart from out west.
The Eastern Washington Eagles have faced their own interesting battles along the way during the campaign.
Best known for their unusual platform (the Inferno), the Eagles have been in the shadow of the perennial Big Sky nominee from Montana.
However, an early home win over the Grizzlies established that this would be a different year out west. In the playoffs, Beau Baldwin and his charges dealt with a traditional, Midwestern candidate from the Show Me State (Southeast Missouri State), a tenacious grinder from the Great Plains (North Dakota State) and the incumbent champion from back East (Villanova).
Just like with Delaware, three different opponents with different styles that prepared this team for the final head-to-head matchup in Frisco.
In some ways, both teams took very similar routes to reach the championship game.
Both finished the regular season at 9-2 and ranked in various spots in the top five based on the particular poll.
However, each team lost to their conference co-champion (William & Mary and Montana State) which cost them the CAA and Big Sky automatic qualifiers respectively.
As a result, they were each seeded, but one slot behind their conference foes.
In a twist of fate, neither team had to face any of the other seeds as they were all toppled over the early rounds of the tournament.
Thus, both the Blue Hens and Eagles were able to stay home and ride that advantage to three straight wins and a berth in the title game.
A common adage of politics is that while you can win a primary from the extremes, you need to move toward the center to win a general election.
The FCS playoffs are much the same as unbalanced teams can win early but a team needs to be solid on both sides of the ball to win a title.
EWU and UD have proven to be the two teams best able to achieve that balance and that will be the challenge in Frisco.
On paper, Delaware has the edge in a number of ways.
They have the best defense in FCS, they have a veteran quarterback who was a finalist for the Payton Award and they have a coach whoís been in this position before.
In addition, they have a powerful offensive line that has been able to wear down opponents, most notably in the second half of the semifinal against Georgia Southern.
On the flip side, Eastern Washington is in uncharted territory.
This will be the first time since November that the red turf of the Inferno wonít be the setting for an Eagle game.
Outside of the cozy confines of Cheney, EWU went 4-2 but fared poorly in its biggest test, a mid-season road game at Montana State.
Clearly, it will not be a hostile environment in Frisco, but it will still be a challenge for coach Baldwin and his staff to have his team focused and prepared for the spotlight of the title game.
If itís a straight matchup of Pat Devlin vs. Bo Levi Mitchell and which defense can get more stops, then Delaware will have itís way on Friday night.
What the Eagles need to do is what they achieved in the semifinals against Villanova, i.e. force the CAA team to turn the ball over and get a lead.
If that can happen, then weíll see Delaware confront the only chink in itís armor, which was the Blue Hensí uneven results in close games.
If EWU can get a lead and get enough balance from the running game to support Mitchell, then they can force Delaware to throw the ball more than desired. Thatís the recipe for an upset.
However, this Blue Hen team is a veteran group that doesnít give up a lot of turnovers. Behind Devlin and the running game, they should be able to control tempo and allow their defense to stifle the Eagle offense.
If the freshman sensation Pierce is dominating the ball in the 2nd half, then it will be a long night for EWU.
The 2010 FCS campaign has had plenty of highs and lows, gaffes and surprises. It will end on Friday night with a familiar face seated in the highest office in FCS land.
When the final tally is in, Joe Biden and the rest of Blue Hen nation will celebrate a happy new year.
Delaware 31 Eastern Washington 20