No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 3 Wisconsin-Whitewater
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Perkins Stadium in Whitewater, Wis.
The Matchup: This game features two of the most dominant football programs in the country since the mid-200’s.
How dominant? Since 2005, the teams have combined for eight national championships, 13 appearances in the Stagg Bowl, and 30 playoff appearances.
Another appearance in the Stagg Bowl awaits the winner of this game against either the reigning national champions North Central (Ill.) or perennial national title contender Mount Union.
Saturday will mark the third consecutive postseason for Mary Hardin-Baylor and Wisconsin-Whitewater to meet in the playoffs, with the Cru winning in 2018 and the Warhawks earning a win in 2019. This will be the sixth meeting in the playoffs between these schools, with five f those contests in the national semifinals.
Only two of the seven overall meetings have been at Whitewater, with the last four games between these teams taking place in Belton, Texas. UMHB visited UW-W during the regular season in 2007 and returned in December in the playoffs.
However, the history only matters to the fans, and the players will be focusing on this year’s game, and the teams are eerily similar once again. UMHB has an edge in overall points scored this season (652-566) and overall points allowed (119-147).
The question facing the Cru offense this week is who will be the starting quarterback for this game? Last week, coach Pete Fredenburg and staff went with Kyle King, who responded with a school single-game record six touchdown passes.
This week’s plan could be different, which could mean another start for Ryan Redding, who has averaged 7.3 yards per rush and adds an extra dimension to the Crusaders’ ground attack.
The player to watch for UW-W is running back Alex Peete. The senior has already posted his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, with 2021 being his best season yet with 1,403 rushing yards to date.
Players to Watch:
Ryan Redding, QB, Sr, New Braunfels, Texas (New Braunfels HS)
Aphonso Thomas, RB, Jr, Ben Wheeler, Texas (Ben Wheeler HS)
Brandon Jordan, WR, Sr, Santa Barbara, Calif. (Ventura College)
Jacob Mueller, LB, Sr, Fort Worth, Texas (Boswell HS)
E’Monte Smith, DE, Sr, Austin, Texas (Connally HS)
Jefferson Fritz, DB, Sr, Kaufman, Texas (Kaufman HS)
Max Meylor, QB, Sr, Mt. Horeb, Wis. (Mt. Horeb HS)
Alex Peete, RB, Sr, Ringwood, Ill. (Johnsburg HS)
Ryan Wisniewski, WR, Sr, Sparta, Wis. (Sparta HS)
Aaron Sturdevant, LB, Jr, Burlington, Wis. (Burlington HS)
Niko Lemke, DL, Soph, Salem, Wis. (Wetosha Central HS)
Thomas Wojnowski, DB, Soph, Oak Creek, Wis. (Oak Creek HS)
Key to Victory: Both teams want to establish the run early and often on Saturday afternoon, and the line of scrimmage will be the decisive factor this week.
When the teams last met in 2019, UW-W was the more physical team on both sides of the line. The Warhawks defense held the Cru to minus-3 yards rushing while the UW-W offense held the ball for nearly 43 minutes of the game while racking up 239 rushing yards.
Coach Fredenburg mentioned his team’s lack of physicality and vowed to focus on that area following the 2019 loss. However, the time has come to see if the Cru has closed the gap along the line of scrimmage.
Prediction: The Cru defeated UW-W in 2018 due to forcing four turnovers and distributing the ball to Markeith Miller and the UMHB playmakers.
The computer stat program I use gives UMHB a win probability of 54.1 percent. However, I don’t believe the Cru offensive line has been dominant enough this season, and UW-W will control the clock on the ground.
UW-W by 3
Best of the Rest:
Saturday, Dec. 11
No. 9 Montana State at No. 1 Sam Houston, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+
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