National Champions - Who are these guys?

The Eastern Washington Eagles are the defending FCS National Champions, and received 23 of 28 votes to be ranked as the number one team in the country going into their season opener against the Washington Huskies. The game will be played Saturday at Husky Stadium, at 4 pm.

Eastern belongs in the Big Sky Conference and is a member of the FCS division of college football. FCS stands for Football Championship Subdivision, which in name itself is a little demeaning. It used to be Division 1-AA, and schools at their level are limited to 65 scholarships instead of 85 like Washington, but they are allowed to break theirs up so some kids can get partial rides.

EWU were crowned National Champions last year by winning its last eleven games and coming from behind to beat Delaware in the championship game. In the championship game, they were down 19-0 at one point! It will mark their first game against the Huskies, and it's also the first time Washington has ever played a lower division school in their modern history.

Like Boise State's blue turf, the Eagles play on a red turf - it's called The Inferno - and did not lose a single game on it last year, going 8-0. They are led by a quarterback named Bo Levi Mitchell, a transfer from SMU, and he is really good in their shotgun spread, no-huddle offense. Mitchell had an excellent passer efficiency rating of 135.9, and threw for almost 3,500 yards and 37 touchdowns and a 60 percent completion percentage. Wow!

Interestingly, Mitchell was not even their best player last year. Did you see last Sunday night's NFL game, and the performance of ex-Eastern running back Taiwan Jones? Timed at 4.35 in the 40-yard dash, Jones was drafted by the Oakland Raiders, and looks to be big time. He also looks like a major reason that the Eagles were so good last year, even though he was hurt for their championship run.

One of the players who will try to replace Jones is Demitrius Bronson, who used to play for the Huskies. Bronson used to give the Husky defense fits in practice, and is a bowling-ball type physical runner. The former Kentwood Conqueror will have much to prove come game day, as will the majority of Eastern's roster who hail from the state of Washington.

Sixty-eight out of 99 kids on the Eastern Washington roster come from the state of Washington, and that is more than either Washington or Washington State. They have two kids on their roster listed over 300 pounds, while Washington has 13. They have seven kids listed at 6-foot-5 or more, while Washington has 12. Those two statistics alone, combined with the 20-scholarship difference, means Washington should and probably will win this game along the lines.

There are four ex-Eagles serving as assistant coaches under head coach Beau Baldwin, and four ex-Central Washington players, so they really have a regional flavor to their coaching staff. This is a wonderful opportunity for all these players and coaches to play a game in Husky Stadium. You can bet they are all thinking about Appalachian State and shocking the football world the way they did against Michigan a couple of years ago, or James Madison against Virginia Tech last year.

Washington is too big, too fast, and now too deep for Eastern to match up, but the Huskies can't afford to leave them in the ball game - otherwise this group does know how to win. You never want to underestimate the heart of a champion, but this time the champion is playing up a level.

Washington will win regardless if Chris Polk plays or not.


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