The only two undefeated NAIA teams in the country will face off Saturday in the Russell Athletic - NAIA National Championship game. This marks the first trip to the NAIA's biggest stage for both Cumberlands (KY) and Grand View (IA).
#1 Cumberlands (KY) vs. #2 Grand View (IA) - 4:30pm EST - ESPN3
Storyline: The #1 rushing offense meets the #2 rushing defense. Something has to give
The case for Cumberlands: The Patriots have the nation's leading rushing attack (359 ypg), and have rushed for nearly 4,700 yards. In the playoffs alone, against the best teams in the country, they're averaging more yards via the ground game than they did during the season. Two players have eclipsed the 1,000 mark, including freshman Adam Craig who leads the team with 1,157 yards and 24 touchdowns. I think that if the Pats can grind it out and punch it in a few times, the scales would certainly tip in their favor, as the last five national championship games have been decided by an average of less than six points. But that's going to be a tall order against the Grand View defense.
The case for Grand View: Grand View is the third straight team from the Mid-States Football Association to play for the national title, so you could say they're kind of in the SEC of the NAIA in terms of championship caliber play. Most of their wins have been on the heels of their defense, that ranks first the nation in sacks (53), and second in rushing defense, total defense, and scoring. Only one opponent all year scored more than 21 points, and they actually shut-out Morningside (IA) 35-0, who finished runner-up in the national title game last season. What makes Grand View's run to this point even more impressive, is that they've reached the national title game in only their sixth year of existence.
The grind it out nature of Cumberlands and the impenetrable defense of Grand View makes for a great storyline in this one. The team freshest in the 4th quarter is going to be a huge factor.