Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The signs point to the scoreboard operator getting a workout, but Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin would be content with a 2-0 win on Saturday if his squad can get one at Sam Houston State.
The matchup of No. 2 EWU at No. 4 Sam Houston State is the FCS non-conference game of the season, coming on a Saturday when there are five games involving Top 25 teams.
"I don't care how good your offense is, I don't care how good you think your offense is, you go through the course of a season, you're involved in different types of games," Baldwin said. "The same teams are involved in 45-42 that get involved in a 17-14 game, it's the way football works. We just have to be able to handle our business play to play and make sure no matter what type of game we're involved in that we're looking to do everything that we can to come out on top, which is going to be incredibly tough."
The two national powers have played to a 45-42 score, with Sam Houston winning that memorable game at Eastern Washington in the FCS national semifinals last season. It was, as Baldwin said, "a strange battle in terms of a tale of two halves, but it ended up being a battle" after Sam Houston State built a 35-0 halftime lead and then had to hold off a rally by the Eagles in the second half.
Sam Houston (2-1) has opened the season by averaging an FCS-best 52.3 points per game behind quarterback Brian Bell and running back Timothy Flanders. EWU (3-1) is averaging 37.7 points with quarterback Vernon Adams, including a 49-46 win at nationally ranked Oregon State.
Either EWU and Sam Houston has appeared in the last three FCS championship games. EWU won the 2010 national title and Sam Houston lost to North Dakota State in the last two championship games.
North Dakota State, the top-ranked team in the FCS, will play in the other biggest game of the week Saturday. The Bison (3-0) will visit No. 6 South Dakota State (3-1) in the Dakota Marker Game - also the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both programs.
Coach Craig Bohl's national champions eliminated South Dakota State, 28-3, in the playoffs a year ago.
Also in the Top 25, No. 7 Montana (3-0) and No. 24 Northern Arizona (2-1) will open Big Sky Conference play in Flagstaff, Ariz., while No. 9 McNeese State (4-0) will visit No. 5 Northern Iowa (3-0) and No. 10 New Hampshire (1-1) will be at No. 21 Lehigh (3-0) in non-conference action.