The San Diego Toreros (4-1, 4-1 PFL) and the Valparaiso Crusaders (3-2, 3-2) wrap up the spring season with a Pioneer Football League showdown on Saturday. The Pioneer League is made up of institutions that do not award athletic scholarships, and most of the schools are private.
Saturday’s kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET at Brown Field in Valparaiso, Ind. ESPN3 will carry the game for a national audience.
The college football odds have the Toreros as 12.5-point road favorites against the Crusaders.
What to Know – San Diego Toreros
San Diego finished the 2019 season with a 9-3 record and has not let up in 2021. The Toreros can capture the PFL crown with a victory over the Crusaders and a Davidson loss. San Diego has won or tied for the regular-season title every season since 2014.
The Toreros score 24.6 points while putting up 382.4 yards of offense per game. On defense, San Diego surrenders 17.0 points and holds teams to 281.0 yards of offense per contest.
Senior quarterback Mason Randall has logged every snap under center this spring. Randall has thrown for 1,357 yards on 113-for-173 passing with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.
San Diego’s ground game averages 111.0 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. Senior running back Emilio Martinez has led the Toreros in rushing in all five games and is coming off a season-high 122 yards rushing against Stetson last week.
The Toreros average 271.4 yards through the air, with three receivers hauling in 20 passes or more this spring. Sophomore Michael Carner leads the team with 31 receptions, 458 yards, and three touchdowns.
Defensively, San Diego can get to the quarterback, recording 13.0 sacks in five games. The Toreros have forced seven turnovers, with senior defensive back Michael Hawkins logging three of them (two interceptions, one fumble recovery).
What to Know – Valparaiso Crusaders
The Crusaders have three victories, the most wins in a season for Valparaiso since 2017. Valparaiso will try and bounce back after a 28-24 setback last week at Morehead State.
Valparaiso averages 18.4 points and concedes 18.2 points per game on defense. The Crusaders average 280.0 yards per game on offense and hold opponents to 279.6 yards of offense.
Senior quarterback Chris Duncan has logged a majority of the snaps under center for the Crusaders, but it was sophomore Ben Nimz who took over mid-game last week and completed 7-of-14 passes for 77 yards with two interceptions.
The Crusaders focus heavily on the run game, averaging 185.6 yards per game on the ground. Junior running back Robert Washington highlights the Valparaiso rushing attack, carrying the ball 121 times for 621 yards and five touchdowns. Washington also is second on the team with 12 receptions at receiver.
When Valparaiso does go to the air, the quarterbacks have two wideouts they look for in the passing game. Junior wide receiver Ollie Reese (13 receptions, 129 yards) leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, and senior wide receiver Deuce Larose has added 10 catches for 125 yards and one touchdown.
Valparaiso’s defense has kept opposing offenses in check all spring, ranking third in the PFL in scoring defense. Opposing quarterbacks better avoid throwing to defensive back Keyon Turner’s side, as the freshman has four interceptions this spring.
The Pick Is In
Valparaiso has improved its win total but has played a pair of teams twice. The Crusaders’ quarterbacks combined to throw three interceptions last week and will need to make better decisions if they want to compete with San Diego.
The Toreros will contain the Valparaiso ground game and force the Crusaders into passing situations they are not comfortable with. San Diego takes this one and heads back to southern California with a 27-7 victory.
When making your college football picks, take San Diego to win and cover.