(STATS) - San Diego has been selected as the favorite in the Pioneer Football League in each of the last six years, holding a one-point edge over Dayton in this season's voting by the league's head coaches. If a vote was taken now after the halfway point of PFL action, those coaches might change their tune.
That's because San Diego has been dominant on both sides of the ball, and that strong play doesn't figure to let up Saturday when it hosts Valparaiso.
The Toreros (5-1) have thoroughly outplayed opponents in opening 4-0 in PFL play. They got things started with a crucial 34-22 victory over Dayton on Sept. 24 and won their next three by a combined score of 134-20.
Entering this week, San Diego ranks No. 1 in the FCS in scoring defense (13.3 points per game) and passing efficiency defense (86.13 rating) and sits seventh in total defense (274.2 yards per game).
"I think the reason as a defensive whole we're successful against the pass is because we have a lot of team chemistry," junior defensive back Max Michaels said. "A lot of the guys have returned from last year, and we all sort of know where each other's going to be and what to expect from one another given any sort of play."
Offensively, the Toreros pace the PFL in scoring (35.2) and total offense (457.7). They're stacked on that side of the ball with quarterback Anthony Lawrence, running back Jonah Hodges, tight end Ross Dwelley and wide receiver Brian Riley leading the way.
Lawrence tops the PFL in pass efficiency (166.4) and completion percentage (68.8) while throwing for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Hodges leads the league with 681 rushing yards, 180.2 all-purpose yards per game, 10 total TDs and nine rushing scores. Dwelley ranks first with seven TD catches and Riley is second with 96.8 receiving yards per game.
"(San Diego) is a team that really doesn't have any weaknesses," Valparaiso coach Dave Cecchini said. "They have a dominant offense, they can run the football ... they throw it all over the place and can be explosive. ... Nobody's been able to get anything going against them, so right now they're the team to beat without question."
San Diego's ability to score and hold down opponents doesn't bode well for Valparaiso (3-4, 2-2), which ranks eighth in the 11-team PFL in both scoring offense (24.0) and scoring defense (31.1). Add in the facts that the Toreros have won 25 straight at home in PFL play and 12 in a row in this series while averaging 47.9 points and allowing 14.6, and it would appear the Crusaders are in for a long day.
Valparaiso, though, is an improved team. It entered this season with 50 losses in 56 league games since 2009, but the Crusaders are one victory away from winning three PFL contests for the first time in 13 years.
The Toreros, meanwhile, have gone 7-1 in league action in each of the past five seasons.
"The thing about the PFL is that any team can come out any week and hand you a loss and we're well aware of that," Michaels said. "It's really tough to go undefeated in this league. We've been handed one loss the past couple of years, so just kind of staying focused on that and realizing that the loss can come any week and each team is good."