All eight teams in Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series have their share of strengths. These qualities have carried them to the double-elimination tournament set to begin on Saturday.
As strong as each team is in their specialty areas, the group that can hide or improve their weaker areas will emerge as the national champion.
Here is a look at the biggest weakness for every team in the field and the schedule for the opening weekend, per USA Today.
Saturday: Game 1, Mississippi State vs. Oregon State, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN2); Game 2, Indiana vs. Louisville, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Sunday: Game 3, No. 1 North Carolina vs. North Carolina State, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN2); Game 4, UCLA vs. No. 4 LSU, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
(Stat references per NCAA.com)
Indiana Hoosiers' Spotty Defense
The Hoosiers can bop with anyone (20th in the nation in batting average) and their pitching staff has been solid most of the season (eighth-best ERA in the nation), but the defense has been less than stellar.
As a team, their fielding percentage is just .965; that's 159th in the nation.
Three of their everyday players have double-digit errors this season (Dustin DeMuth with 18, Michael Basil with 19 and Chad Clark with 12). Most troubling is the Hoosiers' penchant for error-filled games that could potentially derail them against other elite teams.
The graph below shows the Hoosiers have played the same amount of games with three or more errors as they have played error-free games.
Indiana must clean this up if they are to have a chance at winning it all.
LSU Tigers' Limited Team Speed
The Tigers are one of the strongest teams in the field, but even they aren't perfect. They don't have an excessive amount of speed on the basepaths, so they aren't the best at manufacturing runs.
They are tied for 159th in the nation in stolen bases, with 54, and their runners have been cut down 26 times.
Lately, their dominant pitching—led by Aaron Nola—and hitting—charged by Mason Katz and Alex Bregman—has carried the day. The Tigers are also rock solid in the field with a team fielding percentage of .980.
Of all the weaknesses, the Tigers' is the easiest to hide, which is why they are my favorites to win it all.
Louisville Cardinals Must Watch the Free Passes
Louisville's fielding percentage is just .971 this season, but their pitching staff's control issues are a bigger problem.
As good as the Cardinals' pitching staff is (2.47 team ERA), they have shown the tendency to issue an alarming amount of walks.
In 63 games, the Cardinals have allowed 212 free passes to opponents. That's an average of 3.33 per game. While their hurlers have been able to work out of these jams up to this point, the pressure of pitching with runners on base against elite hitting teams can't be understated.
Even the Cardinals' ace, Jeff Thompson, averages more than two walks per appearance.
Louisville's pitchers need to take pressure off themselves and their offense by improving their command of the strike zone.
Mississippi State Bulldogs Lack Power
The Bulldogs' runs generally don't come via the long ball. The team depends on singles and doubles hitters like Adam Frazier to help manufacture runs for their offense.
As a team, they average only 0.44 home runs per game this season. Hunter Renfroe is tied for 14th in the nation with 15 dingers, but aside from his contributions, the Bulldogs don't have much long-ball potential.
The rest of the team has 14 home runs combined.
You can win without the long ball, but sluggers who can put up a two or three-spot with one swing can make things a lot easier.
North Carolina Tar Heels Must Also Limit the Walks
The Heels are the top team in the nation, but the bases on balls could be their downfall. Of all the remaining teams, they issue the most free passes per nine innings.
Hobbs Johnson is perhaps the biggest culprit. He's issued 49 walks in just 79 innings pitched this season. As a team, they hit .306 and their team ERA is a sparkling 2.77, but the walks could put them in harm's way.
In their 10 losses this season, the Heels have surrendered 54 walks. Even a team as talented as North Carolina will have major difficulties overcoming more than five free passes in a game.
N.C. State Wolfpack Can't Waste Great Pitching Performances
It isn't that the Wolfpack struggle to hit consistently, they unfortunately struggle to produce run support when they are getting a sparkling performance on the mound.
The biggest victim is easily ace Carlos Rodon. As dominant as he has been lately, the Wolfpack haven't produced enough runs for him.
In Rodon's last three starts, he is 1-0 with an ERA of 0.11. He's allowed just three earned runs in 27.1 innings pitched. How can a pitcher whose been so good only have one win to show for his efforts?
The Wolfpack have scored a total of six runs in those games, and two of them came after Rodon had already been lifted. With Rodon on the mound in the team's opener against North Carolina, the Pack's bats need to come alive for their ace.
Oregon State Beavers' Sterling Pitching Must Overcome Average Offense
As it relates to most of the teams in the CWS field, the Beavers' hitting is only mediocre. Their .378 on-base percentage is only better than N.C. State and UCLA. The team's .290 batting average ranks similarly amongst the remaining eight teams.
There is a lot of pressure on Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis to produce offense.
Davis' 58 RBI led the team, and Conforto wasn't far behind him with 45 driven in. The latter's two home runs in the Super Regionals were a huge spark for the team. Without him, they wouldn't be playing for a national title.
The Beavers will need more to win in Omaha.
UCLA Bruins' Offense Is The Worst in the CWS
The Bruins lean heavily on their pitching (2.69 team ERA) and defense (.980 team fielding percentage), but their lack of offense is troubling.
Against great lineups like the ones in this CWS, the Bruins will have to score runs. Their team batting average is just .251 and their 19 home runs as a team is less than two NCAA Division I players and just ahead of Indiana slugger Kyle Schwarber.
The team is without a .300 hitter, but Kevin Kramer is the best run producer. His .279 batting average is tops on the team and his 40 RBI are second.
The Bruins can only hope for an uncharacteristic offensive explosion, or pitching and defense that hide their struggles at the plate.
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