South Dakota Preview: #16 Coyotes Host #5 South Dakota State
It's a series that dates back to the year South Dakota became a state - 1889. But in the short Division I years of the South Dakota - South Dakota State football rivalry (since 2012), the 2017 match-up should have the most at stake.
With the Missouri Valley Conference flexing its' muscle again this year as the preeminent league in all of FCS football, a record six MVFC teams have realistic playoff hopes with one game to play.
The stakes are even higher for the Coyotes and Jackrabbits this week.
Both are a virtual lock for the 24-team post season, with SDSU's eight victories, including quality FCS wins against North Dakota State, Illinois State, and Western Illinois, and USD's FBS win at Bowling Green and a quality FCS win against Western Illinois.
But only Saturday's (November 18) State-U winner will go in with a top eight seed and that all important first-round bye that comes with it.
The two teams are heading in much different directions heading into the regular season finale. The fifth-ranked Jackrabbits (8-2/5-2 MVFC) have won four straight and have a chance to share a second straight MVFC title with a win at the DakotaDome and a NDSU loss at Illinois State. The Coyotes (7-3/4-3 MVFC), unbeaten after six games, have dropped three of their last four and gone from a top four team to number-16 in the latest FCS Coaches Poll.
Saturday should be a showcase between two of the top three offenses in the Missouri Valley, led by two quarterbacks who generate more yardage between them (more than 600 per game) than any other players in the conference.
The Coyotes' Chris Streveler isn't just the top passer in the MVFC, he's also the only QB in the top ten in the league in rushing.
The Jackrabbits' Taryn Christion is a close second to Streveler in total offense and passing yardage.
Both have talented and deep groups of receivers to work with. For SDSU it's wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert, both All-Americans, leading the way. For USD, it's a whole host of options with nine different players catching touchdowns and ten or more passes this season. Shamar Jackson and Brandt Van Roekel have combined for 74 catches and average 115 yards a game between them.
SDSU and USD also have had success on the ground at times this season. The Jacks' Brady Mengarelli is in the top ten in rushing in the MVFC. The Coyotes' Mike Fredrick and Kai Henry have combined for ten rushing touchdowns in 2017.
Defensively, each has struggled at times against the run this season. The Coyotes allowed 340 rushing yards against North Dakota State last week. The Jackrabbits gave up 310 at Youngstown State in late September.
South Dakota State gives up 50 fewer yards through the air, but the Coyotes have been much better than the Jacks getting to the quarterback, with 32 sacks compared to just 18 for SDSU.
Each unit has a standout sophomore leading the charge. South Dakota State linebacker Christian Rozeboom is fourth in the MVFC in tackles. South Dakota lineman Darin Greenfield leads the conference in tackles for loss.
Kickoff in Vermillion is 2:00 PM, Saturday.
In Saturday's (November 11) 49-14 loss at North Dakota State, the Coyotes started the scoring, taking the opening kickoff and marching 75 yards in 12 plays to lead for the one and only time all day.
The Bison responded with four touchdowns on their first five possessions in the first half and added three straight touchdown drives in the second half to blow the game open. Three of NDSU's scoring drives started inside their own 20-yard line.
Quarterback Easton Stick was nearly perfect against the USD defense, completing 11 of his 12 passes for 307 yards. Sophomore running back Ty Brooks ran for 152 yards and three scores.
I talked with head coach Bob Nielson about the North Dakota State loss and the match-up with South Dakota State: