During the 2016 regular season, South Dakota State and North Dakota State shared the Missouri Valley Football Conference championship, finishing league play with identical 7-1 league records.

But, come Saturday, the sharing is over, as only one will advance in the FCS Playoffs, while the other will have to wait until next year.

The eighth-seeded Jackrabbits (9-3) go to the Fargodome with some confidence, after handing the top-seeded Bison (11-1) their only loss of the year, eight weeks ago. In that game, SDSU out gained NDSU 523-304, as the Bison defense allowed a season-high 220 yards on the ground. The Jacks defense kept the potent NDSU running game in check, as the Bison managed a season-low 161 yards rushing.

Both teams have run the ball extremely well late in the year. SDSU amassing 762 yards (254 yards per game) over the final three weeks of the regular season, while NDSU has rushed for 1,565 yards (261 yards per game) in the six games since the loss to the Jackrabbits.

The offenses are led by talented sophomore quarterbacks. South Dakota State's Taryn Christion was the Offensive Player of the Year in the MVFC, while North Dakota State's Easton Stick ran for nearly 600 yards this season and was second to Christion as the league's most efficient passer.

The Jackrabbits had the top two receivers in the Missouri Valley in 2016, Jake Wieneke and Dallas Goedert, while the Bison put two running backs in the top seven in the conference, Lance Dunn and King Frazier.

Defensively, SDSU linebacker Christian Rozeboom was the national runner-up for Freshman of the Year, after collecting 120 tackles. NDSU junior defensive back Tre Dempsey led the MVFC with five interceptions.

The Jackrabbit offense is the 13th best in the nation (458 yards per game). The Bison defense is the 14th best in FCS (allowing 320 yards per game).

Kickoff is 11:00 AM, Saturday, in Fargo. The game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN. The Jackrabbits and Bison are meeting in the playoffs for the third time in five seasons. NDSU won the two previous meetings (2012, 2014) in Fargo.

The winner advances to next weekend's semifinals against either Sam Houston State or James Madison.

In round two last weekend, both South Dakota State and North Dakota State hosted games after enjoying first round byes.

The Jackrabbits overcame some cold, wet weather and a tough Villanova defense to squeak out a 10-7 win on Chase Vinatieri's 40-yard field goal with 1:20 left.

The Bison started slowly, but scored on their six of their final seven possessions in a 45-7 victory over San Diego.

I talked with SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier about the Villanova win and Saturday's game at North Dakota State:


See Also: