South Dakota State Preview: #5 Jackrabbits at #16 South Dakota
South Dakota State is using a tried and true formula en route to their sixth straight post season appearance - finish strong.
For the sixth straight year, the Jackrabbits are steamrolling through the November portion of the regular season, locking up another berth in the FCS Playoffs and leaving them one win away from a top eight seed and first round bye, for the second consecutive year.
Since 2012, the Jackrabbits are 15-3 in the month of November, the first three years needing a run to qualify for the post season, the last two needing a victory in the regular season finale to finish with a top eight seed.
SDSU was successful in that endeavor last season with a win at Northern Iowa. Two years ago the Jacks top eight hopes were dashed by a double overtime loss at Western Illinois.
So it will feel very familiar for South Dakota State when they step on the field Saturday (November 18). A November game with significant playoff implications. A must win for a top eight seed. And for the third straight year, it'll be on the road against a team with its own post season aspirations.
Oh yeah, and it's the State-U game.
The South Dakota State - South Dakota match-up in the DakotaDome has the potential to be the best pairing in this rivalry, which dates back to 1889. It will certainly have the most at stake in the Division I era of the rivalry, which began in 2012.
The Jackrabbits are a lock for the post season and the Coyotes, on the basis of an FBS win at Bowling Green and a quality FCS win over Western Illinois, appear to have punched their playoff ticket for the first time at the DI level.
The winner of this game will undoubtedly grab a top eight seed and a first round bye. And don't forget, SDSU can claim a share of a second straight Missouri Valley Conference title with a victory in Vermillion and a North Dakota State loss at Illinois State.
Saturday at the Dome is setting up to 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 is 2:00 PM in Vermillion, Saturday.
Last Saturday (November 11), the Jackrabbits closed out the home portion of the regular season with a 27-27 overtime win over number-20 Illinois State.
SDSU survived a couple of tipped passes that went for interceptions, a Redbird kickoff return for a touchdown, and allowing a conversion on 3rd-and-22 on an Illinois state game-tying touchdown drive late in the game. to get win number eight on the season.
The Jackrabbits were sparked by a pair of former Sioux Falls Roosevelt Rough Riders in the win.
Quarterback Taryn Christion threw for two scores and swung the momentum back the Jackrabbits way with an 84-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Placekicker Chase Vinatieri provided the game winner - a 43-yard field goal - after the Redbirds missed a field goal attempt to start overtime.
I talked with Jackrabbit head coach John Stiegelmeier about the Illinois State win and the match-up with South Dakota: