Game Time: Saturday, November 4, 2017, 3: p.m. ET
Location: Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, Brookings, South Dakota
Where To Watch: ESPN3/WatchESPN
Betting Odds: North Dakota State -7, O/U 50.5
Odds via sportsbooks monitored by GamblersPalace.com
Although the Dakota Marker is currently in the hands of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, they didn’t win their last meeting with the North Dakota State Bison. The Jackrabbits upset the mighty Bison in the FargoDome 19-17 during the regular season, but got hammered when it really mattered in the postseason.
In their quarterfinal match-up, the Bison quickly fell behind 10-0 and the hometown faithful were worried that a repeat of the regular season meeting was going to happen. However, the defense and the run game came up large after the team fell behind and North Dakota State rattled off 36 unanswered points to cruise to a victory.
South Dakota State will be looking for some revenge and can also essentially lock up a postseason berth with a win here.
Reasons to Like North Dakota State
The Bison have one of the best defenses in the entire FCS. Their only competition for the title of the top defense at this level is James Madison and they are about neck and neck with the Dukes.
North Dakota State has only allowed one opponent to score more than 14 points on them all season long. This team is phenomenal against the run and doesn’t need to leave guys in the box in order to get a numbers advantage. They just whip you at the line and let the second level make plays.
The ground game has churned out big chunks of yardage all year too. When you control for the quality of opponents, there’s no doubt that this is the best running attack at the FCS level. Easton Stick is a great runner for a quarterback and Bruce Anderson has been a freshman phenom.
Reasons Not to Like North Dakota State
Injuries have taken their toll on this team all season long. The Bison were already down their top defensive lineman coming into the season and one of their top back-up running backs suffered a season-ending injury in the opener.
NDSU suffered perhaps its toughest injury to date though when Lance Dunn went down with a torn labrum two weeks ago. Dunn was the workhorse for this team and got most of the goal line work. Losing him makes this team very thin at the running back position.
Reasons to Like South Dakota State
Taryn Christion has performed very well for the Jackrabbits this season. He is averaging nine yards an attempt and has been more careful with the ball than he was last year. Christion has also proven to be a great running threat. He has already broke free for a 90-yard touchdown run this season and the Bison will have to be wary of him as a runner.
He is buoyed by a fantastic offensive line that is great in both phases of the game. Christion has only been sacked six times in eight games and doesn’t feel much pressure in the pocket. Additionally, the running backs have plenty of room to run behind this line and the team is averaging 5.6 yards per carry as a whole.
Reasons Not to Like South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits do not have a good run defense. At all. They were gashed on the ground by Youngstown State and Northern Iowa had a ton of success against this team as well. South Dakota State is allowing 4.4 yards per carry and that is not a good sign heading into this game.
For as good as Christion has been at times, he has not looked good when the Jackrabbits can’t establish the run. In the two losses to Youngstown State and Northern Iowa he completed less than 50 percent of his passes because the round game was shut down. Keep that in mind with how good the Bison are at stopping the run.
This is a rivalry game and although I want to take the home team and the points, it’s hard to justify taking South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits just won’t be able to do enough on offense, while the Bison will be able to control the game on the ground.
Final Score: North Dakota State 31, South Dakota State 13