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FCS Game of the Week Preview: #10 North Dakota at #23 South Dakota

How will North Dakota respond to being the underdog?

NCAA Football: North Dakota at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: Saturday, September 16, 2017, 3 p.m. ET

Location: DakotaDome, Vermillion, South Dakota

Where To Watch: ESPN3/WatchESPN

Betting Odds: South Dakota -2, Over/Under 56

Odds via sportsbooks monitored by GamblersPalace.com


Historically, North Dakota has dominated its rivalry with South Dakota. The Fighting Hawks lead the Coyotes 61-29-5 in the series and were considered to be favorites to hoist the Sitting Bull Trophy again in 2017. However, South Dakota’s recent win over Bowling Green was a shot across the bow to their northern brethren. Now, the Coyotes are actually favored to win this game and announce that all four schools in the Dakotas are now FCS powers.

Reasons to Like North Dakota

The Fighting Hawks looked fantastic against Missouri State. The same Missouri State team that looked like gangbusters in the first half against Missouri in their season opener, couldn’t manage a point against North Dakota’s defense last week.

North Dakota allowed Missouri State to pick up just 10 first downs and 211 total yards of offense on the day. The defense forced three turnovers and had five tackles for loss on the evening with reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Cole Reyes leading the way. It was a nice bounce back performance after this defense was gashed by Utah in its season opener.

Reasons Not to Like North Dakota

The Fighting Hawks rely on the ground game, but might have a tough time running the ball on this Coyotes defense. South Dakota held Bowling Green to under five yards per carry last week and that inability to run doomed the Falcons.

If North Dakota can’t run the ball, Keaton Studsrud is not the quarterback to lead you from behind. Studsrud is a great manager and doesn’t make mistakes with the ball, but isn’t going to win games with his arm either.

Reasons to Like South Dakota

Chris Streveler is one of the most exciting players at the FCS level. The one-time Minnesota Golden Gopher has been breathtaking as a dual-threat quarterback this season. He won FCS National Player of the Week honors for his performance against Bowling Green in Week 2 and looks leaps and bounds better than he was in 2016.

The combination of Streveler, Michael Fredrick, and Kai Henry has made for a punishing ground game this season. All three are averaging at least 10 runs per game and each is averaging just under five yards per carry.

Additionally, although the Coyotes went just 4-7 last season, they took the Fighting Hawks to double overtime when they squared off in North Dakota. North Dakota had to rally from 17 down in the fourth to even force OT and South Dakota knows it can win.

Reasons Not to Like South Dakota

Apologies to Bowling Green, but North Dakota has a much better defense. The Fighting Hawks are going to be tough to run on and Reyes is a playmaker at safety.

The Coyotes were also somewhat fortunate last week against Bowling Green. The Falcons fumbled away a kickoff and a punt, giving the Coyotes great field position on two drives. This team doesn’t have a particularly great punter or kicker and will fall behind in field position battles.

Prediction

Backing road teams is tough, but I like North Dakota here. The Fighting Hawks are a more complete team and don’t rely on just one player like the Coyotes do. Streveler is great, but North Dakota’s ground game will carry the day.

Final Score: North Dakota 31, South Dakota 24