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FCS Game of the Week Preview: No. 3 South Dakota State at No. 1 North Dakota State

SDSU is looking to win its third straight regular season meeting

South Dakota State v TCU Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Game Time: Saturday, September 29, 2018, 3:30 p.m. ET

Location: Fargodome, Fargo, North Dakota

How To Watch: ESPN Plus

Betting Odds: North Dakota State -11.5, O/U 55.5


This year’s clash between North Dakota State and South Dakota State for the Dakota Marker might be the most anticipated regular season showdown ever. The Bison and Jackrabbits are both ranked in the top three, and both teams have their sights set on more than just a MVFC title. A seventh national championship would give the Bison more FCS titles than any other school, breaking a deadlock with Georgia Southern, while the Jackrabbits are looking to claim their first championship.

Reasons to Like North Dakota State

Last week, I thought Delaware could give North Dakota State a game. Boy, was I wrong. North Dakota State scored 28 points in the first 12 minutes of the game, and it was all she wrote from there.

The Bison crushed the Blue Hens on both sides of the ball in their first real test this season. The offense racked up over 500 yards of offense last Saturday, and Easton Stick averaged over 10 yards per pass while the running game ground out nearly six yards per carry.

As for the defense, they limited Delaware to just 152 yards of offense on the day, and the bulk of that came during garbage time in the fourth quarter. They forced four turnovers and even outscored Delaware’s offense thanks to a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jabril Cox.

Reasons Not to Like North Dakota Sate

The Bison have not fared well against South Dakota State over the past two seasons. Last year, Easton Stick threw three interceptions in a loss in Brookings, and the defense allowed the Jackrabbits to rack up 473 total yards of offense.

In 2016, South Dakota State outgained North Dakota State by over 200 yards in a two-point victory in the Fargodome. Stick was largely ineffective through the air on the day, while the defense had no answer for the Jackrabbits’ balanced offense.

Reasons to Like South Dakota State

Taryn. Christion. Christion is one of the frontrunners for the Walter Payton Award this season, and he has made a habit of tearing up the Bison in the past. If you combine his numbers from the last two regular season meetings between these two teams, he is 47-75 for 632 yards with four touchdowns and one interception through the air, and he has run for 178 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries.

Christion is off to a great start again this season, but the emergence of the defense has turned this team into a national title contender. The Jackrabbits have played just two games this year, their game with Iowa State was cancelled due to lightning, and they allowed 20 points in those two games.

Reasons Not to Like South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits’ second-biggest weapon in their wins over the Bison in 2016 and 2017 was tight end Dallas Goedert. Goedert led South Dakota State in receiving in both games, tallying over 100 receiving yards and a score in each outing. Christion won’t have him or wide receiver Jake Wieneke as options this year though, as both players have graduated.

Additionally, although South Dakota State has won the last two regular season meetings, they got waxed when it really mattered in the playoffs in 2016. North Dakota State gained nearly 300 more yards than their southern neighbor in a 36-10 win in the quarterfinals.

Prediction

We don’t know just how good South Dakota State is without Goedert and Wieneke. Christion has put up big numbers without those two in his first two games, but those wins came against lesser opponents.

North Dakota State proved me wrong last week, and I’m on board after watching them demolish Delaware. I think they’ll take back the Dakota Marker in front of a raucous crowd at the Fargodome.

Final Score: North Dakota State 41, South Dakota State 24

Elsewhere, I really like Eastern Washington on the road at a pick ‘em against Montana State this week, and I think Elon will take care of business against Rhode Island provided Trevor Knight doesn’t play for the Rams.