Game Time: Saturday, October 26, 2019, 3 p.m. ET
Location: Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, Brookings, South Dakota
How To Watch: ESPN Plus
Betting Odds: North Dakota State -4.5, O/U 47
The North Dakota State Bison have been unchallenged as the premier team in the FCS this decade. North Dakota State has claimed seven of the nine FCS championships awarded in the 2010s, and the Bison are the No. 1 team in the country. They have won 28 straight games, but the last time they lost was in Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. North Dakota State will return to Brookings on Saturday for a Dakota Marker clash with the No. 3 South Dakota State Jackrabbits and College Gameday will be on hand for the festivities.
Reasons to Like North Dakota State
The Bison have the best defense in the country. North Dakota State is allowing just 4.3 yards per play on this side of the ball, and that’s despite playing in the best conference in FCS. That defense stonewalled solid teams like Delaware, UC Davis, Illinois State, and Northern Iowa in consecutive games, and the Bison have conceded only six offensive touchdowns in seven games.
NDSU boasts a fantastic running game too. The Bison have a stable of talented running backs and an excellent offensive line for them to run behind. There’s an outside chance that North Dakota State has a whopping four 1,000-yard runners, highlighting this team’s dominance on the ground. They are averaging 6.1 YPC as a team with Ty Brooks leading the way.
Quarterback Trey Lance gives the Bison something they haven’t had before too. Lance is a much better runner than predecessors Carson Wentz and Easton Stick, and his legs have allowed this offense to keep the ball on the ground more. He has yet to throw an interception this season and has been very efficient in the passing game, but he has thrown the ball less than 20 times a game on average.
Reasons Not to Like North Dakota State
Lance has yet to be tested this season. The redshirt freshman has not been asked to do much since the Bison have been so dominant. North Dakota State’s closest game all season long was decided by 11 points, and we have no idea how Lance will react in a hostile environment if the game is close late.
South Dakota State has the best defense that Lance has faced, and the Bison are only incrementally better than the Jackrabbits on this side of the ball. The Jackrabbits have intercepted at least one pass in every game this season, so something has to give here.
Reasons to Like South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits defense is allowing 4.4 yards per play. They have surrendered more points than their Dakota Marker rivals, but this defense has been nearly as impressive, and they have done an excellent job stopping the Bison in the past. South Dakota State has won two of the last three games in the Dakota Marker rivalry, and the Jackrabbits have not allowed the Bison to score more than 21 points in any of the last three games.
SD State has a very strong ground game too. Pierre Strong is averaging 8.3 YPC this season, and C.J. Wilson is picking up 7.5 YPC. The Jackrabbits are running for 6.2 YPC as a team, making them very similar to the Bison in this respect.
Reasons Not to Like South Dakota State
If you think these teams are pretty similar, you’re not alone. The Jackrabbits will also be starting a freshman quarterback in J’Bore Gibbs. Gibbs nearly led South Dakota State to an upset win against undefeated Minnesota in the season opener, but he injured his hand in that game. He sat out a few weeks, and he has been solid since his return, but he has made some mistakes. Gibbs has thrown four interceptions and is completing less than 59 percent of his passes on the season.
The Jackrabbits haven’t had much luck beating the Bison in the playoffs, but they have proven to be their equal in the regular season. This will be a close, low-scoring game, and I think South Dakota State will stay within the number and pull off the upset.
Final Score: South Dakota State 21, North Dakota State 20