FCS Game of the Week Preview – North Dakota State vs. South Dakota State
The best rivalry in the FCS over the past five years has been the Dakota Marker game between the North Dakota State Bison and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. North Dakota State has dominated the MVFC and the FCS with eight national championships in the last nine seasons, while South Dakota State has made it to the semifinals in two of the last three seasons.
SDSU has had more success than any other school against NDSU over the past half-decade. The Jackrabbits knocked off the Bison in the regular season in 2016 and 2017, but the Bison defeated the Jackrabbits in the playoffs in all four of their meetings during the 2010s. The last four regular season games between these two teams were decided by a touchdown or less, so the spread is a virtual coin flip here.
This game will take place on Saturday, April 17, at 3:30 p.m. ET. North Dakota State will host the game at the Fargodome, and it will be broadcast on ESPN Plus.
College Football Betting Odds
South Dakota State +1.5
North Dakota State -1.5
Adam Cofield was the hero in the last meeting between these two teams. NDSU and SDSU were tied at 16 late in the fourth quarter when Cofield broke a 71-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-inches to give the Bison a 23-16 win. Cofield, Ty Brooks, and quarterback Trey Lance combined to run for 259 yards against the Bison, but the Jackrabbits kept holding firm in the red zone.
North Dakota State Offense vs. South Dakota State Defense
The Bison have not been great this season. They have yet to score more than 34 points in a game this season, and they only beat Northern Iowa by a field goal last week in Cedar Falls.
Zeb Noland has not been great under center for NDSU. Noland was a transfer from Iowa State that was expected to be a QB in the mold of Easton Stick. However, he has thrown five touchdowns and six interceptions, and he has yet to throw for more than 160 yards in any of the team’s six spring games.
That has made the Bison dependent on the ground game. North Dakota State has four players with at least 240 rushing yards, and the Bison are averaging 5.3 YPC as a team. Jalen Bussey is a big play threat with 9.3 YPC, while Hunter Luepke leads the team with 6.4 YPC.
The Jackrabbits are allowing opponents to run for just 3.6 YPC. They have one of the best pass defenses in the nation, led by Joshua Manchigiah and Don Gardner. SDSU has picked off nine passes while only allowing three passing touchdowns and opponents are averaging a scant 5.3 YPA against this secondary.
South Dakota State Offense vs. North Dakota State Defense
Freshman Mark Gronowski hasn’t been asked to do much for the Jackrabbits under center. He is completing 55.5% of his passes for 902 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions in five games. Gronowski was a surprise starter over J’Bore Gibbs at the start of the year, but he hasn’t played poorly.
Pierre Strong Jr. is the main running back for the Jackrabbits. He is averaging 5.2 YPC and has run for 358 yards on the season. Isaiah Davis has been a big play threat with 7.8 YPC and four rushing touchdowns, while Gronowski has run for 6.0 YPC with six rushing touchdowns.
Twins Jaxon Janke and Jadon Janke are the two primary receivers for SDSU. The former twin has 20 receptions for 313 yards and four scores, while the latter twin has 12 catches for 256 yards and a touchdown.
North Dakota State is as solid as ever on defense. The Bison are allowing opponents to run for just 3.0 YPC against this front seven. They haven’t been as strong in the secondary as we have seen in the past though.
The under is a tempting play considering these teams’ strong defenses and mediocre offenses, while SDSU is the pick if you are looking to bet a side in the Dakota Marker game.