(Stats Perform) – It’s not surprising to feel sore before the FCS semifinal between South Dakota State and Montana State.
Even if you’re just reading about Saturday’s showdown.
These two programs pound the physical run game and wear down opponents, basically making most wince even before the bodies start flying.
The matchup is a little surprising, though, given that Montana State is hosting despite being the last of the playoff’s eight seeded teams, and South Dakota State is there as an unseeded team. They have strong offensive lines and the No. 6 (MSU) and 8 (SDSU) rushing attacks in the 128-school FCS.
Here’s a capsule preview of their semifinal:
South Dakota State (11-3, 5-3 MVFC) at No. 8 seed Montana State (11-2, 7-1 Big Sky)
Kickoff – 2 p.m. ET Saturday at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Montana (ESPN2)
Series – Montana State leads, 10-5 (most recent meeting: SDSU won 45-14 at home on Sept. 8, 2018)
Coaches – South Dakota State: John Stiegelmeier (184-110, 25 seasons); Montana State: Brent Vigen (11-2, one season)
5 Players to Watch – South Dakota State: QB Chris Oladokun (215 of 347, 2,849 yards, 24 TDs, 6 INTs), RB Isaiah Davis (86 carries, 688 yards, 7 TDs), WR Jaxon Janke (66 receptions, 1,061 yards, 5 TDs), LB Adam Bock (119 tackles, 9 TFL, 2 TDs, 6 pass breakups), DE Reece Winkleman (30 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery); Montana State: QB Tommy Mellott (76 carries, 550 yards, 8 TDs; 16 of 35, 228 yards, 2 TDs), RB Isaiah Ifanse (262 carries, 1,539 yards, 10 TDs; 13 receptions, 105 yards, 1 TD), LT Lewis Kidd (All-Big Sky first team, 46 consecutive starts), LB Troy Andersen (127 tackles, 13 TFL, 2 INTs, 7 pass breakups), DE Daniel Hardy (65 tackles, 20.5 TFL, 14 sacks)
5 Key Factors – 1. Although Davis has been incredible during the playoffs (499 yards and six TDs rushing), SDSU hopes to get back Pierre Strong Jr. (1,592 yards, 17 TDs) from concussion protocol to have the most-dangerous rushing duo in the FCS. 2. SDSU seeks to limit MSU’s strong rushing punch of Ifanse (Bobcats are 17-0 in his career when he scores a TD) and Mellott, and force third-down passing situations. The Jackrabbits have an FCS-high 21 interceptions. 3. Hardy has six sacks in the last four games for what’s been a red-hot MSU pass rush. The Jackrabbits have allowed only 14 sacks in 14 games. 4. MSU is strong against the pass, often using five defensive backs while ranking 12th nationally in passing efficiency defense and allowing just 11 TD passes. SDSU boasts a tall receivers unit which has four different players (6-foot-3 WRs Jaxon and Jadon Janke, 6-5 tight end Tucker Kraft and 6-7 Zach Heins) with at least five TD catches. 5. While MSU ranks second in the FCS in scoring defense at 13.2 points per game, it’s a mere 8.6 in home games, where the Bobcats are 7-0 before raucous crowds. Meanwhile, the visiting Jackrabbits are playing their third straight road playoff game and FCS-high 25th game in this calendar year.
Up Next – The winner will face either No. 2 seed North Dakota State (12-1) or No. 3 seed James Madison (12-1) in the FCS championship game on Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas.
Prediction – Montana State 24, South Dakota State 23