Will North Dakota State continue their season dominance? Or will the Jackrabbits continue their surge in the “Dakota Marker” series and strengthen their chance for a Top 8 seed in the FCS Playoffs?
Both NDSU and SDSU are well-known names in the FCS hierarchy; the Jacks have gone to the FCS playoffs each of the last nine years, losing to Sam Houston in the Championship game during the Covid-delayed Spring season. The Bison are the gold standard of the FCS, winning eight of the last eleven championships. This week they will meet in a #2 vs #9 clash at 8pm BST Saturday. The game is available on ESPN+.
Special Trophy for a Special Game
This season finds both teams in similar circumstances—#2 NDSU is the only 8-0 team in FCS, while #9 SDSU is 6-2 and in the playoff hunt. And while they’ve played 111 times previously, the last 17 regular season tilts have been “marked” by a special trophy: the Dakota Marker. When both teams ascended to Division I in 2004, they began playing for the trophy, a 75 lb replica of the quartzite markers used along the state line. The Bison hold the winning edge, both in the Dakota Marker Series (10-7) and overall (63-43-5). The Bison also are 4-0 in playoff meetings with the Jackrabbits, though those games do not count as part of the special series.
Run Like Crazy, and Stop the Run
If you haven’t seen Pierre Strong, Jr break out a long rushing touchdown, search him on the internet or Twitter. You will be greeted by smooth running and quick cuts as he races to the endzone. Strong is 3rd in FCS with 986 yards so far and is the linchpin of the 6th best offense in FCS. However, the Jacks’ rushing attack is taking on a Bison D that has allowed only seven (yes, seven) touchdowns thus far. Only FBS #1 Georgia, at 6.6 pts/game has a better scoring defense than NDSU: the Bison lead FCS, giving up 8.1 ppg. The Jacks will also lean on QB Chris Oladokun, who has 1,834 passing yards and 16 TD passes.
The Bison running game is also the focus of their offense. Quarterback Quincy Patterson, a transfer from Virginia Tech, is the team’s leading rusher with 498 yards and 5 TDs. In fact, the Bison rush 71% of the time. That’s not quite like Navy’s offense, which may only throw a handful of passes in a game. But their strength is in the run—Patterson has 813 passing yards, a 54.5% completion rate and 6 TDs to 4 interceptions. SDSU’s top linebacker, Logan Backhaus will look to put a stop to the Bison offense. The senior linebacker is a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award, given yearly to the top defensive player in FCS.
Both teams look to continue decade-long winning ways. SDSU would love to give the Bison their first loss of the season, as they did in 2017 when the NDSU came into the game 8-0. But more importantly, the Jackrabbits need the win to increase their chance of a top-8 seed and first round playoff bye. For the NDSU, it’s a matter of bouncing back from last season’s 7-3 record and early exit from the FCS playoffs. I’ll give a breakdown of playoff selections and how the process works at the end of the regular season. Till then, keep watching, and thanks for reading.