(19) South Dakota State (9-3) at (1) North Dakota State (10-1)
The Sports Network
By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 1, 4 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gate City Bank Field / Fargodome (18,600) -- Fargo, North Dakota. Surface: StroTurf's GameDay Grass 3D60 infilled turf. Television: ESPN GamePlan and ESPN3.com. Announcers: Dan Gutowsky and John Gregory. Home Record: South Dakota State 6-0; North Dakota State 5-1. Away Record: South Dakota State 3-3; North Dakota State 4-0. Neutral Record: South Dakota State 0-0; North Dakota State 1-0. Series Record: North Dakota State (54-40-5). Last Meeting: November 10, 2012 (North Dakota State, 20-17 at NDST). Series Streak: North Dakota State has won the last three meetings. Nicknames: South Dakota State Jackrabbits; North Dakota State Bison. Conferences: South Dakota State - Missouri Valley; South Dakota State - Missouri Valley. Sports Network Ranking: South Dakota State (19); North Dakota State (1). NCAA FCS Playoffs Seedings: South Dakota State (NS); North Dakota State (1). Coaches: South Dakota State - John Stiegelmeier (16th season, 102-75 at South Dakota State and overall); North Dakota State - Craig Bohl (10th season, 85-32 at North Dakota State at overall). FCS playoff records: South Dakota State 1-1; North Dakota State 6-1. Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: South Dakota State 1 (2009); North Dakota State 2 (2010-11). Current Playoff Streak: South Dakota State won its last playoff game; North Dakota State has won its last four playoff games.
GAME NOTES: You have to love the irony of the FCS playoffs, especially this week, when rivals North Dakota State and South Dakota State square off for the second time this season.
This is the 100th meeting between the two schools in a series which started in 1903. The Jackrabbits will certainly have the series' 99th meeting on their mind - a 20-17 loss on Nov. 10, also in the Fargodome - because they were limited to just 209 yards of offense and lost the battle for the Dakota Marker for the third straight season.
Believe it or not, this is just the third trip to the FCS playoffs for the Bison, but it's the second straight season that the team has earned the overall No. 1 seed.
NDSU's defense has remained atop FCS defensive rankings throughout the season, ranking first in six major categories. Most notably, scoring defense (11 points per game), total defense (195 yards per game), rush defense (67 yards per game), pass defense (128 yards per game) and defensive third down efficiency (25.95 percent).
However, few realize the Bison also lead the FCS in time of possession at 35 minutes, 30 seconds per game, which not only keeps foes off the field, but it also gives the team's defense time to rest.
South Dakota State has the advantage of momentum, after dominating Eastern Illinois last week, 58-10, in first-round action. Running back Zach Zenner regained his seat atop the FCS rushing charter with a 295-yard, three- touchdown performance. The sophomore leads all FCS players with 1,998 rushing yards and 166 yards per game, in 12 contests this season.
Zenner rushed for a season-low 43 yards in the Nov. 10 loss at North Dakota State.
Interestingly, the key to the game could be the play of both signal-callers. NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen and SDSU quarterback Austin Sumner need to make the most of their play action pass opportunities. Neither quarterback is going to put up huge numbers, but they need to be efficient and limit turnovers.
There's just something about playoff football in the Fargodome that makes it such a daunting task for opponents. Expect the role of special teams to be the difference maker when it's all said and done.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 28, South Dakota St. 24.
11/28 18:37:52 ET