Rivals and conference co-champions North Dakota State and South Dakota State have the opportunity to prove who the better team is when they meet Saturday at the Fargodome in the FCS playoffs quarterfinals.
The five-time defending national champion Bison are the tournament No. 1 seed with an 11-1 record. Their only loss this season was Oct. 15 to South Dakota State.
The Jackrabbits scored a touchdown with two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, rallying back from a 14-point deficit to pull off the stunner just three weeks after the Bison upset the Big Ten’s nationally ranked Iowa.
South Dakota State finished the season 9-3 and has won four straight entering Saturday’s 11 a.m. matchup on ESPN. North Dakota State has won six in a row since losing to the Jacks. The game is being labeled “The Rematch.”
There was a similar rematch last season, when Montana defeated North Dakota State 38-35 in the season-opener. The teams met again in the playoffs with the Bison winning 33-7.
The second round of the FCS playoffs produced three upsets, setting the tone this week for the Jacks to pull off another stunner. It won't be easy, though. The Bison only lost five games during the past five championship seasons.
The Jacks nearly upset the Bison the last time they met in the FCS Playoffs in 2014 after a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. However, former North Dakota State star quarterback Carson Wentz and the Bison responded with a 76-yard drive capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass with 54 seconds left to secure the 27-24 victory.
Minnesota will be well-represented in the rivalry. A combined 51 players from the state are on the two rosters.
Among South Dakota State’s standouts is receiver Jake Wienke, a Maple Grove product, who has 73 receptions, 1,241 yards and 16 touchdowns. North Dakota State’s defense is led by defensive end Greg Menard from Lakeville and safety Robbie Grimsley from Hutchinson. Menard has 52 total tackles and 9.5 sacks. Grimsley has 71 total tackles and four interceptions.
Saturday’s game will mark the 106th meeting between the rivals. The Bison lead the all-time series 59-41-5 and the Jacks are playing for their first 10-win season in program history.
The highlights from South Dakota State's October shocker: