Host Coyotes will try and slow down charging Bison on Saturday
Perhaps some were quick to jump to the conclusion that the North Dakota State dynasty is over. Despite a slow start to the Bison's season and the end of their record 39-game winning streak, NDSU is back where it started the season: atop Athlon Sports' FCS Power Poll.
In a dominant 34-13 win over North Dakota last week in what was tabbed by many to be the game of the year, North Dakota State reasserted itself as the class of the football subdivision. They may not have the efficient passing attack of 2019, but if the Bison can run the way they did against the Fighting Hawks, it's hard to imagine any team stopping them.
Up next on their Missouri Valley Football Conference slate is South Dakota, which is off to a disappointing 1-3 start. After starting the spring season with a win over then-No. 7 Illinois State, the Coyotes have been outscored by a combined 32 points in three consecutive losses.
The good news for South Dakota is at least this game against the rolling Bison is at the DakotaDome. NDSU has won 32 straight home games but goes from invincible to nearly unstoppable on the road.
North Dakota State at South Dakota
Kickoff: Saturday, March 27 at 2 p.m. ET
Spread: North Dakota State -21
When North Dakota State Has the Ball
The quarterback position continues to be a sieve for the Bison, with Zeb Noland completing just 5 of 13 passes for 127 yards, a touchdown, and two picks and Cam Miller just 3-of-6 for 13 yards. But the good news for head coach Matt Entz's team is that their running game looks as strong as ever.
The Bison rumbled for 320 yards on 54 carries against North Dakota, which brings them to seventh in the FCS at 237.7 rushing yards per game. The difference-maker last week was the return of fullback Hunter Luepke from a shoulder injury. The sophomore led the team with 190 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries, the best performance for any Bison this season.
Stopping NDSU's ground attack will be a major challenge for South Dakota, which ranks 78th out of 91 active FCS teams and third from the bottom in the MVFC in run defense at 223.0 rushing yards allowed per game. Making matters worse, the Coyotes gave up a season-high 303 yards on the ground last week to Youngstown State, which entered the week only averaging 134.5 per game.
When South Dakota Has the Ball
The Coyotes have taken down a top-10 team before. They opened their season on the road with a 27-20 win over Illinois State, and they'll have to copy that game plan to pull off another upset. There's not much to speak of in the running game, as leading rushers Kai Henry and Travis Theis combine to average just 3.6 yards per attempt, but quarterback Carson Camp has shown flashes of promise.
Camp is averaging 241.8 passing yards per game while completing 63.1 percent of his throws this season, but he does have more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3). Although he only completed 20 of 35 passes in Week 1 against Illinois State, he only turned it over once while tossing two touchdowns and spreading the ball to nine different receivers.
Camp may continue to spread the ball around, but Caleb Vander Esch and Carter Bell will be the two key players for NDSU to stop. Cornerback Jayden Price will likely cover one of the two, and ball-hawking freshman safety Dom Jones will also play a key role.
North Dakota State very much looks back, and if the Bison have another speed bump during the regular season, it's likely to be in one of its last two games, against South Dakota State or at Northern Iowa. The Coyotes could make it interesting if Carson Camp gets going early, but it's hard to see them sticking around for long.