The Fighting Hawks play their third straight Top 25 opponent as they seek a 3-0 start
The state of North Dakota is home to an undefeated football team with convincing wins in back-to-back Top 25 matchups, and a top-four ranking of its own. The hook? It's the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
After blasting Southern Illinois in the season opener, North Dakota outdueled perennial contender South Dakota State in Week 2, 28-17. UND is fast making itself at home in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and, now at home, seeks its third consecutive Top 25 win against MVFC competition.
South Dakota comes calling after coming back from down 17 early against Illinois State. The Coyotes jumped up to No. 12 in the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll after the win.
South Dakota at North Dakota
Kickoff: Thursday, March 4 at 6 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN+/MidCo SN
When South Dakota Has the Ball
In its 27-20, come-from-behind win at Illinois State, the rally got rolling commensurate with quarterback Carson Camp starting to cook. Camp threw for one touchdown and rushed for another in about two minutes of game time to jump-start a decisive, 24-0 run.
A 2020 signee, Camp's impressive college debut doubled as a homecoming. He garnered Illinois State recruiting interest as a local prospect at Normal West, where he earned All-State honors. Camp's top target, Carter Bell, played in four games in 2019 but took a redshirt. While some of the Coyotes' offense is young, running back Kai Henry is a proven veteran.
Henry rushed for a shade below 800 yards in 2019 and has increased his workload each season. He'll face a stiff test from a North Dakota defense that has been stout against the run through two games, holding Southern Illinois and South Dakota State to a combined 186 yards.
The Fighting Hawks have also been outstanding at creating turnovers, with eight total in two games. Linebacker Jaxson Turner is coming off a performance against SDSU with a sack and a forced fumble.
When North Dakota Has the Ball
After bombarding Southern Illinois with 229 rushing yards, North Dakota showed more of its passing acumen in Week 2. Quarterback Tommy Schuster is completing better than 63 percent of his attempts, nicely completing a multifaceted rushing attack Otis Weah and Luke Skokna.
Weah broke off a 40-yard touchdown against SDSU that proved pivotal, and it's the kind of chunk-yardage play the Jackrabbits rarely give up. The Fighting Hawks will need to create similar big-play rushing opportunities against a South Dakota defense that made Illinois State pay whenever it went to the air.
The Coyotes intercepted four passes, two of which were by Myles Harden. Harden also broke up a pair of pass attempts.
South Dakota's turnover-creation was a byproduct of unrelenting pressure up front. The Coyotes got into the backfield for five sacks in Week 1.
From unranked to No. 4, North Dakota has ridden a remarkable wave very early into this unusual season. The Fighting Hawks didn't just win — they dominated against two quality opponents. Should they avoid the turnover issues that vexed Illinois State in South Dakota's comeback, they should move to 3-0.
Prediction: North Dakota 31, South Dakota 21
— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.