SDSU’s offense boasts the leading rusher in the conference (Zach Zenner at 137.2 yds/gm) and the second leading passer (Austin Sumner at 228.3 yds/game). SDSU is currently the #3 ranked scoring offense, and #4 in total offense at 378.6 yds/game. They only accumulate 38.8 yds/game in penalties, which is #1 in the conference, and they are also #1 in the conference in TO/Margin at +14. These numbers demonstrate the strengths of a solid football team, but they have been shaky in other areas this year. SDSU is 6th in the conference in scoring defense at 25.7 pts/game, and 8th in total defense at 394.8 yds/game. They have only sacked the QB 21 times this season, which is 6th in the conference.
While the Jackrabbits are showing strengths offensively, the Coyotes strengths are on the opposite side of the ball. USD is #1 in the conference in sacks at 31, they are 3rd in total defense at 328.7 yds/game, and 5th in scoring defense at 24 pts/game. USD’s offense has gone through a QB change, and it seems to be moving them in the right direction. Kevin Earl is now running the offense and will be the key to any success for the Coyotes. USD is currently 10th in scoring offense at 19.7 pts/game, but is 6th in rushing offense at 156 yds/game, and 3rd in the conference at TO/margin at +4.
If the statistics told the only story, it would appear that both teams have a solid shot if they play to their strengths. The intangible aspect of this game is that we will be watching an intense interstate rivalry game that is being played for bragging rights and also the chance to either continue a team’s playoff goals or to destroy a team’s playoff goals. We can safely throw out the stats on Saturday and focus on which team can ride the momentum and play with emotion, but still control their emotion enough to not hurt the team. SDSU has been very good this year in not hurting themselves with penalties or careless turnovers. The Jackrabbits will need these advantages playing in the Dakota Dome where the Coyotes have been playing very tough. USD has lost two games in the Dakota Dome this year, but the losses were to potential playoff teams, Youngstown and Montana. USD was leading in both games late in the 4th quarter, but they were simply not able to finish. The Coyotes will come into this rivalry game playing at high level, and they will need to be able to continue that high level of play through all four quarters.
The key to winning the game will be whether or not the Coyotes can continue to force turnovers against a team that does not turn the ball over very often. The Coyotes have 6 TO’s in the last two games and will need the same performance if they want to beat the Jackrabbits. It will be great to see how these teams match up in a packed and noisy Dakota Dome. Rivalry games bring intensity to the field and the overall atmosphere, and this game will certainly deliver! Here’s hoping for some great South Dakota football on Saturday!