FCS Playoffs: South Dakota State at Kennesaw State
by Stats.com | STATSon
(STATS) - FCS Quarterfinal-Round Playoff
The Matchup - No. 5 seed South Dakota State (9-2) at No. 4 seed Kennesaw State (11-1)
Kickoff - 2 p.m. ET at Fifth Third Bank Stadium (8,300) in Kennesaw, Georgia
Coverage - ESPN3
Series - First meeting
Coaches - South Dakota State: John Stiegelmeier (157-99, 22 seasons); Kennesaw State: Brian Bohannon (37-11)
3 Players to Watch - South Dakota State: QB Taryn Christion (175 of 296, 2,693 yards, 29 TDs, 6 INTs; 264 rushing yards, 5 TDs), WR Cade Johnson (60 receptions, 1,171 yards, 16 TDs), LB Christian Rozeboom (80 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 takeaways); Kennesaw State: QB Chandler Burks (182 carries, 871 yards, 29 TDs; 66 of 116, 1,031 yards, 10 TDs), LB Anthony Gore Jr. (73 tackles, 15 TFL, 6 sacks), LB Bryson Armstrong (70 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks)
The Skinny - In this first-time matchup of programs, South Dakota State is in the national quarterfinals for the third straight season and Kennesaw State for the second year in a row. They rank second (SDSU, 45.9) and third (KSU, 45.7) in the FCS in points per game. Following a second loss in the Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule, SDSU went somewhat under the radar over the final month of the regular season, but the Jackrabbits are on a five-game winning streak, including a snow-filled blowout of Duquesne in the second round. Christion holds the MVFC's career records for total offense (12,456 yards), passing yards (11,036) and touchdown passes (98). RB Pierre Strong Jr.'s 869 rushing yards have come on a ridiculous 11 yards per carry and Mikey Daniel (617 yards, 10 TDs) is coming off his first 100-yard performance of the season. With a plus-15 turnover margin, the Jackrabbits rank among the best in the in the FCS, but their defense has been up and down against the run, which is Kennesaw State's forte. CB Jordan Brown (3 INTs, 10 PBU) is an NFL prospect. PK Chase Vinatieri boasts deep range and has made 72 percent of his career field goals. Kennesaw State is stepping up its level of FCS opponent, but the Owls have won 15 straight home games and feature the nation's No. 2-ranked rushing offense (356.3 ypg) even after being slowed down in a rain-filled defensive struggle against Wofford in the second round. Gore, the Big South defensive player of the year, set up the win with a forced fumble late in the game. The defense is third nationally in total defense, allowing 260 yards per game. The Owls offense averages only six pass completions per game, its triple option more Burks leading option plays with Darnell Holland (857 yards, 9 TDs), Shaquil Terry (550, 5) and Co. PK Justin Thompson is over 80 percent on field goal attempts the last two seasons and has made 143 straight PATs.
Up Next - The winner will play either No. 8 seed Colgate (10-1) or No. 1 seed North Dakota State (12-0) in the semifinals Dec. 14 or 15.
Prediction - These two team deserve better weather after last Saturday, but rain is in the forecast. It's an intriguing matchup of SDSU's brute force and Kennesaw's outstanding team speed. South Dakota State, 29-23.