FCS Playoffs: Northern Iowa at South Dakota State

FCS Playoffs Second Round

The Matchup – Northern Iowa (8-4) at No. 5 seed South Dakota State (9-2)

Kickoff – 3 p.m. ET at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium (19,360) in Brookings, South Dakota

Coverage – ESPN3

Series – Northern Iowa leads 30-20-2 (last meeting: UNI won 38-18 at South Dakota State on Oct. 14)

Players to Watch – Northern Iowa: QB Eli Dunne (198 of 322, 2,417 yards, 25 TDs, 10 INTs), RB Marcus Weymiller (187 carries, 750 yards, 8 TDs), WR Daurice Fountain (63 receptions, 915 yards, 11 TDs), LB Jared Farley (112 TT, 6 TFL, 5 PBU), S Elijah Campbell (46 TT, 5 INTs, 12 PBU); South Dakota State: QB Taryn Christion (199 of 332, 2,854 yards, 28 TDs, 7 INTs; 429 rushing yards, 7 TDs), TE Dallas Goedert (60 receptions, 966 yards, 5 TDs), WR Jake Wieneke (46 receptions, 670 yards, 13 TDs), DT Kellen Soulek (27 TT, 3 1/2 Sacks, 2 FF), LB Christian Rozeboom (107 TT, 7 TFL, 2 FR)

The Skinny – Weymiller carried the ball 42 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns in Northern Iowa’s easy road win at South Dakota State on Oct. 14, so the Panthers’ return to Brookings makes for an intriguing first playoff meeting between the Missouri Valley powers. SDSU has an excellent passing game and UNI has picked off 20 throws – second-most in the FCS. UNI is 100th nationally in yards per carry (3.1), but SDSU’s run defense is 96th (4.7) in that category and was very vulnerable in October. Three of UNI’s four losses are on the road, but the Panthers have turned around a 2-3 start to the season. Dunne is coming off four TD passes in UNI’s 46-7 rout of Monmouth in the first round. Redshirt sophomore Sam Drysdale has kicked 17 field goals, tying for the second-most in the FCS. The host Jackrabbits have been outgunning opponents, beating five straight despite giving up anywhere from 21 to 30 points. They will seek consistent running out of Brady Mengarelli (689 yards, 6 TDs) and his backfield mates to keep UNI honest against the Christion-Goedert-Wieneke trio. The Jackrabbits also have a clutch sophomore kicker, with Chase Vinatieri 9 for 10 on field goals, including five from outside 40 yards.

Up Next – The winner will play New Hampshire or No. 4 seed Central Arkansas in the quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Prediction – The Panthers are going to try to win on the ground again and the Jackrabbits’ defense has to answer the challenge. Northern Iowa 28-24.