Well here we go, into November so much to be decided over the next four weeks, what we think we know now could be completely different on the 22nd. A lot could be sorted out tomorrow, there are some huge matchups with playoff implications, including here in Fargo, Kolpack and I will be on from 9-11 as usual on 970 WDAY, followed by the Pregame show from the tailgating lots at 11:30 on WDAY’Z Xtra and wday.com. On to the picks, where it’s a three-game lead for the elder statesman!
Zach Zenner struggles for running room in last year’s game.
I touched on it in today’s Forum story, but the key to Saturday’s NDSU and SDSU game is rather obvious: can the Jackrabbits get running back Zach Zenner going against NDSU? The all-time Missouri Valley Football Conference rushing leader has had games of 34, 43, 46 and 4 yards in the previous four meetings against NDSU.
His production will in theory by vitally important with the Jacks bringing a first-year quarterback to Gate City Bank Field in sophomore Zach Lujan. Relying on the pass for SDSU could by a dicey deal — the Jacks have thrown seven interceptions in the four Valley games and have surrendered 19 quarterback sacks in that span. NDSU quarterback Carson Wentz has gone down seven times all season.
So, getting the Zenner machine going has to be Priority A for SDSU. He told Terry Vandrovec from the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader that he’s always confident in the Jacks’ scheme against NDSU. “It’s really just up to us to execute,” he said.
Is he bothered by his stats vs. NDSU? “What bothers me is offensively the past two games we’ve played them we haven’t done well – that’s the bottom line. As an offense, the really poor performances the past two games – that’s more the frustration for me,” he said.
The question all week has been if NDSU can maintain the amazing hold its had on Zenner. In this matchup, it’s really simple math.
South Dakota State star running back Zach Zenner has been held in check by the Bison defense so far. “For the most part, we’ve done it different ways and we’ll have to be creative and find a way again,” says NDSU head coach Chris Klieman.
As we enter the final month of the regular season the Missouri Valley has two teams that started the season 7-0 or better for the first time in league history. That also brings with it the unique possibility of two teams tying for the league title, that will NOT play one another. NDSU and Illinois State each are at 4-0 in conference play, but with the conference at ten teams and wanting to stay at an eight game league schedule, that means teams will miss one another and NDSU-ISU is on the rotation for the next two years. That provides for a unique situation if the Bison and Redbirds end up tied come November 22nd. Here’s what the two teams have left:
NDSU – vs. SDSU, at Northern Iowa, at Missouri State, vs. Youngstown State
Ilinois State – at Northern Iowa, vs Youngstown State, at South Dakota, vs Southern Illinois
Now the biggest question we’ve received on the blog is what happens if NDSU and Illinois State are tied, who receives the automatic qualifier to the FCS Playoffs? Here’s the answer straight from the Valley’s Assistant Commissioner; Mike Kern:
If the tied teams did not play each other, then each team’s record against all common conference opponents shall be used to determine the NCAA automatic qualifier.
·If the teams are still tied, then each team’s record against the next highest common opponent in the conference standings shall be used to determine the NCAA automatic qualifier.
·If the teams are still tied, the latest available GPI ranking prior to NCAA selection shall be used as the final tiebreaker.
Join WDAY sports director Dom Izzo and The Forum’s Jeff Kolpack for the Bison Video Blog! Jeff and Dom will recap the Monday morning NDSU Athletics presser and preview this weekend’s game against SDSU. Stream starts at approximately 1pm CST.