The Delaware Blue Hens (7-0) and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (7-1) meet up in the FCS playoff semifinals, with the winner advancing to the championship next week. The winner will face either James Madison or Sam Houston State in the title game.
Saturday’s kickoff is at noon ET at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, SD. According to BetUS sportsbook, the Jackrabbits are an eight-point favorite over the Blue Hens.
What to Know – Delaware Blue Hens
The Blue Hens return to the semifinals for the first time since 2010 after upsetting Jacksonville State, 20-14. Delaware is making its eighth appearance in the playoff semifinals, where the Blue Hens are 4-3. The Blue Hens were undefeated in Colonial Athletic Association play.
Offensively, Delaware averages 29.0 points per game behind 360.4 yards of total offense. The Blue Hens’ defense surrenders 11.7 points and 223.0 yards of offense per game, both top-5 in FCS.
Delaware jumped to a 14-0 lead, scoring on its first two possessions, to take down the Gamecocks. Offensively, the Blue Hens totaled 374 yards, including 266 yards through the air. Delaware won the time of possession battle, controlling the clock 38:25 to 21:35.
Junior quarterback Nolan Henderson finished the quarterfinals contest 18-of-28 for 239 yards and an additional 30 yards rushing. The Blue Hens got rushing touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Anthony Paoletti and senior running back Dejoun Lee. Senior wide receiver Gene Coleman II hauled in ten receptions for a game-high 129 yards,
What to Know – South Dakota State Jackrabbits
South Dakota State is making its third appearance in the semifinals in four years, hoping for better results this season than in 2018. The Jackrabbits have an excellent shot at punching their ticket to the championship as the playoffs’ top seed. SDSU represents the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
SDSU’s offense scores 28.9 points per while averaging 401.4 yards of offense per game. Defensively, the Jackrabbits hold opponents to 15.5 points and 288.1 yards of total offense.
The Jackrabbits used a goal-line stop and a long quarterback run to race ahead and hold on to a 31-26 victory over the Southern Illinois Salukis. SDSU defeated the Salukis for the second time this season, but Sunday’s win was much closer than earlier this year. South Dakota State rushed for 231 of its 414 yards.
Freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski completed 9-of-16 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns while adding 142 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Junior running back Pierre Strong Jr. (48 yards) and freshman rusher Isaiah Davis (42 yards, one touchdown) chipped in additional yardage on the ground for SDSU. Sophomore wide receiver Jadon Janke caught two passes for 49 yards, both going for touchdowns.
The Pick is In
The teams have suffocating defenses that will keep the contest low-scoring. Both teams can grind it out offensively, and quarterback play doesn’t get any better than what we will see in game one on Saturday.
If Henderson can make some plays offensively and the Blue Hens defense controls the Jackrabbits’ rushing attack, the Blue Hens have a good shot at winning the ballgame. South Dakota needs to continue to do what it’s done all summer, keep the ball on the ground, and don’t turn it over.
South Dakota State will win, but it will be done in the final seconds of play. The Jackrabbits earn their trip to the championship with a 20-17 victory over Delaware.
Pick: Delaware Blue Hens +8