The Southern Illinois Salukis get a rematch against the No. 1 South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs on Saturday. These teams met earlier this spring, with the Jackrabbits defeating the Salukis, 44-3. The winner advances to the FCS semifinals.
Saturday’s contest kicks off at 9 p.m. ET at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, SD. The quarterfinal will air on ESPN2.
According to the college football odds, the Jackrabbits are 15½-point favorites in the teams’ second meeting of the spring.
What to Know – Southern Illinois Salukis
Southern Illinois returns to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009 after a 34-31 upset on the road over Weber State. SIU scored a touchdown with under a minute to go in the first-round contest for a dramatic playoff victory. The Salukis finished the regular season fifth in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and received an at-large bid.
The Salukis score 27.2 points per game behind 423.1 yards of total offense. Defensively, SIU surrenders 29.6 points and 386.0 yards of offense per game.
Junior quarterback Stone Labanowitz found redshirt freshman wide receiver Branson Combs with 52 seconds remaining for the game-winning touchdown. SIU posted 422 yards of offense and went 7-of-14 on third down.
The Salukis converted both of their fourth-down attempts, including the game-winning score.
Labanowitz finished with 264 passing yards and two touchdowns and added 26 yards on the ground. Junior wide receiver Avante Cox hauled in six passes for 120 yards and one score, and sophomore running back Justin Strong carried the ball 14 times for 68 yards.
What to Know – South Dakota State Jackrabbits
South Dakota State is playing in its 10th consecutive FCS playoffs and sixth-straight second round of play. SDSU had no trouble taking care of Holy Cross in the first round, thumping the Crusaders, 31-3. The Jackrabbits finished the regular season atop the MVFC standings to secure the automatic bid to the postseason.
SDSU scores 28.6 points per game while racking up 399.6 yards of offense, including 225.7 yards on the ground. On defense, the Jackrabbits concede 14.0 points and 266.0 yards per game, both top 10 in the country.
The Jackrabbits logged 439 yards of offense, including 281 yards on the ground. SDSU’s defense held Holy Cross to 198 yards, with just 86 yards allowed through the air. The Jackrabbits sacked the quarterback four times and collected 8.0 tackles for loss.
Freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski completed 12-of-21 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Another freshman, running back Isaiah Davis, carried the ball 10 times for 156 yards and one touchdown.
Sophomore wide receiver Jadon Janke caught three passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns, while his twin brother, Jaxon Janke, added five receptions for 37 yards and one score.
The Pick Is In
SIU pulled off the upset last week, and it is going to need another miracle if it wants to defeat the Jackrabbits. The Salukis’ offense can keep them in the game, and the defense needs to step up and create key turnovers to give SIU a chance.
The Jackrabbits are the top seed in the FCS playoffs for a reason, and it all starts with the powerful rushing attack and stout defense. SDSU has the makeup of a championship-caliber team, and it’ll be on full display Saturday night. Southern Illinois will keep this one closer than the regular-season matchup, but the Jackrabbits still win and cover. When doing your college football betting, take South Dakota State.