Last year was the most successful one yet for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits football program. The team toiled in obscurity for much of its time at the FCS level, but it has come on strong since joining the Missouri Valley Conference. The ‘Rabbits made the postseason in each of the last five seasons and reached the quarterfinals for the first time in school history in 2016. The program has the talent to make the next big step if it can only get past North Dakota State.
2016 South Dakota State Football Season Recap
The Jackrabbits started the year with a loss, but they made people believe with their offensive performance against TCU. Quarterback Taryn Christion lit up the Horned Frogs’ secondary and showed off the skills that would eventually lead to him being named the MVC Offensive Player of the Year. He passed for 333 yards and three touchdowns and was the reason why SDSU was within four points of TCU with 10 minutes left in the fourth.
This offense was great despite playing in a league known for its stout defenses. Christion received most of the accolades, but he had two prime targets that were on the receiving end of over 70 percent of his passing yards.
Jake Wieneke and Dallas Goedert each picked up all-conference honors for their play last fall. Wieneke, who ended up with 78 receptions for 1,316 yards and 16 touchdowns, was Christion’s go-to receiver. Meanwhile, Goedert was the reliable tight end that the team leaned on when it needed a first down, catching 92 passes for 1,293 yards and 11 scores.
For the third time in five seasons, though, North Dakota State ended its neighbor’s season. While the Jackrabbits thought they had finally knocked the monkey off their back by beating the Bison in Fargo during the regular season, the playoffs were a different animal. NDSU pummeled the Jackrabbits, 36-10, in the quarterfinals.
2017 South Dakota State Football Season Preview
The Jackrabbits are poised to have their first double-digit win season ever. The non-conference slate doesn’t feature an FBS opponent or a non-conference powerhouse, and they bring back a ton of talent as well.
Christion returns for one more season, and his impact can’t be understated. He only had one bad game in 2016, as he was the team’s most reliable performer. He has the wheels to get out of trouble, too, but he needs to be more careful with the ball in the pocket. Christion had eight fumbles last year, with some of them being costly.
Wieneke and Goedert will be back as well. Wieneke is a tall, strong possession pass-catcher that can wrestle down any pass in traffic. He is set to become the school’s all-time leader in every major category for a wide receiver with just three more receptions.
Goedert might be even better. He has an incredible catch radius as well as the size to shrug off arm tackles. He has a little speed as well, hauling in the longest reception of any Jackrabbit last season.
Unfortunately, the defense has some issues. The secondary isn’t great and good quarterbacks were able to find open receivers all day in 2016. The front seven is decent, but this side of the ball needs to take a big step forward if the team wants to get past the quarterfinals.
2017 South Dakota State Football Schedule
August 31: South Dakota State vs. Duquesne
September 9: South Dakota State at Montana State
September 16: South Dakota State vs. Drake
September 30: South Dakota State at Youngstown State
October 7: South Dakota State vs. Southern Illinois
October 14: South Dakota State vs. Northern Iowa
October 21: South Dakota State at Missouri State
October 28: South Dakota State at Western Illinois
November 4: South Dakota State vs. North Dakota State
November 11: South Dakota State vs. Illinois State
November 18: South Dakota State at South Dakota
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
A trip to Youngstown State represents South Dakota State’s toughest road game. The Penguins have a solid defense that can keep teams off the board and will pound the rock with a methodical ground game. Bo Pelini has developed this team into a burgeoning powerhouse, so playing Youngstown State in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests this week is the way to go.
The Jackrabbits will play their Super Bowl on November 4 at home. That’s when North Dakota State comes to town in a game that will have major implications for the MVC title. South Dakota State was able to limit Easton Stick and the Bison ground game in the regular season last year, but not in the playoffs. The ‘Rabbits are likely to be an underdog and are a prime pick in the FCS Pick ‘Em Contests that Saturday.