BY JEREMY HOECK
The location will change to Vermillion (for the first time in 10 years), but the one key battle cry for the USD football team in preparation for Saturday’s showdown with SDSU is spoiler.
Themselves out of contention for the FCS post-season, the Coyotes (4-6) can only prevent the Jackrabbits (6-4) from returning to the playoffs.
It’s simple, really: SDSU wins, it remains alive. SDSU loses, its post-season push is all but over with five losses.
And don’t think the USD players and coaching staff doesn’t realize that. That would be the carrot at the end of the stick for this game — a chance to ruin your rival’s playoff dream.
It wasn’t long ago, though, that the Coyotes had those same dreams.
Two weeks ago, both teams were in the same 4-4 predicament: They each had to win out — the Coyotes got to that point having won three of four, while the Jacks were going in the opposite direction, losers in three of four.
Their paths then changed direction: USD lost consecutive home games to the No. 10 team in the country (losing leads each time in the final two minutes). SDSU, meanwhile, scored a pair of home wins to right the ship.
The Jackrabbits have two games remaining (from USD they go to Youngstown State). A win in Vermillion followed by another in Ohio would likely get SDSU into the post-season. For what’s it worth, the Sports Network projects SDSU into the field. And at 8-4, the Jacks would own wins over two likely post-season teams (SE Louisiana and Youngstown) and would boast a top-20 rating in the Gridiron Power Index — the top indicator for at-large selection.
(h/t for SDSU radio friend Tyler Merriam for the help on that part….)
And that sets the stage for Saturday in Vermillion.
With the only remaining “first” for the renewed Division I series being a return to the DakotaDome, it’s the actual football that matters now.
I’ll dive deeper into the matchups later in the week.