#3 South Dakota State FCS Football 2021 Preview

South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Overall Rank: #3
#1 Missouri Valley
 South Dakota State Logo
South Dakota State finally got the best of North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits beat the Bison in the regular season finale 27-17 to earn the #1 overall seed in the playoffs. They rode that home field advantage all way to their first ever National Championship game, losing 23-21 to Sam Houston State. It was an epic season for Coach John Stiegelmeier and company and they will want to repeat that success in the fall.
2020-21 Record: 8-2, 5-1
2020-21 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: John Stiegelmeier (174-107 at South Dakota State, 174-107 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jason Eck
Defensive Coordinator: Jimmy Rogers, Brian Bergstrom
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Isaiah Davis, RB, 818 yards
Passing: Mark Gronowski, QB, 1,565 yards
Receiving: Jaxon Janke, WR, 473 yards
Tackles:Adam Bock, LB, 74 
Sacks: Caleb Sanders, DT, 5.0
Interceptions: Joshua Manchigiah, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Pierre Strong, WR Jadon Janke, TE Zack Heins, OL Garret Greenfield, OL Mason McCormick, LB Logan Backhaus, S Michael Griffen, CB Don Gardner, K Cole Frahm
Key Losses: LB Preston Tetzlaff
South Dakota State lost quarterback Mark Gronowski to an injury early in the national title game. With a short off-season, he will miss the entire fall too. It was Keaton Heide who stepped in for Gronowski with the national title on the line where he went 11-of-22 for 107 yards and an interception. Chris Odalokun transferred in from Samford where he started nine games over the last two years. He also started a couple games at South Florida before that. Losing Gronowski is not a good thing, but SDSU has talented options. They have some talented receivers too. Brothers Jaxon and Jadon Janke combined to catch 53 passes for 898 yards and 11 touchdowns in the spring. The passing game will be fine, but the Jackrabbits will do most of their damage on the ground anyway. Despite taking carries away from each other, both Isaiah Davis and Pierre Strong are earning All-American accolades. Davis rushed for 818 yards on just 96 carries with ten touchdowns and Strong added 707 yards and three scores.
The defense allowed just 15.0 points per game and should be just as productive in the fall. The front line has a great tackle in Caleb Sanders. Ends Reece Winkelman and Tolu Ogunrinde tallied 3.0 sacks each, but the team as a whole ranked seventh in the MVFC in sacks per game. The star of the defense is Logan Backhaus and he is coming off an All-American season. Fellow linebacker Adam Bock led the team with 74 tackles and he will again team up with Backhaus to form one of the most potent linebacker duos in the FCS. Don Gardner is a shutdown corner and safety Josh Manchigiah picked off a team high four passes.
The Bottom Line:
South Dakota State will get an opportunity to make a big splash on the opening weekend of the season. On Friday night the Jackrabbits head to Colorado State and should be able to keep it close. A win over an FBS team is not necessary for this group to win the playoffs, but it would give the new quarterback plenty of positive momentum.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2020-21 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 231.7 (7th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 171.4 (69, 6)
Total Offense: 403.1 (22, 2)
Scoring Offense: 29.2 (22, 2)
Rushing Defense: 115.7 (23, 3)
Pass Defense: 172.2 (21, 2)
Total Defense: 287.9 (19, 3)
Scoring Defense: 15.0 (5, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.70 (20, 3)
Sacks: 2.20 (44, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 1.00 (7, 3)