The two biggest public universities in South Dakota will meet on the gridiron this weekend in one of the state’s biggest rivalries.
Most players on the South Dakota State roster paid more attention to SDSU rather than the University of South Dakota when they were in high school. This was due to the fact that SDSU has had more success in the past six seasons.
The Coyotes joined the Jacks in the Football Championship Subdivision in 2008, but the teams did not play each other until 2012. USD hasn’t had a winning season since 2011 and hasn’t made an appearance in the FCS Playoffs in school history. The Jacks have made the FCS Playoffs every year since 2012.
SDSU’s success has translated to an advantage over USD with in-state recruiting. The Jacks have 29 players from the state, while the Coyotes only have 12. The majority of recruits from SDSU come from Sioux Falls or Yankton area.
The Jacks have five players from Sioux Falls and USD has four. One of those Sioux Falls recruits is quarterback Taryn Christion, who attended Roosevelt High School. Christion said his decision was simple, despite USD recruiting him.
“Growing up, I rooted more for the Jacks because Brookings was a closer community to where I was,” Christion said.
Thirty miles separate Yankton and Vermillion, while 138 miles separate Brookings and Yankton. The Jacks have four players from Yankton while the Coyotes only have one.
One of the Yankton recruits, senior defensive lineman Kellen Soulek, said growing up in Yankton made him aware of the Coyotes and that his babysitter’s husband played offensive line for USD. However, not going to USD was easy for Soulek — they didn’t recruit him at all.
“ … I didn’t think too much of (USD),” Soulek said. “When I was in eighth grade Tyrel Kool went [there]and put on the radar for me.”
Kool played wide receiver for the Jacks during the 2008-2011 seasons, which was when USD began playing in the FCS.
Despite the 112 previous meetings, no game has had as serious playoff implications as the upcoming game on Nov. 18.
The stakes for this game are so high because if the season ended today, based on the STATS FCS polls, SDSU would be awarded a seed, while USD would be outside of the top eight.
It’ll be the last game before the teams find out if they are awarded a top eight seed by the FCS Playoff committee. A top eight seed in the FCS Playoffs is desirable, because you not only receive a bye week, but you also get home field advantage.