(STATS) - They faced each other as opposing starting quarterbacks in the FCS playoffs last season.
This year, they are linked by being among the elite signal callers in the nation.
South Dakota State sophomore Taryn Christion and Montana senior Brady Gustafson have led their respective teams to Top 10 national rankings while shredding defenses on a weekly basis.
On Wednesday, the two quarterbacks were nominated to the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List.
South Dakota State, QB, SophomoreAfter splitting time with incumbent quarterback, Zach Lujan, as a freshman in 2015, Christion won the job in his second season. He's rewarded the Jackrabbits in a big way, leading an explosive passing attack that features wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert. Elusive in the pocket, Christion plays with composure and efficiency. He guided SDSU to a road upset of then-No. 1 North Dakota State this past Saturday and was named the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Week. He ranks second in the FCS in total offense (351.5 ypg), third in touchdown passes (22) and points responsible for (144) and fourth in passing yards per game (323.2). He finished seventh as a finalist for the 2015 STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Year award and made the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer Team.
Montana, QB, Redshirt SeniorGustafson is not the next Carson Wentz, but he beat Wentz and North Dakota State in his first career start in 2015. As a senior this year, Gustafson has taken his play to a higher level. A drop-back quarterback who stands tall in the pocket (he's even slightly bigger than Wentz), Gustafson is a strong decision maker and will work the field for receivers. He has excelled despite Montana having to replace most of last year's receiving corps. He set a school record with 47 completions (in 59 attempts) against Cal Poly on Sept. 24. He has completed 165 of 243 passes (67.9 percent) for 1,801 yards and 18 touchdowns against only four interceptions. He ranks seventh nationally in passing yards per game (300.2) but played in only seven games as a junior because of a leg injury, but he returned to lead an FCS playoff win over South Dakota State.
The offensive watch list also includes:
Quarterbacks: Aaron Bailey of Northern Iowa, Jeremiah Briscoe of Sam Houston State, Case Cookus of Northern Arizona, Austin Gahafer of Morehead State, Gage Gubrud of Eastern Washington, Devlin Hodges of Samford, KD Humphries of Murray State, Eli Jenkins of Jacksonville State, Kyle Lauletta of Richmond, RJ Noel of Sacred Heart and Peter Pujals of Holy Cross;
Running backs: Khalid Abdullah of James Madison, Kendell Anderson of William & Mary, Tarik Cohen of North Carolina A&T, Derrick Craine of Chattanooga, Chase Edmonds of Fordham, Darius Hammond of Charleston Southern, Kade Harrington of Lamar, De'Angelo Henderson of Coastal Carolina, John Santiago of North Dakota, Lenard Tillery of Southern and Darius Victor of Towson;
Wide receivers: Emmanuel Butler of Northern Arizona, 2015 award winner Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington, Justin Watson of Penn and Jake Wieneke of South Dakota State.
A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year following the regular season. Also this season, STATS will honor the outstanding defensive player in the FCS, a freshman player of the year, a coach of the year and a scholar-athlete of the year.