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Stan Becton | | December 22, 2021

4 reasons why South Dakota State can win the 2021 FCS Championship and make history

South Dakota State defeats Villanova 35-21

As South Dakota State heads to the semifinals of the 2021 FCS Championship, it stands out from the other three teams remaining as an unseeded team. Despite its unseeded status, South Dakota State is a legitimate threat with a chance to win the title and make history.

Historical Background

Since the expansion of the FCS championship to 24-teams in 2013, there have been just four other unseeded teams to make the semifinal round and just one unseeded team to make the title game. No unseeded team has ever won the FCS championship as Youngstown State suffered a 14-point defeat in 2016 — the only title game to feature an unseeded team.

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That's a lot of history that South Dakota State will have to overcome to win the title. However, the Jackrabbits have what it takes to make history.

Here's why South Dakota State can win the 2021 FCS Championship.

4 reasons why South Dakota State can win the 2021 FCS Championship

1. A dynamic duo at running back

Running the ball well tends to always transfer into the postseason and transfer it has for South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits have two great running backs, Pierre Strong Jr. and Isaiah Davis, that together have rushed for 774 yards and eight touchdowns in the first three playoff games. There might not be a better duo remaining in the FCS. If Strong and Davis find continued success in the semifinal round and potentially the national championship game, the two may run away with the FCS crown. 

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2. Experience

Playoff experience is vital to making a playoff run. Among the four remaining teams in the FCS, South Dakota State is the only program that has made the FCS semifinals in four of the last five seasons. Last spring, the Jackrabbits finished as the FCS runner-up, losing in the final seconds of the national championship game.

This year's South Dakota State team features many returning starters and backup contributors from spring 2021's deep run. The playoff experience can help South Dakota State overcome adversity, just like it did in the quarterfinals. Trailing No. 5 Villanova after halftime, the Jackrabbits scored 21-unanswered second-half points to win the game.

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3. Opponent Familiarity

If South Dakota State advances to the national championship game, it will play a familiar opponent regardless of the other semifinal result. If No. 3 James Madison wins, South Dakota State can look to the 2017 semifinals for familiarity with the Dukes. While the Jackrabbits lost that game, they are no stranger to facing James Madison deep into the playoffs.

If No. 2 North Dakota State wins, South Dakota State will get to play an opponent it already has a win over this season. The Jackrabbits won the 2021 Dakota Marker by jumping out to an early lead on the Bison and never looking back. Isaiah Davis didn't play in that game, but he'll bring an added element should the two Missouri Valley foes play again.

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4. Defense

South Dakota State will be on the road for its semifinal game before potentially heading to Frisco, Texas for the national championship. Road teams are a 5-17 since 2010 in the semifinals, but luckily for South Dakota State defense travels.

In three road playoff games, South Dakota State's defense has forced 10 turnovers while holding opponents to just an average of 13.6 first-half points. If the defense can start fast through the remainder of the playoffs and continue to make game-changing plays, the Jackrabbits can pull off an unprecedented five playoff game win streak away from home.

South Dakota State's road to history won't be easy, but the building blocks are in place for a legendary run to win the 2021 FCS championship.

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