The number that will be the most meaningful for South Dakota State and Sam Houston at the FCS championship game will shine across the scoreboard come late afternoon Sunday.
The most points, of course.
But many key numbers have gone into the shaping of the spring season’s two finalists, who will meet for the first time at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, each trying to secure the first national championship in program history.
Here are 10 numbers to know heading into the championship game of this most-unusual season:
0 – The number of weeks SDSU has been ranked No. 1 in the national media and coaches polls. A win over Sam Houston would change that for the top-seeded playoff team, which has made 116 straight appearances in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 since October 2012. Sam Houston, the No. 2 seed, is the last program other than James Madison or North Dakota to hold the No. 1 ranking (final regular-season poll in 2016).
3 – The point total SDSU has allowed in three of its last five games, including twice in the playoffs – 31-3 over Holy Cross and 33-3 over Delaware. Next up for the Missouri Valley power is an unbeaten opponent that is averaging 39 points per game.
3.8 – The difference between the SDSU offense’s average of six yards per carry, which ranks No. 2 in the FCS, and the 2.2 yards per carry allowed by the Sam Houston defense, which ranks No. 2 among FCS teams that have played more than one game.
7 – The positive turnover margin for each finalist, ranked, naturally, seventh in the FCS. It’s come about differently, though, with Sam Houston tied for the most fumble recoveries with 14 (defensive end Jevon Leon leads with three) and SDSU tied for the third-most interceptions with 12 (free safety Josh Manchigiah leads with four).
8/20 – SDSU has eight 100-yard rushing performances, the most in the FCS and led by quarterback Mark Gronowski with four. Although Sam Houston’s streak almost ended in the semifinals, the Bearkats have gone 20 straight games since the 2019 season opener without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
23 – The number of Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler’s career FCS playoff wins, tied with former Youngstown State coach Jim Tressel for the most ever. If Keeler separates himself on Sunday, he would become the first coach to guide two different schools to the FCS title (his 2003 Delaware squad was the national champ).
34 – Big-yardage plays win games, as Sam Houston’s Jequez Ezzard proved with a 69-yard TD reception and 80-yard punt return score to turn around the Bearkats’ semifinal against James Madison, and the Southland champ has 34 plays of at least 30 yards – 21 on passes, seven on runs, four on punt returns and one each on a kick return and a fumble return.
96.6 – Few teams in the FCS, and no others in the playoff field, have been better in an opponent’s red zone than the Jackrabbits, who have scored on 28 of 29 visits there, including 18 touchdowns.
144/177 – The point differentials of the two finalists against their opponents – the best totals in the FCS. Sam Houston has outscored opponents 352-175 (plus-177) and SDSU 271-127 (plus-144).
373 – The FCS-leading number of yards lost by Sam Houston opponents on 95 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including 37 sacks. Linebackers Markel Perry and Trevor Williams and defensive end Jahari Kay each has racked up at least 50 yards in losses.