FCS Quarterfinal-Round Playoff Preview and Prediction: Holy Cross at South Dakota State
Holy Cross posted its single-season record with a 12th win last week, and South Dakota State is eager to do the same thing this week.
The top-seeded Jackrabbits can only do so by going through the unbeaten No. 8 seed in an FCS playoff quarterfinal on Saturday. It’s a matchup of conference champions that have similar styles: physical, run-oriented and defensive-strong.
Following is a capsule preview of the Holy Cross-SDSU quarterfinal:
No. 8 Seed Holy Cross (12-0) at No. 1 Seed South Dakota State (11-1)
Kickoff – Noon ET Saturday (ESPN) at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, South Dakota
Series – South Dakota State leads 1-0 (Jackrabbits won 31-3 at home in playoff first round on April 24, 2021)
Coaches – Holy Cross: Bob Chesney (37-16, fifth season; 104-41 overall); South Dakota State: John Stiegelmeier (196-112, 26th season)
3 Players to Watch – Holy Cross: QB Matthew Sluka (141 of 240, 2,364 yards, 26 TDs, 3 INTs; 177 carries, 1,021 yards, 10 TDs), RB Peter Oliver (159 carries, 960 yards, 7 TDs), LB Liam Anderson (76 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 3 takeaways); South Dakota State: QB Mark Gronowski (196 of 300, 2,378 yards, 19 TDs, 5 INTs; 252 rushing yards, 9 TDs), RB Isaiah Davis (191 carries, 1,036 yards, 12 TDs; 18 receptions), DE Reece Winkelman (23 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 3 PBU)
Notable – Coming off a win over Delaware, Missouri Valley champ SDSU seeks to make it two straight over opponents it defeated during a national runner-up finish in spring 2021. The Jackrabbits rank second in the FCS in yards allowed per game (246.9) and third in points allowed per game (14.8). Davis has 100+ rushing yards in six of his nine career playoff games, and Gronowski has a full complement of receivers with the Janke twins, Jadon and Jaxon, on the perimeter, and TEs Tucker Kraft and Zach Heins on the interior (the quartet has caught 17 of their QB’s 19 TD passes). While the ‘Rabbits are a healthy +12 in turnover margin, Holy Cross leads the FCS at +18. In the secondary, Walter Reynolds (five interceptions), Devin Haskins (four) and John Smith (13 in career) are thieves. Sluka is coming off his 10th career game with 100+ rushing yards, and Oliver had a career-high 175 yards in the win over New Hampshire. The four-time reigning Patriot League champion has blocked eight kicks (tied for the second-most in the FCS).
Up Next – The winner will play either No. 4 seed Montana State or No. 5 seed William & Mary in a national semifinal on Dec. 16 or 17.
Prediction – South Dakota State 34, Holy Cross 17