South Dakota Preview: #10 Coyotes at #16 Western Illinois
After a week off to prepare for the always daunting Missouri Valley Conference schedule, the University of South Dakota football team is getting ready to face a team with more similarities than differences.
When the Coyotes travel to Western Illinois, Saturday afternoon, it will be a match-up of two teams in the Top 20 in the latest FCS Polls. USD is enjoying their FCS-best 10th ranking, while the Leathernecks are ranked 16th.
Both teams are 3-0 and home games for each have been a premium.
Two of the Coyotes victories have come away from Vermillion, including a win at FBS Bowling Green in week two.
Saturday will be the Leathernecks first game in front of their fans in 2017.
The plethora of away games hasn't hurt either of these offenses. Both are in the Top Ten nationally in points scored and time of possession. USD is fourth in FCS in total offense.
Each offense is led by a veteran quarterback. WIU junior Sean McGuire is completing 72 percent of his passes in three games and is coming off a 17-of19 performance last week against Costal Carolina. McGuire threw for 286 yards against the Coyotes in a 35-34 Leatherneck win last year.
USD senior Chris Streveler has thrown seven touchdowns without an interception in 2017, while leading the Coyotes in rushing with better than 75 yards per game. Against WIU last year, Streveler threw for 387 yards and two scores, while running for 102 yards and another touchdown.
The running games will be a key. The Leathernecks are led by Max Norris' 105 yards per game. The Coyotes have been taking a team approach at running back with three players (Mike Fredrick, Kai Henry, Ben Klett) combining for about 30 carries and 150 yards per game.
South Dakota and Western Illinois have also been exceptional at taking care of the football so far in 2017. The Leathernecks plus-eight turnover margin leads the country, while the Coyotes plus-six ranks them fifth overall.
Justin Fitzpatrick leads WIU with three interceptions. Phillip Powell has two picks for USD.
Both teams are able to get to the quarterback as well. The Coyotes have recorded 14 sacks in three games (Darin Greenfield with 3), while the Leathernecks have nine sacks to their credit (Khalen Saunders with 3.5).
Western Illinois' linebacker Brett Taylor is one of the top defensive players in the Missouri Valley. He has 30 tackles already this season and had 15 in Vermillion last year.
Kickoff in Macomb is 3:00 PM, Saturday. This will be USD head coach Bob Nielson's first trip back to Hanson Field since leaving WIU for South Dakota after the 2015 season.
I talked with Nielson about the bye week and the match-up with Western Illinois: