After a week off, third-ranked South Dakota State is back at it this week opening Missouri Valley Conference action at home with Southern Illinois.

The Jackrabbits are fresh off of what is always looked at as 'improvement week' by head coach John Sitegelmeier and his staff.

Stiegelmeier told me there were things to work on on both sides of the football as well as a chance to get some banged-up players back in the lineup:

Once again this season, the pause in SDSU's schedule offered a clean break between non-conference and conference action, something Stieglemeier likes while it lasts:

Saturday (October 5), South Dakota State hosts a Southern Illinois team that is dealing with their share of injuries.

The Salukis (2-2) offense will be under the direction of backup quarterback Kare Lyles, who will be starting in place of Stone Labanowitz, who's sidelined with a shoulder injury. In Labanowitz's absence, Lyles threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns in the Salukis last game, a win against Arkansas State.

The biggest blow for the Southern Illinois offense will be the loss of running back DJ Davis who is in the top 20 nationally in all-purpose yards this season. He'll miss the SDSU game with an elbow injury after running for 201 yards against the Jackrabbits last year.

In that 57-38 SDSU victory, the two teams combined for nearly 1,200 yards of total offense. Stieglmeier says things will be different this year:

The Saluki defense may also be without one of their top players.

Senior safety Jeremy Chinn has been battling an injury and is doubtful for the game in Brookings. He is second all-time in the Missouri Valley with 11 career interceptions.

The Salukis other safety, Qua Brown, is second in the league in tackles and had 11 stops against SDSU last year.

The star of the Southern Illinois defense is junior end Anthony Knighton who has started every game of his career and had three tackles for loss and two sacks against the Jackrabbits in Carbondale in 2018.

Stiegelmeier says his offensive line will have their hands full with Knighton:

Kickoff is 2:00 PM, Saturday in Brookings.