Meet the opponent: #8 Montana State Bobcats

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Only one thing stands between SDSU and a return trip to the FCS National Championship and that’s Montana State.

The Jackrabbits and Bobcats are set to cross paths on Saturday, December 18 in the FCS Semifinals. The winner will advance to the national title game. You can follow along with the action in the KELOLAND Sports Live Blog on KELOLAND.com.

MONTANA STATE BOBCATS

Montana State University is located in Bozeman, Montana. Enrollment at MSU is 16,766 students.

MSU is the largest college in the state of Montana.

The Bobcats’ football team is 11-2 on the season with their two losses coming to FBS Wyoming and in-state rival, Montana.

Montana State has played three ranked opponents this season and is 2-1 in those games, with wins over Eastern Washington and Weber State.

The Bobcats received the eighth seed in the playoffs, earning them a first round bye. In the second round, Montana State would power past UT Martin 26-7 in Montana.

Their next matchup was against Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas. The Bobcats looked impressive throughout the game as they powered past the Bearkats, 42-19.

A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS

Stat CategorySDSU#8 Montana State
Total Offense441.3 YPG (15)406.7 YPG (32)
Scoring Offense37.5 PPG (8)29.92 PPG (37)
Passing Offense222.8 YPG (49)177.38 YPG (90)
Rushing Offense218.5 YPG (8)229.3 YPG (6)
Red Zone Offense90.2% (11)90.7% (9)
Total Defense346.7 YPG (39)285.2 YPG (12)
Scoring Defense18.9 PPG (15)13.15 PPG (2)
Passing Defense241.6 YPG (86)177.8 YPG (12)
Rushing Defense105.1 YPG (11)106.9 YPG (13)
Total Sacks37 (10)41 (7)
Red Zone Defense73.2% (17)74.1% (21)
Turnover Margin+17 (2)+13 (3)
YPG = Yards per Game / PPG = Points Per Game / ( ) = FCS National Rank

The numbers tell about what you’d expect in a semifinal game, both teams are really good.

The number that stands out to me in the defensive totals. SDSU gives up a significant amount of yards more than Montana State’s defense. The Bobcats also allow less than five points per contest.

However, the same can be said but opposite on the offensive side of the ball. SDSU gains 35 yards and 8 points more per game than their opponent.

That means it’ll be one of the top offenses in the FCS, SDSU, against one of the top defenses in the FCS, Montana State.

Both teams love to run the football as they are each top eight when it comes to rushing yards per game.

There are two numbers that should jump off the page as they are the only two numbers that see these two teams not in the top fifty.

MSU’s passing offense and SDSU’s passing defense. Every other stat above sees the teams in the top fifty, but these two are in the next group of fifty.

It’s quite interesting that SDSU’s statistical weakness and the same as Montana State’s statistical weakness.

The two matchups I’m most looking forward to has to be the SDSU pass defense vs. the MSU pass offense and then the MSU talented defense against SDSU’s talented offense.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

The SDSU players to watch continue to be the same each week including quarterback Chris Oladokun and wide receivers Jaxon and Jadon Janke. However, the running back position is certainly one to watch.

Pierre Strong Jr. left with an injury early in SDSU’s quarterfinal win. Will he play? If he does, it obviously beefs up the offense as they’ll have two of the top running backs in the backfield. If not, then it’ll be up to Isaiah Davis who would assumedly handle the majority of the workload, with backup Amar Johnson getting some carries as well.

On the other side of the field, Montana State has five main players to watch including quarterback Tommy Mellot, running back Isaiah Ifanse, wide receiver Lance McCutcheon, defensive end Daniel Hardy and linebacker Troy Andersen.

Tommy Mellot will start his third game as a freshman quarterback. The dual threat player helps pace their rush offense as he has rushed for 256 yards in their two playoff contests. He completed just six passes in their quarterfinal win, but he averaged nearly 28 yards per completion in the process. Containing his ability to run will be the biggest key.

The Bobcats have the third best running back in the country with Isaiah Ifanse. He has rushed for 1,539 yards this season and ten touchdowns. Ifanse is their workhorse. He has rushed for over 100 yards in eight games this season, but only has seven touchdowns to show in those games.

Senior wide receiver, Lance McCutcheon is the leading wide receiver for Montana State and it’s not even close. He has 53 catches for 1,015 yards and seven touchdowns this season. The 6’3 wideout has been terrific this season.

Defensively, the Bobcats are led by one of the top pass rushers in the country in Daniel Hardy. The 6’3″ senior defensive end has 14.5 sacks this season, which is tied for second best in the FCS.

Senior linebacker, Troy Andersen, has 127 total tackles this season, which is fourth best in the FCS. Andersen is a player that coach John Stieglemeier said is one of the top players for the talented Montana State defense.

THE GAME

SDSU and Montana State will meet on Saturday at 1 p.m. You can watch the game on ESPN 2. You can follow along with the action in the KELOLAND Sports Live Blog on KELOLAND.com.

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