South Dakota State at Colorado State; 7 p.m. Friday, Canvas Stadium

TV/Radio: FSN/102.9 FM

Line: CSU -3, 51.5 over/under

Weather: 23% chance of thunderstorms, 75 degrees

What to know

Jackrabbits are no patsy. South Dakota State was the 2020-21 FCS national runner-up and is ranked No. 3 in the preseason FCS rankings. The Jackrabbits finished 8-2 last year (5-1 Missouri Valley), losing to Sam Houston State (23-21) on a late touchdown in the title game on May 27. Just about everyone of note from that squad is back, with 10 starters returning on each side of the ball, plus two specialists. One glaring exception: QB Mark Gronowski, who suffered an injury in the first quarter of the national title game, will miss all of 2021.

McBride’s opening act. Rams senior Trey McBride, a 2020 All-American from Fort Morgan, is Todd McShay’s No. 1-ranked tight end on his NFL Draft Big Board and the No. 27 overall prospect. McBride has nine career touchdown receptions, one behind Joel Dreesen for second place in program history. McBride is among 33 Rams who are seniors or beyond, including his older brother, Toby, a “super” senior defensive lineman.

Rams vs. FCS. CSU is facing an FCS opponent for the 10th time in the past 11 years. The Rams, who are 2-0 all-time against SDSU (last meeting 1966), are 7-2 in those games, but that includes an embarrassing home loss to Illinois State (35-19) just three years ago. While the Jackrabbits are a solid FCS program, they are just 1-9 against FBS teams. The Jackrabbits’ only win came in the 2015 season opener at Kansas, 41-38.

Searching for points. The Jackrabbits ranked No. 5 in FCS scoring defense last season, allowing just 15 points per game. They allowed 287.9 of total yardage per game. CSU’s offense averaged just 22.2 points in 2020 and had a poor 46.0% red-zone touchdown efficiency in its four games — all against Mountain West competition. The Rams’ third-down conversation rate was just 22%.

Key matchups

CSU D-line vs. Rabbits. The Rams return 2020 All-Mountain West first-team defensive end Scott Patchan and every other member of a defensive front that led the nation in tackles for loss per game last season. An SDSU offense that averaged 29.2 points in 2020 (22nd in FCS) with a 93.5% red-zone offensive touchdown efficiency should be a sturdy test ahead of next week’s showdown with the SEC’s Vanderbilt Commodores.

Transfer QBs. Rams starting quarterback Todd Centeio, a redshirt senior transfer from Temple, started CSU’s 2020 opener at Fresno State but suffered an injury that limited his playing time in the following three games. He likely will be opposed by Jackrabbits graduate transfer Chris Oladokun, who previously played for South Florida and Samford.

Predictions

Kyle Fredrickson, sports reporter: SDSU, 31-30

Sean Keeler, sports columnist: CSU, 27-20

Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: CSU, 31-28

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