Not sure if you’re aware, but there’s a big college football game being played in Texas tonight. At game’s end, one team will finish its season 15-0 and will claim a title in NCAA Division I.
But they won’t be the first to have accomplished that in a 36-hour period and, even when they win, they’ll only be a little more than halfway to equaling what the other pulled off, convincingly, yesterday afternoon.
FRISCO, Texas — Mark Gronowski ran for a touchdown and threw for another after halftime as South Dakota State won its second straight Football Championship Subdivision title, beating Montana 23-3 on Sunday.
The Jackrabbits (15-0) extended their overall winning streak to 29 games, including their win over North Dakota State in last year’s FCS game for their first national title.
South Dakota State had an impressive game-opening drive, but led only 7-3 at halftime. Gronowski, the quarterback starting his third FCS title game, then bulled into the end zone for a 10-yard score midway through the third quarter, and on the next possession threw a 23-yard TD to Jadon Janke.
Gronowski finished 13-of-21 passing for 175 yards and ran eight times for 62 yards. The Jackrabbits outgained Montana 372-273.
In their third title game appearance in four seasons, the Jackrabbits became the first team since North Dakota State (2017-19) to repeat as champions. It was another stellar defensive performance in this playoff run for South Dakota State, which had two lopsided shutout victories (41-0 and 59-0) in its previous three games..
If you’re a football fan in a big city, you probably were glued to your TV watching the last full weekend of the NFL play out. But if you’re a football fan in places like the Dakotas and Montana, far from anywhere where the NFL is either present or relevant (sorry, Broncos, you brought that on yourselves), the FCS is much more relevant than the NFL, and, frankly, even the FBS.
And a championship game in January in the balmy climes of Texas is something to be revered and appreciated, as much as this game means to its fans and alums, if not more.
The last time South Dakota State lost a game was their 2022 season opener, to the same team that Michigan shut out in the Big Ten conference championship game last month. And hey, the Jackrabbits only allowed seven more points to the Iowa Hawkeyes than did the Wolverines–and just as many touchdowns (incredibly, those seven points were two safeties and a field goal).
With Washington becoming a Big Ten member next fall, a regular season rematch of this year’s championship game in on tap for Seattle in October. Whoever does win tonight, effectively a conference championship game of its own, will still only be on their way to accomplishing what SDSU did, and will have to get through the gauntlet of an expanded playoff after that to do so. South Dakota State has done that two years in a row–four post-season wins in each case. Next year’s tournament will only give teams below the top four seeds a chance to emulate that.
And while all that’s gonna go on, South Dakota State will again open its season with a road test against an FBS foe. But this time around, it’ll be Oklahoma State. The last time we saw them Cowboys, they were being whupped by Texas in the Big 12 championship game 49-21. And Texas didn’t even make it back to their home state for tonight’s test.
Wanna lay down a bet which NCAA Division I championship team playing this month in Texas is the first to lose a game next year?
You can pick from these two. I might be inclined to go in another direction.