SDSU and NDSU to tangle for a national title, finally

In the semifinals, No. 1 SDSU defeated No. 4 Montana State as No. 3 North Dakota State topped No. 7 Incarnate Word, setting up a Dakota Marker rivalry rematch in the FCS title game on Jan. 8.

South Dakota State offensive lineman Mason McCormick (60) and defensive lineman Quinton Hicks (48) celebrate from atop a snow drift following the Jackrabbits' FCS semifinal win over Montana State on Dec. 17, 2022, at Dykhouse Stadium, in Brookings.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

BROOKINGS — Finally, the premier rivalry in the Football Championship Subdivision will take center stage, as No. 1 South Dakota State and No. 3 North Dakota State will clash for a national championship on Jan. 8, 2023, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

It’s a development more than a decade in the making, as the two schools responsible for the two longest active playoff streaks in the FCS have had the possibility of meeting for a title fizzle out on several occasions, including just last season.

But not this time.

SDSU’s 39-18 victory over fourth-seeded Montana State on Saturday, Dec. 17, at Dykhouse Stadium finalized the matchup. NDSU beat Incarnate Word 35-32 not 20 hours earlier at the Fargodome.

“If You're Gonna Play in Texas” by classic country music band Alabama rang out in both stadiums after the victories.


This season, there will be a Dakota Marker Part II.

South Dakota State defensive backs DyShawn Gales (5) and Aydan Dautermann (13) celebrate from a snow drift following the Jackrabbits' FCS semifinal win over Montana State on Dec. 17, 2022, at Dykhouse Stadium, in Brookings.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

“We never wanted to get ahead of ourselves coming back out (from halftime) up like we were,” said SDSU tight end Tucker Kraft. “But, in the back of my head, I thought it was inevitable. It was going to happen, and I believed it.”

For the past half-decade or so, a championship meeting between the programs has felt mostly inevitable — a matter of when, not if — but though the Jackrabbits have had the upper hand in recent rivalry meetings, they’ve also been the side responsible for not fulfilling their end of the arrangement in Frisco.

Just last season, SDSU played Montana State in the semifinal round with a chance to meet NDSU in the title tilt and fell short. In the spring of 2021, the Jackrabbits' only prior national championship appearance, it was NDSU that faltered early. Other years, such as 2016 and 2018, the bracket seeding didn’t allow for the possibility, with the Jacks and Bison meeting in the playoff, just not with the championship trophy on the line.

One of North Dakota State’s nine national championships came in an all-Missouri Valley Football Conference final, with the Bison edging Illinois State 29-27 in 2014. But that pales in comparison to the bragging rights and the emotions wrapped up in the highest-stakes contest in the 119-year history of the South Dakota State and North Dakota State rivalry that includes 113 prior meetings.

Those years of anticipation end Jan. 8.

“I think it's kind of cool,” said SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier. “... The fact that it's a rival and it's for the national championship. I think it's a good storyline. I can't wait to have it happen.”

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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