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Know your opponent: South Dakota (Week 4, Sat, Sept. 22)

by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)

Leading up to the upcoming football season, Inside Northwestern will give you a brief profile of each of Northwestern’s opponents. During the season, you can expect a more in-depth preview of each game, including key matchups and more specific player analysis. This is simply a refresher for eager fans looking ahead to the fall. Look for this feature every Thursday. This week, we look at Boston College. Click here  for last week’s edition.

Head coach (career record): Joe Glenn (First year)

2011 record: 6-5 (2-2, Great West)

2011 stats

Scoring Offense: 27.4 points per game

Scoring Defense: 24.8 points per game

Total Offense: 335.8 yards per game

Total Defense: 256.8 yards per game

Recent History

South Dakota is Northwestern's only FCS division opponent for 2012, and while that likely means it should be an easy victory, the Coyotes have talent and pulled off some big wins last year, including a 30-17 victory over then-No.1 FCS team Eastern Washington. USD was ranked in the FCS top 25 for most of the season and played two FBS opponents, losing 37-20 at Air Force and 59-10 at Wisconsin.

It was an up-and-down year for the Coyotes, as they won every game at home, but lost every game on the road, leading to a 6-5 record.

2012 will have a lot of "new" in it for South Dakota, as the Coyotes get set to join the Missouri Valley Conference, having completed their last season in the Great West. They also have a new coach, Joe Glenn, who replaces Ed Meierkort. Glenn's career has had some ups and downs. He's a South Dakota graduate and has had some success at the FCS level, including three years at Montana where he went 39-6 and won a National Championship with the Grizzlies. After that, he left for a somewhat unsuccessful stint at Wyoming, where he went 30-41 in six years.

What to expect on offense

The South Dakota offense could struggle making the transition with the new coaching staff, especially with the graduation of dual-threat quarterback Dante Warren, who there for 1,729 yards and rushed for 415. He threw for 14 touchdowns (with 7 interceptions) and also ran for 9 more. He'll likely be replaced by sophomore Josh Vander Maten, who appeared in seven games last season and there for just 221 yards, but also had three touchdowns to no interceptions.

The running game will be led by senior Marcus Sims, who led the team with 660 yards on the ground last year and also scored four touchdowns. Leading receiver Will Powell returns for his senior year after grabbing 42 catches for 763 yards and 5 touchdowns as a junior.

While the Coyotes' offense will have to break in a new quarterback and a new offense, there is certainly some firepower that NU can't overlook.

What to expect on defense

The Coyotes' defense wasn't very impressive last year, as it gave up nearly 25 points per game, with most of those coming against FCS opponents. In South Dakota's two games against FBS opponents, the defense gave up a total of 96 points — 59 against Wisconsin and 37 against Air Force. Northwestern has an above-average offense, so it may be tough for the Coyotes defense to keep the score within reach.

The unit's three leading tacklers from last year are gone and South Dakota will likely rely on senior linebacker Darius Hogans to step up and try to contain NU's spread offense.