Both teams come into the game with 1-1 records and, ironically, both teams' wins have come against UC Davis.
The Coyotes defeated the Aggies 10-7 in their season opener on Aug. 31, while the Lumberjacks recorded a 21-10 win at Davis last week. NAU trailed the Aggies 10-7 entering the 4th quarter, but returned two interceptions for touchdowns to secure the come-from-behind win.
USD head coach Joe Glenn has ties to both NAU and its coaching staff. Glenn served under former USD head coach, Joe Salem, as the Lumberjacks' backfield coach in 1975.
Looking at the Lumberjacks
Northern Arizona returns 18 starters (9 offense, 9 defense) from a team that finished 8-3 in 2012, and are one of the more experienced teams in the Big Sky Conference.
Leading that group is senior running back, Zach Bauman. Bauman, the only player in NAU history to rush for 1,000-plus yards in three consecutive seasons, became the Lumberjacks' all-time leading rusher in the win over UC-Davis. His 3,803 career rushing yards ranks fourth among active FCS players, and he's also among the leaders in career all-purpose yards (3rd) and rushing yards per game (4th).
Coyotes head coach Joe Glenn was very aware of No. 34 during our conversation for this week's episode of "Coyote Corner".
"One of the top backs in the nation," Glenn said. "We've got to key on him. Other teams have keyed on him and can't stop him. You look at clips against North Dakota last year where he made four guys miss twice in different runs. He's a great cut runner. He's got tremendous leg strength. [He] loves to reverse the field and take off from everybody and leave them with his speed. We've got our work cut out [for us] trying to hold down Zach Bauman."
One position the Lumberjacks are light on experience is quarterback. Sophomore Kyren Poe won the job coming out of fall camp and made his first collegiate start at Arizona on Aug. 30. Through two games, Poe has connected on 58 percent of his passes for 301 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. He's been sacked six times.
This will be the first ever meeting between South Dakota and Northern Arizona, so there's nothing to go on as far as series history.
It's certainly a unique setting. Northern Arizona's J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome sits at an elevation of 6,880 feet above sea level, making it the second highest venue in all of college football (The University of Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium sits at 7, 215 feet above sea level). So the altitude could certainly be a factor on Saturday.
Couple that with the fact that Northern Arizona is the 22nd-ranked team in the country, and you would have the call the Lumberjacks the favorites coming into this game. Vegas thinks so. They've got the Coyotes as a 16-point underdog. I'm not a betting man, but even I think that's an attractive number.