A loss to little-known Southland Conference team Houston Baptist decimated South Dakota's standing in the Football Championship Subdivision national landscape.
As it probably should have.
Houston Baptist had lost 19 straight games to FCS competition when it defeated the Coyotes 53-52 on Sept. 14 at the DakotaDome. While USD isn't a Missouri Valley Football Conference power, the defeat was stunning. The Coyotes gave up 513 passing yards and 596 total yards as they could not stop Houston Baptist's passing attack led by quarterback Bailey Zappe.
It was the low point by head coach Bob Nielson's four years in Vermillion and came one week after USD lost 70-14 to Football Bowl Subdivision titan Oklahoma.
One play after an MSU fumble, Simmons connects with Vander Esch for the second time this half to push the lead to 24-7 w/ 11:37 left in the first half.— South Dakota Football (@SDCoyotesFB) October 12, 2019
South Dakota 24, Missouri St. 7#WeAreSouthDakota | #GoYotes pic.twitter.com/ilFBZebcIG
That seems like a long time ago. A favorable schedule has the Coyotes on a three-game winning streak and climbing quickly in the Sagarin college football rankings. USD is rated as the 16th-best FCS team in the latest computer rankings, even though it garners only a single vote in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll.
That's the main takeaway this week in comparing the two rankings.
North Dakota State remains the top-ranked FCS team in both polls again this week. The Bison are 35th in the Sagarin ratings, which ranks all 256 Division I football games, FBS and FCS, based on a computer formula that predicts the probability of one team beating another. The Bison were ranked 46th last week.
The Coyotes have won three straight games against teams unranked teams that will not make the FCS playoffs. But that's enough to even their record at 3-3 and offer a glimmer of hope as they travel to Northern Iowa (14th in STATS FCS, fifth in Sagarin) this week. At 2-0, USD is tied with NDSU and South Dakota State atop the MVFC.
Victories over Northern Colorado, Indiana State and Missouri State have USD feeling better about itself.
"We're improving," Nielson told the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader. "We've taken some steps forward in all three phases of the game and we just have to keep that as our focus ... We have a very difficult test next week against a very good Northern Iowa team."
The Coyotes defense comes up BIG for the third time today! That's Bakhari Goodson's first interception as a Coyote! pic.twitter.com/htLNv4aryF— South Dakota Football (@SDCoyotesFB) October 12, 2019
USD put a 45-10 whipping on Missouri State last weekend, putting up 455 yards of total offense while holding the Bears to 284 total yards. And it came on the road in Springfield, a difficult place to play because of low attendance and downtrodden game-day climate.
"Winning generates confidence," USD coach Bob Nielson said in the Argus-Leader. "Your guys get a better sense of belief in what you're doing. We've executed at a relatively higher level, but at the same time there's always some things we can improve upon and have to be better at. That's going to be the focus this week as we prepare for Northern Iowa."
The Coyotes have struggled historically in Cedar Falls, but the schedule lightens for two weeks afterward before getting much more difficult. USD follows the game at Northern Iowa with a home game against Southern Illinois and a road game at Western Illinois. Then comes a season-ending gauntlet of games against Youngstown State, NDSU and South Dakota State.
The STATS FCS poll uses 160 voters, including representatives of all the subdivision's conferences and others. The FCS also has a coaches poll voted on by a panel of 26 FCS coaches.
If you want to check out Sagarin's full college football rankings, click here.
Here's a comparison of the STATS FCS Top 25 poll and the Sagarin ratings this week:
STATS FCS Top 25 (Oct. 14)
1. North Dakota State (6-0), 3,923 points (155 first-place votes)
Previous Ranking: 1; Last Week's Result: 46-14 win over Northern Iowa
2. James Madison (6-1), 3,740 (2 first-place votes)
Previous Ranking: 2; Last Week's Result: 38-24 win over Villanova
3. South Dakota State (5-1), 3,612
Previous Ranking: 3; Last Week's Result: 38-28 win over Youngstown State
4. Weber State (4-2), 3,363
Previous Ranking: 4; Last Week's Result: 29-14 win over Southern Utah
5. Montana (5-1), 3,107
Previous Ranking: 8; Last Week's Result: Bye
6. Kennesaw State (5-1), 3,022
Previous Ranking: 7; Last Week's Result: 45-23 win over Charleston Southern
7. Villanova (6-1), 2,968
Previous Ranking: 5; Last Week's Result: 38-24 loss to James Madison
8. Furman (4-2), 2,703
Previous Ranking: 11; Last Week's Result: Bye
9. Nicholls (4-2), 2,653
Previous Ranking: 12; Last Week's Result: 45-35 win over Northwestern State
10. North Carolina A&T (4-1), 2,292
Previous Ranking: 13; Last Week's Result: Bye
11. Illinois State (4-2), 2,218
Previous Ranking: 14; Last Week's Result: 21-7 win over Southern Illinois
12. Montana State (5-2), 2,125
Previous Ranking: 6; Last Week's Result: 34-21 loss to Sacramento State
13. Central Arkansas (4-2), 1,849
Previous Ranking: 16; Last Week's Result: 40-31 win over McNeese
14. Northern Iowa (3-3), 1,814
Previous Ranking: 10; Last Week's Result: 46-14 loss to North Dakota State
15. Sacramento State (4-2), 1,677
Previous Ranking: N/R Last Week's Result: 34-21 win over Montana State
16. Jacksonville State (5-2), 1,585
Previous Ranking: 17; Last Week's Result: 28-20 win over Eastern Illinois
17. Princeton (4-0), 1,301
Previous Ranking: 21; Last Week's Result: 28-3 win over Lafayette
18. Towson (3-3), 1,077
Previous Ranking: 9; Last Week's Result: 38-21 loss to Albany
19. Youngstown State (4-2), 1,012
Previous Ranking: 19; Last Week's Result: 38-28 loss to South Dakota State
20. Austin Peay (4-2), 869
Previous Ranking: N/R; Last Week's Result: 28-24 win over Southeast Missouri
21. Dartmouth (4-0), 717
Previous Ranking: N/R; Last Week's Result: 42-10 win over Yale
22. New Hampshire (4-2), 713
Previous Ranking: N/R; Last Week's Result: 20-14 win over Stony Brook
23. UC Davis (3-4), 509
Previous Ranking: 24; Last Week's Result: 48-24 win over Cal Poly
24. Delaware (3-3), 403
Previous Ranking: 15; Last Week's Result: 42-7 loss to Elon
25. Central Connecticut State (5-1), 274
Previous Ranking: N/R; Last Week's Result: 24-14 win over Columbia
Dropped Out: Maine (18), Southeast Missouri (20), Stony Brook (22), Southeastern Louisiana (23), Sam Houston State (25)
Others Receiving Votes: UT Martin 199, Stony Brook 193, Southeast Missouri 184, Alcorn State 119, UIW 92, Maine 87, Wofford 83, Elon 80, Eastern Washington 74, Florida A&M 71, Southeastern Louisiana 54, Sam Houston State 51, Albany 42, South Carolina State 40, Yale 37, Idaho State 19, Lamar 15, Richmond 13, Harvard 12, Monmouth 8, Bethune-Cookman 6, North Dakota 5, VMI 4, Campbell 3, Portland State 3, Dayton 2, Duquesne 1, Murray State 1, South Dakota 1
Sagarin Ratings of FCS Teams (Oct. 18)
(Sagarin ranks all 256 Division I college football teams, regardless of subdivision)
1. North Dakota State (Sagarin rating 35)
2. South Dakota State (71)
3. James Madison (81)
4. Montana (82)
5. Northern Iowa (102)
6. Furman (112)
7. Weber State (114)
8. Dartmouth (115)
9. Sacramento State (120)
10. Princeton (123)
11. Illinois State (124)
12. Youngstown State (126)
13. Villanova (127)
14. Idaho State (128)
15. UC Davis (129)
16. South Dakota (131)
17. Kennesaw State (133)
18. Montana State (134)
19. Eastern Washington (136)
20. Nicholls State (137)
21. Central Arkansas (138)
22. New Hampshire (139)
23. Towson (140)
24. Wofford (141)
25. Tennessee-Martin (144)
The next five: Portland State (148), Elon (149), Yale (150), Sam Houston State (151), Stony Brook (152).