9 players to watch when South Dakota State and North Dakota State play the FCS title game – NCAA.com

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A thrilling FCS season has just two teams remaining as No. 1 South Dakota State and No. 3 North Dakota State will battle for the national championship on Sunday, Jan. 8. It’s been an exciting playoff run for both teams, led by impactful performances on the field from players. Now, Jackrabbit and Bison players get one last opportunity to put on a show in the FCS title game.
Here are the players to watch in this year’s FCS national championship game.
Adam Bock is healthy again and he’s one of the best linebackers in the FCS. He notched 70 tackles in 10 games, including seven tackles against North Dakota State in the game earlier this season. In the championship game, Bock’s performance against the run will be pivotal to South Dakota State’s title chances.
FCS championship: How South Dakota State and North Dakota State reached the title game
The last time we saw Isaiah Davis on the championship stage, he ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries as a freshman. Now, Davis is more seasoned in the backfield and is the lead back for South Dakota State. If Davis can match his previous championship performance, South Dakota State could run away with its first FCS title in program history.
Like Davis, Mark Gronowski’s performance in South Dakota State’s last FCS championship game appearance was unforgettable. Yet, Gronowski’s moment is unforgettable because the spring 2021 title game is when he inured his ACL. Gronowski only got the chance to throw two passes before his injury.
Now, Gronowski is healthy with redemption on his mind. Gronowski’s decision-making is what makes South Dakota State’s offense go as he distributes the ball to playmakers like Jadon and Jaxon Janke, plus Tucker Kraft.
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Tucker Kraft is one of the best tight end prospects in the 2022 NFL draft, but he’s only played eight games this year. However, his talent was on full display in the FCS semifinals where he caught four passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Kraft didn’t play in the first meeting between South Dakota State and North Dakota State. He could be an X-factor in the title game.
MORE: Why South Dakota State can win the title
There aren’t many statistics that show how good Cody Mauch has been at offensive tackle for North Dakota State. Yet, as the likely first FCS selection in the 2022 NFL draft, Mauch is elite. He has the size needed at tackle standing 6’6 and 303 pounds. Mauch is physical in the run game and rarely misses a step in pass protection. If you pay attention to anyone in the trenches during the FCS title game, you’ll want to watch Mauch.
Cam Miller is the only healthy starter in the North Dakota State backfield entering the FCS championship. Star fullback Hunter Luepke is out for the season and the top two Bison running backs, TaMerik Williams and Kobe Johnson, will be coming off of an injury if they play come January. 
Injuries place a lot of pressure on Miller’s shoulders and legs. He’ll need to manage the game, pass efficiently and run the ball well for North Dakota State to win.
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Everyone knows North Dakota State wants to establish the run. If South Dakota State wants to stop the Bison at what they do best, they’ll need Caleb Sanders to step up in the title game. Sanders earned First-Team All-American honors this year after grabbing 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks from the interior defensive line. Sanders will need to plug the middle for the Jackrabbits to win, something he’s proven capable of doing.
Michael Tutsie is preparing to play in his fourth FCS title game for North Dakota State. He’s an experienced veteran in the Bison secondary, but he’s also a player who hasn’t beaten South Dakota State since he was a redshirt sophomore. Tutsie led the Bison with nine tackles in North Dakota State’s most recent loss to the Jackrabbits. In addition to another strong individual effort, Tutsie will need to rally his defense as a leader to avoid ending his Bison career with a sour taste.
MORE: Why North Dakota State can win the title
Spencer Waege is an All-American defensive end for North Dakota State. Waege normally draws attention from opposing offenses, but he’ll draw more eyes in the FCS title game since three of his fellow defensive lineman (Will Mostaert, Eli Mostaert and Loshiaka Roques) will all be coming off injuries. With those injuries, Waege may need to produce more than his sack and tackle for loss from the 2022 Dakota Marker game for the Bison to win.
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Stan Becton joined NCAA.com in 2021 and has since served as an FCS, track and field, cross country and HBCU beat reporter. He has covered numerous NCAA championship events, including the FCS Championship, DI Track & Field Championships and Men’s Frozen Four. Additionally, he covered the 2021 Celebration Bowl. Stan graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, earning a degree in Professional Writing and playing football as a five-year letterman. You can follow him on Twitter @stan_becton.
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