South Dakota might seem to be a random opponent for Northwestern, but the trip to Evanston makes perfect sense for the visiting Coyotes.
Just a few seasons into a move from Division II to FCS, South Dakota's roster is littered with players from the Chicago suburbs. Eight, in fact, are on this week's two-deeps.
One of those players is Barrington native Terrance Terry, South Dakota's leading receiver with 10 catches for 146 yards in two games. He also leads the team in kickoff returns.
"I kind of grew up watching Northwestern because it was right by us," Terry said. "We took a trip to a Northwestern game as a team when I was a sophomore in high school. That was my last time being at Ryan Field, so I'm pretty excited."
These teams have actually played before, but not since 1927. Two years ago, South Dakota knocked off Minnesota with St. Viator grad Dante Warren at quarterback.
Pulling an upset Saturday figures to be more difficult for the Coyotes. Northwestern is off to a 3-0 start and was just a few votes short of cracking the AP Top 25 this week.
"I try to not let the whole Terrance Terry vs. Northwestern (thing) get out of hand," Terry added, "because I think the opportunity for our team to play on the Big Ten Network against a 3-0 team is a bigger opportunity than me going back home to play football."
Of course, Terry isn't the only suburban native playing for the 'Yotes, as they often call themselves.
Right guard Andrew Schofield is from Sandburg High School in Orland Park, NU coach Pat Fitzgerald's alma mater. Junior Cody O'Neill, from Marian Central in Woodstock, also starts on the offensive line.
Some others in the playing rotation are backup quarterback Kevin Earl (Stevenson), receiver Nick Meyer (Elk Grove), safety Charlie Goro (Maine South), defensive tackle Kenny Greer (Barrington), and linebackers Kyle Guziec (Loyola) and Colin Buscarini (Rolling Meadows).
They all found their way to Vermillion, S.D., a town of roughly 10,000 that sits close to the Nebraska border. For comparison's sake, DeKalb -- home of Northern Illinois -- has a population of 43,000.
"It's definitely a small town, but the campus is pretty nice," Terry said. "We've got guys from everywhere up here, so we're all sticking together. It's not necessarily just the guys from Illinois."
The Dakotas are stepping forward in the football world. North Dakota State, another recent Division II convert, is currently ranked No. 1 in FCS (formerly known as Division I-AA) and is the defending national champion.
By the way, two Barrington grads are playing key roles at North Dakota State -- leading rusher Sam Ojuri and punter Ben LeCompte.
South Dakota is in its first season as a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, joining South Dakota State and North Dakota State. That means Illinois State, Western Illinois and Southern Illinois are regular opponents.
Frigid conditions aren't much of a problem. First of all, the University of South Dakota is about as far north as Racine, Wis. The Coyotes also play indoors at the Dakota Dome. North Dakota State's home field is the Fargo Dome.
"It gets loud in the Dakota Dome," Terry said. "Fans are right on top of you. It's definitely a fun place to play."
Regardless of whether South Dakota can stay competitive against Northwestern on Saturday at Ryan Field (2:30 p.m., BTN), this should be a memorable trip home for several Coyotes.