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CEDAR FALLS -- There are reasons why the University of Northern Iowa football team may have felt slighted in being bypassed for a national seed in the FCS playoffs.

There is one overwhelming reason that sticks out ... that is rest.

Saturday's  trip to Brookings, S.D. for the sixth-ranked Panthers to face 10th-ranked South Dakota State in a second-round playoff game is daunting enough as the Jacks have an elite defense and an offense with more than one play maker.

But when UNI and SDSU kickoff at 1 p.m. Saturday, one team will definitely be more rested than the other.

"Gives your body and mind a chance to really get energized for the upcoming game and not just plan, but more energy," UNI head coach Farley said. "An open date is a huge advantage this time of year."

UNI (9-4) can't go back and change the selection process, so it will charge forward and try to take the personnel it will have available and give that group the best chance to pull off a victory on the road. 

But the extra rest for the Jacks (8-4) will definitely be an advantage considering the Panthers' depth is lean. 

UNI played short-handed in the first round against San Diego, literally and figuratively. Several key Panthers did not play in the 17-3 win over the Toreros, and Farley did not even dress the 64-man allotment the NCAA allows for the playoffs.

"Our personnel is getting really lean right now," Farley said. "That is the first time in the playoffs, what is it 21 games, I did not dress the total allotment of players. We didn't have that many."

When you flip over to SDSU, it is the exact opposite as the Jacks could get back two huge offensive pieces in 1,000-yard rusher Pierre Strong and back-up running back C.J. Wilson. Neither of those players played in SDSU's regular-season finale, a loss at South Dakota.

Additionally, because the NCAA likes to keep things regional in the second round, UNI has a long bus ride ahead of it instead of a short flight. 

"We are going to get up there early on Friday," Farley said. "Instead of a hour flight ... we are going a five-hour bus ride which is not equal if you look at it. Right now the (travel) plan is to remain the same, but I'm not convinced we will stay in or stick with that plan. It is all about the players and giving them the best chance to be prepared to play in that game.     

Here is another big reason.

With a week's rest the teams that host second-round games in the FCS have historically dominated. Last year, home teams went 8-0 in the second round and since the playoff field was expanded to 24 teams in 2013 home teams are 35-13.

The Panthers know the challenge is huge for them to pull out a win, but UNI also can look back at its 38-7 loss on Nov. 16 to SDSU and say it hurt itself more than anything else.

The Panthers will enter the rematch ranked fourth in the FCS with a plus-13 turnover margin, but in the loss to the Jacks, UNI turned the ball over four times -- three interceptions and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown -- while forcing no SDSU turnovers. 

"Turnovers are a huge part of the game and momentum shifts ... that is what happened in that last game," safety Christian Jegen said. "They got a lot of moment from those turnovers and we weren't able to create any."

INJURY UPDATE: Farley said he does not foresee all-American tight end Briley Moore playing this week.

"I has to ask the date because it is more the timeline than it is the individual," Farley said. "You walk out there now and he is ready to play. It is more a time line on him before he is cleared to play. So that is what I'm waiting on to figure out if that time line will be moved up.

"Physically, he is ready to play today. He is in shape. He is ready to go. He is fit. It is an injury ... its  a shoulder so it doesn't appear. If I could dress him and play him, I will play him. Time line has restricted me from playing.

"I'm not trying to hide anything. It would have to be something that came out of the blue right now."

Farley said wide receiver Isaiah Weston, linebacker Chris Kolarevic and running back Tyler Hoosman are all questionable for Saturday's game.

"I do not have an answer on them and as the week plays out we will determine if they can play," Farley said. "(Hoosman) that is good news because he was doubtful before I got the (Sunday) report on him.

"When I say questionable, none of them will be 100 percent on Saturday."

This article originally ran on

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