FARGO — Southern Illinois isn't surging heading into the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs, losing three of its final four games of the regular season.

However, Salukis head coach Nick Hill is confident his team is ready for the postseason, coming off a 17-point home loss against Youngstown State last weekend.

“If you want to be a great competitor, you’ve always have to be confident and I feel like we have a confident group,” Hill said. “We have the right makeup for doing that. We’ve got to use all of our experiences. It takes one game to get back rolling. The confidence is high, the experience level is high on this team.”

Southern Illinois (7-4) plays Missouri Valley Football Conference foe South Dakota (7-4) at 5 p..m. Saturday, Nov. 27, in the first round of the FCS playoffs in Vermillion. The winner plays at North Dakota State in the second round.

“The confidence of going on the road and getting a win, we’ve been there before,” Hill said. “You’ve got to play high-level football in the playoffs if you want to win.”

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The Salukis and Coyotes were both in position to contend for the MVFC title during different points during the regular season, but NDSU won the league crown outright. USD had a chance to win a share of the conference crown heading into the final game of the regular season, but suffered a 52-24 road loss at NDSU last weekend.

“I think there was a great deal of confidence that even with the loss to North Dakota State we were going to be in the playoffs,” South Dakota head coach Bob Nielson said. “The fact that we got to play at home was a very pleasant surprise.”

South Dakota and Southern Illinois didn’t play each other during the regular season, allowing the two conference teams to play in the first round of the postseason. The winner is also set to play another Valley opponent in the Bison.

“Our guys understand that we’re playing an outstanding football team because every week in the Valley we do that and we just added one more Valley week to our schedule,” Nielsen said.

Hill said it doesn’t matter to him that the Salukis would play back-to-back MVFC opponents in the opening two rounds of the playoffs if SIU wins Saturday.

“I don’t really care,” Hill said. “It’s about being in and playing. To win a championship, you’ve got to beat them all.”

USD is hosting its first FCS playoff game. The Coyotes haven't played a postseason game in the DakotaDome since 1986 when the program was in Division II.

“I’m excited for our team, excited for our university and excited for the community here in Vermillion,” Nielson said.

Southern Illinois quarterback Nic Baker ranked third in the MVFC in passing, averaging 256.0 yards per game during the regular season. Baker completed 221 of 358 passes for 2,816 yards and 25 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.

“He’s got dual-threat capability,” Nielsen said. “He’s thrown the ball very well this year. He’s also made some plays with his feet at critical times for them.”

Coyotes quarterback Carson Camp had a stellar regular season, completing 161 of 245 passes for 2,050 yards and 17 touchdowns with four interceptions.

South Dakota ranked third in the MVFC in offensive efficiency behind NDSU and South Dakota State, while Southern Illinois ranked second in the conference in total defense, limiting opponents to 190.5 yards per game.

Southern Illinois features one of the top 1-2 receiving tandems in the MVFC. Landon Lenoir had 56 catches for 830 yards and nine touchdowns in 11 games during the regular season, while Avante Cox had 33 catches for 591 yards and four TDs in nine games.

“They have some very, very talented perimeter skill players, outstanding wide receivers, a very talented running back group,” Nielsen said. “They’ve got some depth at those positions.”

The Coyotes and Salukis are both coming off disappointing finishes to their regular seasons.

“They’re a little like us, coming off of last week,” Nielsen said. “They are probably saying the same things that we are, that that wasn’t necessarily our best football.”

The Salukis are making back-to-back FCS playoff appearances for the first time since 2008 and 2009.

“It’s tough to rebuild and get over that hump,” Hill said. “I’m definitely proud of this team and the direction of the program. The expectations have clearly changed from hoping to expecting.”