Ten years ago, North Dakota State football was in their third season as an FCS program. Before that they were a D2 football team. Fourth-year head coach Craig Bohl was still better known for his playing and assistant coaching days at Nebraska than for patrolling the Bison sideline.
Bohl's team had two FBS teams on the 2006 schedule: Ball State and Minnesota. On Sept. 23 they knocked off the Brady Hoke-coached Cardinals on the road, 29-24. Four weeks later, they visited a Minnesota team that had gone 32-18 over their previous four years under Glen Mason. In front of the largest crowd NDSU has ever played in front of (62,845), they nearly shocked the Gophers, who scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to take a 10-6 lead.
Though some of college football noticed the North Dakota State-FBS clash in 2006, their two-game stretch, part of a 10-1 season, went largely unnoticed.
A year later, they beat Central Michigan and Minnesota during another 10-1 campaign, giving them three FBS wins in just two seasons. And following their upset win at Iowa in Week 3, the Bison are now 9-3 against FBS teams over the last 11 seasons.
Who's next? Which foolish FBS team voluntarily scheduled the five-time defending FCS champions?
It's not easy finding the next victim, as told by Jeremy Jorgenson, NDSU's director of broadcasting, who coordinates most of their schedule.
"There are a lot of teams that I’ve talked to that have dates that match up and want an FCS team but they don’t want us,” he said in 2014, weeks before his team hammered Iowa State.
But there are a couple brave souls willing to play them. In August 2015, the Bison announced a one-year agreement with Oregon to play in Eugene in 2020. It will be their first-ever meeting with the Ducks, and one that NDSU is thrilled about scheduling.
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"To go into Oregon and play one of the premier teams in college football in that atmosphere will be an unforgettable experience,” head coach Chris Klieman said in a news release.
Also on the docket is a game at another Pac-12 team, Colorado. The contest, announced in June, is scheduled for 2024, which could be concerning for some NDSU folks looking forward to visiting Boulder.
There has been chatter of eliminating FCS games among Power Five schools, with the Big Ten already instituting a rule that does not allow members to schedule new FCS games. While the Pac-12 hasn't said they'll adopt a similar rule, a trip eight years in the future could be threatened, as could their efforts to schedule other Power Five teams.
For now, Bison fans will have to settle for celebrating another FBS win and looking forward to Oregon in four years.