Here are game-by-game predictions for NDSU, who is No. 2 in HERO Sports’ FCS Preseason Top 25.
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vs Eastern Washington (in Minneapolis, MN)
A cool FCS non-conference game played at U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the MN Vikings. Unfortunately for this matchup of FCS bluebloods, EWU took a big step back last year, finishing 3-8.
However, EWU will still own a dangerous passing attack with talented receivers to sling the ball around for the new starting quarterback. And the Bison lost their three best cornerbacks and three best safeties from last year. So it’s a good test for NDSU’s secondary, which may struggle early like the 2015 season. The Bison offense has a chance for a promising start against a struggling EWU defense, though, so expect many points scored in this one.
NDSU hasn’t been challenged by non-JMU CAA teams, and I don’t expect much different in an energetic Fargodome opener.
vs Central Arkansas
UCA could be an under-the-radar team this year. There’s a lot of great individual talent on the roster (seven names on our Top 25 returning FCS players by position rankings). Do I think NDSU will lose? No. Do I think the opening spread is going to be too high? Yes.
vs South Dakota
NDSU has scored 34, 52, 49, 59, and 49 points on USD in the last five meetings. Since a shocking loss in 2015 and then a 28-21 win in 2016, this matchup has been dominated by the Bison. We’ll likely see another decisive win for NDSU’s Homecoming.
at Missouri State
We’re now in October, and the Bison are on their first true road trip. Mo State is a bit of a mystery this preseason. There has been a lot of roster movement over the last couple of seasons, and now Ryan Beard takes over as head coach at age 33.
The Bison had some closer-than-expected road contests last year. This could be our first glimpse of what kind of team NDSU has in 2023. There are too many unknowns for me to think the Bison will lose this one, though.
at No. 17 North Dakota
At some point, UND will beat NDSU in football. Just like how USD finally beat SDSU a few years ago when it seemed like it’d never happen. If there was a year for the Fighting Hawks to knock off the Bison, this year is the best chance to do so in quite some time.
UND will have a stronger team than last season’s playoff squad. NDSU faces its most offseason questions in more than a decade. And Grand Forks is not an easy place to play. The last matchup at the Alerus Center in 2021 saw a 16-10 NDSU win. The Bison went on to win a national title while UND finished 5-6. But with all of that said, it still feels too bold to pick the Bison to lose this one.
vs Western Illinois
NDSU wins big here as the defense rounds into form and the offense picks up some momentum after two potential lower-scoring games.
vs Murray State
NDSU gives Murray State a “Welcome to the MVFC” treatment for this one.
At this point, the Bison are now 8-0. But do we truly know how good they are yet on a national title scale? We get our answer the next week.
at No. 1 South Dakota State
A four-game losing streak against their rivals, including being outscored 61-21 in the last six quarters, can’t be sitting well in Fargo as the FCS power has shifted to Brookings. NDSU seemed to be almost nonchalant about the Dakota Marker game in recent years, maybe due to SDSU winning the Marker several times but the Bison ended up winning the more important trophy. But that changed last year, making this a more urgent game for the NDSU program.
As I said in my SDSU game-by-game predictions, it wouldn’t shock me at all if NDSU wins here. A five-game losing streak is wild to think about. But this matchup again just doesn’t favor the Bison. SDSU will have the run defense to give NDSU’s offense problems, the SDSU o-line owned NDSU’s front seven in Frisco, and the Jacks have great weapons in the passing game to attack an inexperienced NDSU secondary.
vs Southern Illinois (Received Votes)
SIU nearly beat NDSU last year in Carbondale, losing 21-18. It was a tough day for NDSU’s offense (not helped by injuries), and the Bison passing O was less than impressive in three of the final five games after this one.
This year’s matchup against SIU, who may be ranked by now, will either be a get-right game for the Bison after a projected loss, or a game that results in more questions about the team if it’s a similar battle as 2022.
at Northern Iowa (Received Votes)
Nov. 18 just might not be NDSU’s day.
UNI will likely be playing for its playoff lives a day before Selection Sunday. It’s at home for the Panthers. And an explosive passing attack led by quarterback Theo Day could get the best of NDSU’s questionable secondary.
Even with all the offseason questions about NDSU’s 2023 team, we still project the Bison to finish 9-2 overall.
Regular-Season Record Prediction: 9-2
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