Earlier this week, Brian McLaughlin wrote a piece about how parity in the FCS will spell the end of the four-year run of titles by the North Dakota State Bison. I would like to provide a counter-argument.
In the year 2020, that is.
Why shouldn’t the Bison feel optimistic about their first ever matchup against the Ducks even though it’s five years away? The four-time defending FCS champs from the Fargodome are 8-3 lifetime against FBS schools. Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State, and Iowa State have all been trampled at home by the Bison over the past half decade.
North Dakota State: They came, they saw, they won, they snagged a massive paycheck and celebrated all the way back to Fargo.
The Bison have won an unprecedented four straight FCS national championships, and adding a fifth piece of hardware to their trophy case in 2015 is very much a possibility, especially behind the arm of NFL prospect Carson Wentz.
The massive 6-6, 235-pound QB made the most of his first season as NDSU’s starter. He threw for 3,464 yards, 28 touchdowns, and was picked off just 10 times en route to an impressive 63.7 percent completion rate. The native of Bismark was surprisingly nimble with his legs as well, picking up 642 crucial yards on 138 carries.
This ability to make plays with his feet was never more evident than during an early November win over boarder-rival South Dakota State. Wentz frustrated the Jackrabbits by ripping off 100 yards on 16 carries, including a long of 22.
The senior may need to rely on his legs even more this year due to the graduation of running back John Crockett. The RB left the program after rushing for 1,994 yards and scoring 30 total TDs during last year’s 12-1 season (7-1 in Missouri Valley Conference play).
When Wentz isn’t filling the rushing void Crockett left behind, he’ll be handing off to running backs King Frazier and Chase Morlock. Frazier ran for an impressive 616 yards while Morlock chipped in another 365, including 4 touchdowns.
When Wentz takes to the air, he’ll no doubt be looking in the direction of Zach Vraa. The All-MVFC Honorable Mention receiver has overcome three collarbone injuries to catch 155 passes for 2,447 yards and 23 touchdowns during his career.
The defensive side of the ball was the Bison’s trademark during last year’s championship run, holding opponents under 17 points or less through the first nine games.
In the secondary, starting cornerbacks Jordan Champion and CJ Smith return. The two combined for 115 tackles and should wreck havoc once again in 2015. Up front, 6-4, 287-pound defensive tackle Nate Tanguay is primed to top last year’s 38 tackles and 3 sacks.
On special teams, the Bison will look to replace sure-footed kicker Adam Keller who nailed over 85 percent of his kicks, including a 5-field goal performance in a crucial early-season win over Montana. The punting game is strong behind Ben LeCompte, the 2014 College Football Performance.com FCS Punter of the Year who averaged 45.3 yards per boot.
North Dakota State will get to defend its title early when it opens the 2015 college football season against a Montana squad ready to avenge last year’s 22-10 loss. It’s a shame the Bison don’t play an FBS squad this year, and they’ll miss conference foe Illinois State who they defeated in last year’s title game. NDSU can still expect tough competition in conference play, however, when they line against Youngstown State, Northern Iowa, and Indiana State – all playoff teams from a year ago.
The great thing for FCS fans as the Bison strive for five? They can catch every single one of their games over on ESPN3.
Tune in and see if history is made in 2015.