For five years, everything about the FCS revolved around North Dakota State. Five national titles, five FBS wins, two "College GameDay" visits, one "SportsCenter on the Road" visit, the NFL Network coming to Fargo for NDSU's Pro Day, Carson Wentz's leadup to the NFL Draft and then being picked No. 2 and the countless national articles throughout it all, the Bison were the first thing to come to mind when someone said FCS.
But that spotlight is shining elsewhere now. James Madison, the defending national champs and the overwhelming No. 1 team in the polls, is now the talk of the subdivision.
"College GameDay" is set to visit the Dukes on Saturday. And it's well deserved. The team is just as talented as last year. The campus and stadium are top notch. The fan base is passionate and vocal on social media. It's a big-time program getting big-time exposure. Exposure that surrounded NDSU for so long.
Remember when those national articles asked why FBS teams are even scheduling the Bison (example A, B and C)? Now it's JMU getting those articles this season. Yes, NDSU didn't play an FBS team this season to garner any of these stories. But the point is Bison fans are watching the JMU love from afar, knowing exactly how it feels to be in that limelight.
Maybe it's because success is so expected for the Bison that their dominating 5-0 start just seems business as usual around the FCS world. The opponents have been less than stellar, sure, but this is the sharpest an NDSU team has looked since 2014. Or maybe it's just because the Bison fatigue is real and the Dukes are a fresh breath of air. But there's no doubt JMU owns the spotlight.
And why not?
In 2014, "College GameDay" producer Lee Fitting told a room of North Dakota journalists as the show's set was being built in the middle of downtown Fargo that "People say 'GameDay' should be at the best game of the week. My motto is let's go to the best story of the week."
The Dukes have quite the story going on right now. They have yet to lose to an FCS team since Mike Houston took over as head coach last season. They ended the greatest run in college football history and didn't need any magic or trickery to beat the Bison 27-17 in the semifinals last season in the Fargodome. And they are a great program to represent the FCS on the national stage.
We'll all get to see it on display Saturday morning on ESPN. It's great exposure for the league. Will there be jealousy spewing out of Fargo? Oh, you betcha. Because if there's one thing NDSU fans hate, it's being left out of the conversation. They all want that national spotlight and love back.
But right now, it's JMU's time on top. The attention will continue to grow as long as Houston and the Dukes keep on winning. And there's a lot more wins on the horizon.