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Bison hope to fatten up on Big 12 upset
Perhaps the Division I Football Championship Subdivision needs a mascot. How about an underdog?
It’s still commonly known as Division I-AA, especially this week when the following mantra is shouted nationwide: Let the upsets begin.
North Dakota State’s chance comes Thursday when the Bison open their season at Iowa State. For administrators, it’s a buy game and in this case, the Bison are receiving a $300,000 pay day for playing the Big 12 Conference program.
And if you hit the right slot machine, you can get the money and a whole lot more. FCS NDSU is 3-2 in games against Division I Football Bowl Subdivision games, a striking and impressive winning record.
“The first thing you need is the belief that you can go play with them,” said South Dakota State head coach John Stiegelmeier.
Check that off with the Bison, who have beaten the University of Minnesota, Ball State and Central Michigan since moving to Division I. Losses were to the Gophers and Wyoming, but both were by a combined four points.
It’s an exercise in good scheduling. The Bison caught the Gophers in a toilet bowl year, got Central Michigan to overlook them and played Ball State when the Cardinals were in a coaching transition.
They also got Wyoming when it was obvious the Cowboys were in the last year of head coach Joe Glenn’s tenure. The 16-13 loss in Laramie, Wyo., was a game the Bison had chances to win.
NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor says he likes to schedule FBS teams from the Midwest “because we look and play a lot more like some of these teams than others.”
In other words, the Bison are staying away from Florida, USC or Virginia Tech for their guarantee game. NDSU will be at Kansas in 2010 and back to Minnesota in 2011.
“The longer you’re able to hang around in games like that, the more the pressure builds on the other team,” said Dave Coulson of The Sports Network. “We’ve seen that in the past in some of the games North Dakota State has played, where that kind of pressure starts to mount.”
Two keys for the Bison to hang with Iowa State on Thursday: NDSU needs to keep it close in the first half and it needs to limit its turnovers. Last year, the Jackrabbits had six turnovers – five of them interceptions — in a 44-17 loss at Iowa State.
“If (NDSU) can play physical football, that can equalize a lot of things,” Stiegelmeier said.
The signature FCS win is Appalachian State’s upset over nationally-ranked Michigan two years ago. Second place belongs to The Citadel, which upset Arkansas in 1992, a game that cost the Razorbacks head coach his job the following day.
Both Appalachian State and The Citadel were top ranked in their division those years. The Bison did not even get into the FCS top 25 coaches poll this month. But the Bison are also playing a program that has struggled in recent years in the Big 12.
In July, Coulson said he and Bison head coach Craig Bohl had a conversation about the FCS vs. FBS games during the Missouri Valley Football Conference media day. The biggest problem, Bohl told Coulson, is the 22 extra scholarships by FBS teams.
It makes a difference in the second half, Coulson said.
“Teams start to wear out,” Coulson said. “The (FCS) teams that do win, most of the times it’s hanging on at the end of games.”
By Jeff Kolpack