The Bison head east

The Bison take on the Redbirds in the first game of conference play

The Bison football team is coming off their bye week and are ready to keep thundering on. The question is, will some tough competition slow them down?

The Herd will be playing at Illinois State in their first matchup of conference play. The Redbirds went 3-1 in their first four games and pose a definite threat to NDSU.

The game will be played at noon on Saturday at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Illinois. The outdoor, 13,391-capacity stadium could be the first hurdle the Bison have to overcome.

With respect to UC Davis, the Herd was on their home turf. Now that they are playing a Missouri Valley road game against a top-10 opponent, the narrative is a little different this time.

With chances of rain and temperatures mostly in the 50s, the dome dwelling Herd could have some issues.

Then, of course, there is Illinois State themselves. Thus far, the Redbirds have faced Northern Illinois, Morehead State, Eastern Illinois and Northern Arizona.

Their only loss came to Northern Illinois, but it was a close matchup. The final score was 24-10, but 14 of Northern’s points came in the fourth quarter, late in the game.

While Illinois’ other three matchups have been against formidable teams, they are still wins, and some of them by big margins. They beat Morehead State 42-14 and held Eastern Illinois to only three points.

A big part of the Redbird’s success has come from their high-powered offense. They’ve averaged 28 points per game and 368 yards.

These yards have been split equally between rushing and passing, so NDSU still has to be ready for a dual-threat come Saturday.

The passing comes from QB, Brady Davis. Davis has become a go-to for Illinois with him averaging 25 passing attempts a game. However, his quality doesn’t match the quantity. He’s only has a 50 percent completion percentage on the year and his touchdowns equal his interceptions at four.

He also uses his legs frequently, rushing for 139 already this season. With Micheal Tutsie intercepting the ball left and right these past few games, it is safe to say that the Redbird’s will be relying on their run game.

Most of the Redbirds rushing comes from James Robison. The Senior running back is a former Walter Payton Award finalist and was part of last year’s FCS All-American team. This season, he’s averaged over 100 yards a game and will likely be one of the top threats to the Bison’s current 24-game winning streak.

One weakness for Illinois State though is their pass defense. The Redbirds, on average, have allowed 220 passing yards a game. Maybe this will be a good chance for NDSU QB, Trey Lance, to stay in the pocket and sling it.

Regardless, with both teams coming fresh off of bye week, it’s sure to be a great matchup. With NDSU faltering from their typical dominance against UC Davis, this game poses a good test.

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