The Bison are off to a hot start, but their competition this year looks stiff
The Bison football team is already sitting strong with four wins under their belt heading into bye week. But how do they sit compared to the rest of the FCS? Is there anyone hot on their tail they should be worried about?
Right now in the Missouri Valley Conference, North Dakota State sits on top of the standings with their perfect 4-0 record. Behind them are three teams, Youngstown State (3-0), Illinois State (3-1) and as always South Dakota State (3-1).
Starting with Youngstown State, we see the only other undefeated team in the conference. They’ve currently beat out Samford, Howard and Duquesne. Last year, although they failed to make the playoffs, all three of those teams finished their seasons with winning records.
This makes the fact that Youngstown State beat all three teams by at least 20 points impressive. NDSU won’t have to face off against Youngstown until early November, so there are plenty of chances for change. The penguins are just a team to watch when gameday comes along.
Illinois State is also boasting an impressive record of 3-1. Illinois State’s single loss came against Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois is a tough team placing first in their conference last year.
Illinois State’s wins came against three teams who fared poorly last season: Northern Arizona, Eastern Illinois and Morehead State. All three teams placed sixth or below in their respective conferences last year, but they are currently leading their divisions.
It will take a few more weeks to see if Illinois State is for real or not. The Redbirds will have a real chance to prove their worth with their next game being against NDSU.
Both Illinois State and Youngstown haven’t been the best in recent years, with both teams tied for sixth last year in the Missouri Valley Conference. Maybe they’ve improved in the time since, only time will tell, but one other Valley Conference team still poses a threat. That team is South Dakota State.
It looks like the bitter rivalry of North vs. South will live on for another year. South Dakota State is good, once again. SDSU’s only loss has come against FBS school, the University of Minnesota. The Gophers barely won that matchup 28-21.
All three of their wins have also come in a dominate fashion. They beat out LUI Post, Drake and Southern Utah by a minimum of 28 points each.
This year, NDSU will have to head to Brookings to play the Jackrabbits. The last time this happened, the Bison lost. That was NDSU’s only loss in the past three seasons. It will likely be a marquee matchup come late October, and the Herd might be seeing the Jackrabbits in the playoffs once again.
Some other top contending FCS school include Montana and Montana State, both sitting nicely with 3-1 records in the Big Sky Conference. The Big South is lead by a 3-1 Kennesaw State, while the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) has four 3-1 teams, Deleware, Towson, Stony Brook and James Madison. Also in the CAA, is a 4-0 Villanova.
In the Northeast, Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut State are holding at 3-1, and Jacksonville State has the same record in the Ohio Valley Conference. Between the Pioneer League, Southern, Southland, and Southwestern Atlantic Conferences, three teams are still 3-1, Davidson, Houston Baptist and Arkansas-Pine Bluffs.
There are a lot of familiar names for NDSU fans. A lot of the current top teams have been in the playoff race against the Bison including James Madison, the team to beat the Herd in the 2017 championship.
There will be plenty of film to cover this bye week for Coach Matt Entz and his new team, as the game against UC Davis showed some signs of weakness for the usually dominate Bison.
Be sure to catch their next game against Illinois State on October 5.