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TCAC: Iowa Hawkeyes vs North Dakota State Bison

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To Catch a Competitor looks at Iowa’s opponent each week. This week: Some FCS school that doesn’t matter.

NCAA Football: FCS Championship-Jacksonville State vs North Dakota State Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Opponent: NDSU Bison (Bizen?)

What We Know:

Like most of the Great Plains, North Dakota is flat, preposterously boring, and sparsely populated by a society of overly friendly denim-wearing folk. Contrary to popular belief, North Dakota and South Dakota are actually the exact same thing, so for simplicity’s sake they will be referred to simply as “Dakota” from here on out.

Located in Fargo, NDSU was established in 1890. Dakota’s flagship university fields teams known as the “Bison”, and is not to be confused with their ice hockey-adept rivals in Grand Forks, the North Dakota Fighting Sioux Hawks. The NDSU football team is well known as FCS Alabama or, less commonly, still just an FCS program that nobody actually cares about.

Their accomplishments on the field are technically impressive—5 consecutive national championships is an unparalleled feat—but ultimately meaningless. Former OTE “writer” Mike Jones did a great job covering their unimpressive win streak over FBS teams earlier this week, but the gist of it is it was a win streak that only an FCS program like NDSU or Iowa State could possibly be proud of.

Any Iowa football fans that also have Twitter may have noticed that NDSU’s fan base is loud, easily insulted, ill informed and sporting a glaring inferiority complex. Dakota fans are as sensitive and overcompensating for being just an FCS team as Donald Trump is about his tiny baby hands.

There is a false notion that beating a terrible Colorado State team means they can hang with the big boys. I’ll give them credit for selling more tickets to their fans than Iowa State did last week, but for the love of god I’d rather watch Purdue play Rutgers on a high school field than any FCS game. But hooray for College GameDay going to Fargo that one time during the college football equivalent of sweeps week.

The Bison are about to play a football game against a team that’s an actual power-5 contender with better players in literally every position. Congratulations on being bigger than the rest of the children, Bison fans. Now go back to the kiddie table because the adults are talking football.

Famous Alumni

The cupboard is pretty bare for this one, but here we go:

  • Former first lady of Dakota, Jean Guy (“Jean Guy” is also a nickname I have for a dude who hangs out at the UVA library all the time)
  • Nutritionist/snake oil salesman, Earl Mindell
  • Some guy named Alf who actually scored the sitcom about a cat-eating alien who was also named Alf
  • Extender of Contracts/Bestower of Buyouts, Gary Barta
  • WWE Hall-of-Fame inductee, Bob Backlund
  • Miss Dakota 2006, Annette Olson

What to Watch For

Quarterback Easton Stick is off to a good start on his inaugural season as the Bison quarterback, averaging 225 yards per game and sporting an efficiency rating of 156. Stick is also a real threat to tuck the ball down and run, and has over 100 yards and a rushing touchdown so far this year. His primary targets are receivers Darrius Shepherd and RJ Urzendowski, who have combined for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns through two games.

Waterloo West graduate Lance Dunn is the team’s leading rusher with only 179 yards through two games, but Dunn is averaging an impressive 6.8 yards per carry. As a team, the Bison are rushing for a respectable 255 yards/game. Dakota’s offensive line averages nearly 305 pounds and has been a catalyst for the running game.

The Bison offense is clearly the strength of the team, and it will be interesting to see how Iowa’s defense responds. Phil Parker has been somewhat stingy with blitzes this season, but against Iowa State he was able to get very good pressure on the pass rush using just his front four. I do expect NDSU to commit a few turnovers while they settle in against Iowa.

The Bison defense, however, is allowing 31 points per game and 272 yards passing. Against FCS competition. CJ Beathard will be the best quarterback NDSU will face all year. Likewise for Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels in regards to running backs. The Hawkeye offensive line isn’t even in the same universe as anyone on the Bison’s schedule. Unless Iowa suddenly starts making dumb mistakes and turning the ball over, the offense should have a field day.

Don’t get me wrong, NDSU is by far the best non-con team Iowa will face in the regular season, but man the competition just isn’t that steep. Talent-wise, the Bison are a MAC contender, not a Big Ten contender. Dakota needed overtime and a lot of luck to beat Charleston Southern and Eastern Washington. If NDSU is FCS Alabama, than you and I have been watching two very different Alabama teams these last few years.

Sorry, Bison fans, if I seem condescending and smug. In my defense, I’m tired of watching Iowa play games against nobody teams in September. I can’t wait for the Big Ten schedule to start so I can watch games that people actually want to tune in for.

/checks schedule and sees Rutgers next week

....dammit.

I hope you enjoy Iowa City, Bison fans. I really do. Kinnick Stadium is an amazing place to catch a football game. So enjoy the game, have an egg bomb for me at Joe’s Place, then head back to Fargo with your $500,000 check where you can watch NDSU play whatever cupcakes make you feel good about yourselves.

Also you guys pronounce Bison wrong.