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Last College Football Game of the Year Today :(

What’s been happening with our friends across the FCS Midwest?

North Dakota State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Well, we’re down to the last college football game of the season this morning.

That’s right, the FCS National Championship kicks off in just an hour in Frisco, TX, where perennial power North Dakota State—best known for beating every Big Ten team dumb enough to play them—takes on this year’s challenger, Eastern Washington—best known for BLOOD FIELD.

It was a pretty standard season across the Midwestern FCS landscape: North Dakota State dominated, South Dakota State (go Jackrabbits!) trailed them in second, and a mass of teams like Northern Iowa and Indiana State (resurgent ISU!) made up a big glut int he middle.

One team that didn’t thrive in the Missouri Valley this year? Bo Pelini’s Youngstown State Penguins, who slumped to 3-5 in conference and finished 4-7 overall. His welcome seems to be worn out in Youngstown, but Pelini might just stay on—all the momentum from the Penguins’ strong 1990s has dissipated.

Of those Midwestern schools, then, just three made the FCS Playoffs. Here’s how those not named North Dakota State fared:

  • Northern Iowa Panthers: def. Lamar, 16-13 (1st Round), L to #6 UC-Davis, 23-16 (2nd Round).
  • #5 South Dakota State Jackrabbits: BYE (1st Round), def. Duquesne, 51-6 (2nd Round), def. #4 Kennesaw State, 27-17 (Quarters), L to #1 NDSU, 44-21 (Semifinals).

Anyway, the FCS Championship Game...

#1 North Dakota State Bison vs. #3 Eastern Washington Eagles

Toyota Park, Frisco Fargo South, TX

11am CT | ESPN2 | NDSU -16 | O/U 60.5

NDSU: 14-0, Sagarin 19
EWU: 12-2, Sagarin 70
Who’s that better than? For North Dakota State, better than everyone except Ohio State (3), Michigan (6), Iowa?! (10?!), and Penn State (11). For EWU, better than Illinois (109) and Rutgers (121) and just behind Indiana (66).

It’s a pretty straight-forward narrative here: You’ve got the FCS Yankees in NDSU, and you’ve got everyone else. Eastern Washington has been a fine challenger, losing an overtime banger to the Bison in 2016 since they knocked out NDSU en route to their only title in 2010.

Their routes to the final have been similar: the Eagles thumped Nicholls State, played a 34-29 thriller with UC-Davis, and blew Maine the fuck out (on a day when we learned about teams to score 5 points in a game multiple times in a year) to make the final.

North Dakota State, true to form, enjoyed another death march of blowouts to the final, with a 52-10 beating of Montana State, 35-0 rout of Colgate, and 44-21 of South Dakota State, their only rival in the last 5 years who’s been able to do jack shit against them. (It also gives us the Dakota Marker series, one of the best rivalry trophies in the Midwest.)

Anyways, this is a straight-forward game. The Bison (pronounced “Bizon”, as any North Dakotan will impatiently remind you while wearing just a sweatshirt and Carhartts in the parking lot of the FargoDome as the wind chill hits -10 and you struggle to breathe through two scarves, three sweatshirts, long johns, a hat, choppers, and hand warmers shoved into every crevice of your body) have QB and NFL Draft prospect Easton Stick and a galaxy-class defense, and the Eagles do not.

Stick has thrown for 26 TDs against just 5 interceptions, but he hurts you even more with his legs. Any of three Bison—Stick, along with RB tandem Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn—are liable to come stampeding out of the backfield, with a Big Ten-caliber offensive line steamrolling hapless opponents.

The Eagles, under second-year coach and future Oregon State HC Aaron Best, like to outscore their opponents, but they’ve struggled to stop the run and will need to contain Stick and the Bison’s Darrius Shepherd to limit NDSU’s big plays. They, uh...they probably won’t be successful. But it’ll be a good game! Tune in to ESPN2 at 11am CT.


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