The 2014 football schedule was wrapped up yesterday as NDSU announced it will play 12 games for the first time in school history; six at home and six on the road. Weber State raised some eyebrows from what I’ve been able to gather on the blog, but it makes sense to this reporter.
NDSU head coach Chris Klieman seems to be embracing a different scheduling philosophy of that of his predecessor and that’s not a bad thing. The Bison had racked up 44 games heading into last season, so you could understand why avoiding a 12th game made all the sense in the world. We have spoken plenty about the amount of experience that returns in 2014, but for the amount of guys that are back, there’s plenty that have not seen many reps, and that’s where actual games can help and that’s where a 12th game can be huge, especially against an opponent where you believe you can win. You can argue that playing another game makes you that more susceptible to injuries and there’s no arguing that, but on the flip side, an extra game could be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting out.
Weber State is not Eastern Washington, Delaware or Maine. The Wildcats have had three straight losing seasons, the last two with just two wins, they are now on their third coach in 22 months, John L. Smith left to take over at Arkansas after Bobby Petrino resigned, Jody Sears came in and went 4-19 and now former Utah assistant Jay Hill was hired in December. This is a program that is near the bottom of the FCS, it’s a perfect game for an NDSU team that expects to be very good, and after testing itself against a BCS school, can perhaps get a better gauge of its own team playing against a squad that has 63 scholarships. How often have I blogged about how hard it has been for NDSU to get home games over the past four years? Perhaps that’s the lost element in this scheduling announcement, as Weber comes to Fargo next season, leaving just one open date for NDSU to fill. (I’ll leave that speculation for another blog)
I don’t understand some fans reactions about avoiding full scholarship schools; would you want to stay away from Delaware State or Tennessee Tech? Or avoiding playing Big Sky or CAA teams? In my mind the FCS NEEDS more of these games. ESPN thought well enough of the NDSU-Montana game to possibly move it a week before ANYONE plays. That’s what this division needs, they need headliner games. Now where no one will argue this NDSU-Weber game will raise the profile of the division, games against the Valley-Big Sky could be huge in terms of playoff seeding when you look at the GPI. Playing games against the highest rated conferences can only help you, even if it is against teams in the lower half of that specified conference. Eastern Washington and Northern Iowa signed up to play each other in a home and home starting in 2015, Sam Houston and Eastern will finish up a home and home this year. How many were upset about Ferris State last season? The only thing that made that game appealing was the fact that wins against D2’s didn’t hurt anymore.
NDSU’s motto is “Bring On The Competition.” The schedule in 2014 is doing that and then some, the Valley will be tough as it always is, games at UNI and Missouri State at the end of the year will be a grind, but in my mind, the games at the start of the year can help a young quarterback be ready for the challenges at the end of the season. I can understand fans wanting a 7th home game, but if the Bison do what they believe they can do, fans will be enjoying playoff games at the Fargodome next December.
One note, I’m off covering the Bison for the next few days covering the North Dakota State Hockey Tournament on WDAY, Mr. Kolpack will of course have you covered for Saturday’s BSA showdown with the Jacks, I’ll return for the live blog on Sunday night.