You know it’s an FBS game when the curmudgeon beat writer gets five requests to appear on radio shows that cover a team NDSU is playing. That would be Iowa, which includes fans in the Fargo-Moorhead area who sit by their computer all day and night and listen to internet broadcasts. Just joking on the latter, but the Iowa fans love their Hawkeyes. One of the major topics in pretty much all five shows: NDSU’s five straight wins over an FBS opponent and an 8-3 record against FBS teams since the first Gopher game in 2006.
The key for the Bison has been not only who you schedule, but when. In that regard, former NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor was a master at educated luck — knowing what teams the Bison could probably compete with, but also getting the benefit of such teams being in a rebuilding mode. He was a genius at it. Take the five straight FBS wins: Kansas, a bad program to begin with, had a first-year head coach in Turner Gill in 2010. Minnesota in 2011 had a first-year coach in Jerry Kill. Colorado State in 2012 had a first-year coach in Jim McElwain. Kansas State, in 2013, had to replace Heisman candidate Collin Klein, but still was a formidable foe and a benchmark win for NDSU. Iowa State, in 2014, finished 2-10 and wasn’t very good.
The 2016 Iowa Hawkeyes do not resemble any of those programs with the exception of some elements of K-State. The Wildcats rebounded from a slow start in 2013 to win six of their last seven to make that Bison loss sting a little less. Of the 11 Bison FBS opponents, K-State was one of only three to fashion a winning record the year the Bison played them. The other two: Central Michigan was 8-6 in 2007 and Iowa State went 7-6 in 2009.
So, the point is this: NDSU’s five straight wins over FBS opponents is in serious jeopardy because none of those lower-rung FBS schools will play the Bison anymore. The 11th-ranked team in the FBS is a whole different animal, or in this case of playing the Hawkeyes, a whole different bird. I’m curious to see how much of a difference it is.