North Dakota State will not play an FBS opponent until 2020, when they will face the Oregon Ducks to open that season, a program not that long ago considered in the top 15 in the nation. NDSU will go thru a stretch of no FBS games on the schedule four out of five years (2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019). Several fans have asked me about the drought and why other Valley teams can get games (SDSU with Nebraska, Indiana State with Georgia, Illinois State with Wisconsin). You can look here for future games.
Today, let’s have a little fun. NDSU is still looking for an FBS game in 2021. Some of these teams may already have an FCS game, but for the purpose of this blog let’s say they don’t. Some schools will not be on here simply because they don’t play FCS teams (Notre Dame, Texas, USC, UCLA). This list is based on proximity, amount of fans that would travel, potential TV and win probability.
Clemson – The 2016 national champions have played in the College Football Playoff three straight seasons and are considered one of the elite programs in the country. Clemson has a history of playing FCS teams, playing Wofford, Furman, The Citadel and Charleston Southern (all South Carolina schools) in future seasons. Death Valley is considered one of the top venues to see a college football game in the country and apparently Bison fans have already made it there. Also the two coaches are good friends, Chris Klieman was invited to speak at Clemson three years ago, and Dabo Swinney was one of the first to congratulate Klieman after NDSU beat Jax State.
I’m not convinced that a call hasn’t already occurred between these two schools, but Clemson likes to play its regional FCS teams. This would be a really hard game for the Bison to win, but would be a great environment to see them play in.
Oklahoma – The Sooners for a long time stayed away from scheduling FCS teams, but in recent months have added games with Valley rivals South Dakota and Missouri State, so why not NDSU? (I know why not, but it’s my blog). Another traditional powerhouse, Lincoln Riley’s offense would be fun to watch going up against NDSU’s vaunted defense. These are two of the most successful programs in college football history with 17 national titles for the Sooners and 14 for NDSU. Bison fans would certainly take the trip to Norman, but would OU even remotely consider scheduling the Bison? Likely not. Just look at what NDSU has done in other sports to OU, first the softball team has knocked off the Sooners twice in the NCAA Tournament and then the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament win. Probability: Not likely.
Ohio State – Ohio Stadium. That’s enough for many that love college football to say sign me up. Ohio State has shied away from playing FCS teams, they haven’t played one since 2013 when they squeaked by Florida A&M 76-0. The Buckeyes don’t have any issues filling up their stadium, so that angle likely wouldn’t help them signing a game with NDSU. But with the ban lifted on playing FCS schools, the Big Ten is starting to schedule those teams. OSU is loaded up with Power 5 games, home and homes with Oregon, Notre Dame and Washington, so perhaps they would go down that road. There is some familiarity with the coaches, Klieman and Urban Meyer met in Chicago at the 2016 NFL Draft.
I don’t think there was any talk of a game there though. Probability: Not happening
Nebraska – This is one of the dream games for Bison fans in my mind. Ever since the first Nebraska guys showed up on the Division 1 roster, many have spoken with me about a game with the Huskers. Christian Dudzik, Jesse Hinz, Kyle Emanuel, Garrett Bruhn all would have loved a shot at their home state team. What about Jalen Allison, RJ Urzendowski, Easton Stick and Nick DeLuca? That would have been something else. Of course the Huskers are back in the FCS scheduling mode, adding games with SDSU and UND last December, which got some Bison fans’ attention since why they did schedule with the Jacks and Fighting Hawks and not the Bison? The answer there is self-explanatory, but with Big 10 teams needing games, would they call the 701 area code? New head coach Scott Frost knows Klieman well from their days together at Northern Iowa, there was talk a couple years ago when Frost was coaching at Central Florida for a possible matchup with NDSU. The Bison fans would flock to Lincoln and would somehow find tickets to get into the stadium, even if it were just five thousand. It would be a game talked about for a long time. Probability: Possibly, but not for a while (2028 or later)
Wisconsin – This is the game I’ve been clamoring for since NDSU’s win over Minnesota in 2011, knowing that the chances were slim that the game would happen. Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez was the leader of the Big 10 mandate on the FCS which now has come to bite him. The Badgers have scheduled games with Valley teams Southern Illinois and Illinois State in 2020 and 2022. This seems like a no-brainer for the two schools. The proximity alone makes it appealing since NDSU has played all the other regional states that have FBS schools (Minnesota, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa, Iowa State) with the exception of Missouri and Nebraska. A large portion of NDSU’s recruiting area is in the Badger state, some of the the Bison’s best players have come from there (Brock Jensen, Kole Heckendorf, Colten Heagle) and its coaching staff has great ties to the state. Wisconsin doesn’t have a problem selling out, but the amount of Bison fans that would go to Madison might be more that would go to Lincoln, I believe it. Madison is a great college town and a game with NDSU would make for attractive TV as well, beyond the Big Ten Network, I could see FS1 (they have the Big 10 contract) wanting this for an early kickoff. Probability: It Will Happen (2026 or later)
Alabama – The dream matchup. The two powerhouses in Division One football. NDSU and Alabama have almost been in lock step with the Bison when they have won championships, the Crimson Tide won titles in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017, along with playing in the title game in 2016. They are the standard bearers of FBS, Nick Saban has an abundance of riches, including two starting quarterbacks heading into this season. Saban doesn’t shy away from scheduling the FCS, Bison fans will remember a game against Georgia Southern in 2012 that was a lot closer than Saban wanted. That GSU team was the one that nearly came to Fargo and won. (Bama won the title that year) Alabama will play FCS teams three of the next four years (The Citadel, Western Carolina and Mercer) and will likely continue that scheduling philosophy. They have added some impressive games down the road, including actual road games at Texas and Notre Dame, but as long as the SEC maintains an eight game conference schedule, FCS games will be in play. Sources told me NDSU made a call to Alabama at least once about an open date for the 2018 season, but believe they were rebuffed because Bama wants to keep playing schools regional to its area. This would be a fantastic game just to talk about, I’m not sure how good the actual game would be. Alabama is at another level, but it would be fun to see the champions of the FCS play the champions of the FBS. Probability: Ain’t gonna happen
Florida – A game in the Swamp with the Bison faithful. That just sounds wild. The Gators may be skittish about playing a power FCS team, just think back to 2013, where that same Georgia Southern team knocked off Florida in its transitional year to FBS. Florida has played other FCS schools, they had a game with Northern Colorado scheduled last season that was postponed because of weather. They actually will play two FCS teams this year, Idaho and Charleston Southern. They have two more games lined up next year, then Eastern Washington in 2020 and Samford in 2021, both playoff teams in years past. Would they schedule a game with NDSU? Possibily, the game with Eastern came about when Jim McElwain was the coach since he was an EWU alum, but he’s gone now with Dan Mullen running the ship in Gainesville. Bison fans would go in droves to Florida to see the Bison play an SEC team, but how competitive would this game be? NDSU’s smashmouth offense against the high flying speed of the Gators. It would be fun to see the two teams on the same field just to see the contrasting styles. And the partying for this game would start on Monday. Probability: Fun to think about, likely not happening