Iowa Hawkeyes Football Preview: North Dakota State

The third straight home game for Iowa brings the North Dakota State Bison to town.

Overview

The last five FCS national championships reside in Fargo, ND.  The Bison have ran off five straight titles and don't seem to be slowing down.  They defeated Jacksonville St in last years championship game by a final score of 37-10 in a game that was dominated by Carson Wentz.  Wentz then went on to be selected second in the 2016 NFL Draft and head to Philadelphia. 

This leaves the Bison without their starting quarterback.  They've rattled off four straight victories against FBS opponents from 2010-14, granted they aren't exactly world beaters, and will look to make it five when they visit Iowa City.  They defeated Kansas in 2010, who went on to finish with a 3-9 record, Minnesota in 2011, who went on to finish 3-9, and Iowa State in 2014, who went on to finish 2-10.  

They did however knock of the Kansas State Wildcats in 2013, who went on to finish with an overall record of 8-5.

Offense

I mentioned the loss of Carson Wentz, who scored three touchdowns in the national championship game for the Bison, but they actually return quite a bit of talent.  Easton Stick got eight nods at the QB position when Wentz was out due to injury, so I don't think head coach Chris Klieman is too worried about who will be taking snaps.

He completed 61% of his passes a year ago for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns.  He also ran for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns, so they know what kind of player he's going to be. 

They'll also get back King Frazier who scampered for 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns last season on 219 carries.  That is quite the workload for a freshman.  Along with Frazier, Stick gets his two top pass catchers back in RJ Urzendowski and Darrius Shepherd, who combined for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns.

They'll have to face an Iowa defense which has more talent than they've probably seen, but they have some good talent to work with as well.  That Iowa defense returns seven starters from last season, including Thorpe award winner, Desmond King.

Defense

The Bison had one of the better defenses in the FCS last season.

They allowed just 3.5 yards per rush and just an average of 272 yards per game to their opponents last season.  They racked up 33 sacks and 16 interceptions during the season and were a big reason why the Bison dominated so many games.

In the games that they did lose, the Bison allowed 38 and 24 points. The offense was almost always consistent, as they never scored less than 21 points all season, but it really came down to how the defense played.

That defense will have to deal with returning starting quarterback, C.J. Beathard, and two very talented running backs in Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels, during their week 3 matchup with the Hawkeyes.

Early Prediction

I think NDSU has a really good program and the fact that they are four of their last four against FBS opponents is incredible, but those were, for the most part, against lower tier FBS teams, which the Bison would be if they were an FBS program.  They're going to give Iowa a run, but I don't think it's close in the end.

This won't be a game that Iowa is going into thinking it's an easy victory.  Kirk Ferentz and his players are too smart to do that, they know who is in that opposing locker room.  You don't win five straight national titles by accident.  The Hawkeyes and the Bison will be ready to play, but I think Iowa's talent prevails in this one.

Give me Iowa, 31-20.


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