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Who is going to beat the Bison, other than themselves?

by Mike McFeely

Who's going to beat them?

That's the question facing the Football Championship Subdivision playoff field now that North Dakota State has rolled to an 11-0 record and completed its regular season with five straight dominant victories.

Who's going to beat them?

University of South Dakota coach Joe Glenn believes he has the answer, after watching the Bison crush his team 42-0 Saturday at the Fargodome.


"That is as good of a football team as I've ever seen at this level," said the veteran coach, who won a national title at Montana back in the day. "They don't have a weakness. Nobody's close to this team."

Perhaps the ol' ball coach was laying it on little thick for the Bison's hometown media, but Glenn has been a straight shooter in all the years he's been coaching against the Bison -- whether it was at Northern Colorado, Wyoming or USD.

"We are not a bad football team and they took it to us," Glenn said. "We got shook down for our lunch money today."

Who's going to beat them?

It's a fair question, and one that is likely being asked in many FCS coaches' offices, given NDSU's dominance this season. After beating Kansas State of the Big 12 on a last-second drive, the Bison have been tested only once. Northern Iowa had Bison nearly knocked out Oct. 5 at the dome before Brock Jensen and Co. rallied for a 24-23 victory. Other than that, it's been men vs. boys.

The Bison have size, speed, experience, depth, coaching and the rock concert atmosphere of home-field advantage.

Combine that with what is generally considered a weak playoff field now that traditional powerhouses like Georgia Southern and Appalachian State have moved to the Football Bowl Subdivision and you have a recipe for some ugly playoff matchups in the first couple of games at the dome.

The FCS playoff field will be announced Sunday morning, but looking over automatic qualifiers and at-large guarantees I see only a handful of teams that make for interesting matchups against the Bison: Eastern Washington (Big Sky), Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley) and Montana (Big Sky). There might be a sleeper out there, a team that is more physical and more talented than somebody isolated here in Fargo might expect -- think Wofford from last year -- but I don't see it.

Let's put it this way: Any team can lose any game it plays, but it will be a major upset if NDSU doesn't find itself in Frisco, Texas, playing for a national title Jan. 4.

Even NDSU coach Craig Bohl isn't shying away from the high expectations.

"This is the best football team we've had in the time I've been here as football coach," Bohl said.

The Bison, of course, are the two-time defending national champions.

So the question becomes: How do they lose? Not who is going to beat them. But how do they lose?

"Turnovers," Glenn said.

He paused just a beat and added, "But they won't do that. The quarterback they've got protects the football. He's got it. They're physical, they've got speed, they've got a quarterback who can protect the football.

“We played eight teams in the top 30 and two of the best in the Big Sky and nobody is close to this team,” Glenn said. “I don’t think Kansas is close either. I tell you, they don’t have a weakness. I don’t see anybody stopping this team. They'll roll."

Who's going to beat them?

Furman? Southeast Louisiana? Fordham?

Not without tear gas and a couple of refs on the take.

Even then, I'd take the Bison should win by 12.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)