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Football Town, U.S.A.

by Dan Gunderson

The Fargo-Moorhead community is a football town. Not that I needed to type that last sentence for you, the reader, to understand that. North Dakota State University football made that clear years ago during the Division II era.

In the year 2014, the community is full of Bison fandom. Maybe more so than any other time in the history of the football program. This makes it sometimes difficult for us, fans and media alike, to remember there are two other football programs in Moorhead.

The Minnesota State University-Moorhead Dragons and the Concordia College Cobbers. Both of these teams head into 2014 with high expectations.

For the Dragons, it is the hope that they final have found some stability and will no longer be the doormat that everybody wiped their feet on for the last several years. Last year's team went 4-7 and while that may seem unimpressive, it was the first time since 2007 the Dragons had won four or more games in a season.

The Cobbers are coming off back-to-back 8-2 years and have a cavalcade of playmakers on both sides of the ball. With a veteran presence on the team, the Cobbers are finally looking to figure out Bethel and St. Thomas University, the only teams the Cobbers have lost to in the last two years.

The Bison storylines are much different than they were a year ago. Although the team will be replacing 24 seniors from last year's squad, there is no lack of confidence from the large amount of upperclassmen who believe this year's team can make as much noise nationally as the previous three teams did.

If you are a fan of one of these three schools, you are probably wondering why should I care about the other two? What is one thing that would makes them remotely interesting to me? Glad you asked.

Q: Why Should I Care About The Dragons?
A: Offense

The Dragons play in an offensive happy Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The Dragons averaged 31.8 points per game last season, which was seventh best in the conference. In comparison, that average would have made them the third best scoring offense in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and fifth best in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The Dragons are led by junior quarterback Jake Hodge. Hodge threw for 2,518 yards and 24 touchdowns last season while also running for 615 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns on the ground.

They also have stars in wide outs Corey Ambrose and Adam Jirska. Ambrose, a sophomore, had 916 yards receiving and six touchdowns last season while Jirska, a junior, led the team with 1,014 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.

The Dragons will score a lot and will have to in order to stay in games. Their defense gave up a NSIC worst 41.5 points per game last season. If you like a wide open offense, the Dragons are your team to watch.

Q: Why Should I Care About The Cobbers?
A: Nate Adams

If you haven't heard the name Nate Adams yet, get ready to hear it a lot this fall. Adams, a senior this year, led his team in tackles, sacks, tackles for loss, fumble recoveries and pass break-ups last season.

His nine sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries were all tops in the MIAC as well. He did this while only recording 69 total tackles last year, 11th best in the conference.

Having a player as disruptive as Adams on your team can change the way an opposing offense plays. You purposely run away from him or use an extra blocker in passing situations just so he doesn't get to the quarterback.

To me, nothing is more exciting then when a defensive player completely takes over a game. Adams has that ability. That is why you should care about the Cobbers this year.

Q: Why Should I Care About The Bison?
A: National Title Defense

The Bison will be trying, yet again, to defend their national title and this year may be the most challenging. Four out of five starting offensive lineman from last year are gone. Three of your starting four defensive lineman from last year are gone. Brock Jensen, Grant Olson, Marcus Williams. Gone.

You also have a new head coach in Chris Klieman.

Not all is lost, however. The entire linebacking core and three defensive secondary starters return for NDSU. They also have running back John Crockett coming back and this may be his year to bust out in a big way.

The question still remains, can they successful defend their title? Last year's team was a once-in-a-generation type team. This year's squad will not be as dominate, but with all that talent on the field, the Bison will not have as major of a let down as some would suspect. Watching this team defend the National Title. That will be the reason to watch Bison football.

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly sports talk show on 740 The Fan and 740thefan.com called Fan Sports Saturday from 8-10 a.m. Pinto is a radio producer and talk show host within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.