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Schnepf: Differences from FCS, FBS programs

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Schnepf: Differences from FCS, FBS programs
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AMES, Iowa — For all of you college football fans who still have problems distinguishing between FBS and FCS, here’s a helpful tip: Remember the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) as Football’s Big Shots. Think of the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) as Football’s Cheaper Squads.

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I mention this only because there is going to be a lot of FBS vs. FCS talk again — especially after North Dakota State’s football team proved once again Saturday that the cheaper squad can beat the big shot.

After Saturday’s impressive 34-14 win over Iowa State before 54,800 stunned Jack Trice Stadium fans, the Bison have now won five straight games over FBS opponents. They now have an 8-3 record against FBS opponents — a .727 winning percentage that defies all odds. Since 1978, the big shots have won 82 percent of these matchups.

“I was just hoping to win one or two of these games coming into college,” said NDSU senior defensive end Kyle Emmanuel. “This is just huge.”

It is huge when you consider big-shot schools like Iowa State have the budgets to offer 85 scholarships, compared to the 63 cheaper squads like NDSU can offer. But it’s also huge in the manner in which NDSU has beaten these FBS schools.

Last year in the season-opening 24-21 win at Kansas State, the Bison fell behind 14 points — just like they did Saturday trailing 14-0 early in the second quarter. But just like last year, the Bison got better and stronger as the game wore on. They manhandled Iowa State much in the same fashion as they did at Colorado State two years ago.

It isn’t supposed to happen like that. It is the FBS team that usually imposes its will on the FCS team.

“They ran their offense, I don’t know if that’s imposing their will,” said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads, whose Cyclones lost last year’s season opener 28-20 to FCS Northern Iowa. “They ran it better than we ran our defense, that’s why they won this football game. Preparing for that offense …. that was the challenge.”

So is it easy for an FBS team to underestimate an FCS opponent? It certainly appeared that way with Kansas State, Colorado State, Minnesota and Kansas — NDSU’s previous four victims. But Iowa State players were adamant afterwards that they did not overlook NDSU, repeating the phrase: “They know how to win.”

So is it more of a challenge preparing for the Bison than it will be for Kansas State this week, coach Rhoads?

“It’s a football team, it’s not the division of the team,” Rhoads said. “They’ve got a great program.”

Let’s put what NDSU has accomplished against the big shots into perspective.

Way back in 1978, Division I football split into two divisions — I-A (now FBS) and I-AA (now FCS). Since then and prior to Saturday, the big shots have beaten the cheaper squads in 82 percent of the 2,469 games played.

In the last 11 years since NDSU joined the Division I ranks, it has now won 73 percent of its games against the big shots. Ironically, the last NDSU loss to a big shot was at this very same Jack Trice Stadium, where the Bison lost to the Cyclones 34-17 in 2009.

“We had that game in the back of our minds,” said senior running back John Crockett, who ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns Saturday.

That last FBS loss, one could argue, is the only sound defeat the Bison have suffered to a big shot. In its 16-13 loss to Wyoming in 2008, the Bison lost on a last-second field goal. In its 10-9 loss to Minnesota in 2006, the Bison had their last-second field goal blocked.

With a few more lucky bounces, Bison fans could be pounding their chests even more with a 10-1 record over the big shots.

“Our kids enjoy these games,” said Chris Klieman, who couldn’t have asked for more in his debut game as NDSU’s head coach in his home state, no less. “Our kids aren’t afraid of the spotlight.”

And there’s no doubt NDSU will be in the spotlight once again for beating an FBS team … much like South Dakota was in 2010 when it beat Minnesota 41-38. South Dakota is one of 17 FCS teams that have each posted at least one FBS win.

Much like Southern Illinois, one of 13 FCS team that have claimed three wins over FBS teams. Much like Illinois State and Western Illinois, two of four FCS teams that have claimed six FBS wins. Much like Montana and New Hampshire, two of three FCS teams that have claimed seven FBS wins. Much like Eastern Washington, Indiana State, Lehigh and McNeese State, four FCS teams that join the Bison with eight FBS wins.

Much like Northern Iowa, the only FCS team to have claimed 10 FBS wins … almost making it No. 11 after Saturday’s 31-23 loss at Iowa. Much like Delaware, the only FCS team that has won 15 games against FBS opponents. And much like Youngstown State, which has won 20 FBS games … almost making it No. 21 after Saturday’s 28-17 loss to Illinois.

But it is now the Bison that boast the best winning percentage of them all. Delaware is the only other FCS team with a winning record (15-12) against the FBS.

“I just think a lot of people think since they are not Division I that they are not that great of a team,” said Iowa State defensive lineman Brandon Jensen. “But they are a great team.”

Great enough to prompt online writers from SB Nation to post: “Hey FBS teams, stop playing North Dakota State. Don’t do it. Don’t ever do it.”

If there is any consolation for the FBS, the Bison are not scheduled to play a big shot next season.

Schnepf is the sports editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum News Service.

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Kevin Schnepf
Kevin Schnepf is the sports editor for The Forum. He has been working at The Forum since 1987.
(701) 241-5549
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