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Moving forward: Bison 1 of 2 Missouri Valley programs to clinch playoff spots

FNS Photo by Dave Wallis North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen (16) sets up a play during Saturday’s game against South Dakota in the Fargodome. The Bison are the No. 1 overall seed in the Division I FCS playoffs and have a first-round bye.

FARGO — North Dakota State will close November with a couple of practices and some weight training work. It’s been a pretty good month.

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“It’s been an exceptional month,” head coach Craig Bohl said. “I think our football team has gotten better. Now it’s another chapter, another season.”

NDSU defeated Illinois State, Youngstown State and South Dakota in November to complete an 11-0 regular season and earn the No. 1 overall seed in the FCS playoffs. NDSU is one of eight teams to get a first-round bye and will play the winner of Furman and South Carolina State on Dec. 7.

There was still some head scratching by the head coach on Monday over the playoff field, most notably only two Missouri Valley Football Conference teams being selected. He thought at least three and possibly four should have made it.

“I think the competition deserves that, however the selection committee saw it otherwise,” Bohl said.

The Division I FCS selection committee used the Simple Ratings System for the first time as part of its criteria. The rankings were released on the NCAA website, but the methodology on how the ratings were tabulated has not been made public.

The Simple Ratings System had 11-1 Eastern Illinois ahead of NDSU, although the committee gave the Bison the top nod.

Youngstown State was rated 24th, Northern Iowa 31st, and Southern Illinois 32nd. It’s probably why Missouri Valley Football commissioner Patty Viverito’s reaction to the playoff field was “disappointed, but not surprised.”

She said Youngstown, SIU and UNI each needed to win one more game.

“I know they were in the mix until the bitter end,” Viverito said. “Each of them had some things on their resume that didn’t make it easy for the committee to select them.”

At least NDSU is in the opposite bracket of South Dakota State, which wasn’t the case last year. The Bison and Jackrabbits played in the second round.

Asked if the Valley did any lobbying on conference rematches so soon in the playoffs, Viverito said, “Let’s just say our feelings on that matter were well known.”

With that said, there didn’t appear to be much of an effort to avoid potential conference rematches in other first-round games. It’s possible that there could be four games between league teams in the second round if:

- New Hampshire defeats Lafayette, it would face Colonial Athletic Association champion Maine.

- Sam Houston State beats Southern Utah, it would face Southland foe Southeastern Louisiana.

- Northern Arizona defeats South Dakota State, it would play at fellow Big Sky Conference member Eastern Washington.

- Tennessee State beats Butler, TSU would travel to Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Illinois.

Bohl said NDSU will not concentrate on South Carolina State or Furman until their Saturday game is complete. The biggest health concern for NDSU is backup center Jesse Hinz, who suffered a knee injury against USD, but the severity of it still wasn’t certain on Monday.

The bye is NDSU’s third this season, which is a first for Bohl at the FCS level. The Bison are 13-1 after a bye under Bohl.

“We have a seasoned, veteran staff going through this and a seasoned, veteran team,” Bohl said. “However, just because you’re seasoned and veteran … complacency is something we’ve always guarded ourselves against with both the coaches and players.”

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.