NDSU Bison quarterback Carson Wentz runs away from pressure against North Dakota

Swany Says: Bisonification of the FCS

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It’s North Dakota State’s world and everybody else is just living in it. Ask any other team playing in the Football Championship Subdivision that has competed for the title of Mr. Runner-up to the Bison since 2011. The latest No. 2, Jacksonville State, was a supposedly high-octane, superior athletic group that sported several starters who transferred in from the SEC, as in Southeastern Conference, from places such as Auburn, Ole Miss and Tennessee. They had the speed, size and skill to compete with NDSU, demonstrated by the fact that they took Auburn to overtime this fall. They had not lost an FCS game heading into the championship. As we’ve heard too many times in recent years, the Bison surely had seen nothing like the Gamecocks.

And it didn’t matter one iota. The Bison blew the doors off the Gamecocks, dominating all phases of the game for a 37-10 win that capped a fifth straight championship season. The game was, for all practical purposes, over when NDSU ran up a 24-0 lead with 6:12 remaining in the first half. All that was left to do by that point was load the confetti cannons with green and yellow paper and bust out the familiar championship hats and t-shirts.


How’s this for jaw-dropping numbers that would make your statistics teacher blush. The Bison have as many national championships as losses since 2011. NDSU owns a ridiculous 71-5 record during that span, each year culminating with a massive celebration on the stage at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Lost in the gushing over the five national championship trophies – the quintuplets – is the often-overlooked fact that NDSU is 20-0 in playoff games during their championship run. Well, duh, they have to be if they’ve won five straight titles. But dig a little deeper and you see how truly dominant the Bison have been against the best of the best in the FCS.

NDSU Bison quarterback Brock Jensen scrambles against South Dakota State
Bison quarterback Brock Jensen scrambles against South Dakota State in 2012.

Of their 20 playoff wins, 15 came by double digits, and of those, with the exception of Furman in 2013, all were against a ranked opponent. The Bison are 10-0 against Top-10 teams and 19-0 against Top-20 teams, in the playoffs over the five championship seasons. If that isn’t impressive enough for you, try this on. In the 20 playoff games, NDSU’s average margin of victory is 20.25 points. In other words, the Bison have been, on average, nearly three touchdowns better against the elite teams in their division. Sure, you can point to the unforgettable, edge-of-your-seat wins over Georgia Southern (2012), South Dakota State (2014), and Illinois State (2014), but it’s hard to argue with an average spread compiled over the course of 20 games and five playoff runs. You want an argument for moving FBS next time you’re sitting around the water cooler and someone asks, there it is.

The rest of the FCS must feel the same way South Dakota head coach Dave Triplett did after the Bison beat his Coyotes to win the 1986 Division II National Championship, for NDSU’s third national championship in four years during the 1980s dynasty. “I wish to hell they would get out of Division II,” said Triplett, following the Bison victory in Florence, Ala. “They can go wherever they want.” This year, despite facing arguably the toughest road to the championship during the five-peat, which included Montana, Northern Iowa, Richmond, and Jacksonville State, the rest of the FCS was feeling Triplett’s Bison-induced pain. “I said to coach (Klieman) after the game, I hope that was your best show right there because if he’s got more than that, I think they are extremely rare,” said Richmond coach Danny Rocco after his team lost 33-7 to NDSU in the semifinals.

Extremely rare indeed. NDSU is dominating the competition like few, if any, teams outside of John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins in their heyday and Casey Stengel’s New York Yankees teams of the 1950s have in the history of sports. No other college football team – not Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, Nebraska, or those great Oklahoma teams – has won five consecutive national championships. The decades of the ‘10s have seen the Bisonification of the FCS, meaning the complete and utter takeover of an entire sport by a team that has proved elite beyond elite – more certain than even death and taxes.

NDSU Bison cornerback Marcus Williams celebrates the defense getting the ball back for the offense.
NDSU Bison cornerback Marcus Williams celebrates the defense getting the ball back for the offense.

“One of the great runs not just in the history of collegiate athletics, but in the history of North American sports,” said ESPN’s Anish Shroff, recapping the Bison win over the Gamecocks. Shroff, who announced three NDSU playoff games, including the championship, went on, explaining how the Bison have become a major part of the American sports landscape. “This isn’t just in the fabric of Fargo, they’ve moved on to something bigger.”

SBNation, one of the most visited sports websites in the world, summed it up thusly: “North Dakota State’s title streak is so incredible, we ran out of sports things to compare it to.”

Lee Fitting, the producer of ESPN’s College GameDay, who, along with Shroff, has become a favorite of Bison Nation, racked up 402 retweets and 562 favorites for this beauty the day after NDSU’s fifth straight title: “How bout ‘dem @NDSUathletics Bizon, again. I say nothing. @CollegeGameDay to Fargo in ’16.”

Yep, that’s right. It looks like College GameDay will return in 2016 – for the third time in four years, all part of the Bisonification that is sweeping the landscape.

“It’s remarkable, the five titles, I can’t put it into words,” began Bison coach Chris Klieman during the postgame press conference when asked to explain what NDSU’s five straight national championships meant. “I’m hoping someday I’ll be able to. It’s remarkable what these guys have done,” reflected Klieman, looking towards several of his players sitting next to him.

Coach, you’re not the only one at a loss for words to explain what five straight national championships means. I don’t know if anyone can, because it’s never been done in college football. Ever. It’s so historic, we need a new word to describe in. I’ll settle on “Bisonification” – the complete and utter takeover of an entire sport by a team that shows no signs of slowing down even at five straight national championships.

Swany Says: Bisonification of the FCS
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Published eight times a year, Bison Illustrated provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Bison community in order to help promote the university’s players, coaches, alumni, supporters, staff and fans.


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