There's Something Special in the Air!
Updated: Aug 26, 2022
Finally we are a less than two weeks out from another Bison Football Season. The Grand Puba’s of the FCS prognosticating world have unanimously picked the Herd as the #1 team going into 2022. Coming off the ninth Natty in 10 fall campaigns, our roster is loaded with returning starters and players who were in our ever increasing rotational groupings. So where does this 2022 team stand in our pantheon of championship teams?
As in any sport, games are won on the field, not on paper. Character and injuries get sorted out as a season progresses. Many teams take off as new impact players emerge on the roster. This is what makes college football so much fun to follow. The Bison’s unprecedented run of excellence, which only has been derailed by the Covid spring season, brings us to the starting point of not is this going to be a good team, but how good/great are they going to be?
In this article I am going to analyze our roster, schedule and try to place this group in relation to other great Bison teams.
I believe the 2022 team is in position to be like the 2018 team. Yes, they went unbeaten and brought home Natty #7.
Hey Dober, tap the breaks. Only three Div I Herd teams have reached this pinnacle of success. Right and this team is primed to enter that kind of season. The 2013 Bison team was very special. They were a senior dominated team (24 seniors) coming off our first two Div I Nattys. Brock Jensen set the FCS QB win record (48). He brought the team from an average offense in 2011 to a dominate one in 2013. These were the pioneer breakthrough group to establish that not only could the Bison compete at the FCS level, they could dominate. As good as they were on the field, only three Sr/Jr players were NFLers (Billy Turner, Marcus Williams and Kyle Emanuel). Down the roster were Carson Wentz, Joe Haeg, Nick DeLuca and Chris Board. None were starters or in the positional rotations as sophomores and freshman.
The 2022 team isn’t senior dominated and aren’t pioneers.
Nor is the 2022 team like the 2019 team. The 2018 unbeaten team had, again, 24 seniors to replace, so coming into 2019 the Fargo print and TV media pundits were picking the Herd to lose two to three games. Joshua Swanson and I were the only two who were predicting that there was a good chance for the 2019 team to repeat the unbeaten status of the 2018 team (read my article on the 2019 season preview, link). The 2018 team had Stick, Bruce Anderson and Darrius Sheppard graduate to the NFL with Tanner Volson getting a cup of coffee look as well.
Why would I pick this 2019 team as having a good chance of repeating its unbeaten status? Two major things brought me to this conclusion. First the Bison roster was getting deeper and better because of its five straight years of leading the MVFC conference in recruiting. Simply put, we had more and better athletes on the roster. Second, because of this talent increase and the long 15-16 game seasons, Bison coaches were using an ever greater rotational system where starters weren’t getting all the snaps, even in close, contested games. The increase in talent can be verified not because I say so, but because the NFL says so. The 2019 roster had future NFLers Zack Johnson, Ben Ellefson, Derrek Tuszka, Jabril Cox (115th pick), Cordell Volson (4th rd), Dillon Radunz (53rd player taken), Christian Watson (2nd player taken in 2nd rd), Josh Babicz, Trey Lance (3rd player taken). That’s nine NFL talents, plus that team had this year’s studs in the rotation: Nash Jensen, Cody Mauch (best FCS OL), Noah Gindorff, Hunter Luepke and Spencer Waege. That’s five more NFL level talents. Name another FCS team with 14 NFL level players? Hell, name a non top 15 FBS program with that much NFL talent?
At this point I must lament over the loss of the 2020 fall season to Covid. This team was poised to get a mature, experienced Trey, a full season from Dillon and the fruition of the 2019 season and the maturation of experience from the returning players. I believe we would have beaten Oregon and gone on to break the Oklahoma most wins record (47 straight) and would have won another Natty. The depleted spring roster (we played 8 true freshmen over the course of this abomination of a season) and losing Trey after only playing his redshirt freshman year (something that hadn’t happened at the FBS level ever!!) was beyond sad. Enough said. Many Americans lost much more than athletic glory, they lost their own lives or family/friends, they lost their business or a job and many had suffered long term, permanent health issues.
So why do I see this team in light of the 2018 team? They too were coming off one loss in 2017, but still won the National Championship. Both losses were to the SDSU Jacks. Easton Stick played his worst FCS game (there were 5 Turn Over’s by the Herd). Even in spite of being a minus three in TO’s, the Herd was still in the game. Last year, Cam had his worst game versus the Jacks (2 TO’s) and Code Green gave up a long TD (combination of a pick not being called and a missed fit by the LB) and we let another TD happen because of two stupid penalties to allow a Jacks drive to continue. You can’t play the toughest opponent and play bad on the road and win. We regrouped to win the next six games by a margin of 37.3 to 12.5. The 2017 squad regrouped and won six straight after the loss to the Jacks by a margin of 36.8 to 10.
Let’s compare the positional grouping changes from 2017 to 18 and this year’s team to last year’s to see who had to do more reloading.
Let’s start in the trenches with the defensive tackles. The 2017 group had all 15 games started by Nate Tanguay and Aaron Steidl. They combined for 50 tackles (only 18 for Nate, the 2016 season ending knee injury really curtailed his career). The rest of the D tackle crew was led by Blake Williams with 34 tkls, Cole Karcz 22 tkls and Grant Morgan with 19. They all played in 15 games. They combined for 5.5 sacks (3 by Karcz, a converted DE). Nate and Grant graduated, so folded into the 2018 rotation were Jack Darnell and Matt Biegler. Starters, Williams and Steidl, combined for 68 tkls and 3 sacks. Karcz was the pass rush guru and notched 7.5 sacks (some came with him playing outside). There was no let down in production from the DT’s rotation from 2017 to 2018. The 2021 D tackle room was led by starters of all 15 games, Lane tucker and Costner Ching, who combined for 64 tkls and 5.5 sacks. Greater production was achieved by Eli Mostaert and Javier Derritt in the rotation. They matched the 64 tkls, but amassed 11.5 sacks. Down the stretch run of the playoffs, they were the go to guys up the middle. The 5th guy in the rotation was “cigar munching” Mike Buetow. His Natty picture will live a long time in Bison lore. This DT room sack total exceeded the 2013 team’s 16. This is an important point. It means that the interior defensive lineman were not just getting push (collapsing the pocket and forcing the QB into the loving arms of the DE’s). Let’s compare this to the 2017 team. They got 16.5 sacks from the LB’s and only 6 sacks from the DT’s. This meant a LB wasn’t in pass protection. This 2017 team tied the 1974 team with 47 sacks for the most in Code Green history. Last year’s squad beat it with 49 sacks. They did this with mainly four man rushes. This equals better pass protection. What can we expect from the DT’s in 2022? More of the same! Eli and Javier are getting into the pinnacle years of their careers (Jr./Sr. years). You have to go back to the 2013 season to see so many sacks by the DT’s. Will Mostaert is coming inside from the DE position. He had 3.5 sacks last year. Jaxon Duttenhofer (the highest ranked player in ND High School) caught the eyes’ of the coaches last fall as a true freshman. They said if there were injuries in the DT room, Jaxon was mature/strong enough to enter the rotation. My bet for the 5th man in the rotation is Bryce Friday, a 6’3”, 280 lb redshirt sophomore with a 37” vertical jump. As good as Lane and Costner were, Eli’s and Derritt’s numbers were better. As far as replacements go, when’s the last time the new comers didn’t get the job done? I trust and believe in the Kramer effect and the great coaching by Goeser in this room, PERIOD! How do the DE’s compare? The 2017 squad had great production from starters Caleb Butler and Derek Tuszka. Derek had to step up because All-American Greg Menard went down in fall camp for the year. As a redshirt freshman the year before he only saw action in eight games and registered only four tackles with one sack. He led the DE’s in 2017 with 7.5 sacks. Caleb had 5 sacks. Stanley Jones and Derek’s brother Jarrod filled out the DE rotation. Going into 2018 only Jarrod graduated. Greg recovered from knee surgery to start all 15 games. Stanley and Derek shared starting roles, but both played in all 15 games. Butler played in 13 games (started 1) and a new face appeared in the rotation, redshirt frosh Spencer Waege. He played in all 15 games. The DE room was a big strength in 2018. Last year Brayden Thomas (led the room with 7.5 sacks) and Logan McCormack got the starts, but it was a deep room with Tony Pierce, Jake Kava, Will Mostaert and Loshiaka Roques in the rotation. They all played in 14 games except Jake who played in 15. They produced 65 tkls and 12 sacks. Did I mention All-American DE candidate Spencer Waege went down after three games and is back for 2022. Gee, doesn’t that sound a lot like 2018? So the 2022 DE room looks every bit as good as 2018. Don’t be surprised if you see Will Mostaert at DE in certain passing downs. Cole Karcz played both at times after his switch to DT. Possible additions to the rotation could come from Dylan Hendricks, a great athlete out of WI who missed both the spring and last fall with an injury. Also in the running is Reed Ryan, the WI Defensive Player of the Year out of High School. The 2017 Natty team had three future NFL LB’s starting the Championship game: Nick Deluca, Chris Board and Jabril Cox. Not sure any other FCS team can say that. Of course with the Bison, they have done a lot of things on the field no other team has done. Levi Jordheim started 7 games and played in all 15. Aaron Mercadel was great on special teams and was a dependable backup. With only getting back Jabril, how didn’t the LB room fall in the toilet in 2018? Dan Marlette, after three years of special teams play and mop up duty, got his chance to shine and he did. He finished 2nd on the team in tackles, just 4 behind Jabril. Jordheim became a full time starter and finished 4th on the team in tackles. Jackson Hankey was the only backup with significant playing time, finishing with 27 tkls as a redshirt freshman before taking over the middle for the next three years. There is an important lesson about the Bison program here. We recruit and develop players over time to fill the roster. When given their chance to play, they do it with Bison Pride. What does the transition look like in the LB room from 2021 to 2022? First, it is less drastic than from 2017 to 18 and the room has twice the depth than the 18 squad. Returning to redeem playing as a true freshman (the only benefit we got from Covid was several players getting a fifth/sixth year) is All-American, James Kaczor. One of the many Bison who are coaches sons. He knows and loves football. Jasir Cox went the portal route to the FBS and Jackson Hankey graduated. Do we have adequate replacements? Cole Wisniewski was the fourth starter last year. He was 4th on the team in tkls, just 4 behind Jasir with less playing time. At 6’4” and almost 230 lbs, he has more upside than Jasir. In the middle we have a competition between Luke Weerts and Nick Kubitz. Weerts, coming out of HS, was the highest ranked three star Bison prospect. His redshirt was waived so he could be on special teams. His season ended after three games last year with a back injury. He is good to go this fall. Kubitz is a special team’s guru. He had 15 tkls on kick off coverage last year and was in the LB rotation. There was more rotation with the LB corp last year. I expect that to continue this fall. Whoever wins the starting job will be a well coached leader on the field. Mason Hofstedt played a lot in the rotation (all 15 games with 6 starts). He has graduated. Look for Oscar Benson and Logan Kopp to see the field a lot. LB Coach, Grant Olson says Kopp could be one of the better Bison LB’s ever. This is the type of praise we heard about for Bruce Anderson, Jabril Cox and Christian Watson as frosh. There will be no drop off in the LB room this year. Now to the secondary, the 2017 team was greatly tested with the loss of its two starting CB’s going into the Championship game against JMU. Jalen Allison and Jaylaan Wimbush were knocked out in the Semi-final game against Sam Houston State (can you spell cheap shot). Hence Marquise Bridges and true frosh Joshua Hayes had to step up on the biggest stage, the Natty. Riley Stapleton gave us fits (7 catches for 107 yards), but Code Green prevailed! Everybody came back for 2018. What’s 2021 to 2022 look like with the DB’s? Like in 18, everybody’s back and this year we have whipped creamy on top. We get All-American Michael Tutsie back for a sixth year Covid extension along with Dawson Weber, a two year starter at free safety. Both backups, Dom Jones and Julian Wlodarczyk are back. How about the CB’s? Jayden Price and Courtney Eubanks (both started all 15 games). Jayden is also our punt return guy (6th in nation last year at 13.3 yards per punt return). Who will ever forget Destin Talbert’s end zone INT against JMU? Against great WR’s, Marquez Sigle was a go to guy in the CB rotation. These four are back with several great athlete newcomers on the program roster. Finally, in summary on the defensive comparisons 2017-18 and 2021-22, I am going on record that Code Green will be every bit as good as last year and will be in the range of the 2018 team statistically in total defense (289 YPG),] scoring defense (12.6 PPG) and rushing defense (114.5 YPG). This is who Code Green is. It’s their DNA. Nobody does it better year in year out! I hear the Rolling Stones playing “Start Me Up” in the background. Go Bison!! Now to the offensive comparisons, the 2017 team was high scoring, tying the 2013 team at 38.7 PPG. The 2018 team set the all time Div I record for the Herd at 41.5 PPG. Who were these studs that averaged 40 PPG over two seasons? Several things greatly contributed to this surge in scoring. Chris Klieman brought in Courtney Messingham as OC when the Bison’s offense sank to its lowest scoring average during its previous five year run (29.1 PPG). He was much more creative in schemes and play selection. Next the roster became loaded with juniors in 2017 that were talented, but now very experienced. Easton Stick, Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn all had two years of starting experience. Then a new sophomore change of pace back was introduced, Ty Brooks. His speed took the FCS by storm! True freshman Seth Wilson was sprinkled in after Dunn went down with an injury until the Natty. The yards per carry from 2011 to 2015 were 4.9, 4.8, 5.9, 5.2 and 5.0. The great 2013 team rushed about 1 YPC more than the other 4 years. In fairness to the 2016 team it averaged 5.7 YPC, but 29.1 PPG wasn’t getting the job done. Under Messingham the YPC jumped to 5.9 in 2017 then to 6.4. The rushing attempts were about 170 more than in 2011. That’s almost 1100 more yards rushing (why do you think we need multiple backs to tote the rock). So the transition from 2017 to 18 in the RB and QB room was all hands onboard returned for another year of fun romping thru the FCS defenses. It must be pointed out that the QB room was thin behind Easton. Cole Davis couldn’t produce what Stick did in 17 and Hotchkiss wouldn’t have filled his shoes in 2018. Trey was a true freshman and might have been able to steer the ship for a few games, but I don’t think he was groomed enough for the full playoff menu. What are we looking at in the RB and QB rooms going from last year to this? It’s a mirror image of 17 to 18. TaMerik Williams, Kobe Johnson, Luepke, Gonnella, Bussey and TK Marshall are all back with another year of experience and for the three younger ones, their first ring. I also believe this roster gives greater variation and skill sets over 2018’s group. At 229 lbs with speed and power, Williams should start showing himself to be in the NFL conversation. Luepke is already there. As seen last year he can take over a game on the ground or through the air. Bruce and Dunn were great power backs, but didn’t have the size or versatility of Williams and Luepke. Luepke can drop down on the line as a TE. This means both can be on the field at the same time. Gonnella and Marshall are in the same mold and quality as Bruce and Lance. Kobe brings Brooks speed, though Ty probably had a little more wiggle in him. They didn’t have a Bussey in 2018, period. I wouldn’t want to be a defensive coordinator game planning for this crew. Cam Miller has taken over as the seasoned field general of this offense and has his first ring. He has as good of “it factor” as a QB as we have ever had. He reminds me of a bigger Steve Walker. He has a good arm and gets the ball out fast. He is up to 212 lbs (an inch shorter and 10 lbs lighter than Stick). He is very quick and fast in the run game. We don’t need to pound him in the QB run game as much as Easton or Trey; we have Cole Payton to do that at 6’3” & 230 lbs. This brings us to the issue of backup QB. Going into 2022 we are in better shape than in 2018. Trey was a true freshman in 18; Cole Payton is a redshirt freshman with two summer camps, two fall camps and a championship season under his belt. I look for Roehl to use many of the packages designed for Quincy to be used by Cole. Entz has said you don’t leave your best athletes on the bench. How were the 2017 and 18 teams in the OL trenches? 2017 had Colin Conner (6’5” 309) at LT, Bryce Messner (6’3” 291) at LG, Tanner Volson (6’4” 301) at C, Austin Kuhnert (6’4” 304) at RG and Zack Johnson (6’6” 312) at RT. the backups were thin, especially after Dillon Radunz went down in, I think, the first game. Luke Bacon was the 6th OL off the bench. This was a solid group of Rams who produced at a high level. Going into 2018, Messner and Kuhnert graduated. Radunz (6’6” 299) jumped in at LT, Conner slipped over to LG, Volson came back at C, Luke Bacon (6’5” 300) won the RG position and Johnson returned at RT. Both Radunz and Johnson are currently on NFL rosters and Tanner got a solid look. This begins the new Ram trend of having multiple NFL talent on the OL at one time. 2011 team had Turner and Cornick. 2012 had Turner and Haeg. 2013 had Turner and Haeg again. 2014 had Haeg. 2015 had Haeg. 2016 had no OL in the starting lineup that made the NFL (maybe that links with the worst offensive output over the last ten fall seasons). We looked at 2017 and 18 up above. In 2019 we have Radunz, Volson and Johnson on NFL rosters with Nash Jensen waiting his turn. Skip the 2020 spring season.Now that brings us to 2021. Volson is in the NFL and scouts are saying Mauch, Jensen and Sundell will get a look at the next level. We have several youngsters who may go that way, including Ada’s Mason Miller at OT. No matter what, we are only replacing one OL man going from 2021 to 2022. We are the deepest we have ever been in that room according to Entz. I think these Rams are as good as 2018, but much deeper. On to the Crew Chiefs (TE’s & Fullbacks). Connor Wentz and Jeff Illes played a lot of games at TE from 2014-17, with Illes only missing one game out of 60. Going into 2017 they combined for 49 catches and 12 TD’s the previous three seasons. Nate Jensen joined the TE rotation in 2016 (8 catches, 1 TD). So going into 2017 there was good experience with the TE’s. How did they perform? These three combined for 42 receptions, 566 yards and 9 TD’s. Wentz and Illes were 32 of the receptions and 8 of the TD’s. Also eased into the rotation was a fuzzy checked Ben Ellefson (6 catches & 3 TD’s). With Ben and Nate back for 2018 they combined for 31 catches and 10 TD’s. No real drop off. As for the fullbacks, you don’t run for 4083 and 4293 yards as a team back to back without them doing a great job. How were the TE’s in 2021? It was primarily Gindorff and Babicz (29 receptions & 6 TD’s). Joe Stoffel was integrated into the rotation and played well after Gindorff went down. Also you have to factor in that Luepke caught passes after lining up as a TE. What should we expect from the Crew Chiefs in 2022? Gindorff will bring it and I am expecting Stoffel to have a breakout season. I think we will also see more creative plays for Luepke (he had 9 receptions & 3 TD’s).We also have two transfers, Rfr Carson Williams, a 3 star from IA and Jacob Streit from Northern State. Finn Diggins (Rfr) will compete with these two for a spot in the TE rotation .Add to the TE’S that we have all the fullbacks back from last year, Hunter Brosius, Logan Hofstedt, and Luke Waters. Wasn’t it great when they lined up with three TE’s with two fullbacks and Luepke as RB? You knew someone was going to be hit hard. There is no drop off from 2021 to 2022 with the Crew Chiefs. As a unit, I think they will be better because of the added year of experience. Now to the elephant in the room, can we have a downfield passing game with Watson off to the NFL? Right now we don’t have anybody on the roster that runs a 4.31 40, stands 6’5” and weighs 208 lbs. Guess what, for seven of our Natty’s we didn’t either, but had a very efficient/effective passing game. I want to focus on two things. First is that our passing game is predicated off our run game. We are not a drop back or spread offense. We set up our passing game thru play action. When you are averaging over 6 yards a carry via a “violently” physically dominating running attack thru our OL, the other team’s LB’s and safeties have to cheat up to try and stop the run game. This opens the short and medium passing game. Our QB’s and WR’s are never going to lead the nation in receptions/completions or yards. Where we excel is in passing efficiency. In 2013, Brock Jensen was 5th in the FCS in this category with a 167.4 rating. Is this correlated to this unbeaten season? Just look up the 8.5 minute TD drive to beat Kansas State. Weighing heavily in this formula is completion percentage and interceptions. A good QB has to keep his team on the field and moving into scoring position. In 2011 his rating was 143.9 (good), it fell to 131 in 2012. Brock’s best rating year equals an unbeaten season! Easton Stick’s rating was 150.3 during his 8 game take over while Wentz got well for the Natty. In 2016 it fell to 142.2 (he only completed 58.7% of his passes). In 2017 it jumped to 169.5 (3rd in the FCS). He saved his best to last. In the Herd’s 2nd Div I unbeaten season Stick’s QB passing efficiency rating rose to 172.4 (#1 in FCS)! Trey Lance’s lone year produced the second top FCS #1 rating in a row for Bison QB’s and gave us back to back unbeaten seasons. He rated out at 180.6 (no interceptions for the year will do that). FCS quiz, who was #2 QB rating that year? It was Ben DiNucci of JMU. So I guess the football gods had it right with the most efficient FCS QB winning the Natty! What type of rating did Cam produce in his half season at the helm during the stretch run to the Championship? He didn’t have enough games to qualify for the official title, but he rated at 174. He was 2/10ths of a point behind Cole Kelley SE LA and 4/10ths ahead on Cole Johnson of JMU. Nice try Duke’s but our guy was better, lol! Destin Talbert’s end zone INT was the difference in this competition. Where does that leave us for 2022? Our dominant run game will set up a very efficient pass game in 2022. Remember, Cam led the Herd to three playoff victories without Watson in the lineup. All those WR’s are back plus the two stud frosh. I am going to quote my 2019 pre-season analysis of the WR room after losing Darrius Shepherd to graduation (he had 62 receptions for a 1065 yards with 9 TD’s): “I do not see the Wide Receiver Room as a problem in 2019. Yes, they don’t have a ton of experience, but they are long on talent. Christian Watson, Phoenix Sproles, Zach Mathis and D J Stewart are good talents who should fit well into the Bison system. Think of how NDSU developed Darrius Sheppard. He fits into a system. He knows how to BLOCK (a lost skill with most receivers). As per the talk from the coaches with the Packers, he is able to fill a lot of rolls and is very knowledgeable. We have never had a problem with developing wide receivers to fit our pass efficiency styled attack. Mark my words; Noah Pauley will coach his boys up this season”. Just change the year and the athlete’s competing to see the field and this is my prediction for WR’s in 2022. Lastly, how will we be on special teams? Steindorf came in as a true freshman last year and averaged 40.2 yards per punt with 19 fair catches and 18 inside the 20. He is up on the watch list for the preseason punter of the year. Let’s have a teaching moment here. Last year he was a total unknown taking over for star punter, Garret Wegner. Our recruiting and coaching staff has a stellar record for the whole time of our Div I existence in putting excellent special teams on the field. Nothing changes for 2022. We have some changes for this year’s special teams and some great holdovers. Let’s look at the changes first. Kickoff and FG specialist, Jake Reinholz graduated and he did a great job, as did his many predecessors. No the coaches didn’t hold try outs at the frat houses to find his replacement. On hand for the kicking chores is Griffin Croza, he’s already won a Natty in 2019 when he had to fill in for Jake when he went down with an injury for the season (he was 11-15 for FG’s). In addition we brought in Drew Klein, a nationally ranked kicker out of high school. Will Cardinal will also compete with these two for kickoff duties. Next! Coach Entz called Mike Florentine’s bluff to be upgraded to a full ride scholarship. He had filled in ably for graduated Ross Kennelly’s three year tour of duty in long snapping (after taking over for 4 year starter and multiple All-Conference LS, James Fisher). Not to worry. The recruiting/coaching staff found nationally ranked LS, Caleb Bowers to get the ball back to the kickers and punters. I am not expecting our kickers to be running around like the Key-Stone cops after the balls are soaring over their heads. Who’s back on special teams? How about punt return great, Jayden Price. He was 6th in the nation. If it wasn’t for some sketchy calls (several long returns called back) he would have been 3rd in return average and 2nd in return yards. He is electric, but not foolhardy. For kickoff returns, Raja Nelson is back. He actually was slightly better than Watson last year (23 yds/return to 22.7). Both Kobe Johnson and Bussey have returned kicks for TD’s in their careers’, so watch out in this area in 2022. So in summary on comparing this team to the past unbeaten teams and especially 2018, plus looking at this roster’s talent level, this is as a complete of team as the Herd has ever sent out to battle for another National Championship. As you face the upcoming season an analysis has to be made on the strength of the schedule they face. In my 2019 preview, I talked about the advantage of that year’s schedule being developmental and a bonus of an extra preseason game. In season when played in order, they faced:#18 Delaware, #4 Cal-Davis, #6 IL St., #10 UNI, #3 SDSU Jacks, #25 SIU and then the four team playoffs of #19 Nicholls, #13 IL St in a replay, #5 Mt. St and #2 JMU. That’s 10 of 16 teams beaten that were ranked when faced on the field. The 2013 team faced and beat the defending Big XII Champs, Kansas St., #6 SDSU, #4 UNI, #15 YSU, #11 Coastal Carolina, #15 New Hampshire and #4 Towson. That’s six Ranked teams and an FBS victory. The 2018 team faced #3 SDSU, #22 UNI, #7 IL St., #23 MT. St., #7 Colgate, a repeat with #7 SDSU and #3 E Wash for the Championship. That’s seven ranked teams. Going into 2022, only SDSU and SIU are ranked in the preseason FCS top 25. USD is a bubble team. Arizona was a bad FBS team last year, but because of 85 scholarships and modern transfer rules, will be a challenge on the road (but by no stretch of the imagination are they equivalent with 2013 KSU or 2016 Iowa). YSU, UND and IL State could jump into the polls by the time we play them. We don’t play preseason ranked UNI or Mo. State in the regular season (but rest assured they will be bracketed early in the playoffs with us). On paper, the 2022 schedule is very favorable. UNI and Mo. State pound you with their defenses. SIU as one of this year’s regular season replacements will be a physical matchup, but Western IL should not be the physical pounding that UNI is (less injuries and wear and tear). Drake is like Valpo last year (64-0) and NC A&T is coming off a 5-6 year. In these first two home games we should be able to play the roster (think developmental). This is a very favorable schedule to make an unbeaten run. As I said in the title of this article, there is something special in the air. Go Bison!!