Having watched several games throughout the first month of the football season, I can tell you that I think the game this Saturday between Youngstown State and North Dakota State will be epic.
By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
This is a game that will pit the #1 and #3 teams in the nation in both major FCS polls. It was just under a year ago we had a similar situation involving the same NDSU team against Northern Iowa.
Last year, I referred to the UNI-NDSU game in the Fargodome as reminiscent of one that I saw while I was a student in Fargo in the first ever game in the indoor facility.
This year, I can only think that the atmosphere will be something like we saw in NDSU’s playoff run last year or maybe even something folks in Fargo have never seen.
I tend to think it will be the latter of these statements.
Why do I think this could be the best game ever in the Fargodome?
There were over 2,000 student ticket requests for this game.
This is also the homecoming game for NDSU, which like most schools, is the largest attended game of the season. For NDSU, the game is already sold out, although there may be some allotment tickets that YSU would possibly give back. Also, some standing room only tickets may also be available.
To me, this is like looking in the mirror in these two rivals in terms of talent and what these two squads have done this far in this season.
How do these two teams come into this seemingly Missouri Valley Football Conference game of the year?
Both NDSU and YSU come into this game undefeated at 4-0 and each have a conference victory over a common opponent. Ironically, that opponent was last year’s co-champion with NDSU in Northern Iowa. YSU is coming off their bye week after defeating UNI 42-35 the prior week.
Both the Bison and Penguins own victories over FBS opponents with YSU opening the season with a win at Pittsburgh and NDSU defeating Colorado State.
“It should be a classic matchup of these two really good programs,” NDSU Coach Craig Bohl said.
Both are lead by junior quarterbacks and both like to use the run before the pass. The quarterbacks are Kurt Hess for the Penguins and Brock Jensen for the Bison.
The Bison took a hit at the running back position this week as it was announced that starting running back Sam Ojuri would be suspended for this game amid the recent State of North Dakota Election Referendum scandal that also included nine of his teammates being charged this week. Ojuri will be the only one suspended.
Despite the suspension, backup John Crockett looked like the stronger running back in the NDSU 33-21 win over UNI this past Saturday.
For Youngstown State, there is no question on who is the top running back with Jamaine Cook.
The two defenses pride themselves on getting turnovers with NDSU getting 10 and YSU with five.
The two teams also seem to be strong on the offensive and defensive lines.
How do I think this game will play out?
The funny thing in this matchup is that the road team has won the past three matchups, including YSU winning in Fargo last year. The two meet in Fargo again this year due to the addition of South Dakota into the league, forcing some changes in the MVFC scheduling.
Last year, YSU won 27-24 in the Fargodome in the second to last regular season game of the year for both teams. Despite the loss, NDSU wound up receiving the #2 overall playoff seed and likely used the loss as motivation to gain the school’s first national title.
YSU had a chance to get into the playoffs after that game and likely would have received an invite if they would have defeated Missouri State at home but the Penguins came up short in a 38-34 loss.
Since the Bison joined the MVFC in 2008, each of its games with the Penguins has gone to the end before being decided. The Penguins won 32-24 and 39-35 in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
NDSU won 34-29 in 2010 on a long touchdown pass in the last minute of play.
I believe the two team’s offenses are nearly equal this year. Based so far, I would say the NDSU defense has the edge. But I think this game, like last year’s contest in Fargo will come down to turnovers. Whoever wins this margin will likely be the winner in this game.
While looking at the other team in this matchup is like looking in the mirror, only one of these teams will leave with a victory. That one team looks to me like will have the inside track to win the Missouri Valley and likely a top seed in the playoffs.
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CSN WEST GAME OF THE WEEK
#3 Youngstown State (4-0, 1-0) @ #1 North Dakota State (4-0, 1-0), 2:07PM Eastern
I went through this game above but to reiterate, I believe the turnover margin will be the biggest contributor to the victor in this game.
NDSU seems to have gotten many monkeys off its back including winning in Cedar Falls this past week over Northern Iowa for the first time since joining the league.
The home crowd will be deafening and while YSU did defeat NDSU last year in Fargo, the crowd was not much of a factor. I think this year’s game will be different especially if NDSU gets up early like they did last year before getting turnovers to aid in YSU comeback win.
I know NDSU is coming off a national title but after watching this team first hand last week, I feel this year’s team may be a step above last year’s team. The defense looks just as strong as it did in the playoffs last year and the offense is looking more balanced.
I feel NDSU will take a stranglehold on the MVFC standings but like many of the last games against YSU, will not be decided until late into the fourth quarter. I will take NDSU by a touchdown.
North Dakota State 27 Youngstown State 20
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