FARGO — Turns out Saturday's game at the Fargodome was for much more than the Dakota Marker.
Much, much, much more.
The waves of North Dakota State's 27-17 loss to rival South Dakota State were seen Sunday morning when the Football Championship Subdivision playoff brackets were revealed on ESPNU.
SDSU leaped to the No. 1 seed in the truncated 16-team field, getting a boost from beating the traditionally powerful Bison to leapfrog James Madison and Sam Houston State.
By virtue of their top seed, the Jackrabbits will host Holy Cross of the Patriot League in the first round. That will be a no-sweat victory in which SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier can rest his starters in the fourth quarter if he wishes.
The Jackrabbits will be home for each playoff game before the title game May 16 in Frisco, Texas. They are the favorite to win the national championship.
If the Bison had won Saturday, they would've been awarded the same advantage. Getting one of the coveted top two playoff spots is familar position for NDSU and the Bison have taken advantage since their dynasty began in 2011.
Instead, NDSU dropped out of the four seeded slots and were granted an at-large spot. Instead of playing a gimme first-round game, the Bison will host Eastern Washington and high-powered quarterback Eric Barriere next weekend.
Yes 19% No 81%
After seeing the FCS playoff brackets, do you think the Bison will make it to the championship game?
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There are no guarantees, exactly zero, that the Bison beat the Eagles. Dominant NDSU teams of past years had battles with Eastern Washington. This isn't a dominant NDSU team. And the mobile Barriere is exactly the type of quarterback that will give this Bison defense fits.
If the Bison do win, they'd likely travel to Huntsville, Texas, to take on a Sam Houston State team that can score points. Yes, the Bearkats are a "show me" FCS team. They've had allegedly high-powered offensive teams in the recent past that have been hammered in the playoffs. But again, this isn't a dominant NDSU team.
And if NDSU gets to the semifinals? Awaiting would likely be James Madison for a matchup in Harrisonburg, Va.
Frisco looks a long ways away for this Bison team.
Heck, after Saturday's performance even Huntsville for a second-round game looks a long ways away.
There can be no complaints from north Fargo.
An ugly loss to Southern Illinois early in the season set the stage for a must-win game against the Jackrabbits if the Bison wanted the advantages they've had in the past.
Saturday's defeat was not a fluke. SDSU was the better team, rushing for 305 yards while holding the Bison to less than 100 yards on the ground. The Jackrabbits were better up front on both sides of the ball, had the better quarterback, better running backs and the better defense.
- Bison to host familiar foe Eastern Washington in FCS first round
- South Dakota State knocks off Bison to end NDSU's nearly decade-long Missouri Valley title run
- McFeely: SDSU gives Bison taste of their own medicine
- Kolpack: Jackrabbits take Marker in a battle of true freshmen quarterbacks
This edition of the Bison, as those who keep close track of the program have said all spring, is just not in the same discussion with championship teams of the past decade. There are reasons for that, but all FCS teams are playing under the same rules. The Bison are most notably short at quarterback, offensive line and the defensive secondary.
And what appeared for most of the season to be a strength, their defensive line, was manhandled by the Jackrabbits.
After the loss in Carbondale, the Bison improved enough each week to get in the discussion about being a favorite to get to the championship game. The defeat to SDSU halted that.
This edition of NDSU is mortal.
To recap, NDSU reaching the national title game would require a flawed and increasingly thin team by Bison standards to beat a high-octane offensive team at home, another high-octane offensive team on the road and a historically powerful and motivated James Madison program on the road.
Frisco is as far away as it's been since 2010.