The Iowa State Cyclones should be an improved team in 2014, but that doesn’t mean that they should be favored in their Week 1 matchup with the North Dakota State Bison.
North Dakota State is no ordinary FCS team. The Bison are the three-time defending champs at the FCS level, they enter the season No. 1 in the FCS Coaches Poll, and they are undefeated against FBS teams since 2010. That period included a road win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers in 2011 and a thorough beating of the Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan last year.
It’s almost hard to believe a Power Five conference team would still schedule them, all things considered. Although losing is a very real possibility with a team as good as North Dakota State, a loss still looks terrible and a win will be shrugged off because most will not bother to look beyond the Bison’s FCS label.
Perception is reality in college football, even more so than with other sports.
Iowa State has also shown that they are vulnerable to an upset from an FCS team. The Cyclones lost to the Northern Iowa Panthers in their opener last season, 28-20. And while Northern Iowa is a solid team, they are not on the same level as North Dakota State. While the Bison were winning their third-straight national championship last year, the Panthers only went 7-5 on the season.
Craig Bohl, North Dakota State’s former coach, did depart for the Wyoming Cowboys after last season, which may be Iowa State’s greatest reason for hope in this game. While Bohl left behind plenty of talent, there is the possibility that everything he built could start to crumble now that he is gone. However, assuming that North Dakota State football program didn’t collapse overnight, the Bison should be considered the favorites over Iowa State in Week 1.