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North Dakota State vs. Charleston Southern Preview

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The Bison begin their quest for their 6th straight FCS title against the emerging Bucs

NCAA Football: FCS Championship-Jacksonville State vs North Dakota State
#1 North Dakota State will begin its quest for a 6th straight FCS title on Saturday night in a nationally-televised contest with #6/7 Charleston Southern.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday, August 27, 2016

Kickoff Time: 7:36 p.m. (Eastern)

Location: Fargo, ND

Stadium: Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome (19,000)

TV: ESPN

Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com ; WatchESPN App

Streaming Audio: www.gobison.com or www.csusports.com

Series Record: First Meeting

Live Stats: BisonStats.com

Betting Line: NDSU by 19.5 via sportsbet.com

When speaking about Saturday’s season-opener at No. 1 North Dakota State, Charleston Southern head coach Jamey Chadwell said, “They’re the standard”.

The Bison, who have won an unprecedented 5 straight FCS titles.....yes, 5 straight, certainly are.

A look back at North Dakota State’s 2015 season.......

NDSU, which is 71-5 overall and 42-3 at the Fargodome during this remarkable run, battled tremendous adversity last season to keep its stellar streak alive.

After suffering a 38-35 season-opening loss on the next to the last play of the game at Montana, Chris Klieman’s club endured another heartbreaking defeat when South Dakota—who was 2-3 at the time—used a field goal on the game’s final play to post a 24-21 victory in Fargo.

As costly as the loss appeared to be, matters were made worse when it was discovered that star quarterback Carson Wentz—the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles—had suffered a broken bone in his wrist.

However, back-up Easton Stick—a freshman—came on and led the Bison to eight straight victories before Wentz returned to play in NDSU’s 37-10 win over Jacksonville State in the FCS title game in Frisco, TX.

While the QB play during the 5-game playoff run was undoubtedly solid, the development of the defense was a real storyline. A unit that began the season with just 4 returning starters surrendered just 9 points and 217 yards per game in the postseason.

With the program’s continued dominance, Klieman—who is entering his third-year at the helm and sixth overall in Fargo—was rewarded with a 6-year contract extension that takes him through the 2021 campaign.

*DID YOU KNOW??!!? The Bison, who did not play an FBS team in 2015, have posted 4 straight wins (Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State and Iowa State) over FBS competition. NDSU travels to Big 10 foe Iowa on September 17th.

NCAA Football: Charleston Southern at Alabama
CSU senior running back Darius Hammond—seen here against Alabama—is also a serious threat in the return game.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

“New Bucs on the Block”

While the NDSU program is accustomed to winning championships, Charleston Southern is new to the scene.

After going 10-3 and advancing to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs last season, the Bucs—who saw their year come to an end when they suffered a 58-38 defeat at national runner-up Jacksonville State—enter this season getting tremendous respect in the national polls as they are ranked 6th (FCS Coaches’) and 7th (STATS).

Fourth-year head coach Jamey Chadwell, who is 28-10 at CSU after posting his 2nd 10-win season, is excited for his program to have an opportunity to showcase itself to the nation.

Saturday’s Match-up

Despite Charleston Southern’s top 6/7 ranking, unanimous preseason No. 1 North Dakota State—which has 8 starters back from its stout defense that ended 2015 ranked 3rd in total defense and 5th in scoring defense—enters Saturday’s contest as nearly a 3 touchdown favorite.

The Bison D is led by middle linebacker Nick DeLuca. DeLuca, who racked up 135 tackles a season ago, is the lone FCS linebacker who made the preseason list for the Butkus Award—which is handed out annually to the nation’s top linebacker.

They will square off against a CSU offense that boasts a talented, experienced offensive line and three senior running backs—Darius Hammond, Mike Holloway and Ben Robinson—who helped produce more than 215 yards per game in 2015. The Bucs will likely lean on the ground attack as it will have a relatively untested quarterback in redshirt junior Kyle Copeland.

Copeland did perform well in the action he saw off the bench against Jacksonville State. He completed 8 of his 10 passes for 83 yards while also running for 47 yards.

Meanwhile, last year’s adversity under center will bode well for NDSU.

The Bison welcome back sophomore signal-caller Easton Stick, who tallied nearly 500 yards on the ground in ‘15, and a loaded backfield that is highlighted by King Frazier. Frazier amassed 1,158 yards and reached pay dirt 11 times last year.

The offensive front—which features 4 starters over 300 pounds—could create problems for CSU’s deep defensive line.

Stick, who completed 61 percent of his passes en route to throwing for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns (compared to just 4 picks), also has the luxury of having his top 2 targets (RJ Urzendowski and Darrius Shepherd) back. Urzendowski led the team with 48 catches for 669 yards and 6 scores while Shepherd caught 40 balls for 575 yards and 5 touchdowns.

They will go against a talented and experienced CSU secondary.

The Bison’s Bruce Anderson and Bucs’ Darius Hammond are two of the nation’s most explosive kickoff return men so we could see some fireworks in the return game if the coverage teams aren’t functioning well in the opener.

Prediction

While the Charleston Southern program has taken tremendous strides in a short time under Chadwell and will likely have a playoff caliber season, don’t expect them to go on the road to the FCS’s most hostile atmosphere—that features decibel levels in excess of 100—and pull the shocking upset in the opener.

The atmosphere, stage and opponent will make this too tall of a task and NDSU may very well cover the 19.5.

North Dakota State 37 Charleston Southern 17