NDSU hosts the Drake Bulldogs in the first round of the FCS playoffs

Photo Courtesy: NDSU Athletics
Photo Courtesy: NDSU Athletics

North Dakota State has been one of the most dominant football programs of the last 12 years but this is the first time in the last 13 fall seasons that NDSU did not receive a top-eight seed and are forced to play on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Bison are facing an opponent that is no stranger to Missouri Valley Football Conference competition as they have faced three MVFC teams in the last two years, the Pioneer Football League champion Drake Bulldogs. The Bison and Bulldogs squared off last season in non-conference play inside the Fargodome and it didn't end well for Drake as NDSU blew out the Bulldogs 56-14. Drake faced two MVFC teams this season, South Dakota State and North Dakota. They lost those games by a combined score of 125 to 14, however in conference play, they went 8-0 and won the PFL outright with a win over Butler in Indianapolis to win a trip to Fargo. 

NDSU has looked more like themselves these last two weeks by scoring 34 and 48 points on Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa. They look like a team you don't want to face right now as they have seemed to hit their stride at just the right time.

Drake scores a little over 20 points a game which is good for 92nd in FCS. They are led by quarterback Luke Bailey, he has passed for 2446 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Bulldogs don't truly have a #1 receiver but they do have three receivers that each have over 400 yards receiving in #10 Mitchell January, #80 Colin Howard, and #10 Trey Radocha. On the ground their leading rusher is #0 Dorian Boyland, he has rushed for 630 yards and seven touchdowns.

On defense, Drake ranks 32nd in scoring defense as they allow 22 points a contest. They are led on defense by #90 Finn Claypool, he leads the team in sacks with 12.5 and tackles for loss with 19. The quarterback on defense is #9 Jacob Thompson as he leads the team in tackles with 66.  Drake held all eight PFL opponents to 21 or fewer points and in four of those games, they held opponents under 10 points.

Kickoff between the Bison and the Bulldogs is set for 2:30 p.m. inside the Fargodome, the game can be seen exclusively on ESPN+.