CSJ 2018 Week 8 Preview: Illinois State at North Dakota State

When: Saturday, October 13, 2:30PM CDT
Where:Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, Fargo, N.D.
TV/Streaming: NBC North Dakota / ESPN+

Illinois State Redbirds (5-1, 2-1 MVFC)

Illinois State started the Missouri Valley play with a loss at Missouri State but have stormed back with two wins over the other Illinois MVFC schools in Western Illinois and Southern Illinois. The Redbirds also have an FBS win over Colorado State on its resume.

Illinois State boasts the fifth-best scoring defense in the country (12.0 points per game) and is third in team pass efficiency defense (94.10). The Redbirds also rank sixth in 3rd down conversion percentage defense (.269) and turnover margin (1.50), with the second-fewest turnovers lost in the FCS.

Illinois State has not fared well against NDSU–losing six straight meetings and are just 2-8 all-time.

Key Players: RBs James Robinson and Markel Smith have combined to give opposing defenses fits all season, and they helped ISU rush for over 400 yards in its 51-3 Homecoming win over Southern Illinois. Each set career highs and scored a touchdown, as Robinson (202) and Smith (143) tallied 345 of the team’s 409 rushing yards against the Salukis. It marked the second time in as many seasons that each rushed for over 100 yards in the same contest and the 409 yards gained on the ground were the fifth-most in a game for a Redbird team in school history. Those two will need to try to keep the time of possession for the Redbirds for ILS to have a chance to win in Fargo.

Courtesy of Illinois State Athletics

Fantasy Bonus Baby: QB Brady Davis threw four touchdown passes as in the win over Southern Illinois last week. While the running game will be the key to the game, Davis likely will be the one spreading the ball around and scoring for the Redbirds.

North Dakota State Bison (6-0, 3-0 MVFC)

NDSU forced five turnovers, including a fumble recovery for touchdown in the second quarter, to spark a 34-7 victory at Western Illinois last week. The Bison scored 17 points off those turnovers and intercepted four passes off the Leathernecks.

NDSU is undefeated through six games. The Bison have the longest active winning streak in the FCS with 12 straight victories dating back to last November. Colgate is second on that list with 11 straight wins. UCF (19) and Ohio State (12) have the two longest active winning streaks in FBS. NDSU’s 13-game home winning streak is tied with Kennesaw State for second longest in the FCS behind San Diego’s 19.

Last year, NDSU defeated Illinois State in the last regular season game through a snow storm 20-7.

Key Players: RBs Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn both are active 2,000-yard rushers. Lance Dunn (2,529) ranks seventh, Bruce Anderson (2,494) is eighth in the FCS. Look for this duo to keep the ground game going against the second best rated defense in the MVFC.

Courtesy of NDSU Athletics

Fantasy Bonus Baby: QB Easton Stick is the third 2,000 yard rusher for the Bison in his career. He has 2,042 yards on the ground in his career. He also can throw the ball amongst the best of the FCS even though stats do not show this. Look for him to get a big number both running and throwing in this game.

Fearless Prediction: With the top two ranked defenses in the MVFC, this game looks to be a low scoring affair but as was seen two weeks ago for NDSU, it had to win a shootout at Northern Iowa. But with this game in the Fargodome, look for the Bison to come out on top in what I believe will be a low scoring game. NDSU 27, ILS 14