Sorry, LSU and Clemson — NDSU Is Already College Football’s Finest

Sorry, LSU and Clemson — NDSU Is Already College Football’s Finest

North Dakota State won its eighth national championship in nine seasons Saturday, just another accomplishment for college football’s finest modern-day program

TONIGHT, THE TIGERS WILL BE CROWNED COLLEGE FOOTBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONS. Number one Louisiana State faces #2 Clemson in a clash of unbeatens, and one Panthera tigris program will claim their spot as kings of the college football jungle. There’s just one problem. North Dakota State University is already college football’s finest modern-day program, no matter which team wins tonight.
An LSU win would cap a remarkable championship season for Ed Orgeron and Heisman-winning quarterback Joe Burrow, while a Clemson win would mean back-to-back national championships for Dabo Swinney and still undefeated quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Both Burrow and Lawrence are expected to be #1 NFL Draft picks, Burrow this year and Lawrence next. Both teams are spectacular. LSU has the opportunity to win their third title this century, while Clemson can win their third in the past four years.
Yawn.
Three championships is great and all, but how about eight titles in the last nine years alone?
In2010, North Dakota State finished what most college programs would consider a heck of a football season. In their third year of FCS eligibility (formerly Division I-AA), the Bison made the playoffs for the first time. They defeated Robert Morris 43–17, then went on the road to upset #4 Montana State 42–17 before falling in the quarterfinals in overtime on the snow-covered blood red-field of eventual champion Eastern Washington.
The Bison (it’s pronounced BiZon, with a Z!) went 9–5 that season, finished among the top eight FCS teams, and played the national champion as close as any team those playoffs. For most programs, that would be a banner season. For NDSU, it was by far their worst season of the decade.
Five losses?! The Bison have lost only eight games in nine seasons since.
The following season, the Bison entered the playoffs ranked #2. They opened the playoffs against James Madison and defeated them soundly, then beat Lehigh, Georgia Southern, and #1 Sam Houston State each by double digits to win their first FCS national championship.
In 2012, the Bison rolled to another title. This time they entered #1 and looked the part, crushing Sam Houston State again, 39–13. All that was left the following season was for head coach Craig Bohl and a loaded senior class to go undefeated — so they did. The 2013 Bison went 15–0 and left no doubt. They won their four playoff games by 31, 34, 38, and 28 points, completing the first undefeated FCS championship season since Marshall in 1996.
That was supposed to be the end of the NDSU dynasty. Bohl left for FBS pastures in Wyoming, where he would go on to coach first-round Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, and Bison QB Brock Jensen graduated and took his 48 wins with him, most in FCS history. Bohl was replaced by little-known defensive coordinator Chris Klieman, while Jensen handed over the QB reins to a local redshirt junior named Carson Wentz.
The Bison were supposed to take a step back in 2014, but no one told Klieman and Wentz. Things weren’t quite as easy for that NDSU team. Three of their four playoff games were one-score affairs, and twice Carson Wentz led the team downfield for the winning score in the game’s final minutes, including his first championship.
That meant high expectations in 2015 for a team coming off four straight national championships, something only Augustana (IL) had ever done at any level in NCAA football history, with Wentz beginning to garner some NFL Draft buzz. But Wentz broke his wrist that October, the Bison lost to South Dakota, and the team entered the playoffs ranked only #3 behind untested freshman QB Easton Stick.
You probably guessed the ending by now. Stick never lost a game, leading the Bison all the way to the championship game against #1 Jacksonville State. NDSU made the controversial decision to bench Stick for the title game, reinserting a finally-healthy Wentz into the lineup. The Bison romped to a fifth straight title with a 37–10 win, and Wentz was drafted #2 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles a few months later. He’s led the Eagles to three straight playoff appearances and was getting MVP buzz before an injury sidelined what turned into a Super Bowl sophomore season with the Eagles.
2016 was a down year for NDSU. Stick and the Bison began the year with an early upset win at #13 Iowa, an FBS team. But the Bison lost to hated rivals South Dakota State a few weeks later and then lost a home semifinal playoff game to James Madison. It was their only playoff loss of the decade.
A motivated Bison team bounced back in 2017, getting revenge on James Madison with a 17–13 victory in the national championship. The Bison won another title in 2018 against Eastern Washington, and Easton Stick finished his career 49–3, the winningest quarterback in college football history. Stick graduated with another huge senior class, and Coach Klieman left for the head coaching job at Kansas State.
And so, 2019 was supposed to be another rebuilding year. The Bison entered the season with a new head coach in Matt Entz, along with new offensive and defensive coordinators and three or four guys set to compete for the open quarterback job.
Five months later, the Bison are champions again. Still.
On Saturday they defeated James Madison in a hard-fought 28–20 victory. Freshman QB Trey Lance won the Walter Payton Award Friday night given to the nation’s most outstanding FCS player, the first ever freshman to do so, then went out and led the Bison to the title the next day, winning MVP. Lance finished the season with 28 passing touchdowns and not a single interception, adding 1100 yards and 14 scores on the ground.
The Bison finished 16–0, the first NCAA team to do so since Yale in 1894. It was their third undefeated season this decade and their eighth national championship in the last nine seasons.
Ho hum. Another Bison championship.
Between 2011 and 2019, North Dakota State won 128 games and lost only eight. Eight losses in nine seasons! That’s fewer than one loss per season over a full decade, an absurd .941 winning percentage.
Clemson is 110–15 since 2011. They’ve played in five straight playoffs and four title games and might add a third national championship tonight. LSU went 91–26 with two conference titles. They’ll make their second title game appearance tonight. Ohio State is 99–10 since 2012 with three playoff appearances and one title, plus a second earlier this century.
Alabama remains the gold standard at 114–12 since 2011. They played in six of nine national championship games, winning four, and never lost more than two games in a season. They’ve won five NCAA championships this century.
Alabama won 114 games this decade, played in 6 title games, and won 4 times. Pretty good!
North Dakota State won 128 games, a full season of games more than the Crimson Tide. The Bison played in 8 of 9 title games — and never lost one!
Of course the Tide did all that winning under Nick Saban. Clemson’s equally impressive decade has all been under Dabo Swinney. The Bison have cycled through three head coaches and never stopped winning. They’re the only NCAA team ever at any level to win five straight championships.
The Bison won a national championship undefeated three times in the last decade. Alabama didn’t go unbeaten once this last decade. In fact, the entire FBS combined for only three unbeaten champs over the past decade (2013 Florida State, 2018 Clemson, and tonight’s winner).
NDSU is the undefeated FCS champion for the third time in nine years. Only three other times in FCS history has any other program won every game to be crowned champions (1982 Eastern Kentucky, 1989 Georgia Southern, and 1996 Marshall).
The Bison are on an unprecedented run of winning — eight championships in nine years! Only the UConn women’s basketball program can even sniff NDSU’s dominance, and they won “only” six titles in eight years from 2008 to 2016. UConn went 260–12 in that stretch, edging out the Bison with a .956 to .941 winning percentage advantage but coming up short twice on the biggest stage.
Ofcourse, like the UConn women, that’s where your critique will come: bUt wHo hAvE tHe bIsOn eVeN pLaYeD?!
They’ve played anyone who will play them, and they’ve beaten them all.
The Bison play in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, FCS’s version of the SEC. The conference routinely sends four or more teams to the 24-team FCS playoffs, pretty much always the most of any conference. NDSU won the conference each of the past nine seasons.
The Bison are 69–5 versus top-25 teams during this nine-year stretch. They’re 18–1 against top-5 teams, their only such loss to James Madison. This year alone, NDSU was 9–0 against top-25 teams and 4–0 against the top-5. It’s almost impossible to schedule a more difficult slate of opponents.
During this run, NDSU is an incredible 34–1 in playoff games against the highest competition avialable. They’ve held 18 of playoff opponents to 10 or fewer points, just over half of them. Only eight of their playoff games have even been within single digits. In eight national championship games, five of them against a top-3 team, the Bison have outscored their opponents 236–120, nearly doubling them up.
Consider this: in an entire decade of football, just seven teams in all of NCAA beat the Bison — James Madison, South Dakota State, Montana, South Dakota, Northern Iowa, Youngstown State, and Indiana State. Only SDSU beat the Bison more than once this decade, and they did it twice in 11 tries.
The Bison had a 33-game winning streak earlier this decade. They’re on a 37-game winning streak right now. The two longest streaks in FCS history.
bUt iT’s jUsT tHe fCs?!
The Bison played five FBS teams over the past decade and beat them all: Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State, Iowa, and Iowa State. Two of them were ranked before paying NDSU to visit. One was so impressed they came back a few years later and stole NDSU’s coach. Coach Klieman led Kansas State to eight wins last fall, including the only Oklahoma loss of the season.
NDSU will play their next game in Eugene on September 5 against the Rose Bowl champion Oregon Ducks — maybe you’ve heard of them? The Bison won’t be afraid. They’ll bring their 37-game winning streak with them, along with the best player in all of FCS.
Ofcourse, all this dominance isn’t exactly new to the NDSU football program. Between 1981 and 1990, the Bison went 111–16–2 (.875) and appeared in seven Division II national championship games, winning five titles. From 1964 to 1973, then went 90–12–1 (.887) with a 35-game unbeaten streak that was best in team history until a month ago.
Heck, even that dominance wasn’t new. Back at the turn of the 20th century, the Bison were coached by a man named Eddie Cochems, known as the “father of the forward pass.” Cochems first experimented with the forward pass at NDSU and you might say he had a little success with it — his 1902 North Dakota Aggies were undefeated and didn’t allow a single point all season, outscoring opponents 168–0.
Inventing the forward pass and holding opponents scoreless would lead most college football programs’ Wikipedia page. It’s a mere footnote for North Dakota State, just one more dominant season in a history filled with them. It’s probably one of the top-25 Bison seasons all time. Probably.
North Dakota State boasts 16 national championships, and all of them are real and certain, won after a grueling playoffs against a series of difficult opponents. Eight of the titles were won in Division II, plus eight more over these last nine years in the FCS.
Winning isn’t new for NDSU, and it never gets old.
In North Dakota, winning football games is just a way of life. Bison fans buy tickets to Frisco, Texas, for the championship game a full year in advance. Many thousands of NDSU fans flock to Frisco every January. Businesses in Frisco have come to rely on all that North Dakota business to kick off each year. They’ve even learned to stock up on extra booze — both for before and after the game.
Sowhat’s next for a program that’s spent over a century winning football games?
More winning, of course.
NDSU will no doubt open the season #1 in the FCS polls next season. They’ll lose MVC Defensive Player of the Year Derrek Tuszka and longtime tight end Ben Ellefson. They’ll have to replace safety James Hendricks, who had a fake field goal touchdown and the game-sealing interception in the final seconds Saturday to lead the nation’s #1 secondary.
But the truth is that this was actually a super young Bison team. They’ll return almost everyone of note on offense, including national player of the year, QB Trey Lance. What’s Lance have left to prove after going perfect his freshman season without a single interception?
Well, for now, Lance is only the fourth most successful Bison quarterback this decade. He’s still 32 wins and two titles short of Brock Jensen and Easton Stick, and he’ll have to be drafted #1 overall to beat out Carson Wentz. It’s tough company in North Dakota.
As for Coach Entz, he’s got plenty left to prove, too. Out of NDSU’s last 11 coaches, eight have won a national championship. Five of them have won more than one. Matt Entz is just another guy for now. Win another title or two and maybe we’ll talk.
North Dakota State last lost a football game on November 4, 2017.
They’ll put their 37-game winning streak on the line when they play next in Eugene, Oregon, on September 5. There will be plenty of Bison green and gold in the stands. NDSU will have the best player on the field, and you better believe they’ll be confident they can win.
So what’s next for the team that simply cannot stop winning?
Nine titles in ten seasons has a pretty nice ring to it.

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