#1 North Dakota State FCS Football 2015 Preview

North Dakota State Bison

Overall Rank: #1
#1 Missouri Valley

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The 2014 version of North Dakota State was a little more beatable than some of the other recent teams. They lost a game at Northern Iowa 23-3 and three of their four playoff games were decided by a touchdown or less. But that is getting picky. The Bison still beat teams like Iowa State and Montana during the regular season and beat South Dakota State, Coastal Carolina, Sam Houston State and Illinois State en route to their fourth straight FCS title.

2014 Record: 15-1, 7-1
2014 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Chris Klieman (15-1 at North Dakota State, 15-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Polasek
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Entz

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Carson Wentz, QB, 642 yards
Passing: Carson Wentz, QB, 3,111 yards
Receiving: Zach Vraa, WR, 637 yards
Tackles: Jordan Champion, CB, 68
Sacks: Nate Tanquay, DL, 3.0; Greg Menard, DL, 3.0
Interceptions: Nick DeLuca, LB, 3

Other Key Returnees: RB King Frazier, RB Chase Morlock, WR R.J. Urzendowski, TE Andrew Bonnet, OL Joe Haeg, CB C.J. Smith, P Ben LeCompte

Key Losses: RB John Crockett, TE Kevin Vaadeland, OL Jesse Hinz, LB Carlton Littlejohn, LB Travis Beck, DB Colton Heagle, DL Kyle Emanuel, LB Esley Thorton, DB Christian Dudzik, K Adam Keller

North Dakota State prides itself on defense. Last season they allowed just 14.1 points per game and it wasn’t until the playoffs that anybody scored more than 17 points against the Bison. That is extremely impressive. This time around second year coach Chris Klieman will need to replace a few playmakers, but there is more than enough talent returning to keep this as one of the toughest defenses in the nation. Up front, Nate Tanquay and Brian Schaetz are solid tackles. Greg Menard will take on a bigger role at an end spot to help replace Kyle Emanuel. Linebacker Nick DeLuca came on strong at the end of last season and now has a bigger role to fill. The secondary will work around cornerbacks Jordan Champion and C.J. Smith. Coach Klieman does have a few new starters to break in, but there is plenty of talent ready to step into starting roles.

The offense returns eight starters to a unit that ranked third in the conference in total offense and second in scoring offense. It starts with quarterback Carson Wentz. The big senior completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 3,111 yards and 25 touchdowns. Wentz is a smart, efficient quarterback, but he is not just out there avoiding mistakes. He can make plays. With the return of receivers Zach Vraa and R.J. Urzendowski, the passing game will be effective. However, NDSU does not throw all that much and they would prefer to keep the ball on the ground. That is where this team could run into some problems. John Crockett is gone after rushing for 1,994 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2014. King Frazier and Chase Morlock are decent backs, but Crockett leaves some big shoes to fill.

The Bottom Line:
North Dakota State will be looking for an undefeated season, but there are some tough tests along the way. The year begins at Montana on Saturday August 29th and a home game against Northern Iowa will provide another early test. If the Bison can get past those two games, they should be able to get through the rest of the regular season without a loss. The lone exception could be a November 14th road trip to Youngstown State. But whether they go undefeated or not, North Dakota State will be back in the playoffs and competing for a fifth straight FCS championship.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 235.3 (13th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 197.0 (78, 8)
Total Offense: 432.3 (28, 3)
Scoring Offense: 32.9 (24, 2)
Rushing Defense: 125.4 (22, 3)
Pass Defense: 155.0 (6, 1)
Total Defense: 280.4 (5, 1)
Scoring Defense: 14.1 (3, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.75 (16, 3)
Sacks: 2.69 (18, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.25 (22, 2)

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#59 Ben Ellefson
#97 Trenton Mooney


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