#1 North Dakota State FCS Football 2016 Preview

North Dakota State Bison
Overall Rank: #1
#1 Missouri Valley
For a while North Dakota State looked a little bit vulnerable. The Bison lost their opening game at Montana and in the middle of the season fell at home to South Dakota. That all proved to be false hope for the rest of the FCS world though. Once the playoffs started, NDSU won their four games by an average of 23.5 points, including a 37-10 drubbing of Jacksonville State in the championship game. Expect similar results yet again and probably a sixth straight title.
2015 Record: 13-2, 7-1
2015 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Chris Klieman (28-3 at North Dakota State, 28-3 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Polasek
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Entz
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: King Frazier, RB, 1,158 yards
Passing: Easton Stick, QB, 1,144 yards
Receiving: RJ Urzendowski, WR, 669 yards
Tackles: Nick DeLuca, LB, 135
Sacks: Greg Menard, DE, 10.0
Interceptions: Tre Dempsey, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Bruce Anderson, RB Lance Dunn, WR Darrius Shepherd, OL Zack Johnson, LB MJ Stumpf, S Robbie Grimsley
Key Losses: QB Carson Wentz, WR Zach Vraa, FB Andrew Bonnet, OL Joe Haeg, OL Jeremy Kelly, CB CJ Smith, CB Jordan Champion, DT Brian Schaetz, P Ben LeCompte
The quarterback situation really could not have gone any better for North Dakota State last season. Having your superstar quarterback and future second overall pick in the NFL Draft get hurt is not a good thing, but it gave Easton Stick plenty of experience. Before last season, the sentiment was maybe the fifth title would be the last since Carson Wentz would be gone. But Stick started eight games and won them all. Wentz is still gone, but it does not seem like that big of a deal anymore. Stick threw for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and is more than ready to take over for an entire season. RJ Urzendowski leads a talented receiving corps that also includes Darrius Shepherd. But as usual it is the ground game that will propel NDSU. King Frazier is back after rushing for 1,158 yards and will lead a large and talented stable of running backs.
The defense has a little more rebuilding to do, especially in the secondary where cornerbacks CJ Smith and Jordan Champion need to be replaced. Safeties Robbie Grimsley and Tre Dempsey should be able to help out while new corners are broken in early in the year. Nick DeLuca leads a talented group of linebackers. Last season he led the team with 135 tackles. MJ Stumpf is also back after totaling 81 tackles and recovering four fumbles. Greg Menard leads a defensive line that should get into the backfield with relative consistency. Menard recorded 10.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss last season. Nate Tanguay did not put up such big numbers, but he is a very talented lineman as well. As long as the new cornerbacks can get the job done, this will be one of the best defenses in the country again, but there are a few questions.
The Bottom Line:
The new look secondary will be tested in week two against Eastern Washington and then again against Iowa on September 17th. Those are a couple of teams that can throw the ball. And the season opener against Charleston Southern will not be a cake walk either. The conference slate is tough early with games against Illinois State and South Dakota State before the middle of October. Those games are both at home though. A trip to Northern Iowa on October 29th is likely the best opportunity for North Dakota State to lose a conference game this year. But even if they do, we have seen time and time again that the Bison will be ready for the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 236.7 (13th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 186.3 (78, 7)
Total Offense: 423.1 (27, 3)
Scoring Offense: 34.9 (16, 2)
Rushing Defense: 104.5 (10, 1)
Pass Defense: 167.0 (11, 2)
Total Defense: 271.5 (3, 1)
Scoring Defense: 15.3 (5, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.33 (38, 6)
Sacks: 2.20 (45, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.07 (17, 1)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#20 Sean Engel
#95 Ben Hecht
#96 Moses Nyangacha