North Dakota State has won a remarkable five consecutive FCS national titles. The Bison are better than plenty of FBS teams and, almost surely, a couple from the Power 5 conferences. But they'll be put to a serious test when they visit Kinnick Stadium for a game against No. 13 Iowa on Saturday afternoon.
The Hawkeyes were 12-0 last regular season, and they've looked fairly sharp in jumping to a 2-0 start this year. No one expects an undefeated repeat, but some pieces are in place for another good year. Quarterback C.J. Beathard leads a deep offense, and the secondary's still strong, led by ball-hawking cornerback Desmond King.
NDSU hasn't lost this year, but the Bison have looked far from invincible. They've won each of their first two games in overtime, at home in the Fargodome, after opponents missed potential game-winning field goals in the waning seconds. Both of those games, at least, have been incredibly entertaining.
Scheduling NDSU is a risky affair, because no FCS win is an incredible resume booster but the Bison are dangerous enough to win. At least Kirk Ferentz can feel emboldened by the astounding contact extension Iowa has just now given him. Beating the Bison would be a pretty good way to celebrate it.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. The broadcasters are Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht and Rocky Boiman.
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Three big things to know
1. NDSU has a QB who isn't Carson Wentz. After Wentz's ascent led him to the top of NFL draft boards last spring, sophomore Easton Stick has taken over under center for the Bison. Stick hasn't been prolific so far, but he's been pretty good: 34-of-53 passing for 451 yards, with four touchdowns against one interception. He's also run 21 times for 105 yards.
2. Stick has some weapons. His favorite target is receiver Darius Shepherd, whose eight catches, 127 yards and two receiving scores all lead the team. Running back Lance Dunn averages 6.8 yards per carry, and King Frazier averages 5.6. Stick gets to stand behind an offensive line with three seniors and a whole lot of national championships under its collective belt. He's in a good position to thrive.
3. Iowa has been so, so efficient. It's just two games, and Iowa has played two bad teams in Miami of Ohio and Iowa State. But the Hawkeyes are first in the FBS in rushing success rate, including a perfect 100 percent conversion rate on short-yardage conversion tries. Running backs LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley have combined for 9.3 yards per carry on 22 attempts to this point.