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All 130 FBS teams’ chances if they had to play North Dakota State, categorized

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At least 80 FBS teams seem like they would be solid underdogs against the FCS champs.

NCAA Football: Division I Football Championship-Eastern Washington vs North Dakota State Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

North Dakota State is the greatest FCS program ever and the most strictly dominant program all of Division I football’s ever had. That was true even before the Bison beat Eastern Washington on Saturday to make it seven FCS championships in eight years.

The Bison are great for what they are, and imagining them in FBS is little more than a fun hypothetical. When they’ve beaten FBS teams (whom they’re 6-0 against since 2010), plenty of fans and media outlets (present company included) have tried to figure out how they might do in DI’s upper division.

Right now, NDSU is No. 19 in the all-DI Sagarin ratings, which cover 255 teams across FBS and FCS. That doesn’t include what will likely be a minor post-championship adjustment.

So, I wondered: How would each of the 130 FBS teams from 2018 do against the best team in the championship subdivision? This list tracks sort of closely with the current 130-team S&P+ ranking, but I’ve made some subjective adjustments here and there.

1. Would be significant favorites against NDSU, with a wide athleticism and talent disparity

Alabama
Clemson
Georgia
Oklahoma
Ohio State
Michigan
Notre Dame
LSU
Florida
Penn State
Texas A&M

This group includes most of the Blue-Chip Ratio teams, whose last four signing classes have been made up of at least half four- and five-star recruits. All of these teams are New Year’s Six-caliber or close enough, and they have so much speed that North Dakota State should have a hard time keeping up.

It’d be silly to preclude NDSU from having any chance at all to compete against anyone here except Bama and Clemson, but these would be uphill climbs (if Ball State can challenge a team on this list, then surely the FCS champ can).

2. Should probably beat NDSU, but who the hell really knows?

Texas
Auburn
Miami
USC
Washington State
West Virginia
Oklahoma State

Texas, Auburn, Miami, and USC are all loaded with talent, but three of those four were mediocre or worse this year, and the other lost to Maryland.

WSU, WVU, and Oklahoma State are just CHAOS TEAMS, and it seems like they could either blow out the Bison or get into a weird struggle. OSU was 4-1 straight-up as an underdog this year, and I have no idea if the Pokes should be underdogs or favorites in a meeting with NDSU.

3. Awesome non-powers that might only be slight favorites against NDSU


Appalachian State
UCF
Fresno State
Boise State
Utah State
Army

These teams play in what amounted to non-power conferences in 2018 (yes, including the Pac-12), but S&P+ says all of them were top-30 teams, except for Army, which it has down at No. 75. Still, the Black Knights won 11 games and almost beat Oklahoma, and the triple-option factor makes it extra hard to guess how the Bison would do against them.

4. The final score would be 9-6, and it could go either way

Washington
Mississippi State
Utah
Stanford
Northwestern
Nebraska
Michigan State
Cal
TCU
Wisconsin

These would be positively brutal games to watch. Let’s just move on.

5. Recent NDSU “upset” victims that could definitely lose to NDSU again

Iowa
Kansas State
Minnesota
Iowa State

These are four of the six FBS teams to play and lose to NDSU this decade. Any of them could beat the Bison, but they’ve also all shown they could lose to them. The 2018 version of K-State probably would lose to them, so it’s a good thing the Wildcats are now hiring NDSU’s head coach. Iowa, Iowa State, and Minnesota are harder to figure out.

Kansas and Colorado State are so bad, you have to scroll down farther to find them.

6. On the fence

Missouri
Memphis
NC State
Cincinnati
Syracuse
Georgia Southern
Virginia
South Carolina
Troy
Kentucky
Oregon

This is the most middling group here, for me. All of these teams had fine seasons. None is anything near a juggernaut, and most of them lost games to teams you’d generally expect North Dakota State to beat. The only team here that didn’t is Missouri, and the Tigers lost to multiple teams that seem like fringe cases against the Bison.

7. Would probably lose to NDSU

Texas Tech
Marshall
UAB
BYU
Temple
Arkansas State
Toledo
Purdue
San Diego State
Duke
North Texas
Ohio
Buffalo
Florida State
Tennessee

Most of the teams on this list got run off one field or another at some point. Some of them, like UAB and Buffalo, had great years in conferences NDSU probably could have won. All of these teams were capable of putting together good games, and I bumped up the talented rosters at FSU and Tennessee to be part of this group. But these teams trend toward just OK (except when Purdue is playing Ohio State), and NDSU is a lot better than just OK.

8. Would really probably lose to NDSU

Houston
FAU
Arizona State
Pitt
Boston College
Maryland
Indiana
Georgia Tech
Baylor
Ole Miss
Wake Forest
Virginia Tech
Vanderbilt
Arizona
Miami (Ohio)
Eastern Michigan
Middle Tennessee
Southern Miss

There’s some talent and some quality wins within this group, but all of these teams are deeply flawed in some way or another. A few of them have just horrible defenses, and it’s easy to envision the Bison running 45 times for 5.5 yards per carry and controlling the ball for 42 minutes of clock time in a 21-10 win.

9. If you’re below this line, NDSU would probably embarrass you

NIU
Wyoming
USF
Nevada
FIU
Tulane
UL Lafayette
Colorado
Louisiana Tech
Air Force
UCLA
Arkansas
North Carolina
SMU
UL Monroe
Western Michigan
Old Dominion
Tulsa
Navy
Hawaii
Illinois
New Mexico
Texas State
Western Kentucky
UNLV
ECU
Charlotte
UMass
Coastal Carolina
South Alabama
Rutgers
Ball State
Liberty
Akron
Kent State
Central Michigan
Georgia State
New Mexico State
Oregon State
San Jose State
UTSA
Bowling Green
UTEP
Rice
UConn
Colorado State
Kansas
Louisville

North Dakota State would be liable to blow the doors of any of these teams. Try to imagine 2018 North Dakota State going up against 2018 Louisville and not keel over in laughter. You can’t.