2019 Bison 🏈 Revisited
With mere hours left before the guys take the field in Frisco, let's take a trip back to warmer times, when the season preview dropped. Some parts of it were right, other things were on the right track while still others were wrong. Okay, here goes
At one point it seemed like 2016 was going to be the year in question for the continuation of NDSU's run.
News flash, it didn't go that way.
Maybe the same will be able to be said in 2022 but until the proof has been recorded I think it would be foolish to assume things will go the same way again. There's still plenty of talent coming back but replacing all those seniors would be a tall order for a 20 year head coach, much less one in his first year heading a program. So just a tease, I'm not going to predict a second straight undefeated season. X
None of that is to say that I don't think coach Entz is up to the task. I think he will do a fine job carrying the torch! It's just a lot to overcome and there's a lot that needs to be found out about the team.
Instead of talking more about the positions that need to be filled - because that has been & will continue to be dissected ad nauseam, I'm going to try & take a more original approach.
Despite all the change, the 2019 team will share the essential quality of strength on the lines with all the best championship teams. My first prediction is that Derrek Tuszka will be among this year's captains but will not be able to beat the extra attention that will be sent his way starting at the Baseball field. X Tuszka had a darn good year! I think James Hendricks, Ty Brooks, Ben Ellefson, Jabril Cox & Dillon Radunz. will be the other captains this year.*
*I wrote that well ahead of this week's announcement. Getting four of the six right is pretty easy but I was even close on the other two, just should have put more emphasis on seniors over giving nods to the two younger guys even though they may be better talents. Anyways, just a bit of fun before moving on!
It doesn't make for a good, long post but beyond the lines, there are more questions than answers right now.
Each and every position has a guy that's been impactful during at least the 2018 campaign but outside of those proven commodities, few of the rest are proven enough to earn their unit the title as a strength of the team. Will it take long for new faces to represent? No, but running back, wide receiver, linebacker, safety, quarterback & cornerback all have mystery to their groups. I see an added layer of excitement that can come from all the unknown but it creates a challenge to preview the team without going mad with speculation.
My plan was to not speculate about more than who the captains could have been but now I feel like having some fun with it! So here are the five young players that I think will best answer the questions created by the graduates.
Saybein Clark will outshine many of his older running mates and create another dynamic tandem for the Football team with Ty Brooks. X
Jasir Cox will step out of his brother's shadow & for at least 2019 create one of the nation's top linebacking tandems. X
Christian Watson will prove to be the red zone receiver unlike what the Bison have recently had and will finish the season with the team high in touchdowns. Watson has been much more than just a red-zone target, especially since November, but he's been doing it in ways unlike many of his predecssors and he is currently tied with Gindorff for the team lead for receiving touchdowns with six. ✔️
Josh Babicz & Noah Gindorff will finish the season as the top two tight ends. Not to slam Ben Ellefson because he's been good for a long time, I just think those younger guys are special. All three tight-ends have accumulated nearly identical stats - between 148 & 192 yards with 5 or 6 touchdowns. That's great for the offense but means that none were the top TE. So I was on the right track but can't give it the check the mark.
So that's the roster.
What about the schedule?
I think Delaware & Youngstown State represent the two toughest challenges for NDSU this year. That each game is happening on the road is a factor, as is the timing of each. With Trey Lance winning the starting job, and barring a quick change for whatever reason, it would be just his third game and with all due respect to Butler & North Dakota, most certainly the toughest of the first quarter of the schedule. (Still wasn't tough) With a lack of game experience I don't think Zeb Noland would represent much of an upgrade that early in the year, though by week nine that could be a different story. The reason I think that YSU will still prove to be a real challenge is because they always are #1 and #2 because it'll be the week after the Dakota Marker game against SDSU. X The trip to Brookings may end up being the third toughest contest of the year, if not even higher on the difficulty scale, and the emotion of winning over the main rival could create a trap situation. Operative word being could.
Even with all the questions yet to be answered and the typically difficult schedule, I'm going to slightly adjust my prediction. I was originally on a three loss season but the more I've thought about it, the more I've begun to think that 2 L's will be the way that 2019 goes down. A 9-3 season would still give them a very good chance of once again holding court all the way to Frisco but where the potential third loss would come from is yet another bit of mystery that I can't square. Like I said, the schedule is no cakewalk but I'm not sure the rest of the subdivision has managed to catch up enough to take advantage of this rebuild season.
Which in a roundabout way brings me to my overarching take on the team this year.
If NDSU win's the championship this year, just shut it down.
If they win a championship in as much of a rebuilding year as the Bison will seemingly ever have, then the rest of the FCS should just give up. Sorry but I'm not sorry if that comes across too harsh. The entire sub-division has been fighting to reach the level of NDSU and for one year JMU broke through. One season, that was all that could be mustered for all the years of trying. If the banner in the Dome reads 2020 a year from now, then the NCAA should intervene or something drastic should happen. In the nicest, most pro-Bison possible way I say this - NDSU should not win the championship this year. Don't get it twisted, they are absolutely contenders for it as we sit today and do have as good a chance as anyone to complete the repeat, which makes me feel bad for every other college & university in the sub-division! Sympathy in sports usually only manifests after tragedy but I really will feel bad for all the also rands if NDSU is raising the trophy next year. I'll enjoy it as much as always but won't miss the broader storyline.
So to sum it up, I think the floor for the year is 9-3 with a 10-2 regular season being very doable. Get that done and the road to Frisco running through Fargo is well above a 50/50 proposition.
The trophy is still within reach for the Bison and JMU may well have proven that there is another consistent threat to the dynasty, beyond even what the Valley has been able to generate. The answer will hinge on how tomorrow plays out. Maybe the Dukes will come out on top again or maybe they will be shown to be closer to a one-hit-wonder, like so many of the other teams that NDSU has faced in Frisco. I do feel empathy for all the other teams in the sub-division but excitement for the contest has dwarfed. Since they did make it this far and have the chance to avenge their last playoff loss, they should go get it! This is one or two exceptions that I didn't include back in August.
Since you read the entire post, here's a thank you graphic for the game!