Parker: The time is now. The return to the FargoDome sets the stage for a duel of the ages with obvious implications. The dominant Bison of North Dakota State hope to keep the improbable 34-game win streak, 27-home game win streak, and a trip to Frisco in the script. The surging Bobcats have a different, more dramatic script in mind. An upset and their first trip to the national championship game since the last Bobcat championship in 1984. The Bison began the season dominating every opponent who stepped on the field, but throughout parts of the last few games the Bison have looked more like the BiZZZon. Last week, Illinois State held NDSU out of the endzone in Fargo for the first time since 2002, providing a defensive game plan for the Cats. There are plenty of connections between the two coaching staffs, so I am sure notes and thoughts were being shared this week. I believe the Cats have prepared themselves for this moment by working hard in the offseason to build up the lines of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, maintaining the mindset needed for consistent improvement throughout the season and believing that they are the most prepared team entering every matchup. Senior defensive end and Bobcat legend Derek Marks said earlier this week that the Cats try to out compete their opponent not only on the field, but in every single practice session during the week, a mindset necessary to take down a worthy opponent like NDSU. The goal for each team is to establish the run and maintain positive plays on early downs. Whichever team can do this and avoid turnovers and special teams mistakes will come out on top. It is tough to predict which team has the advantage, but the Cats simply seem to be the most confident team (a sentence rarely typed with respect to the Bison). Like Choate said in his weekly press conference, the Cats have seen the elephant that is NDSU. If MSU stays focused on themselves and avoids the outside pressure and noise, they will take them down in convincing fashion.
MSU 34, NDSU 20
Caleb: For the first time since 1984 the Bobcats have made it to the FCS semifinals game, and for the second year in a row they have to travel to the FargoDome, one of the toughest places in the country to play. In last year’s second round matchup the Bison dominated all phases of the game. This year I anticipate something a little different. Montana State has found their groove and identity over the past six games — sophomore quarterback Tucker Rovig has been playing the best ball of his career, sophomore running back Isaiah Ifanse has recovered from his injuries, and both the offensive and defensive lines have looked strong. In the last six games the Cats have outscored their opponents 233-83. Last week they gave up zero rushing yards — let that sink in. While Montana State has been trending upward, North Dakota State has not. In the last three weeks the Bison have had three of their closest games. Of course that does not mean that the Cats are going to run away with it, this North Dakota State outfit is still the heavy favorite to win the national title. This game is going to come down to turnovers and not getting behind the sticks. Vegas thinks the Bison will run away with this one, but I disagree. I think the Cats are hungry.
MSU 24 NDSU 20
Cameron: #NeverAgain is the motto Montana State football adopted after last season’s outgoing loss to NDSU in the playoffs. Well now is the chance to act on that promise. Both of these programs will rely on their punishing running attacks to set the tempo of the game. MSU has been enjoying the return of sophomore running back Isaiah Ifanse into the starting lineup who is now on his way to potentially reaching 1,000 rushing yards this season. An incredible feat for a player who missed the majority of the season with an injury. Another remarkable talent, NDSU’s All-American redshirt freshman quarterback Trey Lance, will have to deliver in order for the top-ranked Bison to move on. Last week, the NDSU offense failed to reach the end zone. With one of the top defenses in the nation coming to Fargo, the Bison will have to get back on their horse if they want a chance in this ball game. MSU All-American senior defensive end Bryce Sterk will be a main focus of the Bison O-line but with a frenzy of monsters on the Bobcat defensive front seven, NDSU will have their hands full. This is going to be the best team NDSU has faced all year and unless they play their A-game I’d imagine it’s going to be their first loss in 34 games. Buckle up Bobcats, this may be an all time ball game.
Montana State University 22 NDSU 17