IOWA CITY, Iowa — As the Hawkeyes get set to welcome North Dakota State to Kinnick Stadium Saturday, they remain extremely mindful of the Bison’s talent and acknowledged throughout the week that this matchup will be their toughest test of the season to this point.
Five-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State (2-0) heads into Iowa City as the No. 1 ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision. They are coming off two overtime wins to start the year and have also posted five straight wins against FBS programs overall, which includes victories over Minnesota in 2011 and Iowa State in 2014.
These facts are not lost on No. 13 Iowa (2-0).
“Certainly you look at them, they’re a model program,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They’ve had amazing success. Five national championships in a row, that’s awfully impressive. Five wins the last five times out against FBS teams. I think it’s 8-3 now since 2006. All those I assume are on the road. They’re no strangers to having success on the road going into venues and playing well.
“Bottom line, they have good players and are really well-coached,” Ferentz added. “They play hard, they play physical. To me, their style of football reminds me of the last two teams we played at the end of the season last year, Michigan State, Stanford. So it’s a different kind of challenge for us.”
In this matchup, the Hawkeyes, who are currently tied with Michigan State for the third-longest active home winning streak in the nation, will be going for their 10th straight win at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa has started the 2016 season in dominating fashion and is currently averaging 43.5 points per game, thanks in large part to their dynamic rushing attack which has averaged 212 yards per game and 7.3 yards per attempt.
“Obviously, this is probably going to be the best team we’ve faced thus far,” Iowa running back LeShun Daniels said. “They are going to want to come in and beat us at Kinnick. This would be a big time win for them against a Big Ten program. We know we have to go out there and execute because they won’t be themselves.
“If we can control the tempo the entire game, keep their offense off the field, and have long drives while fatiguing their defense and get points on the board, that only helps the team as whole because it keeps the defense fresh,” Daniels added.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Hawkeyes will be focusing primarily on dual-threat quarterback Easton Stick. The leader of the Bison attack has combined for 556 total yards (451 passing and 105 rushing) and five total touchdowns in his team’s first two games.
“They are doing something right if they are a five-time national champ,” Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann said. “They just find a way to win. They’ve been in tight games the last two weeks but have come out on top.”
Iowa appears to have the proper focus and mindset going into the game, despite this being an FCS opponent. They’ve successfully avoided any slip-ups against inferior squads since the start of last season, and pride themselves on the fact they don’t take any teams lightly.
“I think it will be our best test this season,” Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “They are a good team — great team — clearly in the past they’ve won a bunch of national championships. We have a ton of respect for them.”
Prediction: Iowa 35, North Dakota State 17
Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa
Time: 11 a.m. (CT)
All-Time Series Record: Iowa holds a 2-0 historical record against North Dakota State