The last game before the Big Ten slate is upon us, and even though we got a robot that predicts a big win for Iowa, that’s just not how these things work.
So to add a human touch to our coverage of Iowa’s game against North Dakota State, we reached out to Jeff Kolpack, who has been covering NDSU football for The Fargo Forum since 1995. He literally wrote the book on Bison football. So yeah you could say he knows a thing or two about the Bizon.
Let’s get to it:
Ben Ross: With the graduation of Carson Wentz, Zack Vraa, and Joe Haeg, are there any other big names on this NDSU roster that Iowa fans should get to know? Who are some players on either side of the ball you expect to make an impact for the Bison?
Jeff Kolpack: The next NFL-type player in most people's minds is middle linebacker Nick DeLuca, who at 6-3, 245 pounds with good speed and hands has the total package. I'm sure he'll be getting plenty of looks by scouts over the course of this season. All three linebackers for that matter are seniors and have been productive for quite some time. Defensive tackle Nate Tanguay is a name to keep in mind in the interior. On offense, quarterback Easton Stick, although a sophomore, is a captain and a leader. Sophomore Lance Dunn has emerged as the top running back after two games.
BR: NDSU needed overtime to win its first two games of the season -- would you chalk that up to early-season jitters, strong competition, is NDSU perhaps just not as dominant as it has been in years past, or some combination of the three?
JK: They were two top 10 teams in the FCS, so certainly it was strong competition. Hard to maintain dominance so in the early going it's pretty safe to assume that would be the case. This is bar none the toughest non-conference schedule NDSU has ever played.
BR: How do you see the Bison matching up against an Iowa offense that has been pretty potent in its first two games, especially on the ground?
JK: Not real well if the Bison defensive line doesn't at least get some push during the game. These teams mirror each other in physical style of play, so the difference in Big Ten vs. Missouri Valley should certainly come into play.
BR: On the other side of the ball, do you see NDSU having the firepower to make some noise against a stout Iowa defense?
JK: Depends if NDSU can get its power running game going, which has been so-so the first two games. Granted, they put up a pile of points against Eastern Washington but Big Sky teams have never been known for great defense. I would expect Iowa to offer something different.
BR: NDSU has gone 5-0 in its last five games against FBS opponents—do you think that sort of history of success will be a factor in this game? Why is it you think NDSU has been able to have such great success against supposedly superior competition?
JK: They've been 5-0 because they've been the better team and have also had the fortune of scheduling these teams at the right time. Kansas, Minnesota and Colorado State had first-year coaches. Kansas State lost its Heisman candidate quarterback and Iowa State just wasn't very good against a team that had Carson Wentz at quarterback.
BR: What sort of things is NDSU going to have to do in order to come out with win in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday? (Besides score more points than Iowa, obviously.)
JK: I think i'ts more on Iowa, the Hawkeyes are going to have to come out flat and not interested in an FCS game. Turnovers of course always play a factor but the Bison need to prove they can hang in there physically.
BR: And finally, what is your final score prediction?
JK: Iowa 34, NDSU 17