NCAA Football

North Dakota State a clear FCS No. 1 in 2010s

By CRAIG HALEY

Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

(Stats Perform) - The scare that FCS college football received on Halloween in 2011 became a nightmare for any program that harbors national championship potential.

North Dakota State basically took control of the Division I subdivision that day, moving to No. 1 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25. The Bison went on to capture eight national titles and finish with a 137-13 record in arguably the greatest decade in college football history.

Not surprisingly, the Bison loomed over the national media poll, holding the No. 1 ranking 54.5 percent of the time during the 2010s - 78 of the 143 polls (https://tinyurl.com/y6sggvfw). However, it's been 65 percent of the time since Halloween 2011, when the Bison were off to an 8-0 start following a 2010 season in which they didn't reach No. 1, but were a national quarterfinalist.

"Say all you want about the great run of quarterbacks, what set NDSU apart was it figured out how to recruit the right type of player," said Fargo-based writer Jeff Kolpack, whose book "Horns Up: Inside the Greatest College Football Dynasty" is a definitive look at the Bison. "Combined with a physical style that not many teams cared to face, a few key program departures to the FBS and you had the perfect storm for a dynasty."

In NDSU's decade of dominance, Eastern Washington (2010) and James Madison (2016) also captured FCS titles, while 10 other programs stole some of the spotlight by saying, "We're No. 1."

James Madison's 14 appearances at No. 1 were the second-most in the decade, and Jacksonville State (11) and Sam Houston State (10) also reached double figures. Eastern Washington and former FCS program Georgia Southern, whose six FCS titles are second all-time to NDSU, tied for the fifth-most appearances at No. 1 with seven each.

Other programs to reach No. 1 were Appalachian State with five appearances; Villanova, four; New Hampshire, three; and Delaware, Montana, Montana State and William & Mary, one each.

While a dozen schools other than NDSU reached No. 1 during the 2010s, only half of them did so after Halloween 2011. The decade belonged to the Bison.

Updated July 20, 2020