4 mins read

Good football teams should play good football teams

South Dakota State defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 90-6 at the “Beef Bowl” at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings on Sept. 16. Ranked No. 3 in this week’s FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) Coaches Poll, SDSU ravaged a Golden Lion team that hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2013.

The Jackrabbits led 49-6 at halftime, and 70-6 at the end of the third quarter, but tacked on 20 more points during the final portion of the game.

The score caught eyes from CBSSports, as well as others who don’t often see high school football-type scores from Division-I football programs.

After the game, SDSU head football coach John Stiegelmeier apologized to Ark-Pine Bluff for running up the score.

“I’m disappointed in how I managed the game,” he said. “I should’ve slowed it down earlier in the game. I should’ve been more respectful to our opponent and I apologize to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Coach Thomas. I could’ve been a better coach tonight.”

Head coach Cedric Thomas responded at the Southwestern Atlantic Conference (SWAC) weekly teleconference.

“I don’t need no apology,” Thomas said. “I’m a grown man. If that’s [Stiegelmeier’s] philosophy toward football, I totally understand. It’s my job to stop them.” 

The Jackrabbits are 2-0 after the massacre against Ark-Pine Bluff and a 45-14 rout against Montana State a week prior. Two spots above SDSU, at No. 1, is North Dakota State, another Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) team with two blowout wins thus far — Cal Poly 49-3 Sept. 1 and North Alabama 38-7 Sept. 15.

From afar, NDSU’s wins make the team appear an unstoppable force, which they are. In the last seven years, the Bison have lost just eight games, won five consecutive FCS national championships from 2011-2015, and are currently defending their sixth from last year. Additionally, NDSU is 9-3 against FBS opponents since 2006, most recently defeating No. 13 Iowa 23-21 in 2016.

NDSU’s reign over FCS football has even spurred conversations among fans of a move to the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision), college football’s top division, but the school downplayed this talk, saying it doesn’t have enough money for scholarship requirements or a new stadium.

Regardless, why is a team competitive with top-tier college football programs scheduling teams such as Cal Poly, who won only one game last year? Or North Alabama, whose 5-5 record in 2017 is slightly more appealing, until you realize they were a Division-II school at the time.

Who’s next, Mitchell Tech’s intramural flag football team? 

You’d think programs of such stature and recent success would assemble non-conference schedules with statement games instead of mercy rules, but this year that’s not the case. In the 110 FCS-FBS matchups this season, the MVFC’s finest two teams won’t participate in one.

SDSU isn’t as powerful as NDSU (only 1-8 against FBS teams since 2008), but they did schedule Iowa State for their season opener on Sept. 1. Unfortunately, rain sent them back to Brookings before a game was played. At least they tried.

Here at USD, the football program’s winning season last year marked its first since 2011, and since its promotion to D-I in 2008, the team has compiled an underwhelming 46-70 record. However, since joining the MVFC in 2012, 60 percent of their opponents have been FBS teams or ranked FCS teams, according to GoYotes.

One of those losses came from a No. 3 Oregon team that later reached the National Championship in the inaugural year of the College Football Playoff. 

This year, the Coyotes’ non-conference slate consisted of a close loss to the Big 12’s Kansas State, a win over Northern Colorado, and a loss to Weber State, who is now ranked No. 6 in FCS standings.

The Coyotes left non-conference play with a 1-2 record, but a three-point loss to Kansas State teaches a team more than an 84-point victory over a SWAC squad or a blowout win over a newly initiated D-I team.

South Dakota State is scheduled to play Minnesota next year and Nebraska in 2020, assuming fair weather. But North Dakota State won’t play another FBS team until 2020 when they travel to Eugene to play Oregon in their season opener.

“To be the best, you gotta beat the best,” my father always says.

He should shout it north.