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FCS Game of the Week: NDSU at Iowa State

By Craig Haley, SportsNetwork.com

No. 2 North Dakota State (0-0) at Iowa State (0-0)

When: Saturday, noon ET

Series Record: Iowa State leads, 1-0

Last Meeting: Iowa State won 34-17 in 2009 series opener at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

Television: Fox Sports 1.

What to Know: Chris Klieman's first game as North Dakota State's new head coach could be a record-setter. The three-time reigning FCS champion Bison have won 24 straight games since 2012, tying the FCS record also held by Penn (1992-95) and Montana (2001-02). This is a difficult way to try to set a new standard, although the Bison have beaten an FBS opponent in each of the past four seasons and are 7-3 all-time against such teams. Ironically, their last loss to an FBS opponent was in their only series meeting with Iowa State in 2009.

NDSU's vaunted defense should be outstanding again this season, returning six starters, including safeties Colton Heagle and Christian Dudzik in the secondary, with fly-to-the-ball mentality all-around. The Bison know dual- threat quarterback Sam Richardson has taken over running the spread, and they expect different looks from the Cyclones, who after going 3-9 last season have brought in a new offensive coordinator, former Kansas coach Mark Mangino.

The Bison hope to ease their new starting quarterback, redshirt junior Carson Wentz, into the job with the return of two-time 1,000-yard rusher John Crockett and 1,000-yard wide receiver Zach Vraa. But the loss of four of the five starting offensive linemen is a big concern.

Ball control is big for the Bison, who like to get a lead, keep rushing the ball and contain opponents with their defense and special teams winning the battle of field position.

"We feel good about their progress," Klieman said. "It's just going against each other. I guess when the lights come on on Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT), we'll find out how well they've progressed. But the experience we have with Crockett at running back and Vraa at receiver and even a couple of our tight ends back, I think is a bonus. We feel Carson is ready to go in this kind of environment, but time will tell.

"We know we've got a big challenge ahead of us this week. Just as I listen to other (coaches), we've got to get better this week. That's the number one goal for us is to get together better and start to kind of click before we get into conference play in October, and this is obviously a big challenge for us right off the bat playing at Iowa State."

Prediction: It's tempting to pick the machine that is NDSU, but the Cyclones from the Big 12 Conference appeared to figure themselves out late last season. Iowa State, 28-24.

08/27 14:13:08 ET

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