Fan expectations high for the Bison football team next season
Still nursing another national championship hangover, many North Dakota State football fans left Frisco, Texas, Sunday with this good-bye message: "See you next year."
Who can blame them for already thinking their beloved Bison can win a third straight Football Championship Subdivision title? The vast majority of players who put a 39-13 whooping on Sam Houston State on Saturday will be back - starting their offseason training next week.
If you thought the bar was set high after last year's national championship, it will reach an unprecedented level this year.
Next year's team is the one head coach Craig Bohl has always tabbed as a potential national champion. Now, he has two somewhat unexpected titles to go with it.
High expectations will keep the Bison ticket office busy again this winter. High expectations will create another traffic jam on the NCAA website this fall when tickets go on sale for next year's championship game.
Those high expectations will also force Bison coaches and players to find new ways to stay motivated and avoid complacency - something they were able to do quite well this past season.
"This title is sweeter," Bohl said after Saturday's championship game. "We took everybody's best shot."
In the realm of Bison football history, this Division I run certainly has a chance of becoming the best ever. A three-peat in the more competitive FCS would be just as impressive - if not more - than the 1983 to 1986 Division II run in which the Bison would've won four straight had it not been for a last-second field goal by Troy State in 1984.
In the realm of FCS history, the Bison have a ways to go. A title next year would equal Appalachian State's three consecutive titles from 2005 to 2007. But Georgia Southern has won six titles while Youngstown State has won four.
Whether it's fair or not, anything less than a national championship will be considered a disappointment next year for the Bison. Fans will be tweeting, texting, blogging and calling into radio talk shows about how good the Bison will be for the next eight months.
The Bison will find out how good they are when they open the season Aug. 31 at Kansas State - a No. 5-ranked team that played in this year's Fiesta Bowl. Sporting a 3-2 record against the Bowl Championship Series big boys, this will most likely be the first time a Bison team will play a nationally-ranked BCS team.
Then again, Kansas State loses a ton of seniors - including Heisman finalist quarterback Collin Klein. Could we see an upset in the fashion of an Appalachian State shocker at Michigan - the same season when it won its third straight national title?
Yes, there will be plenty of talk. But you can guarantee it won't be coming from the Bison camp.
When asked about a three-peat, Bohl was quick to say: "I'm not even touching that subject."
When asked about people describing the Bison program as a legacy, linebacker Grant Olson said: "In about one year I will start listening to that. For now, I don't even want to hear that word."
When asked about both a three-peat and legacy, offensive line coach Scott Fuchs said: "Those kind of things are decided many years down the road. It's like what I always tell my offensive linemen: 'We'll see how good you are at the end of the year.'"