Closer to home (figuratively if not literally) the Valley's N.D. State Bison, #4 seed, got a home game against #2 seeded Georgia Southern and rolled, smashed, flew to a dominating 35-7 win over the Eagles. This was incredibly impressive and makes ISU's close loss during the regular season even more impressive.
I often write about how good ISU FB needs to become in order to comppete at the top of the FCS. Treading into the dangerous water of comparative scores, take a look:
Alabama 45 Georgia Southern 21
ND State 35 Ga. Sou. 7
ND State 27 ISU 16
Since BAMA rolled over its SEC opponents by 30+ pts/game other than LSU, it points one to the conclusion that to win an FCS title a school must be comparable to the bottom 2/3 of the SEC. Ponder that!!
The 2 finalists are proof that in the FCS 10+ win seasons are HARD to come by. EVERY season stands on its own once you have the talent to compete and ISU does under Coach Trent Miles.
Sam Houston State, in its 2nd year under a new head coach is coming off of 5-6 and 6-5 records the two previous seasons. The BearKats actually give some hope to ISU in that regard and in their surprisingly modest home attendance figures in the 6-9,000 range if FB crazy Texas.
On the other side, ND State is a long time power in D2 and now FCS FB. But the transition to FCS led to a first-time playoff berth in 2010 after preceding seasons of 3-8 and 6-5. That 2010 playoff appearance ended on the road with a 38-31 OT loss to future National Champion EWU.
While population challenged in the prairie states, there is no doubt that ND State is a flagship program in its state and that is an advantage that is hard to discount. The Bison have a domed stadium which facilitates that average home attendance of 18,000+/game. Let's face it: Bison Football is the thing to do in and around Fargo, ND.
But the message of hope is: WIN THE CLOSE GAMES and 6-5 become 10-1 and a legitimate chance to advance deeply in the playoffs. But one must be one of the 50-60 best teams in college football to achieve that status.