CEDAR FALLS — It’s the game that has been circled on calendars for months.
After a dominating, 41-6 win over ninth-ranked McNeese State, Northern Iowa travels to Fargo, N.D., to face the top-ranked and two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State on Saturday.
NDSU, which has wins over Kansas State and sixth-ranked South Dakota State this season, has not lost a game since Oct. 13 of last year.
“They probably have three (NFL) draft picks, if not more, and they’re all in that senior class,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said of the Bison during his weekly news conference Monday. “They get that rhythm and confidence and that creates what they have right now.”
North Dakota State has outscored its opponents, 151-31, this season while the Panthers have yet to trail in a game.
“Our players are very in-tune right now,” Farley said. “They’ve got a purpose about them in practice and they know how to prepare. We’re just locked in to our group of guys right now.”
Saturday’s game will mark the 102nd game in which two ranked Missouri Valley Football Conference teams face one another and the 26th time two have squared off while being ranked in the Top 10. In the previous 101 games, the home team has won 60 times.
“I think it’s great in a way, but of course it will create a lot of problems,” Farley said about playing in the Fargo Dome. “The challenge is trying to find a way to be successful in that environment.
“The better you are, the more challenging it becomes and the more exciting it is. If you don’t find a way (to be successful), it could blow up in a hurry.”
Farley said UNI will be without tight end Sam Rohr for the rest of the season. Rohr hasn’t played since dislocating his elbow when the Panthers defeated Iowa State University.
Kickoff for Saturday is set for 2:30 p.m.
“We played a pretty high-level team last week and played at a high level, but this is totally different,” Farley said. “This adds a whole other factor to it being on the road, in this environment, against this team. This is tough, but we’re looking forward to it.”