North Dakota to challenge Boise State with top offense in FCS. ‘Any team can win any day’

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A few Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams upset Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams every year.

Eight FCS teams earned wins over FBS teams in 2022, and there have already been two upsets this season, with Idaho knocking off Nevada and Southern Illinois edging Northern Illinois.

Boise State (0-2) must be vigilant this week as it welcomes North Dakota (2-0) of the Missouri Valley Conference to the Blue. Kickoff is 10 a.m. Saturday at Albertsons Stadium, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

“You see FCS teams beat FBS teams. It happens. It’s not out of the regular,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said. “… At the end of the day, it’s college football. Any team can win any day. The better prepared team has got the best shot. The team that’s more consistent on game day and executes has got the best shot to get it done.”

In what has been a gauntlet of an opening schedule for Boise State to start the 2023 season, the Broncos now face their third team with an offense that ranks near the top of their division. Washington entered the year with the top-rated passing attack from the 2022 season, then UCF brought the country’s top-rated rushing attack and second-best total offensive unit. Both games resulted in losses.

Boise State will attempt to rebound against a North Dakota team that leads the FCS in total offense (548.5 yards), third-down conversions (.600) and fourth-down conversions (1.000). The Fighting Hawks also rank in the top five in several other categories, including second in scoring offense (45.0), tackles for loss allowed (2.0) and completion percentage (.774). The Hawks rank third nationally in fewest penalty yards (50), fewest penalty yards per game (25.0) and team passing efficiency (193.72).

North Dakota moved up this week to No. 13 in the AFCA FCS Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, and the Fighting Hawks have made the FCS playoffs three of the past four seasons. They’re also 3-3-1 against current Mountain West schools, with their most recent win coming against Wyoming in 2015.

“The difference (between FCS and FBS) is not as big as I think sometimes people want to make it out to be,” Boise State defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson said. “They’re going to come in here ready to rock. They’re very well coached. They’re a talented group, and they’ve won two straight games. They obviously had a great season last year, return a lot of players, so they’re going to come in loaded. Their offense is clicking on a lot of different cylinders.”

Senior quarterback Tommy Schuster has led UND to victories over Drake and Northern Arizona to start the season. Schuster ranks ninth in the FCS in passing efficiency (178.5), 10th in passing yards per game (260.5), 11th in passing touchdowns (4) and 10th in total offense (274.0).

Schuster’s top target — senior receiver Bo Belquist — ranks second in the FCS in receiving yards per game (116.5), third in total receiving yards (233) and 13th in receiving touchdowns (13).

And on top of a strong passing game, North Dakota is averaging 219 yards on the ground.

“There are definitely players on this team coming in here that can play at any level,” Avalos said.

NORTH DAKOTA AT BOISE STATE

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf), Boise

TV: FS1 (Eric Collins, Devin Gardner)

Radio: KBOI 670 AM/93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)

Records: Boise State 0-2; North Dakota 2-0

Series: First meeting

Weather: High of 89 degrees, 0% chance of rain, 7 mph wind