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Anthony Chiusano | NCAA.com | October 2, 2019

North Dakota State vs. Illinois State: Preview, how to watch the top-6 FCS matchup

Check out this week's FCS top plays

No. 1 North Dakota State is set to take on a third straight ranked opponent Saturday afternoon. The top-ranked Bison will travel to Normal, Illinois, to face No. 6 Illinois State in Week 6 of the FCS football season.

The Redbirds (3-1) moved up two spots in Monday's latest FCS Coaches' Poll while North Dakota State (4-0) was unanimous No. 1 for the fifth straight week. Saturday's meeting will be the first 2019 in-conference game for both MVFC squads.

Here’s everything you need to know before Saturday's clash.

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North Dakota State vs. Illinois State: Preview, how to watch

Game day information

Saturday's game between North Dakota State and Illinois State is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. Here's how to watch, listen and track it.

When: 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 5 | Live stats

Where: Hancock Stadium | Normal, Illinois

How to watch: NBC North Dakota, NBC Sports Chicago or stream it on ESPN+

How to listen: Bison Radio Network or WJBC AM 1230 / 93.7 FM

Series history

North Dakota State topped Illinois State 28-14 in last year's head-to-head meeting in Fargo on Oct. 20. Lance Dunn scored three of NDSU's four rushing touchdowns. For the Redbirds, star running back James Robinson racked up 128 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

The Bison have won nine of 11 all-time meetings against Illinois State, including the last seven straight since 2011. The streak includes a 29-27 win in the 2015 FCS national championship game, marking North Dakota State's fourth straight title at the time. 

The last time the Redbirds defeated the Bison was Oct. 16, 2010, in Normal.

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The 2019 matchup

NORTH DAKOTA STATE   ILLINOIS STATE
No. 1/1 Latest rankings (Coaches Poll/FCS STATS) No. 6/14
Bye Last week Bye
4-0 (0-0 MVFC) 2019 record 3-1 (0-0 MVFC)
15-0 2018 record 6-5
Matt Entz (4-0, first year) Coach (school record; season) Brock Spack (77-46, 11th year)
9 FCS playoff appearances 7
7 FCS national championships 0
182.5 (85th) Passing offense 193.3 (77th)
286.8 (5th) Rushing offense 193.3 (34th)
42.3 (6th) Scoring offense (points scored per game) 28.3 (53rd)
13.8 (7th) Scoring defense (points allowed per-game) 17.0 (T-11th)
+4 Turnover margin -4

Both teams rely heavily on the run game, though in different ways. The Bison's deep offense has four players with at least 25 carries through four games, with Adam Cofield's 41 being the high mark. Ty Brooks is the leading rusher with 289 yards while quarterback Trey Lance has a team-high six rushing touchdowns.

Illinois State, meanwhile, has a clear primary option in the backfield with 2018 Walter Payton Award finalist James Robinson. The senior running back is 17th in the nation with 432 rushing yards and tied for first with eight scores. Robinson has received more than 48 percent of the Redbirds' carries this season.

Here's how the two teams' leading rushers stack up statistically through four games:

RUNNING BACK ATTEMPTS NET RUSH YDS YPC RUSH TD REC. REC. YDS REC. TD
Ty Brooks (NDSU) 40 289 7.2 1 2 25 0
James Robinson (ISU) 79 432 5.5 8 3 7 0

  5 more facts to know:

  • North Dakota State is 6-5 against top 10 teams on the road since 2004, its first year at the FCS level. The Bison had won four straight such games until its most recent top 10 road matchup against South Dakota State in 2017. Then-No. 8 SDSU won that Dakota Marker game 33-21.
  • NDSU has won 30 straight games coming off bye weeks, spanning back to 2005 (including playoffs). This streak includes seven national championship game wins.
  • North Dakota State and Illinois State are two of five MVFC teams in the latest FCS Coaches' Poll Top 25. South Dakota State, ranked third, joins NDSU and ISU in the top 10.
  • ISU's Robinson was one of 25 players named to the Walter Payton Award preseason watch list in July. After scoring 12 touchdowns in 11 games each of the past two years, the senior already has eight in four games this season.
  • Illinois State senior Sam Fenlason is one of nine FCS kickers with a perfect field goal percentage (5-for-5). Four of those field goals came in the Redbirds' most recent win over Northern Arizona. Fenlason was named MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his 16-point performance two weeks ago.

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No. 12 Illinois State took advantage of four costly turnovers by No. 4 South Dakota State, as the Redbirds (7-3, 4-2 MVFC) scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to defeat the Jackrabbits (7-3, 4-2 MVFC) 27-18 Saturday afternoon at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. 
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