So what happens if college football schedules get hastily altered because of travel restrictions and the uncertain nature of college sports during the pandemic?
A Fargo sports reporter has an idea: What if North Dakota State, the reigning Football Championship Subdivision defending champion and perennial powerhouse at that level, can’t play its scheduled game at Oregon on Sept 5? What if the Gophers can’t open their season as currently scheduled against Florida Atlantic that week?
What if the Gophers and North Dakota State got on the front end of the talk about regional rescheduling and turned words into action by playing each other that weekend?
That idea was broached by Fargo Forum sports reporter Jeff Kolpack, who acknowledged that he's riffing off an idea proposed by Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse from a couple of years back.
Kolpack wrote: “If the pandemic reaches the point where both teams have their schedules altered to conference games only, make it a true home-and-home. The fan aspect would be rendered very low if at all due to social distancing. So the U will not have to be concerned with the 18,750-seat Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome vs. the 50,805-seat TCF Bank Stadium.”
Two teams, two games. What would you call the trophy?
Kolpack continued: “This year is about survival in so many ways. Gophers vs. Bison, one game to open the season in September and the other to end the regular season.”
This might come as a surprise, but North Dakota and the Gophers have played three times, with the Bison winning twice. The last time was in 2011, when the Bison won 37-24. Prevailing wisdom has been that Minnesota sees nothing to gain (and much to lose) from continuing the series. But that was a pre-pandemic point of view.
NDSU has won nine of 12 games that its played against Football Bowl Subdivision teams, including the last six times it has played up. In addition to the Gophers, NDSU has knocked off Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado State during that that streak, which dates back to 2010. The Bison have won seven of the last eight FCS championships.
Oregon would be the biggest playing-up challenge for the Bison. But Minnesota, coming off its Outback Bowl-winning season, would make a fine surrogate if that can't happen.
More from Kolpack: “It could be a pay-per-view extravaganza in the line of those professional boxing events like Tyson vs. Spinks. … Bison vs. Gophers wouldn't be in that revenue ballpark but it would be an all-day affair. I’m sure there would be problems with each team’s TV contract but if we get to this point, anything would be on the table in the name of athletic program survival."
What do you think? Read Kolpack's entire column here.