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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 12 2008

Bison not the first choice for Wyoming

Looking from Fargo and beyond, playing the University of Wyoming is Christmas in September for North Dakota State. The Bison are getting $275,000 and an opponent who isn’t LSU or Ohio State.

But looking from Laramie, Wyo., and beyond, you have to ask this question of the Cowboys: Why? The intent was to get a seventh home game and give Wyoming the best chance possible to reach six wins and be bowl eligible.

But this one is risky for the home team because NDSU is the top-ranked team in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision and is 3-1 in the last two years against Bowl Subdivision teams.

“It’s not exactly who you would want to pick. I think I’d rather play Austin Peay,” said Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn.

Austin Peay was NDSU’s season-opening opponent and it was the quintessential guarantee game. Austin Peay got some cash and the Bison won easily.

That’s not the predicted outcome on Saturday. Usually, if you’re paying somebody 275 grand to come to your place, you want somebody you know you can handle.

It was scheduled, Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman said, because the school wanted another home game. The Cowboys got out of traveling to New Mexico State as part of a home-and-home deal and Burman went looking for an FCS team.

He said time was of the essence. A few other FCS programs were interested.

“Like everybody else in this world, they were looking for money,” Burman said. “Everybody is.”

But why NDSU?

“I’d rather play somebody not as good,” Burman said. “But on the other hand, we’re getting ready to get into the meat of our schedule and NDSU brings a team that looks and feels much like the schools we play.”

He said the deal with NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor was finalized within 24 hours, which is a blink in the normal scheduling process. It was Christmas in February for Taylor, who was looking for an 11th game.

These schools share the same geographical problem. Laramie and Fargo are not like flying into Chicago or St. Louis.

“Scheduling at Wyoming is difficult,” Burman said. “It’s more challenging than other places. We’re always working hard at it.”

The Cowboys have four of their first five games at War Memorial Stadium. Looking at all seven, the NDSU game is the dog. It’s the only one that won’t be on TV.

NDSU is the only FCS team, the school with 63 scholarships compared to 85 by everybody else on the schedule.

It’s the game the Cowboys are favored to win. But for a guarantee game against an FCS opponent, it’s a dangerous game for Wyoming to schedule.

Readers can reach Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or jkolpack@forumcomm.com.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com