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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 29 2013

Lennon hears Big Ten wants to play FCS teams

FARGO – If the Big Ten Conference is looking for solidarity in its mandate not to schedule FCS teams starting in 2016, it may find the going tough in the state of Illinois. At least that’s what Southern Illinois head coach Dale Lennon is hearing.

“My feedback is a lot of Big Ten teams want to play FCS teams,” Lennon said.

Lennon’s Salukis get a Big Ten test Saturday when they travel to Illinois. He said he’s of the impression that in-state Big Ten schools Illinois and Northwestern “have voiced opinions as far as supporting” playing FCS programs.

The Big Ten athletic directors voted last spring in favor of a scheduling model that does not include FCS teams.

“We’re not too far from the SEC, so we have other options available,” Lennon said. “But I think there’s something special about playing in-state schools.”

The Illinois game will be the second trip to Champaign for Lennon, whose team lost 35-3 in 2010.

SDSU opponent aiming for FCS postseason bid

South Dakota State goes into its opener on Saturday ranked No. 6 in The Sports Network media poll and seventh in the FCS top 25 coaches poll. But Jackrabbits head coach John Stiegelmeier also remembers 2010 when SDSU came into the opener ranked high.

“And we stunk up the joint and never recovered,” he said. “We thought we were great and we didn’t do it. I don’t think ranked sixth or seventh matters, but you can verify it if you start off and play a great football game out of the chute.”

SDSU hosts Butler in a game where the Jackrabbits are obvious favorites against a non-scholarship Pioneer Football League team. But the Bulldogs, picked second in the preseason conference poll, also have their sights set on an FCS playoff berth this season.

It’s the first year the Pioneer gets an automatic bid.

“From the projection last year that if there were 24 teams in the playoffs, they would have been one of the 24 teams,” Stiegelmeier said. “Obviously, people talk about scholarship and non-scholarship, but when we play FBS schools, we think we can beat them and they have more scholarships, so we have to be ready for a team that is going to play very well.”

It’s Mo Valley against Big Sky in Vermillion

The University of South Dakota plays UC Davis for the fourth time in five years, and odds are, it’s going to be close. The last three meetings have been decided by three or fewer points.

It’s one of the few Missouri Valley vs. Big Sky conference matchups this season. For the first time in many years, Davis will have a coach other than Bob Biggs on the sideline. California running backs coach Ron Gould has taken over.

“You practice for everything,” said USD head coach Joe Glenn. “You have to coach on your feet pretty darn well this first game if you’re the Coyotes.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia