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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 24 2013

Bison earn No. 1 FCS seed, will host second round game on Dec. 7

FARGO – The second season for North Dakota State started on Sunday with a not-so-surprising announcement from the NCAA. The Bison were tabbed as the No. 1 overall seed in the Division I FCS playoffs.

NDSU earned a first-round bye and will host the winner of South Carolina State and Furman in the second round at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 7. The Bison have never played either team but one thing is certain: the state of South Carolina will be represented at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Furman is based in Greenville, S.C.

“I know there are a lot of good players in South Carolina,” head coach Craig Bohl said on his Sunday coach’s show. “And I do know South Carolina State has a lot of good athletes. I don’t know much about Furman, but we’ll be finding out a lot more in the next week or so.”

The Bison, 11-0, are guaranteed home field advantage throughout the playoffs if they keep advancing. The FCS championship game will return to Frisco, Texas in early January.

Furman, 7-5 overall, earned the automatic berth from the Southern Conference with a 6-2 league mark. The Paladins were 2-4 at one point in October before putting together a string of victories. South Carolina State (9-3) shared the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title, but got into the playoffs via an at-large bid.

NDSU got the Missouri Valley Football Conference automatic berth by virtue of its third straight conference title. The league, despite its No. 1 status in the Gridiron Power Index, has only two representatives in the playoffs with South Dakota State being the other.

“It’s a surprise and it’s a disappointment,” Bohl said. “You will always have some debate on who should make it. I don’t know the wisdom and the knowledge of the guys in those rooms, but I certainly think our league deserved three teams in the playoffs. It’s disappointing.”

Youngstown State, which lost its last three games, finished 8-4. Northern Iowa, although 7-5, also had a case to make with wins over Big 12 Conference member Iowa State and a 41-6 thumping of McNeese State, which got the No. 6 seed in the playoffs.

The Bison took the host route in winning the last two FCS national titles.

“This place changes on playoff games,” Bohl said, following the win over South Dakota on Saturday. “I didn’t know what to expect when we first got in it, but the playoff crowd is different. Things are ratcheted up another notch. The competition goes up, expectations are high and hopefully we’ll have a chance to sell the thing out.”

The selections had its share of surprises, starting with South Carolina State. The Bulldogs’ best victory is over conference foe North Carolina A&T, which finished 7-4. Bethune-Cookman, which beat the Bulldogs 14-3, got the MEAC autobid.

Furman is from the same league as Wofford and Georgia Southern, which gave NDSU all it could handle in last year’s playoff run. The Paladins defeated Wofford 27-14 on Saturday to earn the SoCon title and also own wins over Georgia Southern, Samford and Appalachian State. Samford got an at-large FCS playoff bid.

“There’s nothing like the playoffs because it’s a one-game season,” Bohl said.