Is there some cosmic alignment in space today that might enable UND to upset North Dakota State?
Might some important late-game play favor the Fighting Hawks, enabling them to win in the most hostile environment in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision?
Could providence intervene and force the ball to bounce into the hands of a UND player at some opportune moment, thus sparking hope of achieving something epic against the nation’s top-ranked team?
The odds-makers emphatically say no. As of Thursday afternoon, NDSU is a 30½-point favorite, meaning the Hawks aren’t expected to do much when they play North Dakota State at 2:30 p.m. today at Fargo.
Lopsided predictions notwithstanding, we are still hopeful, because a strong showing today in the smug confines of the Fargodome would prove not only to be a communitywide boost, but an indicator of what we are certain will be a newfound interest in old rivalries beginning next year.
Today’s game at NDSU officially reignites what again will be an annual meeting between these traditional rivals. Each year for more than a century they met on the football field, until their separate moves from Division II to Division I prompted them to part ways – UND later joined the Big Sky Conference, and NDSU eventually went into the Missouri Valley Football Conference. As a result these great rivals, whose campuses are just an hour apart, didn’t play each other for 12 years.
Finally, in 2015, they played a non-conference game that NDSU won 34-9. Today, they again play in a non-conference matchup.
But next year, UND officially will join the Missouri Valley Football Conference and reunite with rivals NDSU, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota. It’s been a long time coming.
We see it as a move of convenience for UND, which will gain regular games against nearby opponents. Annual flights to places like Flagstaff, Ariz.; Portland, Ore.; and San Luis Obispo, Calif., are in the past, replaced with drives to Fargo, Brookings and Vermillion.
It also should be a victory at the ticket office. When Portland State played here at the end of last season, only a handful – perhaps as few as 50 – visiting fans attended. The game wasn’t a great draw for the home team, either.
So replacing a home game against, say, the University of California-Davis with a game against NDSU or SDSU instantly will add an extra dose of excitement at the Alerus Center.
Moreover, the move to the Missouri Valley Football Conference is just a better fit for UND, which for years played these nearby teams in the old, yet very exciting, North Central Conference.
Today, our fingers are crossed in hopes of a UND win. But whatever happens at the Fargodome, we’re giddy because it is a prelude of exciting times to come for fans of UND football.