Fresh off a revival of one century-old college football series, the North Dakota State Bison are moving from a dress rehearsal to the real thing.
The four-time defending Football Championship Subdivision winners defeated old rival North Dakota in their last game, a nonconference matchup. The Bison now travel to face recent rival South Dakota State to begin Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
It's early, yes, but still a gauge for the pecking order of a league that has five teams ranked in the top 10.
"It is another game and an opportunity to go 1-0, but it is SDSU and I know they're going to be gunning for us," NDSU cornerback C.J. Smith said. "So we have to ramp up our level of play."
The Bison had a week off after the Sept. 19 UND game, which was the 111th meeting overall between the two but the first in a dozen years. While the easy NDSU win did not match the pregame publicity, Smith agreed that it was a good warmup on how to prepare for SDSU.
"I guess you could say that," he said. "Coach [Chris] Klieman, I think, he did a great job of focusing us in and making sure we knew that this was just another game."
NDSU and SDSU both moved up to Division I in 2003 and when their in-state counterparts opted to stay at Division II, the annual game between the two land-grant universities gained added significance — and a piece of the rock as incentive. The Dakota Marker is a 75-pound model replica of the original quartzite monuments that once framed the border between the states.
Asked whether SDSU has replaced UND as its No. 1 rival, Klieman said it's difficult to say.
"If you're a former player here, especially in the '70s, '80s, '90s, you would say UND was the top rival," Klieman said. "That was my first time playing them in my five years here. Our guys, the current kids on our roster had never played them. It was a big football game, make no doubt about it … but in the same respect it's not a conference game anymore."
This is the 104th meeting between NDSU (2-1) and SDSU (3-0), dating to 1903. NDSU has won seven straight and holds a 58-40-5 advantage overall. SDSU has a 26-23-2 edge in Brookings, where the Bison have won their last two trips after losing four straight.
Jackrabbits coach John Stiegelmeier said one thing is certain about Saturday's 6 p.m. game: SDSU will set a stadium record for attendance.
"It will be a fun night," Stiegelmeier said. "It's a rivalry game so it has that juice to it. Their fans our crazed, our fans are doing a great job."
Game time changed
The Big Ten Conference changed the time of Michigan's game at Maryland to 11 a.m. Saturday, moving up kickoff by eight hours amid concerns over drenching rain and the approach of Hurricane Joaquin.
The hurricane was expected to hit the Bahamas and move toward the U.S., but a wide swath of the East Coast already had rain in the forecast this weekend. Maryland was among the states expected to see some of the heaviest rain.
The league also pushed back the kickoff time for Nebraska at Illinois, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:02 p.m. to accommodate any potential weather-related delays in earlier games.
•North Carolina linebacker Joe Jackson has decided to stop playing football because of a neck injury.
•A new bowl game is coming to Arizona Stadium this December.
The Arizona Bowl will feature teams from Conference USA, the Sun Belt or Mountain West Conference on Dec. 29 at Arizona's home stadium. It will be the first bowl game in Tucson since 1999.