Twins ballpark hosting football again
3 p.m., Saturday, North Dakota State vs. Butler, streamed on ESPN Plus, AM-1440 in the Twin Cities
Bison are retooling again
NDSU: Quite simply, North Dakota State has built itself into the best program in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. The No. 1-ranked Bison are the two-time defending FCS champions and have won seven of the past eight national titles. Since reaching the FCS playoffs in 2010 in their seventh season in the division formerly known as I-AA, the Bison have a 32-2 playoff record. Their only losses were in 38-31 in overtime to Eastern Washington in the 2010 quarterfinals and 27-17 to James Madison in the 2016 semifinals. The NDSU coaching job has been a steppingstone to the FBS level, too, with Craig Bohl leaving for Wyoming after the 2013 season and three national titles, and Chris Klieman securing four crowns and taking the Kansas State job after last season. Though the Bison have only seven starters returning from last year's 15-0 team, new coach Matt Entz, the defensive coordinator the past five years, expects no drop-off. "We lost some really good talented players last year off an excellent football team,'' he said, "but I do know that we have a lot of young, hungry players that are excited to have the opportunity to showcase their talents.''
Butler: The Bulldogs certainly are underdogs in this matchup, with 5Dimes Sportsbook and Casino listing NDSU as a 48-point favorite. Butler is coming off 4-7 season and has only one FCS playoff appearance in its history (2013, 31-0 loss to Tennessee State). The Bulldogs return four starters on offense, including a 1,000-yard rusher in Brad Sznajder, and five on defense, led by safety Luke Sennett, whose 104 tackles led the team. Entz points to Butler's 23-21 upset of Youngstown State as a reason for his team to not overlook the Bulldogs.
Tickets: Available at TwinsBaseball.com/football, by calling 612-33-TWINS (612-338-9467) or at the Target Field ticket office.
Extras: Gates will open at noon Saturday, with a concert by country music artist Jordan Davis, who has had top-five hits with "Singles You Up'' and "Take it from Me.'' … Marcus Williams, a former standout defensive back for the Bison and a Minneapolis native, will do the pregame coin toss. RANDY JOHNSON