One of the most dominant football dynasties of the past decade will open their 2019 season at a baseball stadium, as FCS powerhouse North Dakota State takes on Butler at Target Field on Saturday afternoon.
The game (4 p.m. ET start time) won’t be on regular TV anywhere, but you can watch it live right here on ESPN+, the digital streaming service from ESPN that has exclusive coverage of dozens of college football games and other live sports every week, all the 30-for-30 documentaries and additional original content (both video and written) all for $4.99 per month.
You can sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then watch NDSU vs Butler live on your computer via ESPN.com, or on your phone (Android and iPhone compatible), tablet, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or other streaming device via the ESPN app.
North Dakota State vs Butler Preview
North Dakota State have won seven of the last eight FCS national championships, including last year’s over Eastern Washington. As such, they are certainly no stranger to a big stage, but the stage on Saturday–a baseball-field-turned-gridiron–will nevertheless be something they haven’t experienced before.
This will mark the second game played at the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field. Division III squads St. Thomas and St. John’s played drew a crowd of 37,355 when they played there in 2017, and officials are expecting a similar number on Saturday.
“We’re hoping to get close to a sellout,” said Derrick Lang, NDSU assistant athletic director. “We’re getting there. We’re getting close.”
Those in attendance will get to see the best FCS squad in the land. The Bison, who have beaten the last six FBS teams they’ve faced (Kansas in 2010, Minnesota in 2011, Colorado State in 2012, Kansas State in 2013, Iowa State in 2014 and Iowa in 2016), are once again No. 1 in the preseason FCS national rankings.
Of course, they’re going to look a little different this year. Chris Klieman, who was at the helm for each of the last four national titles, is now the head coach at Kansas State and has been replaced by Bison defensive coordinator Matt Entz. And at quarterback, three-year starter Easton Stick is now with the Los Angeles Chargers, so redshirt freshman Trey Lance will step into the role that has previously been occupied by legends like Stick and Carson Wentz.
“I wouldn’t say there’s pressure,” Lance said. “We’re a confident team, a confident program. That’s just how we are.”
As for Butler, they’re coming off a 4-7 season and embracing the underdog role against the No. 1 team in the country.
“Twenty thousand seats in Fargo to 45,000 in Minneapolis and they are all going to be Bison fans,” Butler head coach Jeff Voris said. “But how many times do you get to play in this type of venue against this type of team? Our guys will be up for the challenge.”
Added senior captain Mason Brunner: “I like the underdog mentality. We’ve got nothing to lose, and having nothing to lose makes us dangerous.”
That said, North Dakota State’s last regular-season loss to a team that isn’t rival South Dakota State came in 2015. Underdog may be understating Butler’s position on Saturday night. And a unique venue probably isn’t going to change that.
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