When North Dakota State strolls into TCF Bank Stadium, Gophers fans get a little nervous.
NDSU isn't on Minnesota's football schedule this fall, but a team that Jerry Kill says is comparable to the three-time defending FCS champs is – Eastern Illinois.
The Panthers, a 12-2 team a year ago, meets the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium Aug. 28. They have some question marks at quarterback but otherwise bring back the core of a team that nearly played NDSU in last year's national championship game.
“I know our kids understand it,” Kill said Tuesday, according to the Star Tribune. “Of course, you can go back to North Dakota State – you better understand it. North Dakota State beat [Kansas] State last year. So a lot of people don’t understand that in I-AA, they have a lot of good players. Just look at the NFL.”
NDSU has sent a bunch of players to the NFL in recent years. The list below, supplied by ESPN.com, doesn't include Brock Jensen, the man who quarterbacked the Bison to three straight national championships. Jensen has been waived twice this summer by the Miami Dolphins, according to the Fargo Forum.
Eastern Illinois has a question mark at the quarterback position because last year's starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, is now Tom Brady's backup in New England. Towson, the team that lost to NDSU in the title game after beating Eastern Illinois in the quarterfinals, was led by running back Terrance West, who has a chance to get ample playing time with the Cleveland Browns.
The Panthers are ranked No. 16 in the Sports Network Top 25 preseason poll, according to the Panthers' website.
The Gophers are 2-1 against FCS opponents under Kill. Here's a reminder of their loss to NDSU in 2011.