Polls offer only a fixed amount of insight. Until the big day, they’re merely speculative.
In this case, we are referring to college football’s “big day” — autumn Saturdays — rather than Election Day. The polls are compiled by sportswriters and coaches, ranking the best teams in America, instead of undecided voters assessing Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians.
Still, the bottom line remains the same — the results that matter come on game day (or Election Day), not in the preliminary polls.
The Indiana State Sycamores defied the prognosticators on Saturday, achieving something that few people outside of their own lockerroom expected to happen. ISU traveled to Fargo, N.D., to play the nation’s No. 1-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision — the North Dakota State Bison. Since moving in the 1980s into that level of Division I college football, Indiana State had never beaten a top-ranked opponent, or even a top-five-rated foe. Frankly, aside from a handful of standout seasons, significant victories have been rare. Just three years ago, the Sycamores were in the midst of a 33-game losing streak.
Last Saturday, the unranked Sycamores beat No. 1-rated North Dakota State 17-14 in the Bison’s home stadium, the Fargodome, with 18,164 stunned North Dakotans in attendance.
The victory by Coach Trent Miles’ squad stands as a watershed moment for a program whose plug once dangled precariously from its power socket. Miles guided ISU to consecutive 6-5 records in 2010 and 2011, injecting a dose of respectability and pride into Blue and White football. Yet, the distinction achieved in those two seasons largely amounted to becoming competitive and shedding mediocrity.
At Fargo, the Sycamores vaulted to a new plateau — championship contenders. ISU can not only compete with America’s finest; the Sycamores can also defeat those rivals, on any playing field, on any given Saturday, as the cliche goes.
Voters in the national FCS polls reacted cautiously. ISU received the No. 25 spot in this week’s Coaches FCS Top 25, and hit No. 21 in The Sports Network Top 25 (involving media members). More importantly, the Sycamores sport win-loss records of 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, and stand in contention for the postseason playoffs, which lead to — dare we say it — the FCS national championship game.
Until that time comes, pollsters can no longer count the Sycamores out.