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North Dakota State to play one game, and one game only, this fall

Ten days ago, North Dakota State announced it will not play this fall after the Missouri Valley Conference revealed it would push its season to the spring.

However, the school has now reversed that decision, at least partially.

The Bison will play one game, and one game only, this fall. It will be a home game against Central Arkansas, to take place at the Fargodome on Oct. 3. (The news was first reported by Yahoo's Pete Thamel.)

This is not North Dakota State joining the small but growing ranks of FCS teams spurning the spring season to build their own fall schedules. (Incidentally, Central Arkansas is among that group.)

This is not playing a full non-conference schedule, an attempt to make the most of the fall and the spring.

And this is not a school fulfilling a contracted paycheck game with a Power 5 opponent.

This is just... a game. A single game. Essentially a televised scrimmage, although it will go up against a full slate of SEC, ACC, Big 12 and other games slated for Oct. 3.

Other than a shrugging "Well, it's better than zero games," the only reason to play a single game would be as a showcase for quarterback Trey Lance.

A 6-foot-4, 226-pound redshirt sophomore, Lance was the FCS's top player in his first year as the Bison's starter. He won the Walter Payton Award, the Jerry Rice Award and the Most Outstanding Player Award of the FCS National Championship.

Coming off a year in which he threw for 2,786 yards, rushed for 1,100 and accounted for 42 touchdowns against zero interceptions, Lance is viewed as the top 2021 draft prospect behind Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields and could be a first-round pick come spring.

Now, perhaps the program knows Lance won't be around for the spring, so giving him one more chance to wear Bison green and gold serves both the quarterback's and the program's interests. Very few Power 5 programs produce two first-round quarterbacks in the span of six drafts, and such a feat would be unheard of at the FCS level.

Perhaps North Dakota State attempted to line up foes at the FBS and FCS levels but couldn't find any takers. You could certainly understand why a rival AD might ghost a text from his NDSU counterpart.

And one Bison football game is certainly better than none, but it's reasonable to ask why it's one and only one.