GRAND FORKS -- As the FCS regular season hits the final stretch, a playoff-caliber program like the University of North Dakota starts talking about signature wins.
These kind of wins are the type to determine postseason seeding or even just inclusion in the 24-team tournament.
With four weeks remaining in the regular season, No. 22 UND’s showdown with No. 4 Weber State at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Alerus Center marks the Fighting Hawks’ best chance to prove to be a contender.
UND, currently at 5-2 overall, has seen prior wins lose some luster as those opponents have struggled. Meanwhile, future UND opponents don’t appear to be playoff caliber.
That means UND’s result against Weber State -- a team that rose to national relevance last year with a run to the FCS quarterfinals -- is likely to be a talking point for playoff brackets for some time -- for better or worse.
“I’ve told the guys that this is why they came to North Dakota to play in games like this, to earn a spot as a top team in the country,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “But the focus can’t be worrying about polls or that. It has to be on preparation. It’s an exciting opportunity and this is why we want to be part of it.”
UND’s playoff resume appeared to get off to a great start this season with a 24-23 win at then-No. 5 Sam Houston State, a win that broke the Bearkats’ national-best 21-game home winning streak.
However, Sam Houston (4-3) has tumbled to No. 23 in the national poll after falling to unranked Lamar last weekend.
The Hawks’ other big win came against then-No. 22 Montana -- a blowout victory at the Alerus Center.
The Griz, who opened the year 4-1 before losing to Portland State and then getting thumped by UND, followed the 41-14 loss to the Hawks with a bye week. Montana hosts UC Davis this week. Hawks fans might want to cheer for the Griz in Missoula.
After UND’s game against Weber State, the Hawks close out the regular season against three sub-.500 teams -- Idaho, Portland State and Northern Arizona.
Weber State, which has the school’s highest-ever ranking, will have to prove its worth on the road to close out the season. The Wildcats have three of four on the road left on the schedule.
Weber is 4-0 at home this season and 1-2 on the road.
Weber’s worst loss and best win came in back-to-back weeks earlier this month. On Oct. 6, the Wildcats lost 28-24 at Northern Arizona. The following week, Weber beat No. 3 Eastern Washington 14-6 in Ogden, Utah.