GRAND FORKS -- The FCS playoff scenarios are starting to crank up with three weeks left in the regular season, but the outlook for the Fighting Hawks is becoming pretty clear already.
The University of North Dakota (5-3 overall) likely will need to win out to make the 24-team playoff field.
With three games remaining against programs outside the playoff picture, UND’s first shot to avoid a hiccup comes Saturday, Nov. 3, with a 4 p.m. matchup at Idaho (3-5 overall, 2-4 Big Sky Conference) at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow.
“Obviously, the next three games are the most important games of our season,” UND quarterback Nate Ketteringham said. “We have to win out. We have that mindset going forward.”
The Hawks picked up a third loss last Saturday with a 35-30 defeat against No. 4 Weber State at the Alerus Center.
UND’s next three opponents are middle to bottom Big Sky programs. Each will have an opportunity to play spoiler.
“These next three games are huge for postseason hopes,” UND wide receiver Luke Stanley said. “Everyone has that in mind. These are huge games for us.”
The Vandals, in their first season back in the Big Sky after transitioning down to FCS from the FBS ranks, is 0-5 on the road and 3-0 at home.
“For us to have a chance, you have to build a resume,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “To build a resume, you have to focus on being 1-0 each week. That’s what we’re going to focus on this week.
“We’d always want (the resume) to be better, but we’re in decent shape. This is going to tell us a lot about our team and our program. We’re going to really encourage our guys to be great in November.”
The Hawks, who were knocked out of the Top 25 media poll after the setback against Weber, didn’t appear to pick up any new injuries against the Wildcats.
UND played the Wildcats without All-American running back John Santiago, as well as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver Travis Toivonen and No. 3 Izzy Adeoti.
Schweigert said he hopes to have Santiago back against Idaho.
“He was better late in the week (last week),” Schweigert said. “We thought there was a chance if he progressed (to play against Weber State). We determined Friday that he wasn’t quite ready. It’s always about … we’re not going to put anyone at risk. Hopefully, he practices (Tuesday) and gets better and better throughout the week.”