NORMAL— Illinois State defenders David Perkins and Oshay Dunmore will play the biggest game of their lives Saturday when the Redbirds face North Dakota State for the FCS national championship in Frisco, Texas.
Two days later, Perkins and Dunmore will have significantly divergent rooting interests.
A defensive end, Perkins transferred to ISU from Ohio State before the 2013 season. Dunmore left Oregon for ISU last summer. On Jan. 12, the Buckeyes and Ducks will play for the championship of the first College Football Playoffs.
"It shows where we came from," Perkins said. "We want to bring some of that here and that's why we're here. We want to win just like those schools we left are."
"I'm always happy to see my friends I built a bond with over my first couple years of college football have success," said Dunmore, an outside linebacker. "It's some of the best feelings you can ever have.
"It's an even more unbelievable feeling to be in the same position myself getting ready to compete for a national title. It's a blessing."
Not surprisingly, both Perkins and Dunmore predict victory for their former schools.
"I'm going to take Ohio State by three possessions," Perkins said with a smile.
"We've got like 100 push-ups on it," said an equally confident Dunmore. "He already knows how it's going to go down. Ohio State can’t hold back Oregon's offense. It's going to be a tough one, but I think Oregon will bust it open the second half."
One more ISU connection from the Ohio State-Oregon clash? Buckeyes' coach Urban Meyer was a Redbird assistant coach under Jim Heacock in 1988 and '89.
Weather or not: Practicing football outdoors in late December and early January in Central Illinois is a dicey proposition at best.
While the Redbirds have had to bundle up more than usual, the weather has been relatively forgiving.
And ISU's timing has proven quite good. The lowest forecast peak temperature thus far is Monday's high of just 14. That's the Redbirds' lone day off since returning to campus Dec. 29.
ISU plans to practice before flying to Texas on Wednesday. That workout has been moved inside to Illinois Wesleyan's Shirk Center because of a bone-chilling predicted high of 0.
Lone Star State return: ISU's Jan. 10 title game appearance will be the program's first game in Texas since 1996.
The Redbirds lost to North Texas, 20-14, at Denton, Texas, in the second game of the 1996 season. Frisco and Denton are both Dallas suburbs and are about 24 miles apart.