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There has been non-stop coverage this week of the first College Football Playoff national championship game. By the time Oregon and Ohio State kick off at 7:45 p.m. Monday on ESPN, you'll know the names of every starter on both teams.

There is another championship game being played in the Dallas area this weekend. It hasn't gained as much attention outside of Central Illinois and Fargo, N.D. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit won't be calling the action, either.

Yet the importance of being on the national stage — even if its somewhat of a smaller stage — shouldn't be discounted.

Illinois State should reap plenty of benefits by facing three-time defending champion North Dakota State at noon Saturday in the FCS national championship game in Frisco, Texas. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

North Dakota State has profited in the all-important recruiting department by being showcased nationally in the FCS title game the last three years.

Especially in the FCS world where players from FBS schools can transfer and immediately become eligible, having your program shown on national TV playing for a national title can't be underestimated.

ISU will be talked about for three-plus hours. Who knows if a player at a big-time school is sitting at home and flips on ESPN2 and thinks to himself, 'Would I like to play for that coach with the mustache?" 

However, it's not just the ISU football program that will be helped out. The entire university's image will proudly be on display for the entire country to see.

If you don't think a proud ISU alum at one of the many watch parties, not only in Bloomington-Normal but across the state, might be willing to donate a few more bucks because of the game, then you're being naive.

ESPN has brought its College GameDay show to Fargo two years in a row because the Bison have carved out a unique niche on the college football landscape.

Wouldn't it be cool to someday see Lee Corso put on the Reggie Redbird head in the Hancock Stadium parking lot? Hey, you never know.

College BB: Virginia at Notre Dame (ESPN2, 5 p.m. Saturday): The Irish basketball team is making their fans forget about the football season. Handing No. 3-ranked Virginia its first loss would set off a wild celebration.

NFL playoffs: Cowboys at Packers (Fox, noon Sunday): There will be many references to the Ice Bowl between these teams in 1967. Green Bay's hopes will be on ice if Aaron Rodgers' tender calf acts up.

PGA Tour: Tournament of Champions (Golf Channel, 3 p.m. Monday): Eat your heart out and watch the final round in the beautiful surroundings of Kapalua before turning on Ohio State and Oregon.

Contact Jim Benson at



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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