Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's not the four starting defensive linemen weighing on North Dakota State's bid for three straight FCS national titles, but coach Craig Bohl senses a heavy load.
"I think complacency is something you don't want to talk about," he said. "It's kind of like the thousand-point gorilla that's in the other room.
"But it's important for us to acknowledge it."
With 18 returning starters, the best defense in the FCS and a raucous home venue at the Fargodome, North Dakota State has all the pieces in place for yet another special season.
They're a clear favorite to be playing again on Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas. Bohl just doesn't want the Bison players to forget what got them the national championship site in the first place.
"The best way I know how to guard against (complacency) is just take care of your business every day and make sure you have good competition within your football team," Bohl said. "You've got a clear vision on what things are going to need to be accomplished. And to really move forward, while it's important to celebrate your past victories, to kind of just sit and meander in the middle of all that, that's a proven ground for complacency.
"We need to really pay attention to detail, our systems (and) executing (them), staying healthy and really maintaining a competitive edge."
Just winning the Missouri Valley Football Conference would be a huge accomplishment for most teams. As Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley said, the conference has transformed from having balance with a lot of good teams to balance with great teams.
Illinois State reached the FCS quarterfinals last season and South Dakota State has the look of a team headed there this season. Six of the programs have qualified for the playoffs since 2009.
North Dakota State, which has defeated Sam Houston State from the Southland Conference in each of the past two national championship games, will try to follow the 2005-07 teams at Appalachian State as the second program to win three straight FCS titles.
Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2013 Missouri Valley Football Conference race.
The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:
1. North Dakota State
2. South Dakota State
3. Northern Iowa
4. Youngstown State
5. Illinois State
6. Indiana State
7. Southern Illinois
8. Missouri State
9. Western Illinois
10. South Dakota