Futures odds on the 2023 FCS national championship winner aren’t currently available (and probably won’t be until late November if previous markets repeat). But if one were to guess, South Dakota State would be in the +100 range while the next two teams (probably North Dakota State and Montana State) would be in the +300 to +400 range.
In other words, SDSU is the heavy favorite to repeat next season with no clear “1b” team.
The Jackrabbits have a loaded roster that returns a bulk of its starters from the 2022 squad that went 14-0 vs. the FCS and beat Montana State 39-18 in the semifinals and NDSU 45-21 in the championship.
Repeating as champs may seem like the norm when looking at the past decade of the FCS. NDSU won five in a row from 2011 to 2015, and then another three in a row from 2017-2019.
But before the Bison dynasty, the FCS saw consecutive national champs only five times in 33 years:
- Georgia Southern in 1985 and 1986
- Georgia Southern in 1989 and 1990
- Youngstown State in 1993 and 1994
- Georgia Southern in 1999 and 2000
- Appalachian State in 2005, 2006, and 2007
Of course, parity in the subdivision now isn’t what it once was, making repeat champs more likely. Although each decade seemed to have its small number of powers as well:
Eastern Kentucky was a power from 1979-1982, winning two titles and appearing in two more championship games. The mid-to-late 80s was dominated by Georgia Southern, winning four titles from 1985-1990 while appearing in one more championship game.
The 90s were dominated by Youngstown State and Marshall with Georgia Southern emerging again in the late 90s. YSU won four titles and appeared in two more championship games. Marshall won two championships while appearing in three more title games. From 1998-2000, Georgia Southern won two titles and played in one more championship game.
The 2000s were dominated by App State and Montana. App State won three titles. Montana won one title and appeared in four more championships.
The 2010s were dominated by NDSU, winning eight national titles. The late 2010s saw JMU emerge as a contender, winning the title in 2016 with two more appearances in 2017 and 2019.
So one could argue that there has always been some top heaviness in this subdivision. That in each decade, there were always 2-3 teams standing out above the rest. But with 16 programs making the FBS jump since 2008, it seems the number of teams capable of becoming an FCS power is dwindling. The 2020s look likely to be dominated by SDSU and NDSU (unless the outside shot of an FBS move occurs) with the only other team currently trending in that direction being Montana State.
Historically speaking, the FCS has always had its top two powers in each decade. However, repeating as champs didn’t happen often pre-2010s. If one had to make their safest bet, though, the Jacks will add their name to that shortlist next January.