The FCS national title game between No. 1 North Dakota State and No. 2 James Madison is inching closer. So it's time to get some predictions out there. Our talented staff of FCS contributing writers submitted their scores and reasoning below.
[divider]More FCS Championship:
- FCS Home
- Championship Game Superlatives
- NDSU Reminded Us Of The Machine It Is
- JMU's Journey Back to Frisco Wasn't Easy
- Interactive Map: FCS Title Game Hometowns
This title game is straight-up football porn. There are so many interesting matchups that could end up defining the game — Christian Watson might dominate JMU's safeties in bracket coverage, or Riley Stapleton might hulk out in a revenge game against the Hayes/Bridges duo that got their first starts in the 2017 national title game. Trey Lance and Ben DiNucci are both talented enough to take over the game at various points, should their team need them too. Both teams feature powerful running games that will try to win the Time of Possession battle. There are just so many angles that we could pick here, so many cases (for both teams!) that we could argue will end up playing the game-defining role.
For me, in this game, with these two teams, I think you have to strip away the offensive skill talent and look at the line of scrimmage. And in this particular game, I think JMU has an advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball. I don't think I would have said that in 2016, and certainly not in 2017, but from what I've seen, it does look true this year. North Dakota State dominates nearly everyone they play up front, but I do think this is the first game in a long time where NDSU will play a better opponent at the line of scrimmage, with JMU's offensive line holding a particular advantage.
That's not to say that the Bison can't win — it's easy to envision NDSU hitting a few big plays, winning the turnover battle, and dominating special teams in this game. But at the point of attack, I think JMU has its first advantage of the series, and that's why I think they'll end up grinding out a win. For the third time in a row, JMU and North Dakota State will play deep in the FCS Playoffs, and the lower-seeded team will win.
Call it a weird hunch, but I expect an offensive renaissance from both teams, but not the explosion we saw in the Celebration Bowl. This is the epitome of a coin flip, but seeing all games for both teams this year, I think JMU has been put under more pressure this year, which will work in their favor. NDSU clearly is formidable and we know the defense will be stingy, but the Dukes have more offensive weapons and players on defense that can blow up a play at any moment. We’ll see more big plays than expected, but I expect the Dukes to pull off the upset in what should be a great showcase for the FCS on ABC.
One of "the CAA guys" picking James Madison? That'll be popular. By no means am I underestimating North Dakota State's reign over the FCS; I witnessed the Bison's roll through Newark in September and their thorough defeat of the CAA's Delaware as they began to show that they are not going anywhere atop the FCS pecking order any time soon. At the outset, I picked North Dakota State to win it all in my bracket challenge submission here at HERO Sports. However, I'm not sure that NDSU's boat-racing of Montana State in the semifinals alleviates all question marks from a tight quarterfinal edging of Illinois State. The Redbirds may have provided James Madison, which is operating at peak efficiency on offense and defense this postseason, with the blueprint to slow the Bison offense to a degree.
I give North Dakota State the "Fargo South" advantage in Frisco, not because of the green-to-purple ratio in the crowd, which should be even, but because the program has made a routine of this virtually annual New Year's migration to Texas. I even agree with NDSU entering the matchup as a slight favorite and find that to be more than fair. JMU, however, is a very focused bunch that is more experienced than NDSU's younger lineup. The Dukes are playing for the upperclassmen among them who seek revenge for the national championship loss of two years ago and who want to right the wrongs of 2018's early playoff exit.
With all that said, give me James Madison this season, but mark me down right now for North Dakota State to raise the trophy in January 2021. It is truly scary to think about how good Trey Lance can be with his first year under his belt. In the meantime, though, that JMU secondary may very well be strong enough to hit Lance with his first interception of 2019-2020 in Frisco.
I’m going to stick with the Bison on this one. The Bison ranking fourth in turnover margin is key. They take care of the football, and they take the football from you. I believe they’ll force a big turnover at some point and that’ll be the difference. Trey Lance, in my opinion, is the best player in the country. The Bison are too much, for anyone.
Well … this one is tough for me because after having seen NDSU play I might not be as confident in my original pick prior to the season. I think it will be really close. However, I think it will be JMU’s veteran defense that comes up big. In particular, LB Dimitri Holloway, who causes the fumble with a big hit that leads to the Dukes’ game-winning score
Listen to the latest episodes of B-Mac and Herd's FCS Podcast, which is also available on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, iHeart, Stitcher and Spreaker.
SUBSCRIBE: B-Mac and Herd's FCS Podcast