The FCS national title game between No. 1 North Dakota State and No. 2 James Madison appears to be as evenly-matched as it can be. But when diving further into the matchup, who has the better players at each position? Who are the X-factors? And more importantly, who's the best quote on each team and which squad has the better uniforms?
Here are the answers in some FCS championship game superlatives.
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Best Offensive Player
Trey Lance, NDSU QB
The redshirt freshman quarterback is a Top 4 Walter Payton Award finalist, a HERO Sports First Team All-American and the Jerry Rice Award winner. The 6-foot-3, 221-pounder has thrown for 2,714 yards, 28 TDs and zero interceptions along with 934 yards rushing and 13 scores.
Best Defensive Player
Ron'Dell Carter, JMU DL
Carter is a Top 3 Buck Buchanan Award finalist and a First Team All-American. The senior has the versatility to play on the interior or on the edge of the defensive line at 6-foot-3 and 269 pounds. Carter has racked up 25.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and 13 QB hurries.
NDSU – Phoenix Sproles, So. WR
JMU – Solomon Vanhorse, R-Fr. RB
Brandon Polk, WR
A huge reason for JMU's improvement on offense this year is the addition of Polk, a senior who transferred in from Penn State. His blazing speed at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds creates matchup nightmares in the slot. Polk leads the Dukes with 73 catches for 1,173 yards and 11 touchdowns.
James Hendricks, Safety
Hendricks, a HERO Sports Second Team All-American, is a veteran on the backend of NDSU's defense. His ability to play the run and defend the pass is key against a balanced offense like JMU's. Hendricks' instincts and smarts could also play a big role. Turnovers will be costly in an even matchup like this, and you can bet the Bison will use Hendricks to try and bait Ben DiNucci, who has been much better at taking care of the ball this year but still squeezes passes in some tight windows.
JMU's Unsung Hero
Mike Greene, DL
Plugging up the middle of the defense and not allowing any running success between the tackles knocks the Bison off of what they want to do. There's no better example of this than former Western Illinois defensive tackle and NFL Draft pick Khalen Saunders. He completely changed the complexion of NDSU's offense because the Bison couldn't block him. Illinois State also plugged the middle in the quarterfinals that allowed the Redbirds to stay in the game. Greene, a junior Third Team All-CAA selection at 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, needs to be a disrupter on the interior of the line.
NDSU's Unsung Hero
James Kaczor, DB/LB
Kaczor isn't listed as a starter for the Bison, but the sophomore gets plenty of reps. He's the backup strong safety that also plays some linebacker. Kaczor should be on the field a lot against a JMU offense that spreads a defense out. How NDSU decides to defend Brandon Polk in the slot will be an interesting game plan to keep an eye on, and Kaczor may have some of those duties along with defending JMU's strong rushing attack.
Most Likely To Hit An Explosive Play
Ty Brooks, NDSU RB
JMU receiver Brandon Polk could go here as well, but Brooks will get more opportunities with the ball in his hands. The senior from Fargo has been the big-play guy for the Bison for a few years now. Brooks is averaging 7.2 yards per carry in 2019 with 940 rushing yards.
Most Likely To Deliver A Hit That Draws Ohhhs From The Crowd
Dimitri Holloway, JMU LB
Holloway is all over the field for the Dukes and makes his presence known. He racked up 127 tackles last season and has 115 this year.
Best Pro Prospect
Ron'Dell Carter, JMU DL
Josh Buchanan of Draft Scout has Carter as the No. 10 "small school" draft prospect.
The Next Head Coach On Staff
Corey Hetherman, JMU DC
There are multiple future head coaches on both staffs. But the guy who will be the next head coach somewhere may be Hetherman. He was a home-run hire for Curt Cignetti. Hetherman was the defensive coordinator for an outstanding Maine defense last year. And now he has the JMU defense playing at a downright dominant level. Hetherman has a proven track record, and it's only a matter of time (if he wants it) that a program eyes him as their next head coach.
NDSU – RB Ty Brooks
JMU – DL Ron'Dell Carter
Trey Lance, NDSU
The redshirt freshman is already looked at as one of the best quarterbacks and offensive players in the FCS. The night before the title game, there's a chance he's named the best offensive player in the subdivision. Lance has thrown for 2,714 yards, 28 TDs and zero interceptions along with 934 yards rushing and 13 scores.
Percy Agyei-Obese, JMU
A HERO Sports Third Team All-American, Agyei-Obese stepped into a bigger role this season and has rushed for 1,143 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Brandon Polk, JMU
When casual FCS fans think of JMU receivers, they probably think of Riley Stapleton. He's been solid, but it's been Polk this year as the go-to guy. The Penn State transfer has been electric for the Dukes and has 73 catches for 1,173 yards and 11 touchdowns. From Oct. 5 to Dec. 13, Polk caught a touchdown in nine straight games.
Best Offensive Lineman
Dillon Radunz, NDSU
The left tackle was already being talked about as a future NFL Draft pick last year as a sophomore. He's that good and athletic at 6-foot-6 and 298 pounds. Radunz is a HERO Sports First Team All-American.
Best Defensive Lineman
Ron'Dell Carter, JMU
A no-brainer here as Carter's stats and accolades have been discussed a couple of times already in this article.
Jabril Cox, NDSU
His numbers on the stat sheet may not pop off the page this season, but Cox can do so many things on the field to disrupt on offense. The multi-time First Team All-American is one of the best athletes and defensive players in the FCS and is a future NFL Draft pick.
Rashad Robinson, JMU
There are a couple of HERO Sports All-Americans that would make sense to go here, like NDSU's James Hendricks or JMU's Adam Smith. While Robinson doesn't have those flashy numbers at his cornerback spot, he was looked at as the top pro prospect in the FCS entering 2018 for a reason before suffering a season-ending injury. People will remember how elite the JMU secondary was two seasons ago, and Robinson was the other shutdown cornerback across from 2019 NFL Draft pick Jimmy Moreland. His presence is huge for the Dukes.
You gotta go with the purple here and the various uniform combinations JMU has. The Dukes always look sharp and are the one team that can get away with wearing all white in the Fargodome (the inside joke here is visiting teams in Fargo that wear all white, or the "surrender whites," typically get annihilated).
Better Fan Base
Not touching that one.
NEXT: JMU vs. NDSU By The Numbers
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