The 2019 FCS semifinals are a wrap, folks … and it is hard to say this didn't go the way we all pretty much imagined it would.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
When you were a kid, did you ever want to get back at somebody? Somebody who punched you? But you also punched them (and secretly respected them, even though you'd never admit that to your buddies on the same block?) Yeah, that's JMU-NDSU, a quirky rivalry that seems to be getting bigger by the second. North Dakota State may have looked like it swallowed an ounce or three of Kryptonite for a few weeks in a row prior to this weekend, but the Bison found the Pepto Bismol equivalent offset this week and head coach Matt Entz must have ordered quite the heaping helping of the medicine because the Bison mauled an extremely good team today. With a national audience looking on (curious, stunned), NDSU crushed the MSU Bobcats, who had played really well for nearly two months. It wasn't close for even a quarter.
Meanwhile, a little later in the day and over yonder in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, James Madison put the squeeze play on, and we're not talking about baseball … because we don't do that in December (US history sidenote: did you know Bison/Buffalo once roamed Virginia? It's true … however, we're not sure if Dukes roamed the Dakotas in quite the same way).
FCS ALL-AMERICAN TEAMS – 2019: The Teams
The Dukes choked off Weber State's run game and aside from a late TD in the 4th Q, the Wildcats managed just seven points — and rushed for 70 yards on the day. Keep in mind, this is a hard-nosed 11-win Weber State team that held FBS San Diego State to two field goals in a 6-0 loss earlier this year … the same San Diego State team that just piled up 48 points in a bowl-game blowout win on the same calendar day. So Weber State fell to JMU. Translation? Yeah, Weber State is good. Also … maybe Weber State and San Diego State should have had a rematch, instead of SDSU's blowout win today.
So the stage is set, Bison and Dukes fans. You've wanted to hammer on each other for two years, now you get it. But at the same time? You can sense the mutual respect. It's an interesting mix … the diehards from a very proud Fargo and beyond in the Dakotas and Minnesota … going against JMU, who sees many of its grads head off to Washington, DC or Richmond, etc. But again, if you surfed the tailgating in 2017 in Frisco, you picked up on the respect vibe. It was heavy. They don't have to face each other every year for conference supremacy … so they're allowed to like each other, to a point.
Two years ago, these two monster FCS programs were evenly matched and NDSU won 17-13 in Frisco. The year before that in 2016, JMU proved NDSU could be beaten (dominated?) in a big game and in the Fargodome (27-17). Last year, these two didn't get to face off, and it probably wouldn't have been balanced, as NDSU had arguably its best team in history and possibly the best FCS team in history, and JMU was rebuilding a bit and had a nasty coaching transition the week of the second round. But this year? JMU came into 2019 fully intact and NDSU came in wondering what it might be in 2019, but then again … this is NDSU. Both programs had new head coaches. It just seemed like a perfect year for a perfect monster matchup.
We all talked about it in June. Or maybe it was January five minutes after NDSU beat Eastern Washington? It looked like this would, could and should happen. Well, it's going to happen. Once again, the sprawling Dallas outskirts town of Frisco is grinning ear to ear because every hotel and restaurant will be packed for at least 72 hours straight. And the designers of soccer-specific Toyota Stadium are wishing they could add oh … 15,000 more seats for just one weekend before it goes back to the crowd size expected for an FC Dallas match … or a December FBS bowl game like the echo chamber we saw Friday night? Does anybody question that this year's NDSU-JMU game could draw 35,000+? I wouldn't question it.
The energy will resonate. And this year, ABC (not ESPN6) will be there to document it and you know the brass at ABC wanted this matchup all along since embracing the FCS Natty. They know that if many of the Big Ten and Big 12 teams had the cajones to schedule the mighty Bison, they'd likely lose … unless we're talking about maybe Ohio State or Oklahoma. They know James Madison could do the same to most of the ACC, aside from the Clemsons etc. ABC knows both of these top FCS programs are putting talent into the NFL and will do it again this upcoming spring. But first? There is business to be conducted.
Do I want to see arguably the best FCS D-line, led by John Daka and Ron'Dell Carter, go against arguably the No. 1 FCS O-line at NDSU, led by Zack Johnson and Dillon Raduz et al? Yeah, I'd like to see that. NFL Scouts would like to see that too. And as the coaches always say in their world full of cliches, this is where football is won and lost. They're right, and these two teams do it well with the big boys up front … on both sides of the ball. Hell, NDSU has a brutal D-line and JMU has a brutal O-line too. These two teams have good skill kids, but these two programs are not going to Frisco because of skill kids … because of quarterbacks, no matter how good these two are. Catch my drift?
You know it, I know it, the 'Murican people know it.
Shocking that they'll spend Christmas morning back grinning with their families and also thinking about the ring size of an FCS National Championship piece of jewelry that they'll wear for … oh … the rest of their lives. As it should be.
Yessir, we got the matchup we all thought we'd get. The curiosity is maddening. I'm tired of typically knowing what we're going to see, matchup wise, when we get an FCS playoff game. On the flip side for Frisco 2019/20? I don't know what the hell is going to happen in this one, any more than I knew what would happen in 2017 when JMU and NDSU faced off. We're at that point once again.
Think about the similarities: Two extremely efficient and talented (and mobile) All-American quarterbacks who are not asked to throw it 50 times a game in Lance and DiNucci. Two strong run games, offensively. Two outstanding defenses that have shut down some pretty damned good competition.
Yeah, excuse me while I salivate.
I have my plane ticket. And a hotel room a stone's throw from Toyota Stadium. Do you? Can't wait. See you all in the tailgating lots, if you'll have HERO Sports. We can't wait and we know you can't either.
PS — Merry Christmas to all of you and much love from the Mac family. We have a lot of fun with this season, and I'll admit I'm distracted … distracted by the holiday, not the FCS. You know? At least at this stage, our kiddos win. And if you celebrate another holiday during this season? Hell … we will raise a chalice to you too. Who are we kidding? We all come from a bevy of Pagans anyway, right? I know I do. I raise a chalice to any FCS fan who will raise one back, non-secular. Love all you more than you'll ever know. Mean that times 10.
BRACKET CONTEST: The Fan Leaderboard After The Semifinal Games[divider]
Listen to the latest episodes of B-Mac and Herd's FCS Podcast, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, iHeart, Stitcher and Spreaker.
SUBSCRIBE: B-Mac and Herd's FCS Podcast