We are down to four teams in the 2018 FCS playoffs.
Like I did last week for the quarterfinals, two weeks ago for the second round and three weeks ago when the field of 24 was announced, let's rank the favorites to win the national championship, this time 1-4.
4. Maine (No. 7)
The Black Bears showed the nation something last week by taking down No. 2 Weber State. But traveling all the way across the country to do it again against a much better EWU offense is going to be a tall order. That's not to say a Maine win would come as a surprise. Its defense has played amazing and the offense can get going at times, as shown in the second round.
We have seen teams before in the playoffs go on an unexpected deep playoff push, but then just run out of gas the deeper they get. EWU is favored in this game, but not by much.
3. Eastern Washington (No. 3)
The Eagles are coming off an emotional comeback victory against UC Davis. They'll have to put that behind them and re-focus on a big challenge coming to town. The last time EWU faced a defense of this caliber, the offense only scored six points at Weber State. While the unit is playing much better ball now than it was back in October, Maine is still going to be tough to score on.
The EWU defense has held strong despite missing key players due to injury. The unit will have to play well again to help out the other side of the ball. The Eagles' offense is flying high right now and will get its points. But don't expect Maine to allow points somewhere in the high 30s or 40s.
EWU has an above-average shot at making it to Frisco. But whichever MVFC opponent it faces, the team from the Dakotas will be looked at as the favorite.
2. South Dakota State (No. 5)
SDSU was ranked the No. 2 team at one point this season. After a couple "meh" weeks where the Jackrabbits battled through some injuries, they are back to being the second best team in the country. Not only that, SDSU has every ingredient needed to knock off the Bison: a defense that can go toe-to-toe with NDSU's run game, a balanced offense that can spread you out with a mobile quarterback and not being impacted by the Fargodome environment.
If the Jacks do beat NDSU, which shouldn't shock anyone, they will be the favorite in Frisco. And for a program that made the quarterfinals in 2016 and the semifinals last year, a national title is the ultimate goal this season.
1. North Dakota State (No. 1)
I am 100 percent confident the news that Chris Klieman is going to Kansas State won't impact the Bison negatively. If the Jackrabbits win Friday, it's because they were the better team that day. However, and hear me out, I think the Klieman situation may actually increase NDSU's likelihood of winning it all.
Now, if Klieman is leaving town today, that's a different story. But he's staying on board until this season ends and has the support of his players.
Look at 2013. The Craig Bohl to Wyoming situation was handled in a much more ugly fashion than this time around. And the behind-the-scenes stories are even uglier with most of the Bison staff packing their bags while game prepping. That 2013 Bison team was loaded with seniors, was undefeated and the clear-cut favorite to win it all.
That Bison team rolled the rest of the season and looked as focused and motivated as it had been all year. I really do expect the same thing from the 2018 Bison.