The landscape of FCS will no doubt change over the next five years. As the talk of the Power 5 FBS conferences breaking off to form a league linger, so too does talk of Group of 5 teams and the upper-echelon of FCS programs forming their own league. But as long as there is some type of tournament format to decide a national champion, the second-highest level of Division I football will always be exciting.
The pursuit of this year's FCS national championship is certainly intriguing. James Madison and North Dakota State appear to be favorites to make it to Frisco as of right now, barring those usual surprises (hello, South Dakota).
But what about next year? Or the year after? Which team will be the king of the FCS five years from now? Will the FCS "blue bloods" still run the show? Or are there some fresh faces ready to explode onto the scene?
Let's take a stab at those questions and predict the next five FCS national champions. [divider]
2017 Champion: James Madison
[credit]James Madison has yet to lose to an FCS team since Mike Houston began as head coach last season. (Jim Oxley/Hero Sports)[/credit]
The Dukes are the consensus No. 1 team in the FCS, and have a strong chance of finishing the regular season 11-0. No, the offense doesn’t appear to be as explosive as expected, despite averaging nearly 40 points a game, but with a defense that allows just 11 PPG and veteran Bryan Schor at quarterback, this team is the favorite to repeat as national champs.
The target on JMU’s back is huge. The Dukes have endured every team’s best shot so far. And while several Missouri Valley Football Conference teams look to match up well with the Dukes, head coach Mike Houston will have this team rolling at its best in the playoffs. The Dukes will make it back-to-back come Frisco.[divider]
2018 Champion: North Dakota State
[credit]Under the leadership of quarterback Easton Stick and running backs Lance Dunn and Bruce Anderson along with an experienced defense, North Dakota State should be favorites to win the 2018 national title. (Sam Herder)[/credit]
The Bison have a dang good senior class in 2017. But next year’s seniors aren’t too shabby either. That group includes running backs Lance Dunn and Bruce Anderson, wide receiver Darrius Shepherd, and four-fifths of its offensive line. All-American defensive end Greg Menard should get a medical redshirt and return, along with some experienced linebackers and three-quarters of the secondary.
And then there’s quarterback Easton Stick — currently 26-2 as a starter. The guy is going to win a national title either this season or next season. The roster is too good not to. [divider]
2019 Champion: Eastern Washington
Since winning the national title in 2010, Eastern Washington has been plays away from returning to Frisco several times. A more physical approach with new head coach Aaron Best should get the Eagles over the hump. (NCAAphotos.com)[/credit]
Two things have stopped the Eagles in the semifinals three times since winning the national title in 2010: defense and a running game. EWU is known for its high-octane passing attack, but with current first-year head coach Aaron Best, the Eagles are trying to toughen up on defense and get a run game going.
That balance will get EWU over the hump in 2019, especially when Washington winters aren’t exactly friendly to a spread offense. And watch out for a quarterback by the name of Eric Barriere. He’s redshirt freshman backup to junior Gage Gubrud. Barriere is a big-time playmaker who accounted for 130 touchdowns in high school. By late 2019, Barriere might be something like Vernon Adams Jr., 2.0. He is about the same size and currently wears the same No. 3. [divider]
2020 Champion: North Dakota State
[credit]Chris Klieman and his staff have cashed in on the national championships to get big-time recruits. The upperclassmen in 2020 will have learned the championship tradition under guys like Easton Stick and Greg Menard. The question is if Klieman will be around to enjoy this one. (Sam Herder)[/credit]
Let’s get a little crazy with our predictions for 2020. By this time, JMU will be an FBS member. Current NDSU head coach Chris Klieman will be Dabo Swinney’s defensive coordinator at Clemson. And current Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen will be back in Fargo as the next Bison head coach.
The 2017 redshirts and redshirt freshmen will want a part of NDSU’s national championship tradition by the time they’re juniors and seniors. Jabril Cox, who broke out last weekend against Youngstown State, will be a star at linebacker and current commit Trey Lance will start his own legacy as the next great Bison quarterback. [divider]
2021 Champion: Delaware
Delaware won a national title in 2003 and were runner-ups in 2007 and 2010. The fan base wants success and Danny Rocco is the man to bring the Blue Hens back to the top. (University of Delaware)[/credit]
Delaware is a monster ready to awaken. We saw what a great head coach can do for a program when Mike Houston landed at JMU. Danny Rocco can do the same at Delaware — all he needs is a little more time. The Blue Hens are traditionally a powerful team in the FCS. Their 22,000-seat stadium is just waiting to be filled by a fan base eager for success.
If Rocco can win at Richmond, he can certainly win at Delaware. He has the resources to get big-time recruits to come play for him. And by 2021, he’ll get the program back to where it belongs.