This is the championship game we have been hoping for all season.
The North Dakota State Bison and James Madison Dukes have been the two best teams in the FCS in 2017. James Madison has been No. 1 all year, but North Dakota State has been the more impressive squad during the playoffs. It’s only fitting that these two teams meet for all the marbles.
North Dakota State has routed its competition to get here. The Bison have beaten all three of their playoff foes by at least 32 points and crushed Sam Houston State in the semifinals 55-13 to make it back to the National Championship for the sixth time in seven years.
Meanwhile, the Dukes have continued to be unstoppable. In Mike Houston’s two years in Harrisonburg, they have only lost once. That setback came against North Carolina back in 2016, and James Madison has now won 26 straight contests overall. The Dukes crushed South Dakota State in the semifinals 51-16, forcing 10 turnovers out of the Jackrabbits.
FCS Finals Betting Odds
North Dakota State -3.5
James Madison +3.5
Matchup to Watch
Both of these quarterbacks are in enviable positions. Neither one is asked to do too much because of the talent they have surrounding them.
Bryan Schor has been asked to do more this season as James Madison’s run game has had some issues. He is averaging six more attempts per game than he did last year, but that hasn’t meant he has been more effective. He is averaging two yards less per pass and has thrown twice as many interceptions as he did in 2016. Some of that is because he has been pressured more, as he has been sacked 13 more times than he was last year at this point in the season. Schor has hit some big plays in the last two playoff games, though.
Meanwhile, the Bison have gotten great production out of Easton Stick. He is not throwing the ball as much as he was last season and has really shined when given the chance. He is averaging 9.7 yards per pass attempt and has thrown a touchdown on over 11 percent of his throws. Both of those numbers are fantastic.
Stick has had a phenomenal run in the postseason. He has thrown 10 touchdowns against just one interception in three playoff games, helping North Dakota State blow out each opponent.
No team has been better at turning opponents over than James Madison. The Dukes have forced 43 turnovers on the season, eight more than any other team in the nation. The team’s amazing secondary has been the primary reason for this success.
James Madison picked off 31 passes in the regular season, more than any other team by a wide margin. The secondary is patrolled by two FCS All-Americans in Jordan Brown and Rashad Robinson. Brown and Robinson were the main reason why this secondary was so good and helped this defense allow just nine passing touchdowns all year.
These two teams met last year in the semifinals. James Madison came into the FargoDome as a 10-point underdog and gave North Dakota State its first-ever postseason loss at home. The key to that game was James Madison being able to run the ball against this defense. Last year, the Dukes averaged five yards per carry against NDSU.
The Bison are the favorite because of reputation and what they have done thus far in the postseason. They have blown other teams out of the water while James Madison was tested somewhat by Stony Brook and then pushed to the limit by Weber State. However, the Dukes’ slate has been far tougher than NDSU’s schedule.
This should be a great game. There’s never been a doubt that these are the two top teams in the country. I’m going with James Madison because of its defense. I expect the Dukes to limit North Dakota State’s offense while being able to have some success on the ground. Look for James Madison to win its second straight title.
Pick: James Madison +3.5