After four months of intense battles in the regular season and playoffs, the FCS national championship game is set.
Coming into the season, the James Madison Dukes and North Dakota State Bison were the two overwhelming favorites to win the title. North Dakota State had won every championship between 2011 and 2015, but James Madison knocked the Bison off on its route to the title last year.
These two teams will square off in Frisco, TX, in three weeks for all the marbles.
James Madison 51, South Dakota State 16
The line movement in this game was really strange, especially with how the game ended. I liked James Madison quite a bit as a field goal favorite and was totally flummoxed when the line started to drift away from the Dukes and made South Dakota State the favorite. Bettors were overreacting to the Jackrabbits’ easy route and did not look hard enough at James Madison’s last two victories in order to see how tough those opponents really were.
This game was never close. James Madison proved why it has the best secondary of any team in the FCS and forced Taryn Christion into mistakes time and time again. Christion completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw six interceptions against this defense on Saturday. The offense couldn’t move the ball without Christion performing well, which helped lead to the blowout loss.
South Dakota State had trouble stopping the run all season and James Madison was able to have a lot of success against this front. Marcus Marshall had a huge day against the Jackrabbits defense, running for 203 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. Additionally, Bryan Schor was efficient through the air going 18-of-25 for 203 yards and two scores to loosen up the defense.
A huge third quarter from James Madison was all she wrote. The Dukes outscored the Jackrabbits 30-0 to stretch their lead to 51-10 and didn’t bother to run any sort of offense in the final frame.
North Dakota State 55, Sam Houston State 13
Oddsmakers were right to make the Bison a three-touchdown favorite in this one. Sam Houston State continued its trend of getting blown out every time it faces a team with a solid defense and was not able to have any real success against North Dakota State. Jeremiah Briscoe threw three interceptions and averaged less than six yards per pass against this secondary.
North Dakota State could not be stopped on offense. The Bison scored 55 points in the first three quarters of action and turned it into a laugher. The ground game churned out 48 rushes for 471 yards and four touchdowns as both Seth Wilson and Bruce Anderson nearly cracked the 200-yard mark.
The success on the ground meant that Easton Stick didn’t have to do much through the air. He threw the ball just 17 times on the day and his leading receiver was Anderson. North Dakota State has dominated its opponents all postseason and we haven’t had to see whether or not Stick has what it takes to put the team on his back because he hasn’t needed to in the playoffs.