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FCS National Championship Odds & Picks: North Dakota State 1 Point Favorite vs James Madison

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in College Football

Updated Mar 31, 2021 · 1:06 PM PDT

NDSU running back
North Dakota State running back Seth Wilson runs against Central Arkansas in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota State won 39-28. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
  • North Dakota State is a one-point favorite over James Madison in the FCS National Championship game Saturday in Frisco, TX. Kickoff is set for noon ET
  • The Bison beat the Dukes 17-13 in the FCS title game in 2017
  • North Dakota State is going for its eighth FCS title in the last nine seasons

The North Dakota State Bison (15-0) take on the James Madison Dukes (14-1) Saturday in the FCS National Championship as one-point favorites. Kickoff at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX is at noon ET and televised on ABC.

The Bison beat the Dukes 17-13 in the 2017 FCS title game and are looking to win their eighth championship in nine years.

James Madison vs North Dakota State Odds

Team Moneyline Spread Over/Under
James Madison Dukes +100 +1.0 (-110) O 48.0 (-105)
North Dakota State Bison -120 -1.0 (-110) U 48.0 (-115)

Odds taken Jan. 10th.

NDSU was a slight underdog to JMU after each team’s respective victories in the FCS semifinals in late December, but the Bison are now one-point favorites over the Dukes. An explanation for the line movement might simply be the public betting on the Bison brand. Carson Wentz’s alma mater is looking to close out its decade of Football Championship Subdivision dominance in style.

Of course, James Madison won it all in 2016 and is making its third trip to Frisco in the last four seasons. It’s No. 1 (NDSU) against No. 2 (JMU) with an NCAA title hanging in the balance. Let’s analyze this FCS dream matchup and make a pick.

Low-Scoring Affair Expected

22. That’s the most points North Dakota State has allowed in a game this season. The Bison feature the best scoring passing defense and No. 2 total defense in the FCS. Their quarterfinal game, a 9-3 win over Illinois State, is indicative of just how stout Matt Entz’s unit is.

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The Bison allowed the Redbirds just 194 total yards of offense and a measly 34 yards through the air.

On the other side, JMU possesses the No. 1 rushing and total defense and No. 3 scoring defense in FCS. The Dukes’ 17-0 quarterfinal win over Northern Iowa was another example of the defensive prowess of these two teams.

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Both teams had slightly higher-scoring affairs in their semifinal wins – NDSU beat Montana State 42-14 and JMU beat Weber State 30-14 – but you get the idea. Plus, windy conditions are in the forecast for Frisco Saturday.

It’s a Stampede!

While Wentz certainly caught the attention of NFL scouts and eventually become the highest drafted FCS player in history as the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, North Dakota State has built its dynasty in the running game.

The Bison’s 288.0 rushing yards per game is the program’s highest since 1996. The team has four rushers with over 600 yards — Ty Brooks (940), Adam Cofield (789), and Kobe Johnson (660) as well as QB Trey Lance (934). No other FCS team has more than two.

JMU’s rush defense has been dominant, with no team eclipsing the 100 yard-mark in the last nine games. In fact, the Dukes are allowing only 61.1 yards per game. But in a classic “Something’s Gotta Give”-type game, I’m going with the team that has volume – and that’s the Bison.

Clash of the Titans

North Dakota State is riding an FCS-record 36-game winning streak. The Bison have captured two of their record seven national titles during the run, including that 17-13 win over James Madison in the 2017 title game. The only blemish on the Bison’s 33-1 postseason record since 2011? A semifinal win by JMU in 2016 on the way to their title.

Also, first-year head coach Entz is looking to make some history in his maiden campaign: NDSU can become the first 16-0 team at any level of college football since Yale turned the trick in 1894. That’s a fairly large motivating factor.

While I’m not dismissing James Madison’s ability to win this game, I am fading points in general. Considering both teams’ defensive domination and potentially gusty weather at Toyota Stadium, the under here is the best bet.

Pick: Under 48 (-110)

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