James Madison vs. North Dakota State FCS Football 2017 Playoffs Final Preview

2017 FCS National Championship
James Madison (14-0) vs. North Dakota State (13-1)
James Madison
Beat Stony Brook, 26-7 (Second Round)
Beat Weber State, 31-28 (Quarterfinals)
Beat #5 South Dakota State, 51-16 (Semifinals)
North Dakota State
Beat San Diego, 38-3 (Second Round)
Beat #7 Wofford, 42-10 (Quarterfinals)
Beat #6 Sam Houston State, 55-13 (Semifinals)
As you can see from the results above, James Madison had a little tougher road getting to the finals. But, other than the rugged Quarterfinal tilt against Weber State, it’s wasn’t overly tedious. The Weber State game was a pretty good measure for the Dukes. They didn’t play their best game and still overcame trailing in the fourth quarter three times before winning in the last second. “Never underestimate the heart of a champion” -- Rudy Tomjanovich, former head coach of the Houston Rockets. That statement has been thrown around a lot since it was first mouthed, but there might not be a clearer description of the Dukes effort in that game.
With three weeks off before the grand finale, James Madison coach, Mike Houston, will have ample time to pour over last year’s semifinal game and much of this year’s tape on the Bison to formulate another strategy. If the defense were to duplicate the 10 turnover performance they did against South Dakota State, that would be a great place to begin. Or maybe a 30-point outburst in the third quarter, that would be highly beneficial. This will be as good of a defense as JMU has faced all season, Weber State and New Hampshire included. But quarterback Bryan Schor has to be licking his chops upon hearing the news of NDSU’s two top cornerbacks were injured in the semifinal and are unlikely to play in Frisco. And if running back Marcus Marshall continues to bust 60+ yard runs for touchdowns, the repeat is all but assured.
North Dakota State has cruised through the playoffs. The defense has been stifling, surrendering only 26 points in three games. That might be a little exaggerated, as San Diego upset Northern Arizona in the First Round, becoming the Bison’s first playoff victim in the Second. Still, the Toreros offense looked pretty formidable in Flagstaff and NDSU brought that to a halt. Wofford and Sam Houston State were total polar opposites offensively, but very one dimensional in their approaches. Wofford being a run at all times outfit and SHSU chucking the ball all over the open prairie. It’ll be a different animal facing James Madison who adept to doing both.
The injury concern in the defensive backfield was referenced above. Surely, with three weeks to get things figured out, Coach Chris Klieman will have the team best prepared. But practice time does not equate to game speed. The running back situation is also a concern. Running back Ty Brooks likely went down for the season, but Bruce Anderson filled in nicely in the Semifinal, scoring five touchdowns on the ground. If the ground game is steady and productive, quarterback Easton Stick can utilize their uber efficient play-action passing game.
This is the game about 95% of the FCS nation has wanted to see, if not involving their own personal favorites, which is understandable. The early returns have come in on social media and both fan bases are tearing the other apart. It’s a great time to be alive! You have to wonder about the injury factor and whether the Bison can get things rectified in time. It doesn’t appear there’s a savior coming back. Both teams are geared defensively. NDSU will want to grind it out. The Bison, especially, are masters in the ideology of ball-hogging. Playing from behind against them is a very pour situation to be in. Honestly, that could be said for JMU also. Ask South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are the one common opponent; JMU won by 35, NDSU lost by 11. All that points to a huge victory by the Dukes. If you look at every computer simulation and even some offshore betting establishments (for entertainment purposes only), North Dakota State is picked to win by three points, give or take.
January 6 can’t get here soon enough!
Projected score: James Madison 27, North Dakota State 20