FCS Championship Prevew - North Dakota State Picked To Win It All

December 20, 2021 by Staf

The North Dakota State Bison are back in the national championship game after being eliminated by Sam Houston State in the 2020-2021 playoffs this past May. The Bison, who will be making their 9th championship game appearance in the last 11 seasons (won 8), will be facing a Montana State program that is making its second-ever appearance and first since the Bobcats won the 1984 title by knocking off Louisiana Tech 19-6.

The FCS National Championship game will kick off on Saturday, January 8 at 12 Noon ET in Frisco, Texas and will be televised nationally on ESPN2. The Bison have been installed as a 9.5-point favorite by the sportsbooks while the Congrove Computer Rankings have NDSU favored by a much lower 4.45.

Last week, North Dakota State eliminated James Madison from the FCS Playoffs with a 20-14 win in the FargoDome on Friday night, and Montana State took care of business at home on Saturday by taking down South Dakota State 31-17.

The Dukes rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit to take a 14-13 lead in the 3rd quarter. The Bison regained the lead with 13:44 left in the game on a 22-yard TD pass from Cam Miller to Hunter Luepke. JMU marched to the 7-yard line in the waning minutes but Destin Talbert's leaping one-hand interception in the end zone ended the threat.

South Dakota State and Montana State were locked at 17-all at the half, but a Bobcats touchdown at the end of the 3rd quarter was followed-up by an interception that culminated in another TD just 4:25 later. Tommy Mellott was an efficient 10-of-15 for 233 yards for Montana State as he threw 2 TD passes and also ran for 155 yards and 2 more scores.

No. 2-seed North Dakota State (13-1) will be riding a 5-game winning streak into Frisco after falling 27-19 at South Dakota State in the Dakota Marker rivalry game back on November 6.  The Bison have averaged 33.8 points per game while allowing just 11.2. Of the 473 total point scored, 94 came off of the 20 turnovers gained by the defense. NDSU is plus-8 for the season in turnover margin.

Montana State (12-2) ranked second nationally in turnover margin at plus-15, but we couldn't find a breakdown of how many points the team was able to generate off of those turnovers. The Bobcats lost their opener at FBS Wyoming 19-16, then reeled off 9 straight wins before falling 29-10 at rival Montana in the regular season finale. Montana State has averaged 29.92 points per game while allowing 13.15.

The 8-seed Bobcats are the lowest-seeded team to make the championship since Youngstown State accomplished that feat as an unseeded team in 2016 when the Penguins lost to 4-seed James Madison 28-14 after the Dukes had knocked off the Bison in the semifinals. Montana State is the first 8-seed to make the championship game since the playoffs expanded to 24 teams and 8 seeds in 2013.

Points could come at a premium in this battle as the Bison rank 3rd nationally in both rushing defense and total defense while the Bobcats rank 13th in both of those categories. Both squads were a little more susceptible against the pass with NDSU ranked 11th in pass defense and Montana State ranked 21st, but neither program ranks in the top 50 in passing offense.

Date/Site/Pairing/Score of FCS Championship Game

NOTE: Computer pick is based on the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com

January 8 at Frisco, Texas, 12:00 p.m. on ESPN2
(2) North Dakota State (13-1) by 4.45 over (8) Montana State (12-2)

1st Round 2nd Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Championship
(at Frisco, TX)
Jan. 8, Noon, ESPN2
UT Martin 32
Missouri State 31
UT-Martin 7
(8) Montana St. 25
    (8) Montana St. 42
(1) Sam Houston 19
SFA 28
Incarnate Word 35
Incarnate Word 42
(1) Sam Houston 49
      SDSU 17
(8) Montana St. 31
UC Davis 24
(4) Sacramento St. 19
    SDSU 35
(5) Villanova 21
Sacred Heart 10
Holy Cross 13
Holy Cross 16
(5) Villanova 21
        (8) Montana St.
(2) NDSU
Northern Iowa 10
E. Washington 19
E. Washington 41
(6) Montana 57
    (6) Montana 6
(3) JMU 28
Florida A&M 14
SE Louisiana 38
SE Louisiana 20
(3) JMU 59
      (3) JMU 14
(2) NDSU 20
Davidson 21
Kennesaw 48
Kennesaw 31
(7) ETSU 32
    (7) ETSU 3
(2) NDSU 27
So. Illinois 22
South Dakota 10
So. Illinois  7
(2) NDSU 38

Celebration Bowl:

South Carolina State on Saturday (December 18) continued the MEAC's domination of the Celebration Bowl, upsetting the 10-point favorite Jackson State Tigers from the SWAC, 31-10. The bowl game came to fruition in 2015 with the goal of annually matching the champions of both HBCU leagues. All six Celebration Bowls have been played in Atlanta with the MEAC representative winning five of those.

Legendary Oliver Pough's Bulldogs improved to 7-5 to follow up a 3-1 spring performance. Deion Sanders' team dropped to 11-2 with the loss. Shedeur Sanders was held to 16-of-36 passing with 1 TD and 2 INT's by a SCSU defense that kept receivers blanketed, the pressure coming, and allowed just 19 yards rushing. Shilo Sanders intercepted a pass for JSU. For the Bulldogs, Corey Shields, Jr. was just 12-of-31, but had 4 TD's and a single INT.

The Tigers came into the game with the longest current FCS winning streak at 9 games after Sam Houston State's string of 22 consecutive wins was halted last week by Montana State.

List of Celebration Bowls:

Date MEAC Team SWAC Team
December 19, 2015 North Carolina A&T 41 Alcorn State 34
December 17, 2016 North Carolina Central 9 Grambling_State 10
December 16, 2017 North Carolina A&T 21 Grambling State 14
December 15, 2018 North Carolina A&T 24 Alcorn State 22
December 21, 2019 North Carolina A&T 64 Alcorn State 44
2020 Canceled - Covid      
December 18, 2021 South Carolina State 31 Jackson State Tigers 10


2 teams played 2 FCS teams this fall (UConn and UMass), and 115 teams played 1 FCS school for a total of 117 such matchups.

FBS teams finished the season 105-12 vs. the FCS and are 1,574-140 (.918) since we began tracking this in 2003.

Last year, 30 FBS teams played a total of just 34 games against FCS schools and the FCS won just 1 game (1-33). That honor also went to Jacksonville State with its 19-10 victory over FIU.

Here are the FCS wins in 2021:
September 2: UC Davis 19, Tulsa 17
September 2: Eastern Washington 35, UNLV 33 (2 OT)
September 3: South Dakota State 42, Colorado State 23
September 4: Holy Cross 38, UConn 28September 4: Montana 13, Washington 7
September 4: ETSU 23, Vanderbilt 3
September 11: Duquesne 28, Ohio 26
September 11: Jacksonville State 20, Florida State 17.
September 18: Incarnate Word 42, Texas State 34.
September 18: Northern Arizona 21, Arizona 19
November 6: Rhode Island 35, Massachusetts 22
November 13: Maine 35, Massachusetts 10

This was the only FCS win vs. the FBS in 2020:
October 23: Jacksonville State 19, FIU 10

In 2019, FBS teams were 111-3 (.974) in such games. These were the only FCS wins that season:
August 29: Central Arkansas 35, Western Kentucky 28
September 7: Southern Illinois 45, Massachusetts 20
September 14: The Citadel 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT)


SAN DIEGO - Won 7 straight over-all (FCS longest)
Last: Won 41-16 at Stetson on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (7-4)

ALCORN STATE - Won 13 straight home games (FCS longest).
Last: Lost 24-10 at Jackson State on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (6-5)

MONMOUTH - Had won 16 straight conference games (was FCS longest).
Last: Lost 49-17 at Kennesaw State on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (7-4)

DARTMOUTH - Won 11 straight road games (FCS longest).
Last: Won 52-31 at Brown on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (9-1) Ivy League champs.

TEXAS SOUTHERN - Lost 18 straight road games (FCS longest).
Last: Lost 24-21 at Alabama State on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (3-8)

YOUNGSTOWN STATE - End road losing streak at 17 games (was tied for FCS longest).
Last: Won 35-18 at Southern Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (3-7).

BUTLER - Snapped 14-game conference losing streak (was FCS longest)..
Last: Won 28-21 at Marist on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (3-8).

WAGNER - Lost 20 straight overall (FCS longest).
LAST: Lost 44-0 at home vs. Duquesne on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (0-11).