We have a real playoff with 24 teams in a real football stadium to deem a real National Champion happening this Saturday in Frisco, Texas. Yes, the FCS National Championship airs Saturday at Noon EST on ESPN 2.
Here’s my preview and pick for Saturday’s National Championship game.
FCS National Championship Odds & Betting Preview: Montana State vs North Dakota State
(1/8 Noon EST)
Line: North Dakota State -7.5
The FCS National Championship is a matchup between Montana State and North Dakota State but in a way, it’s like North Dakota State vs North Dakota State. Montana State’s head football coach is Brent Vigen who played tight end at North Dakota State from 1993-1997. After Vigen’s playing career he began to coach at North Dakota State back in 1998 and stayed coaching for the Bison until 2013 when Vigen followed Craig Bowl to Wyoming. Vigen was even the front runner to become the next head coach at North Dakota State but was passed over for Chris Klieman the current Kansas State head coach. After 6 years in Wyoming Vigen became the head coach of the Montana State Bobcats this past offseason.
It doesn’t end there though. Montana State’s defensive coordinator is Freddie Banks who played corner for North Dakota State from 2008-2010. Even Vigen’s wife Molly went to North Dakota State where she won a National Championship as a part of the Bison D2 college basketball team. Meanwhile, North Dakota State head football coach Matt Entz is trying to grab his 2nd FCS National Championship since becoming the North Dakota State head coach back in 2019.
As for game history, this will be the 5th all-time meeting between the two schools with North Dakota State holding a 3-1 record against the Montana State Bobcats with the most recent matchup being a 42-14 FCS Playoffs back in 2019 in the Fargo Dome.
North Dakota State
North Dakota State uses a two-quarterback system between Cam Miller and Virginia Tech transfer Quincy Patterson. Patterson is their change of pace quarterback with real dual threat capability. For the season North Dakota State has averaged 33.8 points per game while Montana State has averaged 30 points per game. Both these offenses have had great success on the ground. For North Dakota State they use a few different running backs led by TeMerik Williams and Hunter Luepke. North Dakota State currently has the 3rd best rushing attack in the nation. Luepke was a huge factor in the win against James Madison. North Dakota State has the 110th best passing attack in the FCS out of 123 teams. Who says you need to pass the football in 2021? When they do pass the ball keep an eye on wideouts Christian Watson and Phoenix Sproles (Cousin of Darren Sproles).
Montana State got to the FCS playoffs with veteran quarterback Matthew McKay but McKay entered the transfer portal after being benched for Tommy Mellott who has inherited the name “Touchdown Tommy” after his magical playoff run. Tommy Mellott isn’t only a freshman who’s undefeated as a starting QB, he has dethroned both teams that appareled in the FCS Championship last season. Mellott is doing that while completing 52 percent of his passes for 9.2 yards a completion. His most impressive stat in the air though is the fact he has yet to throw an interception and has 4 touchdowns in the air.
Montana State is 86th in the nation at passing the ball which isn’t amazing either but keep an eye on their top target in Lance McCutcheon who has over 1,100 yards receiving for the Bobcats. When it comes to the run game it’s been the workhorse that is Isaiah Ifanse who has over 1,500 yards on the season. They are also currently in the top 10 rushing attacks among the FCS charting at 7th. Tommy Mellott has also been a force on the ground in the limited time he’s played as he’s ran for 705 yards in his short time as starting QB of the Bobcats averaging 6.4 yards a rush.
North Dakota State
This is what has me most interested in this matchup North Dakota State is the top-rated defense in all the FCS. North Dakota State’s defense is averaging 12.1 points given up away from the Fargo Dome. One of the Bison’s strong suites is 3rd down where the Bison are 5th in the nation at getting off the field.
Montana State is sitting at 2nd best defense in the FCS. Something has to give here. Montana State had the FCS defensive player of the year in Troy Andersen. The Bobcats are giving up 22 points per game away from Bozeman. Montana State has clearly played the better competition on the road this season so that stat could be twisted when comparing it to North Dakota State. The Bobcats defense is great but it’s much more of a big-play defense. When it comes to getting off the field Montana State is 35th in the nation on 3rd down. Montana State is the better defense at forcing turnovers though as they chart among the top 10 in that statistic.
FCS Championship Weather
This is the way a championship football game should be. Outdoors in the elements, that’s football. Saturday will be in the high 50’s but they are calling for rain all day which makes it even more fun to watch. This will be some good old-fashioned football for the FCS Championship game.
FCS Championship Prediction
Montana State has been opportunistic on defense all year and now they’re gonna face a team that uses two quarterbacks. I’ve been saying it all year that I think the two QB system will cost North Dakota State at some point this year. I expect this game to be a low-scoring game and North Dakota State may end up with the better rushing stats and perhaps the National Championship trophy but 7.5 is too many points in this slugfest. Montana State pulls off the big upset and takes home their first FCS National Championship of the 2000s. Sprinkle some on the ML and let’s ride the under 41.5 as well.