While the pandemic did not end up impacting the FBS season as much as it looked like it might, it did cause the FCS season to move to the spring. With each FCS conference champions crowned and the playoffs underway, it is time to ask the million-dollar question. Who will win the FCS Championship?
Normally, the FCS playoffs involve 24 teams battling it out for the right to be named the FCS champion. But this year, the FCS went with 16 teams. The opening round is currently available at online sportsbooks including FanDuel which offer odds on the eight remaining teams:
|2021 FCS Championship Odds|
|South Dakota State||+115|
|North Dakota State||+300|
|Sam Houston State||+1000|
Top-seeded South Dakota entered the playoffs as the favorite to win the FCS championship and remained so after dominating Holy Cross in the opening round, 31-3. James Madison (No. 3 seed) saw their odds take a slight dip after escaping with a 31-24 win against VMI (James Madison was favored by 14.5).
Fourth-seeded Jacksonville State had an easy time with Davidson, winning 49-14. No. 2 Sam Houston was nearly upset by Monmouth. But they managed to hold on for a 21-15 win.
With the FCS playoffs, only the top four teams are seeded, but it would be a mistake to overlook the teams not seeded—like North Dakota State. The Bisons have won the title the last three seasons and in eight of the previous nine.
So, who is going to win it all this year? First things first—who is going to make it to the semifinals?
|Spread||JS -3.5||JS -3.5||JS -3.5|
|North Dakota St./Sam Houston|
|Spread||ND -3.0||ND -3.5||ND -3.5|
|James Madison/North Dakota|
|Spread||JM -2.5||JM -2.5||JM -2.5|
|South Dakota St./Southern Illinois|
|Spread||SD -15.5||SD -15.5||SD -15.5|
Out of the four games (all on Sunday, May 2), the easiest to call must be the South Dakota State vs. Southern Illinois contest. South Dakota State dominated Holy Cross in the opening round while Southern Illinois needed a last-minute score to beat Weber State.
The Jack Rabbits dominated the Salukis during their regular season match-up, and there is no reason to think they will not do so again.
Sam Houston State is the only seeded team not favored to win. After they squeaked by Monmouth and with how North Dakota State dominated their opening-round opponent, that is not shocking. But the Bisons have been living on the strength of their run game; Sam Houston has the No. 3 run defense in the country.
If the Bearkats defense can slow the Bison run game down, North Dakota State has not thrown the ball well this year. Should Sam Houston State get their offense on track early (which happens to be the fourth-best scoring offense in the country), this game is an upset waiting to happen.
Jacksonville State will not find it as easy to run past Delaware in the second round. But they may not have to if their 12th ranked scoring defense can control the Blue Hens’ 19th ranked scoring offense. With how Delaware struggled to generate offense against Sacred Heart in the opening round, that is not hard to imagine.
As for the James Madison vs. North Dakota game, it may be the most entertaining and closest contest of the four. Both teams have a good offense and defense, but James Madison has a slight statistical advantage (scoring) on both sides of the ball.
This one will be fun to watch, and whoever makes it to the next round will be tough to beat.
— #GoJacks (@GoJacksSDSU) April 25, 2021
And The Winner Of The FCS Championship Will Be…
Out of the remaining teams, South Dakota State is the only one that is a virtual lock to make it to the next round. Jacksonville State should beat Delaware, but the Sam Houston/North Dakota State and James Madison/North Dakota games could go either way.
So, if you want to take the safe route, put your money down on South Dakota State. They have been one of the top-ranked teams all season. There is no reason to think they will fail to make the title game. But if you are looking to bet on a team with longer odds, well—you have some options.
At +1000, Sam Houston State has the most value. They are one of the more balanced teams left with a highly ranked scoring offense (fourth) and defense (11th). If they can get past North Dakota State team, it is not hard to imagine them making the title game.
James Madison, at +600, has value as well. They entered the playoffs as the No. 1 FCS team in the country with 30 votes (South Dakota State had seven). Their offense has been productive all season (33.3 points/game). They have been one of the toughest teams to score on (12.7 points/game allowed), too.
It would not be a bad idea to put a little money down on a couple of teams. But if you want to only put money down on one, take Sam Houston State.