We know one thing -- A pair of tickets will be punched to compete for a trophy in Frisco, Texas this weekend. What we don’t know: Whether the winners will be reigning national champions or a team destined for its first.
Matchups feature experienced, win-proven squads with aspirations to finish the season national champions.
Sam Houston State at North Dakota State: Friday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2
The Bearkats extended their streak of scoring 30+ points to eight last weekend in a win over a streaking Kennesaw State team. Their 34-point game marked the first time a team scored at least 30 against the Owls in 10 games. Quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe has lit up the stat sheet all year and continued to with 316 yards and three touchdowns Saturday. His senior campaign has him on pace to break the 5,000-yard mark and could earn him a spot in the NFL draft. Briscoe is accompanied by senior running back Corey Avery who ran for 130-yards and a touchdown, and standout wide receivers Nathan Stewert and Yedidiah Louis. Sam Houston State will need its defense to complement the nation’s leading offense to upset the second-ranked Bison.
North Dakota State outscored opponents 80-13 in its first two playoff wins over San Diego and Wofford. Production has come from across the depth chart on the offensive side of the ball, but defensively the Bison have separated themselves from the pack. Beyond the scoreboard, North Dakota state has only allowed 350 total yards in two games. To put that into perspective, its offense had 472 total yards last week. The Bison have forced five turnovers and linebacker Chris Board leads the team in postseason tackles. A defensive squad that sits atop the rankings in total defense has had all the helps its needed from quarterback Easton Stick and running back Bruce Anderson. If North Dakota State continues firing on all cylinders, a sixth national title in seven years could be not far out of reach.
Nation’s best offense or nation’s best defense? Bearkats or Bison? Find out Friday night in North Dakota.
South Dakota State at James Madison: Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU
South Dakota State finally jumped over the hurdle into the semifinals after beating New Hampshire 56-14. Wide receiver Jake Wieneke continued his standout senior season by catching 140 yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Taryn Christion. The Jackrabbits lived up to their name by scampering 265 yards and five touchdowns. The offense has exceeded expectations all year and has led the team to victories in all games with 20+ points. After Weber State became the first team to score more than 14 against James Madison, South Dakota State will need its offense to continue trending on Saturday. Consistency on third-down conversions and another big day from their special teams are needed for the Jackrabbits to end the Dukes 25-game win streak and jump the next hurdle into the finals.
#RoadToFrisco I Saturday marks one year since JMU knocked off the Bison to advance to the national championship game. The Dukes are one win away from returning to Frisco! #GoDukes #DefendTheCrown pic.twitter.com/PjtCUSo1Ai— JMUSports (@JMUSports) December 13, 2017
James Madison crossed the quarter-century mark in consecutive wins after Ethan Ratke split the uprights from 46-yards as time expired to beat Weber State. The second-longest win streak in FCS history was put to the test in a back-and-forth battle that ended in 11 Dukes points in the final two-minutes. Quarterback Bryan Schor and running back Marcus Marshall combined for over 500 yards and three touchdowns. Cornerback Rashad Robinson intercepted his seventh pass on the year and headlines the most efficient pass defense in the country. James Madison’s defense has forced 33 turnovers and allows the fewest yards per play in FCS. Efficiency and consistency have propelled the defending champions towards a shot to defend their title. They will need to expand their turnover margin and slow down the Jacks offense to push the streak to 26.
7 straight wins or 25? Defending national champs or a brand-new squad? We'll see on Saturday in Virginia.
Fargo and Harrisonburg. Cities that hold the past six national championship trophies. Cities that live for college football. Cities that will send two teams to Frisco to compete for a national title. Who will it be?