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Who Will Win the FCS National Championship?

James Madison and North Dakota State are the favorites

NCAA Football: DI Football Championship Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The North Dakota State Bison have won seven of the last eight FCS National Championships, but they aren’t the favorite going into this season. Instead, that honor belongs to another school according to FCS National Championship betting odds released last week by Sportsbetting.ag

FCS National Championship Odds

James Madison +200

North Dakota State +250

Eastern Washington +550

South Dakota State +650

UC Davis +650

Jacksonville State +1200

Maine +1400

Weber State +1600

Illinois State +2200

Montana State +2800

Nicholls State +2800

McNeese State +3300

Northern Iowa +3300

Wofford +3300

Towson +3300

Kennesaw State +3300

Indiana State +3300

Colgate +3300

Furman +4000

Sam Houston State +4000

Southeast Missouri State +5000

Montana +5000

Delaware +5000

Elon +5000

East Tennessee State +5000

Analysis

Although James Madison has a new coach, the Dukes are the favorite to win it all this year in the eyes of the oddsmakers. James Madison returns almost all of its starters from last season, and Curt Cignetti comes into Harrisonburg highly regarded after turning around CAA bottom feeder Elon. The Dukes seemingly fell apart last year as Mike Houston had one foot out the door over the last half of the season, but they should be focused coming into 2019. They have a chance to start their season off with a big win over a Power Five opponent when they take on West Virginia on Saturday.

Shortly after these odds were released, North Dakota State once again became the betting favorite. The odds on the Bison dropped from +250 to +150, but there are some reasons to be skeptical about the Bison this year. Chris Klieman is now the head coach at Kansas State, and last year’s starting quarterback Easton Stick has moved on to the NFL. In all, NDSU lost 15 of 22 starters from last year’s title winning team, and the monolith seems set to take a step back.

Eastern Washington made it to the FCS National Championship Game last season, and the Eagles are part of the next tier of favorites per the listed odds. Eric Barriere took over as EWU’s starting quarterback after Gage Gubrud suffered an injury, and Barriere showed that the program was in good hands. The Eagles averaged 42 PPG in the playoffs before the loss in the title game, and although they lose some starters, the defense is finally respectable.

I was down on South Dakota State coming into the season, but the Jackrabbits proved they are a contender by nearly knocking off a solid Minnesota team in their opener. I believed this program would take a step back without star quarterback Taryn Christion, and the offense still has some questions to answer. However, the defense is legit, and linebacker Christian Rozeboom is already getting NFL buzz.

The other program that is listed among the second tier of contenders is UC Davis. Older college football fans will recognize head coach Dan Hawkins, and he is finally having success again after over a decade in the wilderness. The Aggies no longer have star wide receiver Keelan Doss, but Jake Maier might be the best quarterback at the FCS level in 2019. He was named Preseason First Team All-American by most publications, and Maier was the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year last season.

Two Southland Conference programs that weren’t on the list staked their claim as outside contenders for the national championship on Thursday. Central Arkansas became the first FCS team to knock off an FBS opponent this year, knocking off Western Kentucky 35-28. Unheralded Southeastern Louisiana pulled off a huge win, hammering No. 6 Jacksonville State 35-14 to claim their first win over a top ten team since 2013.