Everything you need to know about the FCS National Championship Game
The 2021 FCS National Championship is set to take place this Saturday, May 16 under unusual conditions. Not only will it occur in May, but it will be played without perennial powerhouse North Dakota State.
Let’s go over everything you need to know about the upcoming FCS National Championship Game before kickoff.
Who will be playing in the 2021 FCS National Championship Game?
The game will feature another school from the upper Midwest in replacement of the Bison, as the South Dakota State Jackrabbits take center stage following their dominant win in the semifinals against Delaware. The Jackrabbits are 9-1 on the season and the first overall seed in the bracket. Their opponent will be the 9-0 Sam Houston State Bearkats, who enter the game undefeated after narrowly winning all three of their playoff games.
Why is the FCS National Championship Game being played in May?
The game is being played in May because of the COVID-19 precautions that were taken by so many collegiate athletic programs in the fall of 2020. With protocols and vaccines still in a state of flux, smaller money programs less rewarded by ticket sales and TV deals felt it better to push back the season to spring.
Despite a shortened season relative to typical fall schedules, a season has been successfully played, and after an April bracket tournament, the championship will occur for the first time on the third Sunday in May.
How did Sam Houston State and South Dakota State end up in the FCS National Championship Game?
To find themselves here, each team has taken a different path through the bracket. The top seeded Jackrabbits have been mostly dominant en route to the championship, albeit not without a scare. They defeated Holy Cross 31-3, then needed a fourth-quarter comeback against Southern Illinois to win 31-26. In their semifinal game, they played their best yet, defeating Delaware 33-3.
The Bearkats, meanwhile, have squeaked by all three opponents on their path to the championship. As the No. 2-seed, they narrowly defeated Monmouth, 21-15. They followed that up with a 24-20 victory against perennial power North Dakota State, and most recently defeated James Madison to earn their bid with a too-close-for-comfort 38-35 victory.
Who is favored in the 2021 FCS National Championship Game?
South Dakota State is favored by 4.5 points. The team's defense has been stifling, coming in third in the FCS while averaging just 14.1 points per game. The Jackrabbits' offense is also well-rounded, and possesses a strong power running game that may give them an advantage on the line.
Sun, May 16 2021, 6:00 PM
South Dakota State
Sam Houston State
Which players should fans keep an eye on during the 2021 FCS National Championship Game?
The engine behind that power running game is South Dakota State running back Pierre Strong. The 5’11” junior running back averages 5.5 yards per rush. While impressive, this is actually a huge drop from his 2018 and 2019 numbers or 7.1 and 9.5 yards per rush, respectively. Strong may be the one to seal the game late.
For Sam Houston State, quarterback Eric Schmid is the star leader that can take over the game. He's led the Bearkats to 39.1 points per contest this season, and averages 288 passing yards per game. Schmid’s level of success against the Jackrabbits will likely determine which team goes home with the trophy.