James Madison vs. North Dakota State Odds, Pick, Betting Prediction: Tail FCS Title Game Line Moves?

James Madison vs. North Dakota State Odds, Pick, Betting Prediction: Tail FCS Title Game Line Moves? article feature image

Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: James Madison QB Ben DiNucci

  • James Madison is a 1.5-point betting favorite over North Dakota State in the 2020 FCS National Title Game, which kicks off at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday.
  • The total has seen huge movement with hail, rain and wind expected in Frisco throughout the afternoon. It's dropped five points in the last 24 hours.
  • Get our experts' JMU vs. NDSU picks below.

James Madison vs. NDSU Odds

  • Odds: JMU -2 vs. NDSU
  • Total: 45
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV: ABC
  • Location: Frisco, Texas

The FCS Playoffs, while well-formatted and almost always exciting at times, can often feel like a little bit of a formality. Especially this year, when both the top two teams are way ahead of the pack.

But now we get that 1 vs. 2 showdown that should live up to the hype.

Top-ranked North Dakota State is looking to capture its eighth FCS national title in nine years when it faces off against James Madison in Frisco, Texas on Saturday.

The Sagarin Ratings (which include both FBS and FCS teams) ranks NDSU at No. 36 in the country and JMU No. 50. The next closest FCS team is Weber State at No. 91.

If the No. 2 Dukes close as a favorite, it would be the first time NDSU is an underdog since 2016, when it beat Iowa outright as a two-touchdown dog.

Can JMU pull off the “upset” and deny the Bison another national title? Let’s dive in.

Odds as of Saturday morning and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.

Odds Movement for FCS National Title

James Madison opened as a 2-point favorite at some Vegas shops. William Hill had NDSU as a 1-point favorite by Friday, but overnight into Saturday, it flipped back to JMU -2

The total has seen even more one-sided action, dropping from as high as 55 at William Hill right before Christmas to 48 across the market as of Friday. Then overnight Saturday and into the morning, it fell to 43.5, but rebounded to 45.

Most of the market opened at 51.5 and dropped to 45 by Saturday. — Steve Petrella

Weather & Field Conditions

Toyota Stadium in Frisco has a grass field used for MLS and Texas high school football games. The forecast for all of Friday and overnight into Saturday morning calls for heavy rains with flash flood warnings.

We could be looking at a drenched field that will lead to a slower track … the complete opposite of the game between LSU and Clemson.

Throw in the cold temperatures and 20 mph winds throughout the game and you immediately have to give the under a hard look.

And if you profile both offenses, neither are fast paced and both are heavy run-oriented teams, which also plays to the under. The total opened at 51 before getting bet down mid-week. I grabbed some 49 and still like it down to 47-ish. Stuckey

Which Team Benefits The Most from Weather?

Now, which team should benefit most from these weather conditions? I say JMU.

The Bison have the most efficient passing offense in FCS led by freshman quarterback Trey Lance, who threw for 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions this season.

However, as I previously stated, NDSU is a run-first, smash-mouth offense as usual in Fargo. The Bison have an outstanding offensive line with two All-Americans that lead the way for four different backs that each eclipsed 600 yards on the ground. No other team had in FCS had more than two.

Teams simply haven’t been able to stop the ground and pound attack of NDSU which then sets up their uber-efficient passing attack.

Well, NDSU hasn’t played JMU yet and the Dukes boast an absolutely elite run defense that put up historic numbers this season. Just take a look at some of these eye-popping stats:

  • 61.1 rushing yards per game allowed (1st)
  • 2.22 yards per rush (2nd)
  • 7 opponent rushing touchdowns (3rd)

JMU even went on the road to Morgantown to take on West Virginia to start the year in a game the Mountaineers should’ve lost if not for two JMU fumbles. In that game, WVU only could muster 34 rushing yards on 24 carries.

Led by linebacker Dmitri Holloway (who has a chance to play the next level) and two All-American defensive ends that live in opposing backfields, this run defense is legit and can contain the dominant NDSU rushing attack.

NDSU also has an outstanding defense but its best unit is the secondary, which led the nation in pass efficiency defense. The Bison only allowed nine passing touchdowns while picking off 16 balls.

The run defense is solid, led by linebacker Jabril Cox, but not spectacular. NDSU allowed 3.79 yards per carry, which ranked just outside the top 30 and is more than 1.5 yard higher than what JMU allowed with similar a strength of schedule.

Stuckey: My Two Favorite Bets

So, bottom line, if the conditions limit both passing attacks, I think JMU has the edge in the rushing department on both sides of the ball.

Also, look out for wide receiver Brandon Polk and Riley Stapleton to make an impactful play. Polk, a Penn State transfer, is a walking explosive play and can take a short pass to the house at any moment. And Stapleton, a senior who caught 7 passes for over 100 yards when these two teams met in 2017, could use his height to make a key play or two in the redzone.

These are the two best teams at the FCS level by far. Both are elite in all three phases, but I like the matchup for JMU especially in the projected conditions.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: North Dakota State Bison wide receiver Darrius Shepherd

I said coming into the playoffs that JMU is the most well-rounded team and just slightly above NDSU, so I’m going to stick to my guns. I think JMU pulls out a close, low-scoring affair that plays out similar to the 2017 championship between these two schools (17-13 final).

Fading a Bison team at a PK that is 35-2 in the FCS playoffs and has won consecutive national titles and seven of the last eight may come back to haunt me. But I’m taking the Dukes (the only team other than NDSU to win the title in the past eight seasons) and the under, though I wouldn’t play it below 47, and even that number is gone now. Stuckey

Stuckey’s Picks: JMU -1.5, Under 48 or better

[In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana or West Virginia? Bet the FCS title game now at FanDuel]

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