North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz watches his team play against Central Arkansas at an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota State won 39-28. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
- The 2021 FCS spring season gets underway on Saturday, February 13th
- North Dakota State is favored to win a fourth consecutive National Championship
- See the opening FCS title odds along with betting advice in the story below
The 2021 FCS spring season is finally here following the postponement of the 2020 Fall season. The action kicks off with a matchup between McNeese State and Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas on Saturday.
North Dakota State is favored to win a fourth consecutive National Championship despite losing QB Trey Lance to the NFL Draft. The Bison are listed as +150 favorites after beating James Madison in a close championship game last year.
With the playoff bracket being reduced to 16 teams for this unique spring season, is there any team capable of knocking off this NDSU powerhouse?
Opening 2021 FCS National Championship Odds
|North Dakota State||+150|
|South Dakota State||+500|
|North Carolina A&T||+2500|
Odds as of Feb. 13th
Bison Remain Team to Beat
Until proven otherwise, North Dakota State is the team to beat in the FCS. The Bison are once again the favorite to win the National Championship after defeating James Madison to win a fourth consecutive title last season. While the team is loaded with talent, there’s question at quarterback after starter Trey Lance declared for the NFL Draft.
1️⃣1️⃣ days until kickoff, get your 📱 ready for season‼️ #GoBison 🤘 pic.twitter.com/v01vce9YaO
— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) February 10, 2021
Although the Bison’s current roster may not be as stacked as the one that took the field against Central Arkansas back in October, this is still a powerhouse that is favored for good reason. Iowa State transfer Zeb Noland takes over QB duties and is poised for a big season alongside a talented receiving group. Noland battled with Lance for starting duties in the fall, and already has experience in big-time situations after starting for the Cyclones against Oklahoma.
Junior Christian Watson leads the receiving group after exploding for 732 yards in 2019. The Bison also have two players on the spring preseason All-America team in offensive tackle Cordell Volson and junior strong safety Michael Tutsie. Quarterback turnover hasn’t been an issue for the Bison in the past, which is one of the reasons the program enters the spring season on a ridiculous 38-game winning streak.
Can James Madison Return to the Top?
James Madison has opened at +800 to win the 2021 National Championship after losing a 28-20 game to North Dakota State in 2020 . The Dukes have made it to the title game in three of the last four years, beating Youngstown State for a National Championship in 2017.
Oddsmakers are noticeably down on JMU this season as the team is returning just seven starters. There’s still plenty of talent on this roster, especially at the running back position where the Dukes boast a dominant backfield. James Madison returns all four of their top running backs from 2019, including the dynamic 1-2 punch of seniors Percy Agyei-Obese and Jawon Hamilton.
What an incredible group of student-athletes and coaches. So much to be proud of in 2019.
We. Will. Be. Back.#GoDukes pic.twitter.com/WbFsy9YGzT
— JMU Football (@JMUFootball) January 16, 2020
While James Madison has to replace starting quarterback Ben DiNucci, they’re in good hands with fifth-year senior Cole Johnson. The 6-5 pivot has been patiently waiting for his shot and impressed as a redshirt junior in 2019. Johnson went 14-of-20 passing for 118 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 37 yards and an additional three scores .
The Dukes do have to deal with some major loss on the defensive side of the ball, including the departure of leading tackler Dimitri Holloway. There are guys ready to step up, however, including former Ohio State transfer Wayne Davis, who has transitioned to strong safety after racking up 67 tackles last season. There’s enough talent on this roster for the team to win another CAA championship and make a playoff run.
2021 Heisman Trophy Odds Tracker
Panthers Offer Intriguing Value
It’s hard to bet against a team as dominant as North Dakota State in the FCS title odds, but there is one team worth considering if you want to find value. Northern Iowa boasts a very talented roster under 20-year head coach Mark Farley. The Panthers have a very stout defense in particular led by defensive tackle Jared Brinkman, linebacker Bryce Flater and cornerback Omar Brown.
Northern Iowa also has some key returning players on offense in all-American wide receiver Isaiah Weston and Will McElvain. The 6-4 Weston had over 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019, while McElvain threw for 2,700 yards and 20 scores. The dynamic chemistry the two developed over McElvain’s freshman season should help the Panthers compete with the Bison for the MVFC title.
It doesn’t matter if it is in the spring, when we get going, we are in football mode. We’ll be ready to go.
– @Iweston8ZIP#UNIFight #EverLoyal pic.twitter.com/BEjjURPAnq
— UNI Football (@UNIFootball) February 10, 2021
This is North Dakota State’s conference until proven otherwise, but the Panthers have the weapons to make some noise in 2021. If they can overcome some key losses on the offensive line, UNI’s defensive line and offense could make them a true sleeper team. North Dakota State is still a solid bet while they remain at plus-money, but don’t hesitate to sprinkle on the Panthers as a value play.
Brady is a passionate hockey fan and sports writer with over five years experience specializing in digital media, plus a degree in Broadcast Journalism. His work has been published by outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and Fox Sports.