If you are looking for championship level football, look no further than the 2022 FCS Championship Saturday January 8th in Frisco, Texas. Both of these programs have put together a championship formula that other teams need to emulate.
Montana State is led by Brent Vigen who is a former NDSU player and coach. While at NDSU he won three national titles as their offensive coordinator. MSU has run into the Bison during the 2018 and 2019 playoffs, and even though the program was improving, there were still significant gaps. However, this year the Bobcats are playing at a higher level having beaten SHSU and SDSU in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Both of these teams beat NDSU in 2020 with SHSU beating them in the spring playoffs and SDSU beating them earlier this season.
The Bobcats have more depth on defense, and have become more physical in the box with one of the best defensive players in the FCS at linebacker in Troy Anderson. On the offense, freshman Tommy Mellott has been a huge difference maker at quarterback since being named the starter after Matthew McKay entered the transfer portal right before the playoffs. Opposing defenses not only have to stop All-American running back Isaiah Ifanse, but also the QB run.
North Dakota State’s defense is playing at an all-time high, holding James Madison’s passing attack to only 14 points in the semifinals. Even though Montana State was able to take advantage of their previous opponents with fade routes, NDSU’s corners have been playing some of their best games this playoff season. If Mellott can’t take advantage of NDSU’s inability to stop the quarterback run, MSU is going to have a tough time scoring.
The Bison offense is going to have to rely heavily on Hunter Luepke running the back due to star wide receiver Christian Watson being sidelined during the playoffs and the rest of the wide receiver group not stepping up. Hunter Luepke was the Bison’s leading rusher and receiver during their 20-14 win over JMU. NDSU will need to mix in some play-action passes from quarterback Cam Miller to help the younger wide receivers contribute more in the passing game.
Although the automatic pick for most people will be NDSU, I myself am going for the "underdog" in this fight and picking Montana State. I have faith in Brent Vigen getting his team ready to basically out Bison the Bison. My prediction is Montana State 35, NDSU 31.