HARRISONBURG — James Madison University and North Dakota State have seemed to be on a collision course all season and in three weeks the two powers will collide in the Football Championship Subdivision National Championship game.
The Dukes are the reigning national champs with a 26-game winning streak. The Bison are the powerhouse program, which won five titles in a row — until JMU defeated them last year in the FCS semifinals.
“I’m definitely excited,” said JMU redshirt junior defensive lineman Darrious Carter. “I think this is the best match-up in FCS. And I think its what everyone wanted to see in the first place. This game’s going to be really, really huge. And I think we’re just going to go out there and play our game.”
The Dukes were the top seed in the playoffs, and the Bison were seeded second. JMU head football coach Mike Houston said that it just shows that the playoff format works.
“It’s going to be great match-up,” Houston said. “I’m sure there’s the revenge factor on their end from last year — us putting an end to their five-year run. And certainly for us there’s a lot of motivation to win our second in a row. So it should be a great match-up and one that we’re excited about and looking forward to.”
JMU not only ended North Dakota State’s five-year championship run, but they also went to Fargo, North Dakota to do it. The 27-17 win for the Dukes last year was the first playoff loss for the Bison at home since 1991. It also snapped the Bison’s 22-game playoff win streak.
JMU senior tight end and 2014 Strasburg graduate Jonathan Kloosterman said that he’s excited for the challenge of playing North Dakota State again.
“North Dakota State’s a great team,” Kloosterman said. “We’re going to take a couple days off and then get ready for them. We’re going to have a lot more mental and physical prep for that. So they’re going to be a good team. So we’ll see what we can do.”
JMU (14-0) and North Dakota State (13-1) will meet at noon Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas. The game will be televised on ESPN2. North Dakota State beat Sam Houston State, 55-13, while JMU beat South Dakota State, 51-16, in the two semifinals.
Houston said the two programs have a lot in common.
“I think what you see is two teams going to Frisco, Texas that are very talented, that both have very passionate fan bases,” Houston said. “It’s probably going to be pretty wild down there. So I think right now there’s a mad scramble to see who can get the most hotel rooms and tickets bought up as fast as they can, to see if we can at least get half the stadium purple and gold.”