Ranking the storylines of potential FCS championship game matchups

NCAA Football

(Stats Perform) – The most important aspect of Saturday’s FCS national semifinals is for the best championship game matchup to come out of them.

But will the winners of Delaware at No. 1 seed South Dakota State and No. 3 seed James Madison at No. 2 seed Sam Houston produce the best storyline for the title game?

From the potential matchups, here is a 1-4 ranking of the storylines that we could see on May 16 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas:

1. Delaware vs. Sam Houston

Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler would be trying to become the first coach to lead two different schools to the FCS championship, and he would be doing it against the same Delaware program that he guided to the 2003 national title (he also led the Blue Hens to runner-up finishes in the 2007 and 2010 seasons). The “Keeler Bowl” would be a matchup of unbeaten teams, and he would go into it tied with former Youngstown State coach Jim Tressel for the most all-time FCS playoff wins.

2. South Dakota State vs. James Madison

In perhaps the biggest TV draw, it would be the team seeded No. 1 by the playoff selection committee (South Dakota State) against the team that was No. 1 in the Top 25 rankings over the final eight weeks of the regular season (James Madison). Who got it right? Ironically, SDSU has never been top-ranked, so beating a Dukes program that would make its fourth championship game appearance in five seasons is a sure-fire way to ascend to No. 1.

3. Delaware vs. James Madison

This matchup of unbeaten teams would serve as the unofficial CAA Football championship game after they did not meet during the regular season. It would mark the second national championship game between two teams from the same conference (North Dakota State beat Illinois State in an all-Missouri Valley matchup to cap the 2014 season). A CAA committee voted to give the conference’s automatic playoff bid to Delaware, and that may have dropped JMU to the No. 3 seed after it was top-ranked for most of the regular season. Their last meeting was a JMU win in the 2018 playoff first round.

4. South Dakota State vs. Sam Houston

Once again, Keeler would have a chance to become the first coach to win an FCS championship at two different schools. This would be a matchup of the top two seeds as well as the two programs that in the last decade arguably have been the most deserving of winning their first FCS title. Sam Houston lost to North Dakota State in the 2011 and ’12 title games and had the second-most wins in the FCS during the 2010s (99) to the Bison. South Dakota State, which is making a ninth straight playoff appearance that is the second-longest active streak to NDSU, lost to the eventual national champion five times (NDSU four times and James Madison once) during the decade.

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