For the fourth straight season, the FCS will have a first-time champion. After Appalachian State's run of three straight championships from 2005-07, Richmond (2008), Villanova (2009) and Eastern Washington (2010) have hoisted the first championship trophy in program history. This year, relative FCS newcomer North Dakota State or undefeated Sam Houston State will continue the trend.
Sam Houston State, which is looking to become the first undefeated champion since Marshall did so in 1996, is riding a 16-game winning streak, dating back to last season. A team led by sophomore talent, the Bearkats are one of the quickest teams in the nation, on offense and defense, a fair reflection of their pursuit of perfection.
A much more physical team, North Dakota State wouldn't beat Sam Houston State in a track meet. But, within the confines of the football field, the Bison have a big, physical defense - perhaps the best in the nation - and have stifled opponents in the playoffs.
The marquee match-up is Sam Houston State's offense vs. North Dakota State's defense. Using a read-option offense, Sam Houston State has a running back so dynamic he drew comparisons to Barry Sanders during the semifinal from ESPN announcer, and former NFL quarterback, Andre Ware. A big time player when it counts, Tim Flanders (111.4 YPG) has stepped up in the Bearkats' closest games - rushing for five touchdowns against FBS opponent New Mexico and 287 yards against Montana in the FCS semifinals.
Game date, time: 1:05 p.m. ET, Saturday, January 7th, 2012
Location: FC Dallas Stadium (21,193) -- Frisco, Texas
TV channel: ESPN2
Announcers: Dave Neal, Danny Kanell and Allison Williams
Odds: NDST favored b 1.