Just four teams remain in the 2018 FCS Football Championship, as North Dakota State takes on Sam Houston in one national semifinal, while defending champion James Madison battles South Dakota State in the other. It’s a compelling mix of powerhouses and underdogs, and it should make for a thrilling weekend of football.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch:
Live Stream Info
The first semifinal (North Dakota State vs Sam Houston State) is scheduled for Friday, December 15, at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The second (James Madison vs South Dakota State) is on Saturday, December 16, at 4:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPNU. That means you can watch a live stream via WatchESPN if you have a cable log-in, but if you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch both the games online, on your phone or on another streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services. They cost a monthly fee but all come with a free trial, so you can watch both semis for free:
DirecTV Now: There are four main channel packages. ESPN and ESPN2 are included in all bundles, while ESPNU is included in three of them: “Just Right,” “Go Big” and “Gotta Have It”. It comes with a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, plus you can get $25 off your first month if you enter promo code “BDAY2017”. You can watch on your computer via your browser, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app
Sling TV: ESPN and ESPN2 are included in the “Sling Orange” base package, while you need to add the “Sports Extra” add-on to get access to ESPNU. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial right here. You can watch on your computer via the Sling website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app
PlayStation Vue: There are four main channel packages. ESPN and ESPN2 are in all of the bundles, while ESPNU is included in three of them: “Core,” “Elite” and “Ultra”. You can sign up for a free 5-day trial right here. You can watch on your computer via the PS Vue website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the PlayStation Vue app
Also note: You can also watch on your computer via the WatchESPN website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the WatchESPN app. When you’re asked to verify your cable provider, you’ll just use your DirecTV Now, Sling TV or PS Vue credentials to sign in
After taking down five-time defending champs North Dakota State en route to winning their second national title in program history a year ago, James Madison set out in 2017 to prove it wasn’t a fluke. 13 wins in 13 games and a 452-134 point differential later, it’s clear the Dukes are an absolute force to be reckoned with. They’ve now won 25 games in a row overall, with just five of those contests being decided by one possession.
Still, while the Dukes are the clear national title favorites, don’t expect South Dakota State to be overwhelmed. The Jacks current seven-game win streak has seen them topple an impressive six ranked teams, including fellow national semifinalist and FCS juggernaut North Dakota State. At the very least, they have the explosive offense to counter a James Madison defense that has allowed just 10.31 points and 181.0 yards per game on the year. Behind efficient QB Taryn Christion and two first-team FCS All-Americans–tight end Dallas Goedert and center Jacob Ohnesorge–the Jacks have piled up 38.8 points and 444.2 yards per contest.
Ultimately, it should be an intriguing matchup between contrasting strengths.
In the second semifinal, North Dakota State looks to return to the promised land after they were (finally) knocked from the FCS football throne last year, marking the first time since 2010 they didn’t win the national title. They appear to have bounced back after their defeat to South Dakota State in early November, and their their two playoff wins have come by a combined score of 80-13, but they get a tough matchup here. Sam Houston State has an offense that can score in a hurry–45.6 points per game–and a defense that can cause havoc upfront behind two-time All-American P.J. Hall and Chris Stewart, who have combined for 19 sacks and 38 tackles for loss.
It appears that most likely we’re on a crash course for a rematch of last year’s national semifinal game between James Madison and North Dakota State, but it would be a mistake to write off any of these teams. Either way, we’re in store for two fantastic games this weekend.