FRISCO — Sam Houston State and North Dakota State did not rely on rankings, coach’s polls or computer data to reach the NCAA Division I Football Championship. They earned their spots in the Jan. 7 contest by advancing in the playoffs.
Either the Bearkats or Bison will walk off the field at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco as the national champion. No debate.
“It is survival of the fittest,” Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz said Wednesday. “You’ve got to be mentally tough and you’ve got to be physically tough to advance and keep playing.”
Is the FCS system better than the FBS?
“The playoff format is a phenomenal format,” Bison coach Craig Bohl said. “In the other system, you’re looking at how many points you’re going to win by and what the ratings are going to be and what the computers are going to say. Our players have embraced this, and all I can say is that it works.”
The FCS is the highest division in college football with a playoff. Fans have embraced the concept, if the championship game’s sellout, announced Tuesday, is an indication.
No. 1 seeded Sam Houston State, from the Southland Conference, hopes to finish with a perfect season. The Bearkats (14-0) have won 16 straight dating to last season. They made it through the 20-team tournament with victories over Stony Brook, Montana State and Montana.
“The new part for us was getting into the playoffs,” Fritz said. “Our kids had never been in the playoffs before and I had never been in the playoffs, so I think there were butterflies from that standpoint.”
No. 2 North Dakota State (13-1), from the Missouri Valley Conference, defeated James Madison, Lehigh and Georgia Southern. The Bison have outscored playoff opponents, 85-21.
“FCS football is a whole lot better than what some people think,” Bohl said. “It was no fluke that we defeated the University of Minnesota the last two years, and I know Sam Houston has played some other FBS teams. This is going to be an electric atmosphere.”
Strong support: The sellout illustrates the teams’ strong fan bases. Last year’s game between Delaware and Eastern Washington attracted 13,027 to Pizza Hut Park.
Bleachers are being constructed for the north end zone of Pizza Hut Park. Standing-room-only tickets in the concourses will go on sale on Dec. 29.
“We could have sold, easily, 10 to 15,000,” Bohl said. “Our fan base is very loyal, we sell out all our home games, they love to travel, and it’s an opportunity for them to come to Dallas in the winter time, so they’re going to jump on that.”
Exposure for Bearkats: For Sam Houston State, the championship game provides exposure to potential recruits in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. All but a handful of players on the roster hail from Texas, including 19 from the Dallas area.
Receiver Warren Holloway of Houston and cornerback Aireal Boyd of LaPorte are the only Texans on North Dakota State’s roster.
Briefly: The championship game is hosted by the Southland Conference, the City of Frisco and Hunt Sports Group. The 2013 game will also be in Frisco. … Sam Houston State boasts the longest win streak in either Division I subdivision and joins LSU as the only unbeatens in Division I. … This will be the third meeting between the schools.