After a one-year title game hiatus in 2016, North Dakota State returned to glory last year with its unprecedented sixth FCS championship in the last seven years, defeating reigning champ James Madison 17-13 in Frisco, Texas. The Bison are now just one championship away from surpassing Georgia Southern for most titles (seven) in FCS history.

Will NDSU set this mark in 2018? As we saw in the 2016 FCS semifinals, they are not invincible. However, it’s very plausible we’ll see NDSU lifting the hardware again this coming January.

Here are three reasons why North Dakota State will win the FCS championship again in 2018-19:

1. Bison return 13 starters — plus another former All-American

The Bison will return 13 starters to their 2018 squad, including national championship game MOP Easton Stick at quarterback, all three of their top rushers, its top tackler in linebacker Jabril Cox and a full rotation of pass-rushing defensive ends. Former All-American defensive end Greg Menard is also added back to the mix after missing last season due to a knee injury. He was good for 15.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks back in 2016.

North Dakota State is well-stocked with postseason vets at almost every position, which is vital in a title push. Equally important, this depth allows teams to compensate for inevitable injuries that occur over the course of a long season.

The Bison were hampered by injuries all through last year. In addition to losing Menard for the whole season, key contributors Lance Dunn (running back), Ty Brooks (running back), Jalen Allison (cornerback), Jaylaan Wimbush (cornerback) and Levi Jordheim (linebacker) all missed some time with various ailments. NDSU still finished with the nation’s fourth-best rushing offense and second-best scoring defense thanks to its depth.

The return of Stick, a steady force under center, is a particularly welcome sight for the Bison faithful. Despite never being named an All-American — or even all-conference — the senior from Omaha, Nebraska has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the nation since taking over as a full-time starter in 2016. Stick was third in passing efficiency (169.5) and finished with 40 total touchdowns last year.

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