The game is being held in Frisco, Texas for the eighth year in a row.
It's #1 vs. #2 showdown. The Dukes beat the Bison in 2016 in the semifinals en route to winning their first title since 2004.
North Dakota State returned to its familiar throne atop the subdivision with a 17-13 victory over defending champion James Madison before 19,090 at Toyota Stadium on Saturday, but not before the Bison gave a nod of respect across the line of scrimmage to a Dukes program that had stopped their run of five straight national titles last season.
In the bruising matchup of the two best defenses in the FCS, the Stick-to-Shepherd score was the biggest offensive play of the game.
But fact is, the fronts for James Madison are just as physical. Asked what he could take from that game, Bison coach Chris Klieman said, "Nothing, really".
Both teams have experienced quarterbacks.
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North Dakota State standout defensive tackle Nate Tanguay said his advice to his younger teammates during championship week is to "lock in" during practices and meetings but relax and enjoy the flurry of activities that includes meeting with former Bison football players and an annual bowling tournament.
On the play, Shepherd lined up in the slot to quarterback Easton Stick's left.
By winning six championships in seven years in the suburb north of Dallas, the Bison tied Georgia Southern with the most FCS titles.
"Oh no doubt", says Houston. They needed some points badly before kicking away to NDSU to start the third quarter, and Stapelton's snaring of this one - momentarily pinning it to the helmet of the Bison's Josh Hayes - got them across midfield to at least set up a field goal. "There's no doubt. And we're excited about it too".
"We just watched the film and decided what we liked and didn't like ... and moved on", Klieman said. I know this: our guys are excited to come back and play in the national championship.
"You have to keep waiting for that moment and keep believing that you are going to make that play", Shepherd said. Though the Bison never trailed Saturday, James Madison almost pulled off an unlikely comeback in a rematch of last year's national semifinal (The Dukes won and went on to win the national championship).