There was only one surprise during the quarterfinals round of the FCS playoffs last weekend — Incarnate Word’s win over Sacramento State. North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Montana State had little-to-no trouble winning their respective games to earn a spot in the FCS semifinals this weekend.
The FCS semifinal odds listed at sportsbooks favor South Dakota State and North Dakota State, but both teams are ripe for an upset.
FCS SEMIFINALS · Fri (12/16) @ 7:00 pm ET
|Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, Fargo, ND|
For North Dakota State, the semifinals are a given year in and year out. They’ve reached the semis in 10 of the last 11 seasons, winning nine times and going on to win the national championship each time. But it will be challenging to get a 10th win (out of 12) this year.
Incarnate Word is one of the more balanced teams remaining in the FCS playoffs. They are a solid run team and one of the best passing teams in the FCS. Lindsey Scott is coming off a 219-yard passing day in the Cardinals’ win over Sacramento State, but he and Marcus Cooper combined for 342 yards on the ground.
Their defense should be up to whatever challenge the ND State passing game can mount but slowing down the Bison’s No. 3 rushing game will not be easy — and the key to the game. North Dakota State has one of the better pass defenses in the FCS division, but its best defense is its offense. Scott can’t throw touchdown bombs if he isn’t on the field.
ND State held the ball for over 39 minutes last weekend against Samford, a number they would probably love to match this weekend. However, the offense is dealing with several injuries. Players were able to step up last week, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have the same success this week.
This one will come down to the defense. Both offenses are high-powered and capable of putting up a ton of points. So, the winner will probably be the team that can stop the other on one or two drives. It would not be shocking if this game comes down to whoever has the ball last.
Our Pick: Incarnate Word +9
Montana State (12-1) vs. South Dakota State (11-1)
The Jackrabbits are favored over the Bobcats. Here are betting lines as of Tuesday.
FCS SEMIFINALS · Sat (12/17) @ 4:00 pm ET
|Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, Brookings, SD|
The South Dakota State Jackrabbits were an unseeded team when they met the Montana State Bobcats in the 2021 FCS semifinals, a game the Bobcats ultimately won, 31-17. But this season, SDSU enters the game as the No. 1 seed and the betting favorite to win the FCS championship this year.
Turnovers and an inability to slow down the Bobcats’ run game cost the Jackrabbits dearly last season. Montana State scored touchdowns on the drives following two SD State turnovers (an interception and turnovers on downs) and ran for 176 yards. This season, the Jackrabbits have the No. 1 run defense in the FCS division and have committed just ten turnovers (interceptions and fumbles).
They didn’t turn the ball over last week but had a fumble against Delaware.
However, the Bobcats are even better at running the ball this season. They have the No. 1 rushing attack in the FCS and recorded 300+ yards in their first two playoff games. Their defense has not been bad, but their best defense is their offense. The more success they have in the run game, the less time the South Dakota State offense will have on the field.
South Dakota State wins games because of its defense. Their offense has been good enough, but the Jackrabbits would rather not count on it to win games. After watching the defense give up 261 yards on the ground last weekend to Holy Cross, bettors should be nervous about betting on SD State. Montana State is built to run the ball and while the South Dakota State defense may slow them down, the Jackrabbits will not stop the Bobcats.
Our Pick: Montana State +205