- South Dakota State continues its march toward the FCS Championship Game as heavy favorites against Delaware in Saturday’s semifinal game (ESPN, 12 p.m. EST)
- The matchup will feature two of the country’s top FCS quarterbacks in SDSU’s Mark Gronowski and Delaware’s Nolan Henderson
- Read below for a breakdown on the matchup and a pick on the game
The NCAA Football Championship Subdivision will certainly have a new champion this season, and South Dakota State appears to be in the driver’s seat.
The Jackrabbits were the top-seeded team entering the playoffs, and are 8.5-point home favorites against undefeated Delaware on Saturday. In last weekend’s quarterfinals matchups, South Dakota State rallied to beat Southern Illinois, 31-26, while the Blue Hens dispatched Jacksonville State, 20-14.
Both teams are led by top quarterbacks, but sportsbooks are expecting defense to win the day with a low total projection of just 37.5 combined points.
Delaware vs South Dakota State Odds
|Team||Spread on FanDuel||Moneyline||Total|
|Delaware||+8.5 (-110)||+320||O 37.5 (-114)|
|South Dakota State||-8.5 (-110)||-420||U 37.5 (-106)|
Odds as of May 6th
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Gamer Quarterbacks Ready to Show Out
South Dakota State freshman Mark Gronowski has powered the Jackrabbit offense all season. Although he’s completed just 57% of his passes, he’s thrown 13 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Gronowski has been an equally dangerous weapon on the ground, where he’s averaged more than seven yards per carry on 540 rushing yards this season.
Gronowski breaks a huge run and South Dakota State (-17) has scored 17 unanswered pic.twitter.com/dtjy1sGvxb
— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) May 3, 2021
Delaware redshirt junior QB Nolan Henderson has been the more efficient passer of the two, but isn’t the same sort of threat running the ball. Henderson has completed 68% of his passes this spring, and finished the regular season just 47 passing yards behind Gronowski in one fewer game played.
He doesn’t typically tuck the ball and run for big yards, but his presence in the pocket and scrambling ability were crucial in the Blue Hens’ win last weekend.
Both defenses have been strong, but neither has been an elite pass-rushing side. Delaware’s offense has converted on an underwhelming 34% of its third downs this spring, but Henderson finds way to keep drives alive with his escapability. Outside of an overplay that resulted in a 74-yard scamper by Jacksonville State’s AC Graham, the Hens’ defense has been disciplined and reliably contains mobile quarterbacks.
Which Defense Has the Edge?
Just based on the eye test, Delaware’s defense played faster than South Dakota State’s last week. The Blue Hens’ secondary did a good job of sticking to receivers and making big plays on misfired passes. Delaware has the second-highest positive turnover margin in the country this year, as well as the second-best overall pass defense.
The Jackrabbits have a few ballhawks of their own, led by junior safety Joshua Manchigiah, who has four interceptions this spring. Fellow safety Michael Griffin II has two picks of his own and the pair should keep Delaware’s passing attack in front of them.
Both defenses have been stingy against the run this season, but Delaware hasn’t had to rely on its quarterback to come up with big rushing totals the way SDSU has with Gronowkski. The Jackrabbits have surrendered 10 rushing touchdowns this spring, and Delaware’s backfield combo of Dejoun Lee and Khory Spruill be able to keep SDSU’s defense honest.
The Final Word
South Dakota State has been one of the most convincing FCS programs in the nation this spring. Meanwhile, Delaware has played through a softer schedule and the Hens beat a Jacksonville State team that was missing its starting QB last week.
The relatively low point total and wide spread should be enough to entice bettors to choose Delaware to cover. Five of Delaware’s last seven games have been on the road, so making the trip to Brookings this weekend shouldn’t rattle the Hens. The best bet in this one might actually be to take Delaware +4.5 in the first half; it’s more of a coin-flip as to whether or not SDSU will pull away in the second half.
Either way, Delaware is one of the toughest defenses that the Jackrabbits have faced this season. Henderson should be able to keep things interesting on offense and his defense has the capability to keep the SDSU ground game in check. South Dakota State will likely advance to the FCS Championship game, but Delaware can keep things within two scores on Saturday.
The Pick: Delaware +8.5 (-110)
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