- Eastern Washington (+7.5) looks to knock off defending national champions North Dakota State on Saturday in the first round of the FCS Playoffs (ESPN3, 3:30 p.m. EST)
- EWU QB Eric Barriere is a contender for Player of the Year, while Bison quarterbacks have struggled this season
- Read below for a complete breakdown, odds and a pick on the game
The last time that Eastern Washington won a football game against North Dakota State was in November of 2014. The Bison have since beat the Eagles in three consecutive matchups, but Eastern will try and break that streak when the two sides meet again on Saturday.
North Dakota State is favored by 7.5 points at home in the first round of the NCAA FCS playoffs, but doesn’t quite look like the juggernaut program it’s been for the last decade. The Bison are coming off their second loss of the season, while EWU has been surging since dropping its spring season-opener back in February.
NDSU has won three consecutive FCS National Championships, and beat Eastern Washington in the 2018 title game, 38-24.
Eastern Washington vs North Dakota State Odds
|Team||Spread on FanDuel||Moneyline||Total|
|Eastern Washington||+7.5 (-122)||+225||O 55.5 (-106)|
|North Dakota State||-7.5 (+100)||-290||U 55.5 (-114)|
Odds as of April 22nd
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Eastern Has Firepower for Days
The Eagles have traditionally had a high-flying offense, but this year, they have far-and-away been the best in the FCS.
— EWU Football (@EWUFootball) April 10, 2021
Redshirt senior quarterback Eric Barriere took offensive player of the year honors in the Big Sky Conference after he finished the spring with more than 2,300 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. Eastern has put up an average of 562.5 yards of total offense per game this season and 388.5 passing yards per game. Barriere is also a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which is given to the top FCS player in the nation.
EWU also has the top running back in the game with Tamarick Pierce, who has averaged 5.6 yards per carry and has four touchdowns this season. North Dakota State is a good defensive team, but Pierce should be able to find some room against the Bison, who have given up 131 rushing yards per game. Eastern’s Dennis Merritt also ran for three touchdowns in the team’s most recent game against Idaho on April 10.
Where the Bison Have the Edge
The major point of weakness for Eastern Washington is its defensive line, and more specifically, its play against the run.
Freshman quarterback Cam Miller got some reps in NDSU’s last game, and completed 56% of his passes for 149 yards, but he also ran for 52 yards on 15 attempts. Sophomore fullback Hunter Luepke has emerged as the top runner out of the backfield for North Dakota State, and though he has just 355 total rushing yards, he averages 5.6 yards per carry.
The Most Hunter Luepke Touchdown Yet.
He's still not down. pic.twitter.com/bQaULYvbfH
— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) March 20, 2021
North Dakota State’s average time of possession this season is just under 29:45 per game, and only five of the Bison’s 19 possessions in their last two games were longer than four minutes. Senior QB Zeb Noland has taken most of the snaps this season, but has only completed 51% of his passes for 721 yards.
Noland is the only quarterback between the two to throw a touchdown pass this season, but he only has five. Meanwhile, he and Miller have combined to throw seven interceptions. Miller may get more run – or even start this week – but either QB is going to be sharp to keep his offense on the field and EWU’s off of it.
EWU Gets the Monkey Off Their Backs
Eastern opened its spring season with a loss at Idaho, but took a win back at home against the Vandals on two weeks ago.
This is a tricky matchup at home for NDSU, and Bison head coach Matt Entz will have to get creative to keep possession in this one. Trey Lance isn’t walking back through that door and the Eagles are going to come ready to empty the clip on a team that has been atop the FCS for so long.
Eastern has the momentum of avenging their only loss of the spring their last time out and six consecutive wins heading into this weekend. The Eagles should show up motivated with an opportunity to snap NDSU’s recent dominance over them and at the very least, keep the score within a touchdown.
- The Pick: Eastern Washington +7.5 (-122)
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