- North Dakota State is a 16.5-point favorite in its first road game this season against Southern Illinois on Saturday, February 27th (1 p.m. EST)
- The Bison’s rushing attack could pose problems for SIU, which also gave away five turnovers in a loss last week
- Read below for analysis, odds and a pick on the game
During the fall, FCS college football teams don’t typically catch much action from bettors unless they are the cupcake for a FBS team ahead of conference play.
The Football Championship Subdivision allowed its programs postpone their 2020-21 fall schedules until this spring, or split their season to allow for things like scheduled games against FBS teams last fall.
FCS powerhouse North Dakota State played its first game of this season last October against Central Arkansas. and its second last weekend against Youngstown State. This weekend, the Bison are 16.5-point favorites in their first road game of the 2021 campaign against Southern Illinois.
North Dakota State vs Southern Illinois Odds
|North Dakota State||-16.5 (-110)||-1050||O 44.5 (-112)|
|Southern Illinois||+16.5 (-110)||+630||U 44.5 (-108)|
Odds taken from FanDuel on Feb. 25th
What’s New With NDSU
The biggest storyline for the Bison as they resume play is the replacement of quarterback Trey Lance. Lance is a projected a first-round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft, and finished his college career with 315 total yards and four touchdowns in that win against ACU. Senior Zeb Noland has taken over, but including last week, he only has 32 attempted passes and 194 yards in his career.
Jalen Bussey is now the North Dakota State career leader for touchdowns in February. pic.twitter.com/aCDFK4MVWi
— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) February 21, 2021
Noland completed 9-of-18 passes for just 74 yards with three carries for 13 yards in last week’s win against Youngstown. The Bison didn’t need him to do much more than that, thanks to their defense and running game. Sophomore running back Kobe Johnson is now firmly entrenched as the lead back for North Dakota State, and had 114 yards on 16 carries against Youngstown. Redshirt freshman Jalen Bussey appears to be carving out a significant role in the run-first offense as well, and has four rushing touchdowns in two career games played.
Last year, North Dakota State had the second-best defense among all FCS teams, and put the clamps on Youngstown State in a 25-7 win. Youngstown finished with just 171 yards of total offense, but as the Bison are infusing new players on defense and Southern Illinois has averaged just over 365 yards of offense in their two games this season. One of the biggest things working in North Dakota State’s favor, including last fall’s game against Central Arkansas, is the Bison have only allowed their two opponents to convert on just 21% of third downs.
The Big Mismatch
So far this season, SIU has struggled to defend against the run. The Salukis allowed 281 yards on the ground in their first game against Southeast Missouri State, and North Dakota popped off for 229 yards against them the following week.
In the Bison’s last game against Central Arkansas, Lance ran for 166 yards, and the rest of the team ran for 142. Outside of Johnson’s total against Youngstown, six other players got carries for a total of 134 yards for North Dakota State. The Salukis have the third-best pass defense in FCS through two games, and with Noland clearly not the passing threat that Lance was, the Bison should be primed to just pound the rock for four quarters.
Furthermore, Southern Illinois turned the ball over five times last week. If SIU is as cavalier with the ball again this week, a disciplined team like North Dakota State will take advantage. North Dakota scored touchdowns after four of the five turnovers the Salukis coughed up last week, and SIU could be a bit gun-shy when it comes to being overly aggressive this weekend.
FINAL | North Dakota took control in the second half and capture the win over Southern Illinois.
— #TOURNEYHQ (@MidcoSN) February 20, 2021
Early on, the Bison have the look of a team that is going to need to be pressed to put up big point totals. Perhaps North Dakota was always the better team against SIU last week, but the Hawks almost certainly wouldn’t have dropped 44 points on the Salukis had it not been for all the turnovers.
Against an opponent that will be determined to not repeat its mistakes from last week with a QB that doesn’t pose much of a threat, don’t expect an offensive explosion despite the Bisons’ projected 16.5-point advantage.
The Pick: Under 44.5 (-108)
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