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Updated 2021 FCS National Championship Odds Favor South Dakota State to Win Spring Playoffs

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in College Football

Apr 21, 2021 · 7:26 PM PDT

Percy Agyei-Obese breaks a run
James Madison running back Percy Agyei-Obese (31) runs the ball during the first half of the FCS championship NCAA college football game against North Dakota State, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Hodde)
  • #1 seed South Dakota has odds of +150 to win the FCS National Championship, the shortest on the board
  • SDSU is not the highest ranked team in the playoffs, that honor belongs to James Madison
  • See odds and analysis below, plus a betting prediction

Fresh off a convincing win over perennial FCS powerhouse North Dakota State in the annual Dakota Marker, South Dakota (5-1) has earned the #1 seed in the FCS Spring Playoffs, and is the favorite to win the FCS National Championship.

The Jackrabbits however, are not the top ranked program in the 16-team tournament which begins Saturday, April 24th, as that honor belongs to undefeated James Madison (5-0). Six teams including the Dukes will enter the playoffs without a loss this season, but none played in a conference as tough as South Dakota’s.

2021 FCS National Championship Odds

Team Odds at DraftKings
South Dakota State +150
Sam Houston State +350
North Dakota State +400
James Madison +500
North Dakota +800
Jacksonville State +1000
Delaware +1000
Weber State +1200
Southern Illinois +1600
Missouri State +2000
Eastern Washington +3300
VMI +5000
Davidson +10000
Holy Cross +10000
Sacred Heart +10000

Odds as of April 21st.

The Jackrabbits earned a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title, and boast wins over not only the preseason favorite Bison but #9 seed Southern Illinois as well. They split the league title with #5 seed North Dakota and #10 seed Missouri State, and are one of five MVFC programs to crack the playoff tournament.

Can’t Justify Betting Jackrabbits

Schedule makers did South Dakota a favor by placing them in the far easier side of the draw. The Jackrabbits will open against Patriot League champ Holy Cross on Saturday, and will play the winner of Weber State and aforementioned Southern Illinois should they advance.

South Dakota destroyed the Salukis 44-3 just last month, but more importantly will avoid Sam Houston, James Madison, North Dakota Sate and North Dakota, the teams with the second, third, fourth and fifth shortest odds, until the final.

The Jackrabbits’ case to win it all is simple. They run the ball exceptionally well, and play fantastic defense. South Dakota ranks 22nd in points per game, sixth in rushing yards per game and fourth in red zone efficiency.

Defensively, they rank ninth in opponent points per game, 14th in total defense, and number eight versus the pass, in large part thanks to a whopping 10 interceptions.

Stingy defense and pounding the rock helped South Dakota earn its first ever #1 seed in the FCS playoffs, but that recipe is typically only successful when playing from ahead. The Jackrabbits passing game ranked 65th in the nation, and QB Mark Gronowski eclipsed 200 yards through the air in only one spring outing. Granted, he made up for that by running for 6 TD and racking up three separate 100-yard rushing games, but it’s fair to wonder how they’ll fare if they’re trailing.

In their lone loss, they fell behind by 11 to North Dakota and Gronowski was forced to throw. He aired it out a season-high 32 times, and the result wasn’t pretty. The freshman completed only 50% of his attempts and committed a season-worst three turnovers.

If you’re going to bet on a team with odds as short as the Jackrabbits’ you better be sure they’re not one dimensional, and have the ability to win in multiple game scripts. South Dakota’s passing deficiencies make them a pass.

Dukes Undervalued

A program to target to win it all is James Madison. The top ranked Dukes were runners-up to North Dakota State in 2019, and have obliterated their competition this spring.

They’re a perfect 5-0 and have outscored their opponents by 120 points. They surrender just 9.8 points per game, and rank first in the nation in total defense.

Offensively, they’re averaging 33.8 points per game and 434.6 yards of total offense, and like the Jackrabbits feature a dominant run game. Led by senior and Walter Payton Award nominee Percy Agyei-Obese, James Madison racks up 236 rushing yards per game, but unlike South Dakota, their passing game has been effective when called upon. Senior Cole Johnson is completing 67.3% of his throws, while averaging 9.0 yards per completion.

He’s seen game action at the FCS level for three years now, and is well equipped to lead this team with his arm should the situation call for it.

The Dukes are heavily favored in their 1st round playoff matchup versus VMI, and will face the winner of North Dakota-Missouri State should they advance. From there, they’ll likely face either Sam Houston or North Dakota State with a ticket to the championship game on the line, a matchup that could arguably be tougher than a date with the Jackrabbits in the final.

Pick: James Madison (+500)

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