FCS Game of the Week Preview – North Dakota State vs. Youngstown State
North Dakota State ran Youngstown State off the field when these teams met during the 2019 season. The Bison scored six touchdowns in the first half on their way to a 56-17 victory over the Penguins. It was the worst home loss in Youngstown State’s long history, and they would love to avenge that defeat. However, that’s easier said than done against the Bison, as NDSU hasn’t lost since falling to South Dakota State in November 2017.
This game will take place on Sunday, February 21, 2021 at 3:30 p.m. ET at the Fargodome in Fargo, North Dakota.
College Football Betting Odds
Youngstown State +22.5
North Dakota State -22.5
Youngstown State hasn’t defeated North Dakota State since the 2011 season. The Penguins came to Fargo and pulled out a 27-24 win, knocking off the No. 1 Bison. They came close to pulling off the upset in 2015, 2017, and 2018, but they were unable to complete the feat despite keeping it close.
North Dakota State Offense vs. Youngstown State Defense
Trey Lance will be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. His departure means that the Bison aren’t as explosive on offense, but this program simply reloads at this point. Zeb Noland will be the new signal caller for this offense.
Noland spent two years in Ames with Iowa State before losing the starting quarterback job to Brock Purdy. He transferred to NDSU, and he saw some action with the Bison during the 2019 campaign. Noland put up decent numbers at Iowa State, so he should be one of the top quarterbacks at the FCS level.
Of course, Noland is unlikely to throw the ball much as the Bison rely on their ground game. They averaged 287.6 YPG on the ground during the 2019 season, and NDSU was averaging an absurd 6.4 YPC even with sacks counting against rushing yards. Ty Brooks and Adam Cofield have both moved on after combining to run for 1,781 yards and 17 TDs in 2019, but Seth Wilson is back after missing the 2019 campaign with a knee injury and Kobe Johnson is solid.
The Bo Pelini experiment didn’t end up paying off for Youngstown State. He led the Penguins to a 12-4 record and a berth in the 2016 FCS Championship, but the team went a combined 21-24 in his other four seasons in charge of the Penguins. This defense did not look good over the last month of his tenure, so former Cincinnati assistant Doug Phillips was hired to replace Pelini.
Youngstown State doesn’t have a single defensive player on the All-MVFC preseason team, so the Penguins might have a very difficult time stopping the NDSU run game.
Youngstown State Offense vs. North Dakota State Defense
Joe Craycraft had a solid sophomore season. He ended up being nearly as good as senior Nathan Mays, completing 52 percent of his passes for 893 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Craycraft is a decent runner, and he isn’t afraid to tuck it and pick up some yards.
It’s tough to be confident about the skill position talent though. Joe Alessi graduated, and Braxton Chapman decided to transfer to Northern Illinois. The two leading receivers have both moved on too. This offensive line has some talent led by Dan Becker, but there are a lot of question marks on this side of the ball.
There are no such concerns for North Dakota State. This defense has an incredible secondary, and the front seven is pretty good too. Jackson Hankey might be the best linebacker in the conference although he is undersized, and Spencer Waege recorded 11.0 TFL and 5.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2019.
This game won’t be close. North Dakota State has too much talent, and Youngstown State has too many question marks. The Bison will jump on top early and easily cover the number.