FCS Game of the Week Preview – Sam Houston State vs. North Dakota State

The most anticipated FCS Quarterfinal game this weekend will feature perennial champions North Dakota State taking on Sam Houston State. This is the weakest the Bison have been in the last decade. They have won eight of the last nine FCS national championships, but they lost two games in Missouri Valley play this season. That has many sharps jumping on the chance to bet Sam Houston State as a short home underdog.

Sam Houston State will host North Dakota State at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas on Sunday, May 2, 2021. This game is slated to kick off at 3 p.m. ET with ESPN broadcasting it on the main channel.

College Football Betting Odds

North Dakota State -2.5

Sam Houston State +2.5

Total 47.5

How They Got Here

The Bearkats went 6-0 on their way to winning the Southland Conference once again. They were up 21-0 on Monmouth last week before the Hawks rallied back to make it close at the very end. This offense was not sharp last week against Monmouth, and that must be fixed on Sunday if the Bearkats are going to pull off the upset. SHSU was only able to amass 257 total yards.

North Dakota State earned an at-large bid due to the strength of the MVFC and the program’s reputation. The Bison were hammered on the road by Southern Illinois in late February, and they lost the Dakota Marker to South Dakota State two weeks ago. However, they made the most of their return to the playoffs with a 42-20 win over Eastern Washington last Saturday.

North Dakota State Offense vs. Sam Houston State Defense

The main problem with the Bison this season has been the absence of a good quarterback. After churning out Carson Wentz, Easton Stick, and Trey Lance, the Bison were hoping that Iowa State transfer Zeb Noland would at least be decent. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as Noland completed just 51% of his passes for 721 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions in the regular season.

That led to NDSU starting true freshman Cam Miller in last week’s playoff win over Eastern Washington. Miller only threw 11 passes but didn’t turn the ball over in the win. However, that victory was largely due to NDSU’s ground game gashing Eastern Washington for 422 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bison won’t be able to have the same success against the Bearkats’ front seven. Sam Houston State is allowing just 1.8 YPC this season, as opponents have not been able to get to the second level against this defensive line. With star left tackle Dillon Radunz also opting out in favor of the NFL, the Bison aren’t as strong on the offensive line.

Sam Houston State Offense vs. North Dakota State Defense

It’s hard to know what to make of Sam Houston State on offense. The Bearkats had a good deal of success in the Southland, but the conference is not known for its defense. Monmouth’s ability to contain the passing game last week is a worry, as the Hawks weren’t seen as having an elite defense.

Eric Schmid had a nice season under center. He completed 60.7% of his passes for 2,154 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions as the Bearkats averaged 9.3 YPA through the air. Schmid completed 12 of 24 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown last week against the Hawks though, and that kind of performance won’t get it done on Saturday.

The ground game is unlikely to have much success either. Ramon Jefferson has been a solid back, averaging 7.0 YPC, but the Bison are very strong in the front seven.


Under is a great play at this number. Both teams may struggle to move the ball through the air and on the ground, so points will be at a premium.

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