FCS Game of the Week Preview – Sam Houston State vs. South Dakota State
Either the Sam Houston State Bearkats or the South Dakota State Jackrabbits will win their first FCS national championship this weekend. This is South Dakota State’s first trip to the FCS title game, while Sam Houston State has been here twice. The Bearkats were upended in the title game by North Dakota State in consecutive years last decade, and the Jackrabbits are a relatively new power with just a handful of postseason appearances before this season.
The 2020-21 FCS National Championship Game will take place at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. It will be held on Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 2 p.m. ET on ABC.
College Football Betting Odds
South Dakota State -5
Sam Houston State +5
South Dakota State Offense vs. Sam Houston State Defense
Mark Gronowski has been impressive as a true freshman. It was surprising to see him beat out J’Bore Gibbs for the starting quarterback job at the start of the season, but he has led the Jackrabbits further than they have ever been before in the postseason. Gronowski isn’t going to throw a ton in this game, and he isn’t very accurate. However, he has been effective be completing 57.5% of his passes for 8.3 YPA with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Jackrabbits will turn to twins Jaxon Janke and Jadon Janke in the passing game, but they want to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. Gronowski is an extremely effective runner. He has run for 567 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 7.0 YPC. Isaiah Davis has been a home run hitter in the backfield with 640 yards (7.8 YPC) and seven touchdowns. Pierre Strong Jr. is the leading rusher with 650 yards and three touchdowns.
Sam Houston State has very good numbers, especially in run defense. However, the Bearkats have had some issues stopping good quarterbacks and struggled against James Madison’s offense last week. The Jackrabbits have the best run game they have seen, and if they can establish the run, it will be a long day for the underdogs.
Sam Houston State Offense vs. South Dakota State Defense
This offense is not as good as you might think at first glance. Sam Houston State thrived against Southland Conference opponents, but the Bearkats haven’t been great on this side of the ball in the playoffs.
Erik Schmid has been a little too turnover prone. Schmid has thrown multiple interceptions in four of his nine starts, and that has mitigated some of his upside. Additionally, he struggled against both Monmouth and James Madison in the playoffs. The Bearkats do have some talented receivers in Jequez Eddard and Ife Adeyi though, as both players are averaging over 20.0 YPC.
The run game isn’t that effective either. Ramon Jefferson has lit it up against bad defenses, but he has had a tough time moving the chains the last two weeks. Additionally, Schmid isn’t that effective of a runner.
South Dakota State boasts a very talented defense that has taken on the toughest teams in the country in the Missouri Valley. The Jackrabbits are allowing just 4.3 yards per play, and it will be difficult for the Bearkats to move the ball.
This is a mismatch. Sam Houston State has been fortunate to get to this point, but South Dakota State is superior on both sides of the ball. Lay the chalk with the Jackrabbits.