FCS Game of the Week Preview – Weber State vs. Southern Illinois

The FCS Playoffs get underway this week. The game with the closest spread in the Round of 16 features Weber State hosting Southern Illinois. This is the only game with a spread of six points or less, as five of the eight games this Saturday have spreads in the double digits. That should make this game the most intriguing tilt of the week, and the winner will likely take on No. 1 seed South Dakota State next Saturday.

Weber State will welcome Southern Illinois to Stewart Stadium in Ogden, Utah on Saturday, April 24, 2021. This game is scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m. ET with ESPN Plus broadcasting it.

College Football Betting Odds

Southern Illinois +4.5

Weber State -4.5

Total 48

How They Got Here

The Wildcats went 5-0 to win the Big Sky Conference this spring. However, they were not as impressive as we have seen in the past. Their last four victories came by five points or less as this offense had a hard time putting up points after the season opener.

Southern Illinois was a very controversial selection into the FCS Playoffs. The Salukis lost three games, but the Selection Committee rewarded them for wins over North Dakota State and Northern Iowa. They beat fellow bubble team Southeastern Louisiana in a shootout last week to get the nod, rolling up 808 total yards of offense in a 55-48 win.

Weber State Offense vs. Southern Illinois Defense

True freshman Bronson Barron is the starting quarterback for Weber State. He had a fantastic outing in the season opener against Idaho State, but he has been largely mediocre since that win. Barron hasn’t completed more than 13 passes in any of his three start since that point, and transfer Randall Johnson didn’t look too much better when he started in place of Barron due to a wrist injury.

Weber State is averaging 5.4 YPC on the ground. Josh Davis, Dontae McMillan, and Daniel Wright Jr. all do a great job running the ball for the Wildcats. Barron and Johnson are decent runners too, but Weber State is not known for its prowess on offense.

It’s been a mixed bag for Southern Illinois on defense this season. The Salukis were gashed by Southeastern Louisiana, North Dakota, and South Dakota State, but they did a great job shutting down North Dakota State and Northern Iowa. Opponents are running for 5.0 YPC against this front seven, so that will likely lead to Jay Hill taking the air out of the ball.

Southern Illinois Offense vs. Weber State Defense

Seven different players have thrown at least one pass for Southern Illinois this season. The Salukis started the season with Kare Lyles at quarterback and then transitioned to Nic Baker due to turnover issues. However, Baker was close to as turnover prone, so 5’10 junior Stone Labanowitz is expected to start under center this week.

Labanowitz has been very good in Southern Illinois’ last two games. He has completed 45 of 58 passes for 598 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in those two outings. That has given the Salukis some needed stability, and that will help the ground game. They are averaging 4.7 YPC this season.

The Wildcats boast one of the nation’s best defenses. Conner Mortensen and George Tarlas have combined for 15 tackles for loss, and Eddie Heckard and Preston Smith are superb in the secondary. That’s why no team has scored more than 23 points on Weber State this season.

Prediction

The under is a superb play at this total. Oddsmakers have over-adjusted to Southern Illinois’ shootout against Southeastern Louisiana last week, bumping the line up probably at least three points from where it should be on Saturday.

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