South Dakota State head coach John Stiegelmeier smiles as he enters the field for an NCAA college football game against Iowa State, in Ames, Iowa. Minnesota takes a stacked offense and increased confidence into the third season under coach P.J. Fleck, but the Gophers better be prepared for their opener against neighbor South Dakota State, which is ranked fourth in the FCS poll. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney, File)
- South Dakota State faces Sam Houston State for the Spring 2021 FCS National Championship on Sunday, May 16th
- The Jackrabbits are being listed as 4.5-point favorites at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas
- Read below for the odds, spread and betting pick
There will be a new FCS national champion for the first time since 2017. No. 1 South Dakota State (8-1) and No. 2 Sam Houston State (9-0) are set to square off in the 2021 FCS National Championship game on Sunday, May 16th in Frisco, Texas. Kickoff is set for 2:00pm EST on ABC.
The Jackrabbits dominated Delaware in the semifinals, while Sam Houston State pulled off an incredible comeback win over JMU. Sunday’s game at Toyota Stadium will mark the first-ever head-to-head meeting between these two FCS programs.
Do the Bearkats have another upset victory in them, or should you bet the Jackrabbits to take home the title?
Sam Houston State vs South Dakota State Odds
|Team||Spread at DraftKings||Moneyline||Total|
|Sam Houston State||+4.5 (-113)||+145||O 47.5 (-106)|
|South Dakota State||-4.5 (-108)||-190||U 47.5 (-115)|
Odds as of May. 11th
Jackrabbits’ Defense Wreaking Havoc
South Dakota State is playing for it’s first-ever national championship after an excellent defensive effort against Delaware in the semi-finals. The Jackrabbits held the Blue Hens to only a field goal and racked up seven sacks in a dominant 33-3 victory. SDSU is loaded with playmakers on defense, including MVFC first-team linebacker Logan Backhaus.
How about these SACKrabbits⁉️#GoJacks pic.twitter.com/3f6ufKqsgJ
— SDSU Football (@GoJacksFB) May 8, 2021
Defense has been a strength of the Jackrabbits all season, and it’s what can win them a national title Sunday. John Stiegelmeier’s team is allowing only 281 yards per game and is doing an outstanding job in the red zone. The Jackrabbits have also recorded 12 interceptions and will look to create turnovers against Sam Houston’s pass-first offense.
While the defense is what can win SDSU the game, the team’s well-balanced offense is what can help them cover the spread. The Jackrabbits have two 600-yard rushers in Pierre Strong and Isaiah Davis, while dual-threat QB Mark Gronowski has no shortage of weapons at WR with the Janke twins.
Schmid Leads Lethal Berkats Passing Attack
If Sam Houston State is going to take down SDSU, Eric Schmid and the passing attack will need another big day. The Bearkats are averaging 290 yards per game through the air and have been decimating secondaries all season.
K.C. Keeler’s team was down 24-3 to JMU in the semi-finals, but exploded for four TDs in the second half to garner the upset.
A 69 yd catch-and-run by Jequez Ezzard and @BearkatsFB is 🔙 in the game!!!#SCtop10 #FCSPlayoffs x 🎥 @espn pic.twitter.com/QxJD2ximpY
— NCAA FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) May 8, 2021
Jequez Ezzard’s 69-yard catch-and-run score and 80-yard punt return TD were the big highlights in a semifinal game that could’ve gone either way. James Madison QB Cole Johnson was battling injury and the Dukes shot themselves in the foot with a couple miscues late in the game. The Bearkats can’t afford to allow 24 points in a single quarter like they did to James Madison in the second quarter last weekend.
The Bearkats’ offense is as explosive as it gets, but the defensive line is what could secure the upset bid. Sam Houston State leads the nation with 37 sacks and does an excellent job at getting to opposing QBs. Senior DL Jhari Kay plays a big role in that success, pacing the team with six sacks and racking up 13 tackles in three playoff games.
2021 College Football Conference Championship Odds Tracker
What’s the Best Bet?
This game features the best offensive line in FCS going up against the best defensive line. Whichever one holds up is likely going to dictate how the game shakes out. If Sam Houston can find a way to shutdown Gronkowski and the SDSU run game, Schmid has the arm to work a Jackrabbits secondary that got lit up by Southern Illinois in the quarter-finals.
The Matchup 🏆 See you in Frisco! #FCSChampionship pic.twitter.com/bPmgwdY6Ti
— NCAA FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) May 8, 2021
Sam Houston has been an incredible story, but it’s hard to bet against South Dakota State after what they did to a very solid Delaware team. The Jackrabbits aren’t going to make the same mistakes that the Dukes made and can control the tempo with their dominant ground game. The Bearkats remain very vulnerable on defense with 356.4 yards per game allowed.
Sam Houston will score on this South Dakota State secondary, but the defense will eventually clamp down and the Jackrabbits’ run game will take over. Pierre Strong and Isaiah Davis have yet to be stopped this season and SDSU’s offensive line will hold up enough against this Sam Houston State defensive line to garner the victory.
- Pick: South Dakota State -4.5 (-108)
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Brady is a passionate hockey fan and sports writer with over five years of experience specializing in digital media, plus a degree in Broadcast Journalism. His work has been published by outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and Fox Sports.