College Football FCS Playoffs Odds, Picks, Predictions: Best Bets for Sunday’s Quarterfinals Games (May 2)

College Football FCS Playoffs Odds, Picks, Predictions: Best Bets for Sunday’s Quarterfinals Games (May 2) article feature image
Credit:

Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Jawon Hamilton #7 of the James Madison Dukes football team.

  • Sundays are for football. So, what better way to spend the day than to bet on the college football FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals?
  • Today's college football slate kicks off with two games at 3 p.m. ET, followed by games at 6 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET.
  • Our resident FCS expert, Darin Gardner, breaks down all four games, including matchup statistics and in-depth analysis, and offers his recommendations for how to bet today's FCS Playoffs action.

We’re down to eight teams left in the FCS Playoffs after last weekend.

The second round will feature matchups of North Dakota State vs. Sam Houston State, Delaware vs. Jacksonville State, North Dakota vs. James Madison, and Southern Illinois vs. South Dakota State.

I’ll break down each game here and try to provide some actionable betting angles. Make sure to check out our individual game previews for a more in-depth look at each matchup.


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FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
North Dakota State vs. Sam Houston State
3 p.m. ET
Delaware vs. Jacksonville State
3 p.m. ET
North Dakota vs. James Madison
6 p.m. ET
Southern Illinois vs. South Dakota State
9 p.m. ET


All listed odds have been updated as of early Sunday morning via BetMGM. Photos via Getty Images.

Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.


North Dakota State vs. Sam Houston State


North Dakota State Odds
-2.5
Sam Houston State Odds
+2.5
Moneyline
-135 / +115
Over/Under
47.5
Time | TV
Sunday, 3 p.m. ETESPN
Odds via BetMGM.
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Click here to view offensive and defensive team stats for this matchup.

2021 FCS Spring Rankings

North Dakota State (NDSU) Offense vs. Sam Houston State (SHSU) Defense
Team Stat
NDSU Offense
SHSU Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
41
11
SHSU
Plays per Game
87
88
Draw
Yards per Play
10
24
NDSU
Points per Play
86
6
SHSU
First-Down Rate
56
30
SHSU
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
11
22
NDSU
Pass Completion %
41
38
Draw
Yards per Pass
45
42
Draw
INT Rate
80
87
NDSU
Yards per Rush
12
4
SHSU
Havoc
13
4
SHSU

Sam Houston State (SHSU) Offense vs. North Dakota State (NDSU) Defense
Team Stat
SHSU Offense
NDSU Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
3
17
SHSU
Plays per Game
17
17
Draw
Yards per Play
27
31
Draw
Points per Play
56
19
NDSU
First-Down Rate
95
29
NDSU
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
81
91
SHSU
Pass Completion %
25
36
SHSU
Yards per Pass
65
40
NDSU
INT Rate
8
76
SHSU
Yards per Rush
16
37
SHSU
Havoc
41
43
Draw
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I thought North Dakota State was overvalued last week. NDSU disagreed.

After a comfortable win against Eastern Washington, the Bison will face one of the top teams in FCS, Sam Houston State. The Bearkats finished the regular season with an average point differential of 27.3, good for second in the nation.

The offense has been the main reason for Sam Houston’s dominance. Quarterback Eric Schmid ranks first in the nation in yards per attempt, and the offense as a whole ranks first in yards per play.

Last week’s performance against Monmouth showed some cause for concern, however.

Despite ranking 17th in plays per game entering last weekend, Sam Houston State managed to run only 42 plays in the game, compared to Monmouth’s 92. Two interceptions combined with a 4-for-13 performance on third down probably played a pretty big influence in that.

Even though the time of possession was lopsided, Sam Houston was still the more efficient team on a per-play basis. The offense generated 5.2 yards per play to Monmouth’s 4.3, which was why the Bearkats could escape with a win. The defense also held Monmouth to 2.2 yards per carry, which could be a key factor in this matchup with NDSU.


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The performance against Monmouth was no different than what the Bearkat defense did all year long. The front ranked fourth in yards per carry allowed and 14th in tackle for loss rate. As a whole, it was top-10 in both points per play and touchdown rate.

The reason Sam Houston’s run defense is such a key factor here is because NDSU leans heavily on the run game. The Bison rank 88th out of 97 teams in pass rate. They are also efficient running the football, with the 12th-ranked rushing attack in terms of efficiency.

As a whole, the Bison offense has been underwhelming thanks to a disappointing passing attack. NDSU is 50th in yards per pass attempt and 80th in interception rate.

The offense ranks only 31st in yards per play. However, it exploded last week against Eastern Washington with 42 points on 6.9 yards per play. This could be because the offense is finally clicking with more time to gel, or it could just be a meaningless one-game sample.

North Dakota State’s defense has been underwhelming to a degree this year as well.

It ranks 18th in points per game allowed but 45th in First Down Rate Allowed and has allowed opponents to score on 100% of red-zone trips. It could also be vulnerable against Sam Houston’s potent passing game, with a defense that ranks 40th in yards per pass attempt.

Pick: Sam Houston State ML +125 or better


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Delaware vs. Jacksonville State


Delaware Odds
+3.5
Jacksonville State Odds
-3.5
Moneyline
+135 / -160
Over/Under
41.5
Time | TV
Sunday, 3 p.m. ETESPN3
Odds via BetMGM.
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Click here to view offensive and defensive team stats for this matchup.

2021 FCS Spring Rankings

Delaware (UD) Offense vs. Jacksonville State (JSU) Defense
Team Stat
UD Offense
JSU Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
16
15
Draw
Plays per Game
41
32
JSU
Yards per Play
43
12
JSU
Points per Play
40
13
JSU
First-Down Rate
82
32
JSU
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
56
18
JSU
Pass Completion %
59
21
JSU
Yards per Pass
50
13
JSU
INT Rate
47
56
UD
Yards per Rush
29
10
JSU
Havoc
60
48
JSU

Jacksonville State (JSU) Offense vs. Delaware (UD) Defense
Team Stat
JSU Offense
UD Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
28
3
UD
Plays per Game
44
4
UD
Yards per Play
2
6
Draw
Points per Play
95
5
UD
First-Down Rate
70
8
UD
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
54
50
Draw
Pass Completion %
12
2
UD
Yards per Pass
67
1
UD
INT Rate
50
5
UD
Yards per Rush
24
26
Draw
Havoc
36
59
JSU
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Delaware’s secondary has been one of the most dominant units in FCS this season. It only gave up 4.76 yards per attempt in the regular season (first in the nation) and allowed a completion percentage of just 47.5%. It also allowed only 11.6 points per game and ranked sixth in yards per play allowed. The defense continued its dominance in the first round of the playoffs, holding Sacred Heart to just 10 points on 3.6 yards per play.

Delaware’s offense won’t blow you away, but it still gets the job done. It’s top-20 in points per play and Touchdown Rate and scores over 30 points per game. It’s relatively balanced, ranking 16th in yards per pass attempt and 30th in yards per carry.

Looking at Jacksonville State, it’s coming off a 49-point blowout against Davidson last week. The offense averaged more than 10 yards per play and had 239 passing yards on just 15 attempts.

It runs the ball at one of the highest rates in the country, so Delaware’s elite secondary may not play as much of a factor here. The Gamecock offense has averaged 5.8 yards per play on the season, which was good for 22nd.

Similar to Delaware, the Gamecocks’ strength this season has been on defense. They rank in the top 15 in yards per play, points per play, and Touchdown Rate on the year. There really is no significant weakness on that side of the ball when looking at the numbers.

It might be tough to move the football on both sides.


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North Dakota vs. James Madison


North Dakota Odds
+3
James Madison Odds
-3
Moneyline
+125 / -150
Over/Under
52.5
Time | TV
Sunday, 6 p.m. ETESPN2
Odds via BetMGM.
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Click here to view offensive and defensive team stats for this matchup.

2021 FCS Spring Rankings

North Dakota (UND) Offense vs. James Madison (JMU) Defense
Team Stat
UND Offense
JMU Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
25
2
JMU
Plays per Game
36
1
JMU
Yards per Play
43
2
JMU
Points per Play
40
3
JMU
First-Down Rate
73
2
JMU
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
59
77
UND
Pass Completion %
42
6
JMU
Yards per Pass
61
4
JMU
INT Rate
44
32
JMU
Yards per Rush
5
3
Draw
Havoc
1
6
Draw

James Madison (JMU) Offense vs. North Dakota (UND) Defense
Team Stat
JMU Offense
UND Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
13
30
JMU
Plays per Game
30
35
Draw
Yards per Play
43
66
JMU
Points per Play
40
30
UND
First-Down Rate
84
62
UND
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
68
89
JMU
Pass Completion %
65
59
Draw
Yards per Pass
86
59
UND
INT Rate
51
25
UND
Yards per Rush
11
55
JMU
Havoc
55
74
JMU
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Among all the teams left in the FCS playoffs, only Sam Houston State had a higher average point differential in the regular season than James Madison’s 24.

The defense has been dominant in all phases this year. The Dukes allowed only 9.8 points per game this season, and its 3.22 yards per play allowed ranked second in the nation. James Madison was the only team to rank in the top five in both yards per pass attempt allowed (fourth) and yards per carry allowed (third). They’ve been able to cause disruptions all year as well, with a top-five ranking in tackle for loss rate.

North Dakota got it done against a weak Missouri State team last week, but James Madison is a much different animal. I’m skeptical the Hawks will be able to consistently move the ball against this defense.

While they do have a top-five rushing attack in terms of yards per carry, the pass offense is below average at 58th in yards per attempt. They rank just outside the top 20 in most offensive efficiency metrics.


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They have been great at limiting Havoc on offense, however. It will be interesting to see if JMU’s Havoc-minded defense can cause some turnovers against an offense that has been very good at keeping the ball clean.

James Madison looks to have a sizable advantage over the North Dakota defense. Just like the defense, the Dukes’ offense is very efficient in both aspects. Quarterback Cole Johnson ranks fifth in the country in yards per attempt, and running back Jawon Hamilton is 10th in yards per carry. Its ranking of 55th in Havoc allowed is the biggest weakness on offense.

The Dukes should be able to move the ball pretty successfully against a North Dakota defense that ranks below the national average in yards per play and Touchdown Rate. It’s not particularly strong against the run or pass, either. It allows 7.2 yards per pass (59th) and ranks only 56th in yards per carry.

Johnson should also have a pretty clean jersey at the end of the game against a pass rush that ranks 75th in Sack Rate. How I see it, James Madison -2.5 is my favorite bet of the weekend.

Pick: James Madison -2.5


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Southern Illinois vs. South Dakota State


Southern Illinois Odds
+15.5
South Dakota State Odds
-15.5
Moneyline
+475 / -650
Over/Under
54.5
Time | TV
Sunday, 9 p.m. ETESPN2
Odds via BetMGM.
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Click here to view offensive and defensive team stats for this matchup.

2021 FCS Spring Rankings

Southern Illinois (SIU) Offense vs. South Dakota State (SDSU) Defense
Team Stat
SIU Offense
SDSU Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
32
9
SDSU
Plays per Game
31
18
SDSU
Yards per Play
10
18
SIU
Points per Play
86
11
SDSU
First-Down Rate
66
13
SDSU
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
67
18
SDSU
Pass Completion %
21
48
SIU
Yards per Pass
72
12
SDSU
INT Rate
36
4
SDSU
Yards per Rush
19
32
SIU
Havoc
30
60
SIU

South Dakota State (SDSU) Offense vs. Southern Illinois (SIU) Defense
Team Stat
SDSU Offense
SIU Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
22
71
SDSU
Plays per Game
75
23
SIU
Yards per Play
27
77
SDSU
Points per Play
56
75
SDSU
First-Down Rate
76
83
Draw
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
23
87
SDSU
Pass Completion %
50
49
Draw
Yards per Pass
94
64
SIU
INT Rate
65
82
SDSU
Yards per Rush
4
85
SDSU
Havoc
25
73
SDSU
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The top-ranked team in the tournament did its best to justify that ranking with a 31-3 win in Round 1. I still don’t think this is the best team in the FCS, but it should coast to another win against the weakest remaining team in the tournament.

Southern Illinois is the only remaining team with a negative average point differential. The Salukis squeaked out a win over Weber State last week despite being outgained 6.3-5.6 in yards per play.

Southern Illinois has struggled on defense this year, and that showed up last week when it allowed 13.7 yards per pass attempt to Weber State. The Saluki defense ranks outside the top 75 in yards per play, points per play, yards per carry, and First Down Rate.

The pass defense is probably the strongest area on this defense, but it still allows more yards per pass than the national average. Can the Salukis at least create Havoc? Not even close. They’re seventh-worst in Havoc rate.

Southern Illinois’ offense has definitely been the strength of the team. It moves the ball efficiently and keeps it clean. It has a top-25 ranking pretty much everywhere: First Down Rate, yards per play, yards per attempt, completion percentage, yards per carry, and Havoc allowed.

It scores the second-fewest points per game among the remaining teams but still moves the ball effectively. It’ll probably need to score a healthy amount of points to have a chance in this one.

South Dakota State’s offense isn’t lighting the world on fire this year, but it should find plenty of success in this matchup. It ranked 12th in yards per play in the regular season, thanks in large part to its rushing attack. Its 5.68 yards per carry ranked fourth in the nation.

It has three players who have rushed the ball more than 60 times this year: running backs Pierre Strong and Isaiah Davis, and quarterback Mark Gronowski.

Davis ranks third in the country at 7.5 yards per carry. Strong, the leader in carries, ranks 22nd, and Gronowski has averaged 6.5. Southern Illinois’ 86th-ranked run defense could be in trouble here.

On defense, the Jackrabbits have largely gotten it done everywhere outside of generating Havoc. SDSU ranks only 83rd in that department but has been efficient pretty much everywhere else.

Its biggest weakness outside of Havoc is probably run defense, but it still ranks 32nd in yards per carry allowed. I’m expecting a comfortable win for the Jackrabbits yet again.


The ultimate CFB betting cheat code

Best bets for every game

Collin Wilson’s biggest weekly edges

Profitable data-driven system picks

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