FCS Championship Odds & Pick: 4 Best Bets for South Dakota State vs. Sam Houston State (May 16)
Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: The FCS National Championship trophy.
- South Dakota State and Sam Houston State will both look to earn their first-ever national title when they play in the FCS Championship on Sunday afternoon.
- With this being the final football game until fall, our staff dug deep to find four different betting positions for Sunday's national title game.
- Check out each individual pick complete with a preview and betting breakdown below.
It's finally here. After a spring full of football, the FCS Championship has arrived.
The No. 1 South Dakota State Jackrabbits take on the No. 2 Sam Houston State Bearkats as both programs look to notch their first-ever national title.
This marks our last football game for the next three and a half months, so it's time to make the most of it. Our staff is ready to do just that, as they hand-picked four of their favorite bets for the National Championship.
Then, after the Jackrabbits or Bearkats are crowned champions, the fall season will be here before we know it.
Feel free to use the table below to navigate directly to any of our staff's four picks for Sunday's title game.
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Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
No. 1 South Dakota State vs. No. 2 Sam Houston State Odds
Click here to view offensive and defensive team stats for this matchup.
Click here to view stats for SDSU's offense vs. SHSU's defense.
Click here to view stats for SHSU's offense vs. SDSU's defense.
Darin Gardner: Sam Houston State Team Total Over 20
If Sam Houston State gets held under 20 points in this one, it will be the first time all season. The Bearkats are averaging 39.1 points per game on the year and led the nation in yards per play during the regular season.
The Bearkats are coming off a 38-point performance against one of the top FCS defenses in James Madison. JMU allowed less than 10 points per game during the regular season, but that didn’t mean much against the Bearkats. SHSU quarterback Eric Schmid averaged 16.8 yards per completion on the regular season’s fourth-ranked pass defense.
I don’t see this South Dakota State defense being the one to finally hold Sam Houston to under 20 points. The Jackrabbits have one significant weakness on that side of the ball: generating Havoc.
They ranked only 83rd out of 97 teams in Havoc rate during the regular season. The defense has been fine overall, but it doesn’t really dominate anywhere. It doesn’t rank in the top-15 in yards per pass attempt or yards per rush.
If SDSU wins this one, I don’t think it will be by shutting down the Sam Houston offense.
Mike Calabrese: Sam Houston State ML & Over 48 Parlay (+450)
The Jacks have smothered a pair of teams (Holy Cross, Delaware) and squeaked by another (SIU) en route to the FCS title game. And, in my opinion, their defensive play has skewed this total by four-to-five points.
Holding the Crusaders and Blue Hens to three points apiece was impressive, but neither approach the offensive capabilities the Bearkats boast.
Holy Cross wrapped its 2021 spring campaign 89th out of 97 teams in terms of total offense. Delaware, slightly more competent on that side of the ball, was rendered punchless once quarterback Nolan Henderson got banged up beyond repair in the semis.
Offensively, the Bearkats have dropped 40.5 points per game against ranked FCS opponents this spring and have the capacity to aid this over via their dynamic special teams, as they did on Saturday, turning the game in their favor via Jequez Ezzard’s 80-yard punt return touchdown.
Bundling the SHSU moneyline with the over jam-packs this parlay with value. If the Bearkats get the best of SDSU, it will undoubtedly be in a higher-scoring affair that challenges true freshman Mark Gronowski to keep up the pace for 60 minutes.
At north of 4-1, that’s more than worth a flyer.
Mike Ianniello: Sam Houston State +4.5
If you read these articles every week, you know I have backed Sam Houston State in every game during their FCS Playoff run. So, am I jumping off the Bearkat bandwagon now? Of course not!
After trailing 24-3 at halftime against James Madison last week in the semifinals, the Bearkats came storming back with 35 points in the second half for a thrilling 38-35 comeback victory. Sam Houston State sits at 9-0 on the season and has defeated Monmouth, North Dakota State and James Madison on its way to the FCS Championship.
Sam Houston State has one of the best offenses in FCS this season. It ranks fifth in the country with 6.6 yards per game and is led by a prolific passing attack, averaging 289.6 passing yards per game and 14.8 yards per completion.
Dual-threat quarterback Eric Schmid has been fantastic all year and has come up huge during the Bearkats’ playoff run. Schmid has 17 passing touchdowns on the season and is second in the country with 2,599 passing yards. In addition to his arm, Schmid has added over 42 yards per game with his legs and leads the team with eight rushing touchdowns.
In three playoff games, Schmid has totaled 578 passing yards and three touchdowns, as well as 104 yards rushing and three scores on the ground.
The Bearkats have a deep and talented receiving corps, with six players averaging at least 20 yards per game and three averaging over 50 per game.
The WR room is led by grad transfer Jequez Ezzard, who averages 83.7 yards per game and has seven touchdown catches in nine games. He also ranks third in the country with 26.9 yards per catch.
In the semifinal game against James Madison, Ezzard totaled 107 yards and had two third-quarter touchdowns to fuel the comeback, catching a 69-yard touchdown pass and returning a punt 80 yards to the house.
On defense, Sam Houston is led by its front seven and dominant run defense. Despite their struggles against the pass, the Bearkats have been one of the best defenses in the country stopping the run, allowing just 78.9 yards per game and an FCS-best 2.2 yards per carry. The Bearkats have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 20 straight games.
North Dakota State and James Madison each love to control the line of scrimmage and run the football. They entered their games against Sam Houston State as two of the top rushing teams in the country and were each limited to 3.2 yards per carry in their defeats.
South Dakota State does a good job protecting the football, but Sam Houston is third in the country turnover-wise, forcing 22 in nine games. The Bearkats excel at creating Havoc and putting pressure on the quarterback. They lead the country in sacks and tackles for loss.
South Dakota State is the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, but Sam Houston State will not be intimidated as it already took down FCS powerhouses North Dakota State and James Madison.
With one of the most explosive offenses in the country, the Bearkats are capable of striking a big play at any moment. They have a quarterback who can take over a game and defensive line that can wreak havoc on its opponent. They have proven their resiliency throughout these playoffs and have come away victorious despite not playing a complete game or being at their best.
I think this is the game the Bearkats finally put it all together as K.C. Keeler leads Sam Houston State to its first FCS National Championship.
Kyle Remillard: Over 47.5
The FCS Playoffs have stuck to form as top-seeded South Dakota State matches up with No. 2 seed Sam Houston.
These two teams have completely different identities. South Dakota State beats teams down physically and leans on its dominant defense, while the Bearkats are a much more explosive offense that relies on breaking big plays.
Sam Houston showed that big-play ability in its come-from-behind win over James Madison in which Jequez Ezzard had a 69-yard touchdown reception along with an 80-yard punt return score.
Ezzard, who runs a 4.28 40-yard dash, has 34 plays of at least 30 yards this season. Eric Schmid is Sam Houston’s dual-threat quarterback and averages 331 yards of offense and has thrown for 17 touchdowns while rushing in eight more. Ezzard and Schmid are a dynamic duo that can light up the scoreboard on any given play.
On the other side of the ball, Sam Houston has been dominant in stopping the run. In the semifinals last week, it held James Madison to 159 yards on 50 carries but was exposed through the air, where they allowed 430 yards.
South Dakota is a physical team that focuses on establishing the run similar to James Madison, which put up 35 points against Sam Houston in the semifinals.
If that semifinal game told us anything, it’s that we can expect some points in this one. Sam Houston put up 35 points in the second half alone against James Madison, which held one of the premier defenses in FCS.
South Dakota State has averaged 29.8 points per game, while Sam Houston has put up 39.1. I’m taking the over 47.5 in a game that I see both offenses having success.