James Madison vs. North Dakota FCS Playoffs Odds & Pick: Target the Total In Sunday’s Quarterfinal

James Madison vs. North Dakota FCS Playoffs Odds & Pick: Target the Total In Sunday’s Quarterfinal article feature image
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Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Riley Stapleton (left) and Drew Painter (right).

  • The FCS Playoffs roll on Sunday when the James Madison Dukes take on the North Dakota Fighting Hawks at 6 p.m. ET.
  • Both teams look to run the ball extensively, but both teams also have stellar run defenses.
  • Kyle Remillard sees value on the total for that reason, and he explains why in his full betting breakdown below.

James Madison vs. North Dakota Odds

James Madison Odds -2.5
North Dakota Odds +2.5
Moneyline -134 / +110
Over/Under 53
Time Sunday, 6 p.m. ET
TV ESPN2
Odds as of Saturday evening and via DraftKings.

The undefeated James Madison Dukes match up against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in the FCS quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon.

James Madison, the No. 3 seed, started out the first round strong with a 99-yard touchdown run against VMI. It got everything it wanted on the ground, rushing for 305 total yards in the game.

The Dukes went into halftime with a 21-3 lead but looked sloppy in the second half, when they were outscored 21-10. They will need to play a complete game as they face a big step up in class in North Dakota.

Meanwhile, the Fighting Hawks dismantled Missouri State, 44-10, at home in what was their first game since March 20 due to COVID-19 issues in the program. They will lean on their offensive and defensive lines in this matchup as they look to control the line of scrimmage.

These are two evenly matched teams that will both look to establish the run early and often. This game will come down to who is able to win at the line of scrimmage and move the chains through the running game.

James Madison rushed 53 times in its win over VMI, and we should be in for a similar dose of that in this quarterfinal game.

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James Madison Dukes

James Madison has thrived all season defensively, having held opponents to just 12.2 points per game. Its front seven has been strong, allowing just 57.3 rushing yards per game while holding opponents to an average of 2.0 yards per carry.

This defense has also been strong against the pass, allowing just 157.2 yards per game. It forced three interceptions against the air attack of VMI last time out.

Offensively, this is a run-first squad that has a two-headed monster at running back between Jawon Hamilton and Percy Agyei-Obese. JMU has rushed for 248.3 yards per game and punched in 17 touchdowns on the ground in its six games.

But running the ball is no easy task against a North Dakota defense that makes life difficult by bringing pressure from various positions. The Fighting Hawks were vulnerable against North Dakota State as they allowed 316 rushing yards, but outside of that game, they allowed just 85.7 yards on the ground.

Cole Johnson is the game managing quarterback for the Dukes who averages 185 yards passing per game. He has accounted for six touchdowns and six interceptions on the season. North Dakota will focus on slowing down the rushing attack and force Johnson to beat it.


North Dakota Fighting Hawks

The Fighting Hawks finished 5-1 in Missouri Valley Conference play and are averaging 33.1 points per game while allowing 18.8. Their one loss came against North Dakota State when they completely laid an egg, letting up 316 rushing yards.

North Dakota has a huge offensive line that includes all-conference players at center, left guard and left tackle. The offensive line has allowed the fewest tackles for loss and has been phenomenal in pass protection all season. The unit has paved the way for running back Otis Weah, who is the leading rusher in the conference after averaging 105.7 rush yards per game.

Quarterback Tommy Schuster has been efficient all season, averaging 202.5 yards through the air with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

The Fighting Hawks typically focus on getting the running game established, which opens Schuster on the play-action pass behind his savage offensive line.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

North Dakota lost to North Dakota State, 34-13, earlier in the year in a game in which it was destroyed on the ground and finished just 1-for-10 on third-down attempts.

James Madison will look to mimic that blueprint from NDSU, but I don’t anticipate it having much success. The Fighting Hawks have cleaned up those mistakes and will stack the box to force JMU to beat them through the air, something they have not been able to do this season.

James Madison has run the ball on 67.9% of its plays this season, while North Dakota has run it 66.0% of the time. Both teams will attempt to establish the run game early, and it will be no easy task against two strong front sevens. The clock is going to be running non-stop with both teams running the ball as often as they do.

I was surprised to see the over/under in the 50s as these teams both possess very strong defenses and have allowed a combined 30 points per game. I’m playing the under of 52.5.

Pick: Under 53 (Play to 51).

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