FCS Playoffs Odds, Picks: Quarterfinal Bets for North Dakota State vs. Samford, Montana State vs. William & Mary, More

FCS Playoffs Odds, Picks: Quarterfinal Bets for North Dakota State vs. Samford, Montana State vs. William & Mary, More article feature image

C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: The Montana State Bobcats.

  • The quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs begin on Friday.
  • Our college football expert broke down all three Friday night games: North Dakota State vs. Samford, Montana State vs. William & Mary and Sacramento State vs. Incarnate Word.
  • Check out a spread and total pick for all three Friday night FCS Playoff games below.

The third round of FCS Playoffs begins on Friday night, with six teams looking to move one step closer to the championship.

The second-round matchups saw few surprises; for just the second time since the playoffs expanded in 2013, every seeded team won their game.

With the eight top-seeded teams left in the quarterfinals, will we finally see some upsets? With just one team listed as less than a touchdown favorite, I’m not so sure.

In the first two rounds of the playoffs, favorites went 8-8 against the spread. Dogs covered five of the eight games in the first round, while favorites finished 5-3 ATS in the second round.

When it comes to the total, overs have been huge so far in the playoffs, hitting in 12 of the 16 games. However, I wouldn’t be in a rush to press the total in the quarterfinals, as six of the eight remaining contenders are rush-heavy teams, with five of the eight ranking inside the FCS top 10 in rush yards per game.

The three playoff games slated for Friday night should all be exciting, and I expect at least two to be closely contested.

Regardless of whether you're like me and clinging to an Incarnate Word future, or struggling to make it to bowl season with just Army-Navy on the college slate this weekend, I think there’s profit to be found in the three-game FCS slate on Friday night.

FCS College Football Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that Keg is targeting from Friday's slate of FCS games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

7 p.m. ET
NDSU -17 · Over 62
10:15 p.m. ET
Montana State -7 · Under 65.5
10:30 p.m. ET
Incarnate Word +6 · Over 78.5
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Samford vs. North Dakota State

Friday, Dec. 9
7 p.m. ET
NDSU -17 · Over 62

For those of you who don’t know, North Dakota State is the Alabama of FCS football. This season marks its 13th straight year advancing to the quarterfinals.

The Bison have the second-most FCS playoff victories in history, and their nine championships are the most by any team. They’re also the defending FCS champion.

North Dakota State finished the season second in the MVC at 7-1 with the 13th-best scoring offense in FCS, averaging 36 points per game. Much of that success came on the ground, as NDSU averaged 277 yards rushing per game to rank third nationally.

The Bison defense has been nearly as impressive as their offense, holding opponents to just 18 points and 296 yards per game on average. Only Jackson State and Delaware have been better when it comes to passing defense, as the Bison have held opposing teams to just 149.4 passing yards per game.

However, their passing defense will face one of its toughest tests of the season against Samford. The Bulldogs offense has been the sixth-most productive passing offense among all FCS teams, averaging 306.5 passing yards per game.

What truly set this Bulldogs team apart during their 11-1 season that included a Southern Conference Championship was its ability to limit mistakes. Its .75 turnover margin ranks among the top 20 in FCS. It also comes in at 15th in red-zone scoring percentage.

Unfortunately for Samford, it will be without starting quarterback and Southern Conference Offensive Player of the year Michael Hiers.

Freshman Quincy Crittendon put up over 400 yards of offense and five touchdowns in their second round win over Southeastern Louisiana, but even if the Bulldogs offense can remain consistent with Crittendon at the helm, I don’t think it will be enough against the Bison.

The Samford defense has given up over 500 yards in three straight games, and it’s giving up 4.1 yards per carry on the ground and 174.3 rush yards per game.

North Dakota State is 31-6 at home against FCS top-10 teams, and it’s gone 32-1 in playoff games held in the Fargodome since 2010. NDSU has also never lost a game to a Southern Conference team.

North Dakota State is the biggest favorite in the quarterfinals, and for good reason. The Bison were already an awful matchup for Samford, and it gets even worse for the Bulldogs without Hiers.

NDSU is still listed as a -16.5 favorite on BetMGM, while it’s moved past 17 on other books. So, shop around and try to stay under the key number of 17 if at all possible.

I do like the Bison as high as a 20.5-point favorite, but if you're not comfortable laying that big of a number, I think the over is a solid play as well.

Samford should still be able to put some points on the board against NDSU, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bison surpass 40 points for the fourth time in their last five games.

Pick: North Dakota State -17 (-125) or Better · Over 62 or Better

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William & Mary vs. Montana State

Friday, Dec. 9
10:15 p.m. ET
Montana State -7 · Under 65.5

The Tribe have been playing great football all year, which you’d know even if you haven’t watched a single FCS game all year due to their 11-1 record and Co-CAA championship.

But against Gardner-Webb in the second round of the playoffs, William & Mary played one of the best football games in program history.

W&M’s 40-point win over the Bulldogs was the largest in school history. They also broke single-game records for points scored, rushing yards, forced turnovers and total yards.

After a performance like that, you’d have to wonder how this team could be a 7-point underdog to Montana State.

First and foremost, the Tribe play in the CAA, a considerably weaker conference than the Big Sky. And while their win over Gardner Webb was impressive, they were a bad matchup for an inferior Bulldogs team to begin with.

They’ll now have to find a way to stop the second-best rushing offense in FCS, something I don’t expect from a Tribe team that has allowed 4.6 yards per carry and given up 18 rushing touchdowns on the year.

Montana State not only went 9-0 in one of the toughest conferences in FCS football, but it did so without leading running back Isaiah Ifanse for the entire season. The Bobcats also lost their dual-threat quarterback Sean Chambers, who has been pivotal in red-zone situations for a period of time.

Both Chambers and Ifanse are back and healthy for the Bobcats, so it’s crazy to imagine that this 11-1 team could now be even better.

William & Mary has been elite at getting to the quarterback and creating turnovers this season. The Tribe have 30 sacks and boast the 21st-best turnover margin in FCS at .58.

Unfortunately for the them, Montana State owns the third-best turnover margin in FCS, given up just 11 total turnovers on the season. The Bobcats also come in at eighth when it comes to sacks allowed, giving up less than one per game so far this season.

And after flying across the country, William & Mary will look to knock off a Montana State team that has won 19 consecutive home games in front of the third-largest crowd on average this season in 15-degree weather that’s likely to drop into the single digits after halftime.

The Tribe are a great football team. But the Bobcats are on a different level, and the situation couldn’t be worse for William & Mary.

Back the Bobcats to take care of business at home in what I expect to be a low-scoring, frost-bitten rock fight.

Pick: Montana State -7 or Better · Under 65.5 or Better

Incarnate Word vs. Sacramento State

Friday, Dec. 9
10:30 p.m. ET
Incarnate Word +6 · Over 78.5

If you want to see a high-flying, back-and-forth, competitive game in the FCS quarterfinals, this is your best chance.

Incarnate Word and Sacramento rank first and fourth, respectively, when it comes to scoring offense. The Cardinals lead the FCS with 51.9 points per game, while Sac State has put up 41.2 per contest.

Both defenses have been solid overall, holding opponents to 20.7 and 22.6 points per game, respectfully. However, each of them gave up 30-plus points in their FCS playoff opener.

Sacramento State has been walking a tightrope since October trying to remain undefeated. The Hornets have had Just one of their last six wins come by more than a touchdown.

They did notch their first-ever FCS playoff win last week over Richmond, but once again, it wasn’t without a bit of drama as they trailed, 21-7, to start the game.

The biggest issue for the Hornets and one of the main reasons they’ve struggled at the end of the season has been turnovers. Sacramento State has turned the ball over 10 times in its last five games, now positing a turnover margin of -1 on the season.

That could play a role against an Incarnate Word team that has 12 interceptions and 20 forced turnovers this season.

The Cardinals are led by one of the top three quarterbacks at the FCS level in Lindsey Scott. Incarnate Word’s signal-caller leads FCS in passing efficiency and has racked up 55 touchdowns on the season while throwing just six interceptions.

He can get it done on the ground as well, totaling 466 rush yards on 5.1 yards per carry. He ranks second on the team behind only 1,000-yard rusher Marcus Cooper.

Both teams have been impressively balanced on offense, finding ways to win games both on the ground and through the air.

However, Sacramento State's defense has struggled both in the secondary and in the red zone. The Hornets rank 91st among all FCS teams by allowing 243.5 passing yards per game, while Incarnate Word ranks inside the top 30.

Sac State also ranks 93rd in the red zone, allowing teams to score on 85.7% of their trips. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are giving up points on only 77.8% of trips.

This Sacramento State team has been right on the edge of losing games for some time. Its turnover issues paired with its defensive struggles against the highest-scoring team in FCS could very well be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

That’s why I'm backing the Cardinal at +6 or better.

I also expect these teams to continue to score at the same high level they have all season and would be comfortable backing an over as high as 78.5.

Pick: Incarnate Word +7 (Play to +6) · Over 78.5 or Better

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