FCS Playoffs Odds & Picks: Our Best Semifinal Bets for South Dakota State vs. Delaware & Sam Houston vs. James Madison (May 8)

FCS Playoffs Odds & Picks: Our Best Semifinal Bets for South Dakota State vs. Delaware & Sam Houston vs. James Madison (May 8) article feature image
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Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Davion Davis (left) and Jeremiah Briscoe).

  • It's May, and college football is still on our TV screens with the FCS Playoffs rolling into semifinals on Saturday.
  • No. 1 South Dakota State will face Delaware while No. 2 Sam Houston State will take on No. 3 James Madison.
  • Our staff broke down both games and came up with three of their best bets for the games, so be sure to check out each pick and breakdown below.

The best part about the FCS moving its season to the spring is that it’s May, and there’s still football gracing our television screens and betting cards.

Four teams remain in the FCS Playoffs, and Saturday will see all four compete in two semifinal games. No. 1 South Dakota State kicks off the action against Delaware at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN, while No. 2 Sam Houston State and No. 3 James Madison will follow suit on ABC at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Our staff broke down their three favorite bets for the day to go along with our game guides for SDSU-UDel and SHSU-JMU.

Check out each pick below complete with a full breakdown, and feel free to use the table below to navigate to either game.

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FCS Playoffs Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
No. 1 South Dakota State vs. Delaware
12 p.m. ET
No. 2 Sam Houston State vs. No. 3 James Madison
2:30 p.m. ET
No. 2 Sam Houston State vs. No. 3 James Madison
2:30 p.m. ET

All listed odds have been updated as of Friday evening. 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.

Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.


No. 1 South Dakota State vs. Delaware

By Darin Gardner

ncaa-college football-betting-odds-pick-best bets-fcs playoffs-south dakota state-delaware-sam houston state-james madison-may 8
Pick
Delaware +8.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
12 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN

Click here to view offensive and defensive team stats for this matchup.

2021 FCS Spring Rankings

South Dakota State Offense vs. Delaware Defense

Delaware Offense vs. South Dakota State Defense


After making its way through two cupcakes, South Dakota State faces its toughest opponent of the playoffs by far with Delaware.

The Jackrabbits own the No. 1 seed in the tournament, but I don’t think they’re even one of the two best teams remaining. SDSU had the lowest average point differential in the regular season among all remaining teams, which includes its opponent.

Delaware had an average point differential of 21.2 in the regular season, good for fifth in the country, and South Dakota State ranked 11th at 13.5 per game.

Delaware’s secondary has a case as the most dominant unit in all of FCS. The Hens allowed only 4.76 yards per pass attempt in the regular season (first in the country) to go along with a completion percentage of less than 48% (second nationally).

The Fightin’ Blue Hens gave up only 11.6 points per game in the regular season, and that has kept up in the playoffs with only 24 total points allowed through two games.

South Dakota State’s metrics look pretty mediocre for a 1-seed.

The offense ranks only 18th in Points Per Play, and the defense has really struggled when it comes to Havoc. The Jackrabbits are 83rd out of 97 teams in Havoc rate, and 92nd in tackle for loss rate. They also struggled with a mediocre Southern Illinois team last week. Despite the win, SDSU racked up only 16 first downs compared to SIU’s 27.

I think Delaware keeps clamping down on the back end in this one, and I like the Hens to keep it within a touchdown in what figures to be a low-scoring game.

Pick: Delaware +8.5 (Play to +7.5)

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No. 2 Sam Houston State vs. No. 3 James Madison

By Mike Ianniello

ncaa-college football-betting-odds-pick-best bets-fcs playoffs-south dakota state-delaware-sam houston state-james madison-may 8
Pick
Sam Houston State ML -110
Sportsbook
Tipoff
2:30 p.m. ET
TV
ABC

Click here to view offensive and defensive team stats for this matchup.

2021 FCS Spring Rankings

Sam Houston Offense vs. James Madison Defense

James Madison Offense vs. Sam Houston Defense


Sam Houston State finally slayed the dragon and took down North Dakota State after racking up a record of 0-4 in playoff games against the Bison.

After beating the team that knocked the Bearkats out of the playoffs the most, they will turn their attention to the team responsible for their most embarrassing playoff loss. James Madison wiped the floor with Sam Houston, 65-7, in the 2016 quarterfinals.

Sam Houston State is 8-0 on the season thanks to one of the most efficient offenses in the country. The Bearkats rank fourth in FCS, averaging 6.7 yards per play.

Through the air, Sam Houston is third in the country, averaging 14.65 yards per completion and sits ninth with 298.5 yards passing per game.

Dual-threat quarterback Eric Schmid is in his second season as the Bearkats’ signal-caller and has been fantastic all year. He sits sixth in the country with 16 touchdowns and third with 2,381 yards.

In addition to his arm, Schmid has added over 40 yards per game with his legs and is tied for the team lead with six rushing touchdowns. He posted a pair of touchdowns against North Dakota last week — one passing and one rushing.

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 80.8 yards per game and has six touchdown catches in eight games. He sits third in the country with 26.9 yards per catch.

The strength of the Sam Houston defense is its front seven and dominant run defense. Despite its struggles against the pass, Sam Houston ranks third in the country against the run, allowing just 68.9 yards per game and an FCS-best 2.01 yards per carry.

Last week, North Dakota State entered the game averaging the third-most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in FCS this season and averaged 5.33 yards per carry on the ground. The Bison were held to just 139 rushing yards on 43 attempts, just 3.2 yards per carry and zero offensive touchdowns.

Just like North Dakota State, running the ball is James Madison’s strength, as it sits fourth in the country with 243.1 rushing yards per game. The Dukes are just 45th in passing offense, and when forced to throw, quarterback Cole Johnson has just eight touchdowns and six interceptions.

Sam Houston is third in the country, forcing 20 turnovers in eight games and excels at creating Havoc and putting pressure on the quarterback. The Bearkats lead the country in sacks and tackles for loss.

James Madison wants to run the football and play bully ball up front just like North Dakota State did. This Sam Houston front seven is good enough to force teams to pass the ball, and that is where the Bearkats have a huge advantage.

In a coin-flip game like this spread indicates, Sam Houston has all three things I tend to look for when deciding an evenly-matched game: the better quarterback, a lead in turnover margin, and home-field advantage.

I will back the home dog to pull out the win and advance to the FCS Championship.

Pick: Sam Houston State ML -110 (Play to -115)

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No. 2 Sam Houston State vs. No. 3 James Madison

By Kyle Remillard

Pick
Sam Houston State ML +100
Sportsbook
Tipoff
2:30 p.m. ET
TV
ABC

The last time these two teams met was in the 2016 FCS quarterfinals when James Madison destroyed Sam Houston, 65-17.

This is a much different Bearkats team than in 2016, and it has one of the most explosive quarterbacks in the FCS in Eric Schmid. He’s averaged 297.6 passing yards per game and has thrown for 16 touchdowns while running in six more.

Sam Houston’s offense averages 39.2 points per game and has been able to beat teams on the ground and through the air.

James Madison’s defense looked vulnerable in the first round against the Air Raid attack of VMI, and Sam Houston is a big step up in class.

It’s no secret that JMU is a run-heavy offense and will look to establish the ground game. The Dukes average 243.1 rushing yards per game, but Sam Houston has been strong against the run all year, allowing just 68.9 rushing yards per game.

The Bearkats will stack the box and force JMU quarterback Cole Johnson to try and beat them. Johnson has been efficient in the playoffs, but I still don’t have much faith in him to go out and win a game himself when the running game isn’t working. He has thrown for eight touchdowns while throwing six interceptions on the season, averaging 194 passing yards per game.

I’m taking the better quarterback in this matchup and backing the Bearkats.

Sam Houston’s offense is as explosive as any in the country and can break big plays both through the air and on the ground. Head coach K.C. Keeler will be preaching revenge to his squad, and I see them exposing James Madison’s defense through the air.

Pick: Sam Houston State ML +100

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