Holy Cross vs South Dakota State Odds, Predictions: How to Bet FCS Quarterfinal
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach Bob Chesney and the Holy Cross Crusaders.
- The Holy Cross Crusaders take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in FCS Playoffs action on Saturday.
- The Jackrabbits enter as 18.5-point favorites, but our college football betting expert sees value on the underdog.
- Read on for Keg's full betting preview and pick for Holy Cross vs South Dakota State.
Holy Cross vs South Dakota State Odds
|Holy Cross Odds|
-115o / -105u
|South Dakota State Odds|
-115o / -105u
With three of the four FCS Playoffs quarterfinal games taking place on Friday night, Saturday’s lone matchup will pit the 12-0 Holy Cross Crusaders against the 1-seed South Dakota State Jackrabbits.
The Crusaders are on a bit of a revenge tour, with their only loss in their last 20 games coming last year in the second round of the playoffs to Villanova. That Villanova team lost to South Dakota State in the very next game.
Despite winning its conference in each of the last four seasons, this will be the first time since 1983 that Holy Cross has made it this far.
The Jackrabbits and Crusaders have played a similar style of football all season. Both teams have been rush-first offenses and rank as two of the top 10 scoring defenses in the nation.
But while the Crusaders have averaged 38.8 points per game (5th), the Jackrabbits come in with 32.2 per contest (27th).
Does the Crusaders offense truly have what it takes to keep up with the No. 1 seed? Or is the 18-point spread an accurate indication of how much better this Jackrabbits team is than the rest of the field?
The Crusaders possess the sixth-best rushing offense in the FCS, racking up 2,925 rushing yards on the season and averaging 243.8 per game.
And while South Dakota State has the best run defense among all FCS teams — it holds opponents to just 70.8 rush yards per game — this Crusaders run game will be different from any they’ve seen.
Holy Cross quarterback Matthew Sluka has thrown for 2,366 yards on the season and posted a completion percentage of 58.8% while tossing 26 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.
His passing stats are impressive on their own, but what truly sets Sluka and this Crusaders offense apart is his ability as a runner. Sluka leads the Holy Cross offense with 1,021 rush yards on the season while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Both put him as one of the top-30 rushers in all of FCS football.
Sluka has the ability to find success both on the ground and through the air, but he’ll need to do both if the Crusaders want to stand a chance against the Jackrabbits.
The Holy Cross defense; which has already been one of the best in the sub-division, will also need to be firing on all cylinders against SDSU in order to keep it close.
One area this unit can really make a difference in will be on third down. The Crusaders defense is giving up a third-down conversion just 38.6% of the time, while the Jackrabbits have converted 46.7% of their attempts.
The Jackrabbits are the No. 1 seed for a reason. Holy Cross head coach Bob Chesney said it himself — they are the most complete team at the FCS level without a weak spot anywhere.
So, instead of going on about the endless stats in which the Jackrabbits rank as a top-25 team and listing all of the players who rank top-three or better in multiple metrics, I want to focus on the few areas in which Holy Cross could find weaknesses on this Jackrabbits team.
As mentioned, getting stops on third down could be game-changing for the Crusaders. Not only because they’ll be limiting the Jackrabbits’ scoring, but they could benefit greatly when it comes to field position.
South Dakota State doesn’t punt often. That’s good for a Jackrabbits team that has given up two punt return touchdowns on the season and ranks outside the top 75 in average yards per return.
South Dakota State also ranks 93rd out of 123 FCS teams in terms of penalties per game, racking up 81 on the season and averaging 49.9 penalty yards on 6.8 penalties per game.
Because the Jackrabbits have rarely been involved in close games, their penalty issues haven’t made much of a difference when it comes to wins and losses. However, It’s an issue that can definitely be taken advantage of.
As Chesney said, South Dakota State is the most complete team at the FCS level, and Holy Cross is going to have to do everything perfectly to keep it close. Taking advantage of those two potential weaknesses for the Jackrabbits will be the first step.
Holy Cross vs South Dakota State Betting Pick
South Dakota State is the best team in the FCS. It proved that all year long and specifically against nine-time champion North Dakota State on the road.
But a three-score spread in a playoff game for a team that has a chip on its shoulder is too much for me.
Sluka and the Crusaders can give the Jackrabbits looks they haven’t seen. His ability to find success both through the air and on the ground on every play gives them a solid chance to keep things close.
I don’t see Holy Cross winning this game, but I don’t expect Chesney and his team getting blown out either. Back the Crusaders at +18 or better.
Pick: Holy Cross +18 or Better