Incarnate Word vs North Dakota State Odds & Picks: How to Bet Semifinal
C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Fullback Hunter Luepke (44) and the North Dakota State Bison.
Incarnate Word vs North Dakota State Odds
|Incarnate Word Odds|
-105o / -115u
|North Dakota State Odds|
-105o / -115u
Friday’s FCS semifinal matchup presents a classic battle of the up-and-comer vs. an established power.
Incarnate Word, playing its first FCS Playoff semifinal game in program history, will take on North Dakota State, which has made it to the semis in each of the past 12 seasons.
Incarnate Word is coming off a hard-fought 66-63 upset over Sacramento State. The Cardinals’ success and 12-1 season have been a result of one of the most efficient offenses in all of college football — both FBS and FCS.
Meanwhile, North Dakota State’s success has come behind the efforts of its top-five FCS defense. However, not counting the shortened 2020 season, this is the first time since 2015 the Bison have suffered two losses in the regular season.
Of course, an 11-2 record isn’t anything to look down on, but North Dakota State has struggled to pull away from opponents at times this season.
Let’s take a look at the odds and offer up a pick and prediction for this FCS semifinal matchup.
How impressive have the 12-1 Cardinals been under first-year head coach GJ Kinne? Well, he’s already been hired to take over an FBS program and will leave Incarnate Word for Texas State once the season is over.
Kinne is a great coach, but he’s not the biggest standout on this team. That would be star quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr.
Scott racked up 59 touchdowns and threw just six interceptions while passing for 4,404 yards this season. In two playoff games so far, he has completed better than 60% of his passes and averaged 306 passing yards per game.
The Cardinals are also one of the fastest-paced teams in the FCS, averaging 72.4 plays per game.
The passing attack — led by Scott and two 1,000-yard receivers in Darion Chafin and Taylor Grimes — is the driving force of this offense, but the Cardinals also boast a top-25 rushing offense.
That ground game could come into play against a North Dakota State secondary that ranks fourth in FCS in passing defense. Scott has racked up 632 yards rushing on the season, second only to the Cardinals’ lead back, Marcus Cooper (1,324 rushing yards). Cooper also ranks 10th in yards per carry in the FCS and averages 6.9 yards per attempt.
Defensively, Incarnate Word will need to step up if it’s going to knock off the nine-time champion Bison. The Cardinals are giving up just 23.9 points per game on the season, but both of their playoff games have been decided by just three points.
Over the years, the Bison have been known for the NFL-level quarterback talent they’ve produced, with most of that talent coming via the passing game.
This year, however, North Dakota State quarterback Cam Miller has gotten it done on the ground, racking up 365 rushing yards on 91 attempts. Even more impressive has been his ability to find the end zone once he leaves the pocket. In fact, 15% of his rushing attempts have resulted in a touchdown.
Miller isn’t the only one racking up rushing yards. Seven different players have rushed for 200 yards or more for the Bison this season, and every one of them is averaging at least four yards per carry.
Kobe Johnson, who has averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, leads the way and has amassed 766 yards this season.
I fully expect North Dakota State’s third-ranked FCS rushing offense to continue its success against an Incarnate Word team that has given up a combined 494 yards rushing through two postseason games.
One thing that does concern me about North Dakota State is the injuries that have continued to mount. The Bison will have their rushing leader in Johnson, but the second- and third-leading backs will both be out with injury.
Prior to entering the playoffs, North Dakota State was already down five starters. In just two playoff games, they’ve lost an additional three, including receiver RaJa Nelson and linebacker Luke Weerts.
Incarnate Word vs North Dakota State Betting Pick
North Dakota State enters as nearly a double-digit favorite over the Cardinals, and for good reason, as the Bison rank first all-time in FCS Playoff win percentage at 93.5% (43-3). The Bison have proven year in and year out they are one of the best and most consistent teams at any level.
They’ll also be at home in the Fargodome, where they’ve been even more dominant, going 183-28 all-time and 32-6 against FCS top-10 teams. Unfortunately for the Bison, I think the Fargodome might actually hurt them more than it helps against Incarnate Word.
The Fargodome is a climate-controlled indoor stadium, which will provide ideal conditions for Incarnate Word’s elite passing attack.
I think North Dakota State will find plenty of success on the ground against the Cardinals, and the Bison secondary will be one of the more challenging this Cardinals team has faced all year.
But time and again, Scott has found a way to get it done, and I’m not going to start doubting him in the biggest game in this program’s history.
The mounting injuries have impacted North Dakota State more and more as the season has progressed. The Bison struggled to establish the run against Samford last week and won the game due largely to their defense.
I’m backing Incarnate Word to keep this game close, and I’ll also be making a small wager on it to pull off the outright upset given the perfect conditions of the Fargodome.