FCS Playoffs Odds & Pick for Jacksonville State vs. Davidson: How to Bet Saturday’s College Football Showdown
Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Krenwick Sanders (left) andRoc Thomas (right).
- The No. 4 Jacksonville State Gamecocks and the Davidson Wildcats will look to advance to the FCS quarterfinals after this first-round matchup on Saturday.
- The Wildcats, who play in the Pioneer League, run a "gun triple-option" that has captivated both fans and players.
- But Mike Calabrese doesn't think they can keep up with the Gamecocks, who have impressed all season, and he explains why below.
Jacksonville State vs. Davidson Odds
|Jacksonville State Odds||-21.5|
|Moneyline||-2500 / +1050|
|Time||Saturday, 2 p.m. ET|
The Pioneer Football League is one of the most unique in all of college football. It features league members spanning from New York to California. But for all of its geographic diversity, the PFL is just 2-7 in the FCS playoffs all-time, regularly struggling to move the football against faster and stronger competition.
Saturday afternoon’s matchup between 2021 PFL champion Davidson and Jacksonville State sets up the familiar narrative of an underdog punching above its weight. The Fightin’ Steph Currys are making their first playoff appearance in school history and enter as the 236th-ranked team in college football, according to the Sagarin Rankings. That makes them the worst playoff entrant by a country mile.
Jacksonville State, meanwhile, is making its 10th playoff appearance in school history. The Gamecocks have one of the most athletic defenses in the nation and have smothered opposing rushing attacks this spring. The defensive end duo of DJ Coleman and Jaylen Swain has combined for 21.5 TFLs, three fumble recoveries, and a blocked kick in just 11 games this season. It’s this constant edge pressure that is going to give Davidson major issues on Saturday.
Is it possible for the Wildcats to move the football and hang around long enough to make this three-touchdown point spread attractive? Let’s find out.
Scott Abell’s has categorized his offense as a “gun triple-option.” Much like the spread offenses that have captured the imagination of fans and players alike, Davidson’s spread excels at getting ball carriers in space and providing defenses with multiple conflicts on every play.
This spring, the Davidson rushing attack has flummoxed defenses, racking up 293 yards per game, far and away the highest total in all of FCS football. Lefty Tyler Phelps is the triggerman, making reads on nearly every play the same way a service academy field general would. The dual-threat quarterback has accounted for six total touchdowns and 760 totals yards in six games.
Phelps’ athleticism in the PFL and Abell’s play-calling has allowed Davidson to avoid negative plays while consistently moving the chains. No team converts third downs at a higher clip (55.6%), and the Wildcats check-in at fifth nationally in TFL avoidance. When you toss in their average time of possession advantage (34:14, fifth), you see exactly how they beat teams.
The issues for Davidson are when it isn’t moving the ball consistently because its defense is flat-out lousy. Teams have carved up DU through the air (78th in efficiency allowed) and have no problems converting to extend drives (3rd Downs, 53%, 91st). Davidson’s saving grace has been turnovers, as it boasts a +1 TO margin per game (12th).
For the Wildcats, the offense protects the defense, mainly by shortening games. We’ll see if they can keep to that script on Saturday.
Jacksonville State Gamecocks
This is a stout defensive team with a complimentary rushing attack that usually feasts against lower-level competition.
In just the last two weeks, JSU has racked up 487 yards on the ground. Zion Webb, the Gamecocks’ junior quarterback, is peaking at the right time as well. Against Eastern Illinois and Murray State, the dual-threat accounted for 616 total yards and six scores.
To cover a three-touchdown spread in this one, he really just needs to continue to conduct the offense as he has been because the JSU defense is rounding into championship form. After allowing an uncharacteristic 20 points to UT-Martin on March 14, the Gamecocks have locked down opponents, allowing just 13 points per game across their last four.
This game will be decided in the trenches, and JSU’s 11th-ranked run defense will be on full display. In addition to holding opponents to just 81 yards per game on 2.57 yards per carry, the Gamecocks have allowed touchdowns on just half of opponents’ red-zone trips.
Davidson needs to make the most out of every trip inside JSU’s 20-yard line to keep things close, so that’s where this game (and point spread) will be determined.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The Gamecocks have the Wildcats outclassed athletically and get to play a strength vs. strength card with their run defense against the Wildcat Gun Triple-Option.
I foresee an overwhelmed Phelps dealing with significant pressure for the first time this season. That should translate to a few turnovers and a runaway for the home team.
If you can find shutout odds in excess of 6-1, I would recommend taking a shot there as well. I’ll be playing JSU ATS and will also be parlaying them with the under.
Pick: Jacksonville State -21 | Under 42.