FCS Playoffs Odds & Pick for North Dakota State vs. Eastern Washington: Don’t Bet the Bison Brand

FCS Playoffs Odds & Pick for North Dakota State vs. Eastern Washington: Don’t Bet the Bison Brand article feature image
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Alika Jenner/Getty Images. Pictured: Eric Barriere.

  • The North Dakota State Bison will take on the Eastern Washington Eagles in the first round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday afternoon.
  • The Bison don't resemble the North Dakota State teams of the past that have enamored FCS football fans.
  • For that reason — along with Eastern Washington's impressive ability — Collin Wilson thinks the Eagles are worth a wager, and he explains why below.

North Dakota State vs. Eastern Washington Odds

North Dakota State Odds -7.5 (-105)
Eastern Washington Odds +7.5 (-117)
Moneyline -278 / +210
Over/Under 54.5
Time Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN3
Odds as of Friday afternoon and via DraftKings.

Once upon a time, there was no pandemic to delay the start of the FCS football season.

At the conclusion of the 2018 season, there would have been heavy sentiment that North Dakota State and Eastern Washington have the potential to play for the national championship every season. Because of a delayed fall and a short spring, we are now faced with two unseeded teams squaring off in the first round.

These two teams have had spectacular games in the past decade, from the 2010 playoff quarterfinal thriller in overtime to the most recent 2018 National Championship game. With a projected path that runs through Sam Houston and James Madison, the road to the championship will not go past the Bison or Eagles.

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North Dakota State Bison

There will be no Trey Lance in this game as he will be waiting for his name to be called in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Bison are not as potent as years past through the air, but the ground game is still leaving plenty of defenses in the dust. North Dakota State is 10th in spring play for rush rate on offense with a yards per rush rank of 12th. In the two losses the Bison suffered, getting the offense into passing downs has been key.

The defense has not sustained its now-expected dominance in the short sample of the spring.

However, the Bison would avoid the two teams that beat them this season, as South Dakota State and Southern Illinois are on the other side of the bracket. The Jacks gashed the Bison for seven yards per carry on the ground, while the Bison average just 2.7 yards per carry.

Out of the near 100 teams to play games this spring, the Bison defense ranked 79th in opponents’ points per play.

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Eastern Washington Eagles

The spring season is the shortest of sample sizes, but the Eagles are coming into the playoff scorching hot.

The only blemish on the Eastern Washington schedule was an opening loss to Idaho in the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals were outgained in total yardage and benefitted from an Eagles interception and fumble loss. The early pick-six of quarterback Mike Beaudry was the difference in the game, along with a fourth-quarter field goal that was deemed no good.

Fast forward to the present, and the Eagles have won five straight and avenged Idaho, as Eric Barriere threw for two touchdowns and more than 300 yards. Much like FBS teams from the fall of 2020, Eastern Washington has had its fair share of COVID-19 sit-outs, in addition to injuries.

Despite the rotations in the roster, three players have experience against North Dakota State, including Barriere from the 2018 National Championship game.

Considering the opening pick-six to start the season, this Eastern Washington offense does not make many mistakes. The Eagles rank eighth in spring FCS competition in Havoc allowed. That is a reflection of one of the best offensive lines in spring play, which will be a big factor against an aggressive North Dakota State defense.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The majority of consumers will watch the broadcast looking for two high-octane offenses, but in reality, that title may only belong to Eastern Washington.

The Bison have been one-dimensional this season, sticking to the ground in standard downs and reluctantly going to the air with Cam Miller and Zeb Noland when needed. North Dakota State should find success, as the Eastern Washington defense ranks just outside the top 50 in opponent yards per rush and owns a poor Havoc rank of 75th.

The same could be said for the North Dakota State defense when it comes to defending the pass. Eastern Washington is 13th in pass rate, indicating Barriere will have the green light to go to the air in standard downs. The Bison are just 76th in opponent completion rate and 43rd in defensive Havoc.

In 18 red-zone attempts, North Dakota State opponents have scored 18 times.

Sagarin projects this game at North Dakota State -5 by season-long power ratings but has the Bison by -1.5, per recency analysis. There is plenty of name-brand value with North Dakota State, but this is not the same team led by Trey Lance or coached by Chris Klieman.

Pick: Eastern Washington +7.5 (down to +6).

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