South Dakota State vs. Sam Houston State Odds, Pick & Prediction: How to Bet FCS Championship (Sunday, May 16)

South Dakota State vs. Sam Houston State Odds, Pick & Prediction: How to Bet FCS Championship (Sunday, May 16) article feature image
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Hannah Foslien/Getty Images. Pictured: The South Dakota State Jackrabbits.

  • The final football game for the next three and a half months will take place Sunday afternoon when the No. 1 South Dakota State Jackrabbits take on the No. 2 Sam Houston State Bearkats in the FCS Championship.
  • The Jackrabbits cruised through their semifinal matchup last week, but the Bearkats pose a challenge they haven't seen yet in these playoffs.
  • Check out Collin Wilson's full betting analysis for the FCS Championship below complete with odds and a pick based on his analysis.

South Dakota State vs. Sam Houston State Odds

South Dakota State Odds -6
Sam Houston State Odds +6
Moneyline -230 / +170
Over/Under 47.5
Time Sunday, 2 p.m. ET
TV ABC
Odds as of Saturday afternoon and via DraftKings.

The first College Football Playoff National Championship game was first played after the 2014 season. In the wake of the BCS era, FBS has managed to pair its top two seeds in the championship game just twice. This year, FCS will pit its top two seeds from the playoffs against each other for the third time in the past four seasons.

South Dakota State, the top overall seed, will play in its first-ever national title game after nine consecutive trips to the FCS Playoffs.

Sam Houston State, which has not lost a game since November 2019, will make its third attempt at winning the FCS Division I-AA Championship.

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South Dakota State Jackrabbits

The headlining act of this National Championship game will be the Jackrabbits’ offensive line against the Bearkats’ defensive line.

South Dakota State averages more than 230 yards rushing per game with a top-five ranking in yards per rush in 2021. Sam Houston State, meanwhile, sits fifth defensively in yards per rush, limiting both James Madison and North Dakota State to 3.2 yards per carry.

When the Bearkats get opponents in passing downs, defensive coordinator Clayton Carlin drops seven into coverage thanks to an aggressive defensive line.

Joseph Wallace with a HUGE sack on 3rd down!! #EatEmUpKats

πŸ“Š https://t.co/GbN18ytVRq
πŸ“Ί https://t.co/kQ3jJt3Cwc pic.twitter.com/lC1ZSiYL3h

— Sam Houston Football (@BearkatsFB) May 8, 2021

To avoid the speed of the defensive line, the Jacks will rely on quarterback Mark Gronowski’s quick-strike ability. Head coach John Stiegelmeier, serving in this role since 1997, has no issues confusing defenses that specialize in pressure.

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE TRICKERY ‼️

QB Mark Gronowski just caught a TD. You read that right! What a call! πŸ‘€pic.twitter.com/MokFrqL4dn

— BroBible (@BroBible) May 8, 2021

Most any highlight of Gronowski is off of a wildcat or RPO keeper, which may be the equalizer against Sam Houston State. The freshman and MVFC Player of the Year must play a clean game to win the national title against a Bearkats team that picked off James Madison to start the fourth quarter of the semifinals.

That is no easy task for the Jacks, as Sam Houston State ranks fourth in defensive Havoc, a statistic that looks at tackles for loss, forced fumbles and passes defended.

Click here to view offensive and defensive team stats for this matchup.
Team Stat
SDSU Offense
SHSU Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
22
11
SHSU
Plays per Game
75
88
SDSU
Yards per Play
27
24
Draw
Points per Play
56
6
SHSU
First-Down Rate
76
30
SHSU
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
23
22
Draw
Pass Completion %
50
38
SHSU
Yards per Pass
94
42
SHSU
INT Rate
65
87
SDSU
Yards per Rush
4
4
Draw
Havoc
25
4
SHSU
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Sam Houston State Bearkats

To match a flashy defensive line, the Bearkats have a stable of wide receivers who can score on any down and distance.

Ranking third in points per game, Sam Houston State has many of the same characteristics as the Houston Cougars. The Bearkats are highly explosive but lack efficiency with a rank of ninth in First Down Rate.

Click here to view offensive and defensive team stats for this matchup.
Team Stat
SHSU Offense
SDSU Defense
Advantage
Points per Game
3
9
SHSU
Plays per Game
17
18
Draw
Yards per Play
27
18
SDSU
Points per Play
56
11
SDSU
First-Down Rate
95
13
SDSU
Red-Zone Scoring Rate
81
18
SDSU
Pass Completion %
25
48
SHSU
Yards per Pass
65
12
SDSU
INT Rate
8
4
Draw
Yards per Rush
16
32
SHSU
Havoc
41
60
SHSU

What Sam Houston State lacks in Success Rate is more than made up in explosiveness. Quarterback Eric Schmid is third in FCS in passing yards per completion with wide receiver Jequez Ezzard leading the way.

HOUSE CALL FOR EZZARD!!πŸ’₯
Put the moves on 'em 😏#EatEmUpKats

πŸ“Š https://t.co/GbN18ytVRq
πŸ“Ί https://t.co/kQ3jJt3Cwc pic.twitter.com/LXJ53ETHdN

— Sam Houston Football (@BearkatsFB) May 8, 2021

The biggest issue with the South Dakota State defense may be the middle. The linebacker unit was built to stop the rush, but it may be a liability in coverage.

Its quarterfinal victory over Southern Illinois was more of a survival against a Saluki offense that attacked the linebacker unit. South Dakota State survived a Southern Illinois second half that saw two interceptions and a 17-play drive that ended with no points. That defensive efficiency will be needed against Sam Houston State, which overcame a 17-point second-half deficit to No. 3 seed James Madison.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The Jacks have been on the cusp of breaking through for a National Championship for a number of years.

South Dakota State boat-raced Delaware and Holy Cross through these playoffs, but the Southern Illinois quarterfinal deserves further inspection. Dig routes to the middle and single coverage out routes to the end zone led a Saluki attack that focused on the area between the hashes. Southern Illinois had three turnovers and a turnover on downs to lose after leading, 20-7.

Sam Houston State can not only attack the middle of the field on offense, but the Bearkats also boast the athletes to score on special teams. Ezzard is one of the most explosive pieces in the nation on offense, and the senior leads the nation in punt return yards as well.

Fear not, Jequez Ezzard is here🀐
80-yard punt return, TOUCHDOWN#EatEmUpKats

πŸ“Š https://t.co/GbN18ytVRq
πŸ“Ί https://t.co/kQ3jJt3Cwc pic.twitter.com/M48mzwI5YI

— Sam Houston Football (@BearkatsFB) May 8, 2021

The Bearkats outrank the Jacks in plenty of categories from quarterback RPO Success Rate to defensive Havoc. Because of the offensive inefficiency and two red-zone defenses that rank top-25, the under is suggested through 45.

Because of the explosiveness on offense and game-changing defensive line, Sam Houston State is the play to pick up its first FCS Championship.

Pick:Β Sam Houston State +4.5 (Play to +4) | Under 45 or better.

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