Southern vs Jackson State Odds, Picks | FCS Betting Preview
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Jackson State quarterback Shadeur Sanders.
Southern vs Jackson State Odds
-110o / -110u
|Jackson State Odds|
-110o / -110u
In my opinion, College GameDay could not have selected a better game to host this week. Saturday will mark the 11th time in history that ESPN’s pregame show visits an FCS program.
— FCS Football (@FCS_STATS) October 23, 2022
Jackson State has slowly drawn more and more national attention since Deion Sanders became head coach in 2020, furthering the success SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland has had pushing HBCU expansion and exposure.
Yet FCS football, more specifically SWAC football, is not garnering near enough attention for the talent level of these teams or how great the competition has been. There are no two better teams to display the talent, tradition and competition of the SWAC in front of a national audience than the Jaguars and the Tigers.
Jackson State ranks ninth in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 rankings and comes in at fifth in the FCS Coaches Poll, despite being one of just five FCS teams that remain undefeated on the season. The Tigers lead the SWAC in both scoring offense and defense.
The Jaguars are currently the only team over .500 left on the Tigers’ schedule. Consequently, a win over the Jaguars sets up the opportunity for an undefeated season, and more importantly a trip to the Celebration Bowl.
Southern enters Saturday’s SWAC Showdown at 5-2 on the season, 3-1 in conference play, and is tied for the lead atop the SWAC West. The Jaguars are second only to Jackson State in the conference in scoring offense and defense.
If anyone can stop Jackson State’s pursuit of an undefeated season, it is Southern. Last season’s 21-17 win by the Tigers in Baton Rouge ended an eight-game losing streak against the Jaguars, who hold a slight edge in the all-time series 35-30.
Saturday will be just the second time in College GameDay’s history the show broadcasts from an HBCU. Florida A&M was the first in 2008 when it hosted Hampton in a MEAC matchup. The Rattlers set the bar high with an unforgettable performance from the Marching 100 and a 45-24 win over the Pirates.
With lights brighter than ever on Saturday, which team can drown out the noise?
In contrast to Jackson State’s balanced offensive output through the air and on the ground, the Jaguars confide in the run game, which should come as no surprise given that they boast four players who rank among the top 20 in rushing yards in the SWAC.
Now, this isn’t to say their passing offense is sub-par or lacking; Southern ranks third in the conference in passing yards per game. Moreover, one of their top-20 rushers leads the SWAC and is seventh among FCS quarterbacks when it comes to passing efficiency.
Quarterback Besean McCray may have fewer than half the completions of Tigers QB Shedeur Sanders, but his ability as a dual-threat QB who can find success both on the ground and via the pass evens the playing field a bit.
McCray leads the Jaguars in both rushing yards and touchdowns. His decision-making in high-stress situations is undeniably one of his best assets, the most compelling evidence being his conference-leading passing efficiency.
That quick decision-making is something he’ll need to perfect this weekend against a Jackson State defense that is tied for first in the SWAC in sacks on the season. The good news for McCray is that the other defense tied for first in sacks shares a sideline with him.
Defensively, Southern’s biggest asset will be its secondary; the Tigers have yet to face a passing defense as dangerous and effective as the Jaguars. Campbell challenged Jackson State last week, limiting the Tigers to their fewest passing yards this season.
Southern is a better passing defense, holding opponents to just 174.3 passing yards per contest while also forcing interceptions more often.
Turnovers could easily be the deciding factor in this game for the Jaguars if they seize the opportunity. Southern leads the SWAC and ranks eighth among all FCS teams with 10 interceptions this season.
No other team in the FCS has more than two picks returned for touchdowns this year, but Southern has four.
Walter Payton Award candidate Shedeur Sanders leads the Tigers offense. The star quarterback for Jackson State ranks 13th in total passing yards, fifth in completion percentage and ninth in passing yards per game among FCS and FBS quarterbacks.
In the same fashion, their run game has been unflappable.
The Tigers average 167.3 rush yards per contest. With the addition of their average passing yards per game (328.0), they lead the SWAC by more than 30 total yards per game and rank fifth among all FCS teams by posting 495.3 yards per outing.
Not only are the Tigers an offensive powerhouse but also one of the most thwarting defensive units in all of college football. They lead all FCS teams when it comes to total defense (190.3 YPG), fewest first downs allowed (81) and scoring defense (10.1 PPG).
Jackson State also comes in at second among both FBS and FCS teams in third down conversions allowed, giving up first downs on just 23.5% of opponent attempts.
The defense is piloted by linebacker Aubrey Miller Jr., named SWAC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time and FedEx Ground FCS National Defensive Player of the Week after his season-high 13-tackle performance against Campbell last week. He also recorded one sack and two tackles for loss in that game.
Southern vs Jackson State Pick
Saturday’s game is unquestionably a strength vs. strength, best-of-the-best matchup between the Jaguars and the Tigers.
Both teams are positioned as either first and second in every measurable statistic among SWAC teams, or they rank so close to each other that there’s almost no discernible difference between them.
Be that as it may, one significant difference between these teams will undoubtedly decide Saturday’s game: red-zone defense.
Southern ranks 41st among FCS teams in opponent red zone scoring percentage, allowing the opposition to score on 77.8% of trips. While that isn’t particularly egregious, Jackson State is just significantly better.
The Tigers rank 14th among FCS teams, as opponents score on just 70% of trips to the red zone. What truly sets them apart is their ability to prevent teams from even getting to the red zone. Jackson State opponents have found themselves in the red zone just 10 times this season.
In addition, Jackson State boasts the best red-zone offense in the SWAC. When the Jaguars faced Texas Southern — the only team better than Jackson State in the SWAC in red-zone defense — they lost in a 24-0 shutout.
The Jags defense should keep this one closer than that, but this star-studded Jackson State team will show up when the lights are brightest.
Southern is their most formidable challenge of the season and should be respected as such. JSU has been a sizable double-digit favorite more often than not this season.
Lines for the game have yet to be posted, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see oddsmakers undervalue Southern.
I’m completely comfortable backing Jackson State as a favorite of 13.5 points or fewer here, but that would be just the second time this season that the Tigers have been favored by fewer than 17 points.
If oddsmakers undervalue the Jaguars and are laying more than 21.5 with Jackson State here, I wouldn’t hesitate to take the points.