And then there were four.
Just five games remain the 2021 Spring FCS season as four teams in South Dakota State, Delaware, James Madison, and Sam Houston State are set to battle it out. While Delaware will visit South Dakota State in the early slot, most eyes will be on the #3 ranked Dukes taking the #2 ranked Sam Houston State.
Do the lowered seeded home Bearkats deserve the underdog role? Let’s take a closer look.
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.
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James Madison vs. Sam Houston State (+2.5, O/U 47.5)
Having last played in 2016 in the national quarterfinal, James Madison won the only game ever played between these two 65-7. While the teams look drastically different, including a new coach for the Dukes, Sam Houston’s head coach K.C. Keeler I’m sure, has not forgotten every minute of that game.
The Bearkats have the added juice in this one, fresh off defeating the three-time defending champion North Dakota State in the quarterfinals to remain unbeaten at home in the playoffs (15-0 all-time). Led by DE Jaharai Kay, Sam Houston allowed NDSU just 139 yards on the ground to slow down an otherwise elite running attack.
Quarterback Eric Schmid, who comes into this one with 2,381 yards and 16 touchdowns, continues to find one of the best one-two punches in the FCS in downfield threat Jaquez Ezzard (646 yards and 6 TDs on 24 receptions) and slot guy Cody Chest (leas team with 35 rec.).
For the favorite Dukes, quarterback Cole Johnson continues to be the game manager he’s been from the start but has elevated his play through the postseason. Accumulating more than 200 passing yards in four straight games, Johnson has the luxury of defenses keying in on his all-conference running back in Percy Agyei-Obese.
While the offense has been solid, the Duke’s defense has told the story thus far this postseason. In their two playoff wins, the Dukes have picked the ball off five times, and their rushing defense has ranked the top of the FCS.
In this one, I look for the veteran Schmid to limit his mistakes and not be fooled by some of the quirky sets the Dukes are known for putting out. Without the turnovers, James Madison should struggle with the longer fields against a Bearkats front seven that is barely a notch below their own.
Pick: Sam Houston State +2.5
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