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Eastern Washington Gets Crack at FCS Powerhouse North Dakota State

Eastern Washington Eagles vs North Dakota State Bison

The Eastern Washington Eagles (5-1) get to take on the defending FCS champion North Dakota State Bison (6-2) in the opening round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday. This spring, the playoffs have been shrunk from the normal 24-team field to 16 teams.

Saturday’s kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome in Fargo, ND. According to the college football odds, North Dakota State is a seven-point favorite over the Eagles, with the over/under set at 55.

Andre Baccellia of the Washington Huskies is tackled against Mitchell Johnson of the Eastern Washington Eagles
Abbie Parr/Getty Images/AFP

What to Know – Eastern Washington

Eastern Washington appears in the postseason for the third time in five seasons. The Eagles faced North Dakota State in the 2018 championship, losing 38-24 to the Bison. EWU wrapped up the spring season with a runner-up finish in the Big Sky Conference.

The Eagles are sixth in the country in scoring offense, averaging 40.7 points per game. EWU ranks third in the FCS in passing offense, throwing for 388.5 yards per game. Defensively, EWU holds opponents to 24.3 points and 366.5 yards per game.

Senior quarterback Eric Barriere is the leader of the high-octane offense. Barriere has thrown for 2,193 yards and 18 touchdowns, completing 61.9% of his passes (166-of-268) . The signal-caller has thrown six interceptions.

Although the Eagles enjoy spreading the ball around through the air, they have a ground game that averages 173.7 yards per game. Senior running back Tamarick Price averages a robust 5.6 yards per carry and has scored four times.

Senior wideout Talolo Limu-Jones is the primary beneficiary of the air assault. Limu-Jones leads the nation, averaging 120.2 yards per game. The wideout has hauled in 44 receptions for 721 yards with four scores.

What to Know – North Dakota State

North Dakota State has won eight of the last nine FCS titles and enters the spring playoffs as a quiet underdog. The Bison lost their star quarterback, Trey Lance, to NFL Draft preparation. However, NDSU still pieced together a quality season that resulted in a fourth-place finish in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

NDSU averages 24.8 points behind a heavy rushing attack that averages 202.8 yards per game. Through the air, the Bison throw for 136.6 yards per game. Defensively, NDSU surrenders 18.2 points and 304.8 yards of total offense per game.

Senior Zeb Noland started all seven games during the regular season but attempted just one pass last week before freshman Cam Miller stepped in. NDSU hasn’t named a starter for Saturday, but the freshman will have to grow up in a hurry if the Bison stick with him.

Miller completed 9-of-16 passes for 149 yards and added 38 yards rushing and two touchdowns last week.

The rushing attack features three backs, including sophomore Hunter Luepke (63 carries), freshman Dominic Gonnella (61 carries), and sophomore Kobe Johnson (61 carries). The trio of running backs has combined to rush for 912 yards and seven touchdowns.

NDSU has playmakers on each side of the offense out wide. Junior wide receiver Christian Watson is a playmaking machine, averaging 24.9 yards per catch. Opposite Watson is classmate Josh Babicz, who averages 12.2 yards per reception and leads the receiving corps with two touchdowns.

The Pick Is In

The Eagles present a unique challenge to the Bison in that the offense can score multiple ways. Ten different receivers have found the end zone for the Eagles.

NDSU dropped its spring finale to rival South Dakota State, and the offense understandably hasn’t looked the same without Lance under center. The Bison will have to generate some points to keep up with the Eagles’ high-flying attack.

North Dakota State is no stranger to the playoffs, and it should be fired up following a loss, but we like the Eagles to cover here.

When making your college football betting picks, take Eastern Washington to stay within seven points.

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