The No. 2 North Dakota State Bison (5-1, 1-1 away) play their final road contest when they visit the Northern Iowa Panthers (3-3, 1-2 home) in a Saturday Missouri Valley Football Conference contest. Both teams will be playing their first game in April.
Kickoff is slated for 5 p,m. ET inside the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The game can be seen nationally on ESPN+.
North Dakota State is a nine-point favorite over the Panthers, according to the college football odds.
What to Know – North Dakota State Bison
North Dakota State returns to the gridiron after a three-week hiatus due to a canceled contest against South Dakota and a postponed battle against South Dakota State. The Bison are in a four-way tie atop the MVFC standings.
The Bison score 26.3 points per game while surrendering 16.5 points defensively. NDSU’s offense averages 360.0 yards of offense and holds opponents to 282.2 yards of total offense per contest.
Senior quarterback Zeb Noland took over the starting role under center after Trey Lance opted to prepare for the NFL Draft. Noland has completed 43-of-83 passes for 567 yards, four touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Freshman Cam Miller has also gotten valuable snaps, completing 8-of-13 passes for 74 yards and adding 73 yards rushing.
With Lance’s departure, the Bison have turned their offense over to a potent ground game that averages 228.3 yards per game. Four rushers have over 200 yards rushing this spring, led by sophomore Kobe Johnson with 270 yards.
Through the air, wide receiver Christian Watson leads the Bison with 11 receptions for 214 yards and one touchdown. Watson hauled in his first touchdown in NDSU’s victory over North Dakota on March 20.
Defensively, the Bison have a top 25 unit that allows 4.6 yards per play. Junior linebackers James Kaczor (48 tackles, 0.5 sacks) and Jackson Hankey (45 tackles, 0.5 sacks) highlight the stout defensive unit.
What to Know – Northern Iowa Panthers
The Panthers are .500 but a few plays away from being an undefeated squad. Northern Iowa has dropped its three contests by a total of 12 points, including a one-point and a four-point defeat.
Northern Iowa is a blue-collar team that averages 19.5 points but holds teams to 14.0 points per game. The Panthers’ offense posts 300.7 yards per game while the defense concedes 282.2 per game.
Sophomore quarterback Will McElvain is expected to be back under center for the Panthers after missing time due to COVID-19. McElvain has completed 58-of-114 passes for 750 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
The two-headed rushing attack of junior Tyler Hoosman (66 carries, 303 yards, four touchdowns) and Dom Williams (69 carries, 245 yards, two touchdowns) has accounted for nearly 88% of the Panthers’ rushing yards. Hoosman found the end zone twice in the victory over Western Illinois.
Northern Iowa likes to move the ball through the air, averaging almost twice as many passing yards to rushing yards per game. The main target for UNI quarterbacks is junior wide receiver Quan Hampton, who has caught a team-high 31 passes for 351 yards this season.
The Panthers defense has forced seven fumbles, recovering four, and picked off three passes over the six-game schedule. Northern Iowa ranks 10th in the country in scoring defense.
The Pick is In
Northern Iowa’s defense should give the Bison fits early on, but the talent and depth of NDSU’s lineup will wear the Panthers out in the second half. The Bison win this one, 23-10.