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Bison, Bearkats Battle in FCS Playoff Quarterfinals

The North Dakota State Bison and the Sam Houston State Bearkats meet in the quarterfinals of the 2021 FCS playoffs on Saturday. NDSU defeated Eastern Washington in the first round, 42-20, while the Bearkats took down Monmouth, 21-15.

The game kicks at 3 p.m. ET inside Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Tx, and will be televised live on ESPN.

Jordan Houston of the North Carolina State Wolfpack dives for yardage against the Kentucky Wildcats
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/AFP

Looking at the college football odds, North Dakota State is a three-point road favorite.

What to Know – North Dakota State

The defending national champions went back and forth with Eastern Washington in the first half before outscoring the Eagles 21-0 in the second half. NDSU wrapped up the spring slate with a fourth-place finish in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Bison have appeared in 11 straight FCS playoffs with a sparkling record of 37-2.

NDSU averages 26.7 points per game, churning out 354.1 yards of total offense. Defensively, the Bison hold teams to 18.4 points and 305.0 yards of offense.

On Saturday, the Bison turned to the ground game, rushing for a season-high 422 yards. North Dakota State scored 35 unanswered points after falling behind 14-0. The Bison converted 8-of-10 third-down chances and controlled the clock, possessing the ball for 35 minutes.

Freshman running back Dominic Gonnella carried the ball 20 times for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while classmate Jalen Bussey added 13 carries for 143 yards. As a team, the Bison averaged a stellar 7.4 yards per carry.

What to Know – Sam Houston State

Sam Houston State came into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed after wrapping up the regular season with a perfect record. The Bearkats built an early 21-0 first-half lead before a 15-point fourth-quarter by Monmouth made it close. SHSU won the Southland Conference and is appearing in the playoffs for the eighth time in the last 10 years.

SHSU scores 44.8 points per game, ranking fourth in the nation and racking up 524.7 yards. The Bearkats’ defense surrenders 17.5 points and holds teams to 358.5 yards of offense.

The Bearkats’ offense finished with 267 yards of offense and nine first downs. SHSU forced two turnovers, including a pick on fourth-and-goal in the closing seconds. While the Hawks outgained the Bearkats, 398-257, SHSU compiled 16 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Junior running back Ramon Jefferson rushed nine times for 95 yards, scoring a pair of touchdowns. Senior wideout Cody Chrest hauled in eight passes for 67 yards and one touchdown, and big-play sophomore wide receiver Ife Adeyi registered two catches for 52 yards.

Sam Houston State is 14-0 in home playoff games.

The Pick Is In

This NDSU squad might not have the firepower of recent Bison teams, but there is something about teams that knows how to get it done in the postseason. Even with the loss of their star quarterback, Trey Lance, the Bison have kept the offense going with a powerful run game behind a stout offensive line.

Sam Houston State never got its high-flying offense going, struggling to move the ball against Monmouth. The Bearkats’ defense needs to step up and stop the Bison rushing attack if they want a shot to move on.

SHSU might be slightly more talented, but the Bison know what it takes to get it done in the postseason. The Bison move on with a 26-20 victory over the Bearkats.

When making your college football picks, go with North Dakota State to win and cover.

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