The Missouri Valley Football Conference brings us more FCS spring action, with the No. 6 North Dakota State Bison taking on the Missouri State Bears on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.
Defending FCS champion North Dakota State is 2-1 on the year after losing last weekend, while Missouri State is 1-3.
If you’re betting online on this game, the visiting Bison are 19-point favorites, with an over/under set at 45 points.
North Dakota State: First Loss Since 2017
The Bison have made college football news as they have been the FCS’ best team for years, winning eight of the last nine FCS championships. It’s been a remarkable run, and while it may not be over, North Dakota State is coming off its first loss since Nov. 4, 2017.
What makes matters worse is that the Bison were blown out by Southern Illinois, losing 38-14 and surrendering three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
The Bison won their spring opener and their lone fall appearance, though the offense looks a bit different with projected first-round NFL draft pick Trey Lance no longer quarterbacking the team.
Next in line for North Dakota State, a school that has sent its last two quarterbacks (Carson Wentz and Easton Stick) to the NFL, is Zeb Noland. Noland didn’t do enough last week, completing just 54% of his passes for 159 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The running game didn’t fare much better, save for a 63-yard scamper by freshman running back Jalen Bussey.
The Bison will look to regroup and build on their spring-opening win over Youngstown State. Noland didn’t do much in that game either, indicating the quarterback power of North Dakota State may be waning.
Missouri State: 1-0 This Spring
Missouri State has played a handful of games this season, currently sitting at 1-3. The Bears played only once this spring, beating Western Illinois 30-24.
Their three losses came in the fall, twice to FCS-foe Central Arkansas — along with a 48-0 thrashing at the hands of Oklahoma, to no one’s surprise.
Their 2019 season was a difficult one, as they finished just 1-10, so their start this spring is encouraging Missouri State beat the college football odds by outscoring Western Illinois 16-7 in the second half, along with 10 unanswered in the fourth to come from behind and win.
Freshman quarterback Jaden Johnson had an up-and-down game. Through the air, he completed 18-of-28 passes for 278 yards and a touchdown while tossing two interceptions. He chipped in 39 yards on the ground, though he lost a fumble.
The Bears were able to overcome Johnson’s three turnovers, and the freshman will need to have a cleaner game if they’re to keep it competitive against the defending FCS champions.
Junior receiver Damoriea Vick had his best game as a Bear, hauling in six balls for 138 yards. Running backs Celdon Manning and Jeremiah Wilson split rushing duties, with each scoring a touchdown and combining for 123 yards.
The Missouri State run defense came to play, holding Western Illinois to just 48 yards on the ground. The rest of the defense also contributed some plays, snagging two interceptions and forcing two fumbles.
North Dakota State’s program has the prestige, but coming off a loss, there are signs of a changing of a guard. Missouri State is not an FCS powerhouse. Looking at common games as both teams played Central Arkansas in the fall, the Bears played them twice, losing both, while the Bison won 39-28.
North Dakota State should win this game, but with such a large spread, I’m rolling with Missouri State with the hopes it can keep it close.
When making your college football picks, take the 19 points and go with the Bears.