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FCS Playoffs Semifinals Preview: No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State

The Bison are 21-1 in the postseason in the FargoDome

NCAA Football: North Dakota State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: Friday, December 15, 2017, 8 p.m. ET

Location: FargoDome, Fargo, North Dakota

Where To Watch: ESPN2

Betting Odds: North Dakota State -20.5, O/U 64.5

Odds via sportsbooks monitored by

The North Dakota State Bison are looking to get back to the FCS National Championship Game and win their sixth title in seven years. North Dakota State has come on strong in recent weeks. The Bison hammered both San Diego and Wofford to get to this point and are big favorites this week against Sam Houston State, a team they have traditionally done very well against.

Sam Houston State has gotten to this point on the strength of the best passing attack in the country. The Bearkats are throwing the ball all over the place, dropping 54 points on South Dakota and tallying 34 points against Kennesaw State. They were outscored 97-13 in their last two Semifinals appearances.

Reasons to Like North Dakota State

The Bison have one of the best defenses in the nation. North Dakota State is solid against both the run and the pass and is allowing just four yards per play this year. That’s the third-best number in the nation and the Bison did it in one of the toughest conferences in the country.

Additionally, the Bison have shut down an air it out offense already this season. North Dakota State went into Eastern Washington and completely shut down star quarterback Gage Gubrud in the second week of the season, holding him to just 134 yards with two interceptions.

North Dakota State’s run game has kicked it into another gear too lately. The Bison were able to move the ball consistently on the ground against both San Diego and Wofford and have seemingly solved the issues they had at the tail end of the regular season.

Reasons Not to Like North Dakota State

To be honest, there aren’t many reasons not to like the Bison in this one. They have overcome a slew of injuries and have seemed to gain steam as the year has gone on.

However, the Bearkats have a chance if if they incorporate more run-pass option stuff. North Dakota State has struggled to stop mobile quarterbacks who can throw the ball too this season and if Jeremiah Briscoe shows he can loosen up the defense with his legs that could be just what Sam Houston State needs.

Reasons to Like Sam Houston State

Speaking of Briscoe, there’s no denying that he is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the FCS. Briscoe has been fantastic for two seasons now at the helm of one of the best passing attacks in the country and has some great receivers too.

Nathan Stewart is averaging an absurd 23.4 yards per reception and is third in the nation in receiving yards per game. He is probably the most explosive receiver in the country and was named a third team All-American.

Davion Davis didn’t have the gaudy numbers that Stewart did, but was named a first team All-American. He leads the nation in receiving touchdowns with 17, two more than the next closest player.

Reasons Not to Like Sam Houston State

The Bearkats have the worst defense of any of the four playoff teams left. Sam Houston State is giving up 5.7 yards per play and allowed both South Dakota and Kennesaw State to get back in it after blowing each side out in the first half.

They have not been good at stopping the run all year long and North Dakota State will be content to just keep the ball on the ground and see if the Bearkats defense. Because odds are, they probably won’t be able to.


Sam Houston State is trying to erase a lot of embarrassing losses in one fell swoop, but it just isn’t in the cards for the Bearkats. North Dakota State is a cut above and this is simply a very bad matchup for them. The Bison are going to roll en route to a date in Frisco.

Final Score: North Dakota State 41, Sam Houston State 13