In this Jan. 11, 2020, file photo, North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz raises the trophy alongside quarterback Trey Lance (5) as they celebrate after beating James Madison 28-20 in the FCS championship NCAA college football game in Frisco, Texas. The Football Championship Subdivision season begins in earnest this weekend. With the fall season and playoffs, some of the top teams could play as many as two dozen games over a calendar year. Health experts say players face immense physical and mental challenges playing so many games.(AP Photo/Sam Hodde, File)
- North Dakota State hosts Youngstown State to open the FCS spring season
- The Bison have won four consecutive championships and 38 straight games overall
- See the game odds and a look at both programs heading into the season below
The Crimson Tide are the kings of college football and the Buccaneers stand alone atop the NFL.
With those championships handed out, it’s time to shift focus to FCS spring football. Let’s start by shining a spotlight on the defending FCS national champions North Dakota State.
Youngstown State vs North Dakota State Odds
|Youngstown State||+23.5 (-110)||+1150||O 52.5 (-110)|
|North Dakota State||-23.5 (-110)||-3335||U 52.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Feb. 19th from DraftKings
In fairness to North Dakota State, referring to them as defending champions is a pretty big understatement. The program has won eight of the last nine FCS National Championships and has a great chance to continue that trend this year. Let’s look at both the them and their week one opponent to settle on the best bet to start the season on a winning note.
Bison Begin Life Without QB Trey Lance
Trey Lance was exceptional for North Dakota State and will likely be a fine quarterback at the next level. He’s likely a top ten pick in the upcoming NFL draft but it’s time for the Bison to begin life without him. The next man up is Iowa State transfer Zeb Noland.
The former three star recruit is 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds. He has a big arm and can sling it, but doesn’t possess the same athleticism in the run game that Lance had. That being said, he’s a senior with more than enough experience under his belt to confidently take over the reigns.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 18, 2021
The team enters the season having won four titles in a row and an absurd 38 straight football games. While it’s understandable to be cautious with a new quarterback under center, North Dakota State has more than enough talent to shelter Noland. He’ll lean on star receiver Christian Watson as well as pre-season All American offensive tackle Cordell Volson. The Bison return nine offensive starters in total and should look fairly similar to last year’s explosive offense by the end of this game.
Rough Matchup for New Head Coach Doug Phillips
Youngstown State is listed as a 23.5-point underdog and that’s not exactly how you’d like to start life as a new head coach. Doug Phillips takes over a program that hasn’t been to the FCS playoffs since 2016, and will likely face a rocky road this season. No game is tougher than their opener against the powerhouse North Dakota State. The strategy will likely be to run the ball, bleed the clock, and keep the losing margin close enough to rally his team around a moral victory.
Catch the Herd in action this Sunday at 2:30pm, we’ve got you covered in or out of state! #GoBison 🤘
— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) February 18, 2021
Joe Craycraft is the veteran quarterback and he’s, well, fine. Much like the Youngstown team can be described as fine. The secondary is decent and there are some playmakers, but this isn’t a team that’s likely to win a track meet with anyone let alone an elite program like NDSU. Craycraft is a junior that has only completed 52% of his college passes. Expect him to spend most of the game completing handoffs to a stable of running backs. It’s unlikely the Penguins will be able to score enough to keep up in this one.
Trust North Dakota State to Cover
The number will only grow by kickoff so here’s the recommendation to bet it sooner rather than later. Youngstown State will do their best to shorten the game but it likely won’t matter. The oddsmakers were modest setting the line because North Dakota State will be breaking in a new quarterback and that’s something you should take advantage of. Bet them to cover with relative ease and run their streak to 39 consecutive wins.
The Pick: North Dakota State -23.5 (-110)
Ryan has been working at TSN for over eleven years, and is now a lead writer and content producer at That’s Hockey. Over the years, he’s launched and hosted TSN’s first NCAAF podcast, The College Football Show, and been featured on the likes of TSN 1050, Sportscentre, and That’s Hockey 2Nite.