- North Dakota State hosts Illinois State in FCS action on Saturday, March 13th
- The Bison are being listed as near two-touchdown favorites at the Fargodome
- Read below for the odds, spread and betting preview
No. 5 North Dakota State is returning home to host No. 22 Illinois State in FCS action on Saturday, March 13th (3:30 PM EST). The Bison (3-1, 2-1 MVFC) are being listed as 12.5-point favorites over the Redbirds (0-2, 0-2 MVFC).
The Bison bounced back from their first loss of the season with a dominant 25-0 shutout of Missouri State in Week 4, while the Redbirds put up a decent fight in a 20-10 loss to Northern Iowa.
Illinois State vs North Dakota State Odds
|Illinois State||+12.5 (-110)||+490||O 37.5 (-102)|
|North Dakota State||-12.5 (-110)||-750||U 37.5 (-120)|
Odds taken Mar. 9th from FanDuel
Bison Back on Track
North Dakota State immediately got back in the win column after seeing their impressive 39-game winning streak come to an end with a shocking 38-14 loss to Southern Illinois in Week 4.
The Bison bounced back with a 25-0 win over Missouri State last weekend in which they held the Bears to just 221 yards of total offense and sacked MSU QBs seven times.
Feelin’ dangerous ????#GoBison pic.twitter.com/qJedg55k8j
— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) March 8, 2021
The Bison defense came to play in Week 4, but we’ve yet to see the explosive offense that has made NDSU such an FCS powerhouse over the last several years. Part of that has to do with the mediocre play of Iowa State transfer QB Zeb Noland, who is only completing 56.1 percent of his passes this season.
We did see just how good he can be on one play last weekend, however, as Noland connected with receiver Braylon Henderson for an 81-yard TD.
Redbirds Flex Defensive Prowess
Illinois State is still searching for its first win of the season, but the Redbirds have flexed their defensive muscles in losses to South Dakota and Northern Iowa. Brock Spack’s team is only allowing 270 yards of offense per game and got a pick six from linebacker Kenton Wilhoit against the Panthers. This defensive backfield is loaded with playmakers who will make life difficult for Zeb Noland on Saturday.
???? #Pick6 Alert [email protected] with the interception and returns it 29 yards for the TOUCHDOWN!
2:14 Q2 | ILS 10, UNI 10 pic.twitter.com/k24Zlvr1wc
— Redbird Football (@RedbirdFB) March 6, 2021
The trouble for the Redbirds is they have yet to get the offense to gel to its full potential. They were stuck in a defensive battle with Northern Iowa last weekend in which the Panthers limited them to just 185 yards of total offense. The good news is that dual-threat QB Bryce Jefferson is a big-time playmaker who has been hitting the deep ball with ease.
It’s still going to be hard for this Illinois State offense to generate much against a stout NDSU defense coming off its best performance of the season. Jefferson is turnover-prone and the Redbirds are clearly missing all-American running back James Robinson in the ground game.
What’s the Best Bet?
There are offensive playmakers on both these rosters, but this is a game that’s going to be won with defense. When these two teams last met in the 2019 playoff quarterfinals, it was a defensive clinic that resulted in a 9-3 NDSU victory. The Redbirds were able to limit NFL Draft prospect Trey Lance to 10-of-21 passing for 135 yards in a game that only featured field goals.
It’s unlikely we see another game quite as low-scoring Saturday, but the Illinois State defense is the real deal. They’re only allowing 85 yards on the ground per game and should have an answer for NDSU breakout running back Jalen Bussey. Also expect the Redbirds’ pass rush to take advantage of a revamped Bison offensive line that has struggled to protect Nolan.
Nolan is taking time to build chemistry with his receivers and hasn’t looked great against below-average teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. Jefferson is also a work in progress and could get picked off a few times by a hungry NDSU secondary. Expect the defenses to be the story in what should be a tightly played and low-scoring affair.
- Picks: Illinois State +12.5 (-110) , Under 37.5 (-120)