- Week 3 of the FCS Spring Football season kicks off Friday, February 26th
- Eastern Washington led the FCS in total offense and was second in scoring offense in 2019
- Read below for analysis on the Week 3 slate and our favorite ATS picks
The FCS Spring Football season rolls on this weekend, with several more conferences making their 2021 debuts in Week 3, including the Big Sky.
Eastern Washington, who has earned at least a share of the conference title in six of the past 10 seasons, headlines the Big Sky action on Saturday with a matchup versus Idaho. The Eagles, who finished a disappointing 7-5 in 2019, will once again be led by QB Eric Barriere, one of the front runners for the Walter Payton Award.
Aside from him however, the Eastern Washington program is full of new faces at nearly every position.
Pick #1: Vandals Cover vs Eagles
|Eastern Washington Eagles||-5.5 (-106)||-215||Over 62.5 (-108)|
|Idaho Vandals||+5.5 (-114)||+172||Under 62.5 (-112)|
Odds taken Feb. 25th at FanDuel.
The only other notable offensive starter that returns is Barriere’s trusted left tackle Tristen Taylor. Leading rusher Antoine Cluster is gone, while Talolo Limu-Jones is the only experienced receiver left.
Facing 3rd & 12, Eric Barriere finds Johnny Edwards for the 50-yard TD!#GoEags #ATS #BigSkyFB pic.twitter.com/JGhyl6zW2Y
— EWU Football (@EWUFootball) November 23, 2019
If the Eagles are going to repeat their gaudy offensive numbers from 2019, they’ll need Barriere to shine. Eastern Washington led the FCS in total offense last season, averaging 524.8 yards per game, and finished second in scoring offense, by racking up 40.6 points per outing.
Barriere is one of the most talented pivots in the FCS, throwing for over 3,712 yards and 31 TD in 2019, but given the amount of turnover within the program, nobody should be surprised if the Eagles get off to a slow start. Also working against them, is an incredibly tough matchup versus an excellent Idaho defense.
The Vandals return 16 linebackers and defensive linemen, including all seven starters. The front seven is one of the strongest in the FCS, led by linebackers Christian Elliss and Tre Walker, a pair of preseason second team all-Americans, and all Big Sky first teamers.
⚪ LB Spotlight ⚪
Tre Walker – Idaho
• Walker has 179 Tackles, 12 Tackles for Loss, 1.5 Sacks, 3 Pass Breakups and 1 Fumble Recovery in his career. pic.twitter.com/R0gRERoi2Q
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) August 22, 2020
Offensively, Idaho should get a boost from graduate transfer Mike Beaudry under center, who takes over for Mason Petrino. Beaudry, who spent time at West Florida and UConn will rely on a sound running game and veteran pass catchers Cuttrell Haywood (111 career receptions) and Connor Whitney (25 rec, 312 yds, 2 TD in 2019) to move the chains.
The matchup versus the Eagles defense is a favorable one, as the unit ranked bottom-30 in points (34.6) and yards (448.4) allowed last season, and returns only four starters.
Pick: Idaho Vandals +5.5 (-114)
Pick #2: Fighting Hawks Surprise Jackrabbits
|South Dakota State Jackrabbits||-7.5 (+102)||-300||Over 47.5 (-108)|
|North Dakota Fighting Hawks||+7.5 (-124)||+235||Under 47.5 (-112)|
Next up, is the battle of the Dakota’s, as North Dakota hosts South Dakota as 7.5-point underdogs. Both teams earned a victory last week in their spring debuts, although in very different game scripts.
It’s a top-15 showdown at the Alerus Center this weekend, let’s check out the stats.
Presented by: @SCHEELS #UNDproud | #LGH pic.twitter.com/oiN9TPmZYg
— North Dakota Football (@UNDfootball) February 25, 2021
The Jackrabbits needed a touchdown in the final 20 seconds to squeak by Northern Iowa on the road, while the Fighting Hawks dismantled Southern Illinois by 23 as 2.5-point home underdogs.
North Dakota put up 229 yards on the ground, while redshirt Freshman QB Tanner Schuster completed 15-of-23 passes for 118 yards and 3 TD.
Defensively, the Fighting Hawks stymied the Salukis, limiting them to 323 total yards and 2.6 yards per carry. They forced two interceptions and three fumbles, highlighted by a 36-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
C.J. Siegel with the sack and forced fumble and Devon Krzanowski takes it the distance for six!
UND 16, SIU 7 – 1:39, 2nd#UNDproud | #LGH pic.twitter.com/TZEYBQVze4
— North Dakota Football (@UNDfootball) February 20, 2021
South Dakota State meanwhile, averaged just 4.92 yards per play versus the Panthers, fumbling twice and mustering only 3.4 yards per rush. QB Mike Gronowski accounted for all three Jackrabbit scores, taking one in himself, and throwing for two more including the game winner to Pierre Strong Jr.
Well Worth The Wait!#GoJacks ???????? pic.twitter.com/mknICJc1Gx
— SDSU Football (@GoJacksFB) February 25, 2021
Defensively, South Dakota State excelled, yielding only 193 total yards, including 28 rushing yards on 25 attempts. Strong defense is nothing new to the Jackrabbits, as they held every opponent to 28 points or less in 2019, and allowed more than 23 points just twice over their final seven outings.
Neither offense is set-up to smash in this matchup, but what needs to be acknowledged is the improvement North Dakota appears to have made against the run. Rush defense has plagued them for the past few seasons, but if last week is any indication, it looks like they have corrected their issues. If they can turn the South Dakota State offense into a pass first attack, they’ll not only be live to cover, but to pull off an outright win as well.
I like the Fighting Hawks to keep this game both close and low scoring.
Pick: North Dakota Fighting Hawks +7.5 (-124)