- North Dakota State looks to rebound from last week’s loss as 18.5-point favorite at Missouri State on Saturday (ESPN+, 3 p.m. EST)
- Missouri State snapped a 10-game losing streak last weekend against Western Illinois, but has struggled with turnovers and penalties
- Read below for analysis, odds and a pick on the game
Last weekend, North Dakota State got caught by a Southern Illinois team that was motivated to respond in a big way after a bad loss to a surprising North Dakota team. This weekend, the Bison look for a rebound of their own with a win at Missouri State.
The Bears picked up their first win last weekend after dropping their first three of this modified season season last fall.
Missouri State racked up more than 430 yards of offense against Western Illinois, and won 30-24. That win didn’t move the needle too much with sportsbooks, and North Dakota State is still an 18.5-point favorite on the road.
North Dakota State vs Missouri State Odds
|North Dakota State||-18.5 (-106)||-1500||O 44.5 (-118)|
|Missouri State||+18.5 (-114)||+790||U 44.5 (-104)|
Odds taken from FanDuel on March 4th
Do the Bears Even Stand a Chance?
Even though there will be limited attendance in at Robert W. Plaster Stadium, the Bears are still trying to create as much of a homefield advantage as possible with a ‘Maroon Out’ promotion at the game.
The Bears set the tone last week on the ground with 155 yards rushing as a team. They might be hard-pressed to replicate that performance this week, as the Bison have held opponents to one of the nation’s lowest yards per carry averages so far this season at 2.73.
The Salukis bucked that trend last week with sophomore running back Romier Elliott, who ran for 89 yards on 18 carries, but Missouri State has a two-headed rushing attack with freshman Celdon Manning and redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Wilson.
Missouri State is going to need its backs to show up, because redshirt freshman quarterback Jaden Johnson is still getting things figured out. Going back to the start of the Bears’ season in 2020, Johnson has completed just 53% of his passes and has thrown six interceptions to just one touchdown. North Dakota State’s defense has been pretty underwhelming against the pass this season, and if it wasn’t for Youngstown State only mustering 120 yards through the air against the Bison on February 21, they’d look even more pedestrian.
Johnson has the fifth-lowest efficiency rating among all passers in FCS so far this season, and even though he’s not afraid to throw it, he’s not the most decisive quarterback, either.
Where North Dakota State Needs to Improve
Perhaps the biggest letdown for the Bison so far this season has been the drop-off at quarterback from Trey Lance, a likely first-round NFL Draft pick, to Zeb Noland.
Youngstown State QB Mark Waid finished as the game’s top passer between the Penguins and Bison earlier this season. Noland finished with just 74 yards, one shy of Waid’s 75, the key difference being that Waid split time with Joe Craycraft during the game.
Against Southern Illinois, Noland showed better, but still only completed 54% of his passes for 159 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
Last week, the Bears gave up 281 passing yards, but grabbed two interceptions. Missouri State only brought down Western Illinois quarterback Connor Sampson twice, and North Dakota State’s offensive line has only given up three sacks so far this season. Noland should continue getting more comfortable as the starter this week, but won’t be expected to break the game open for the Bison.
Last week was North Dakota State’s first loss in 39 games. Meanwhile, the Bears were 8-25 in the three seasons prior to their modified 2020-21 season. The Bison are very likely to win on Saturday, but the question is whether or not they have the scoring power to clear the 18.5-point spread.
Missouri State has been one of the most penalized teams since their games began last fall and have had a porous offensive line. Just the same, they showed some spunkiness last week and some toughness of the end of the game against the Leathernecks. If Missouri State can come out with a reasonably decent start to the game at home, the Bears should be able to cover.
- The Pick: Missouri State +18.5 (-104)