- No. 20 South Dakota looks to retain the Sitting Bull Trophy as a 6.5-point underdog against No. 3 North Dakota on Thursday night (ESPN+, 6 p.m. EST)
- The Fighting Hawks have forced 8 turnovers through two games, but South Dakota forced 7 in last week’s win over Illinois State in a 27-20 win
- Read below for complete analysis, odds and a pick on the game
The theme for this spring FCS football season appears to be forget what you thought you knew.
North Dakota has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the national rankings after starting the season outside of them. The Fighting Hawks followed up a season-opening upset over Southern Illinois with another impressive win against then-No. 3 South Dakota State on February 27. North Dakota is now the fourth-ranked team in the nation and is a 6.5-point favorite against South Dakota on Thursday night at home.
The Coyotes’ season-opener against Western Illinois was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Leathernecks’ program, but they won last week against No. 7 Illinois State 27-20. South Dakota made the move into the national rankings with the win at No. 20, but faces a tough test this week if it wants to hang on to the Sitting Bull Trophy.
South Dakota vs North Dakota Odds
|South Dakota||+6.5 (+100)||+235||O 48.5 (-106)|
|North Dakota||-6.5 (-122)||-300||U 48.5 (-114)|
Odds taken from FanDuel on March 2nd
North Dakota’s Dominance
The Hawks and Coyotes haven’t played since 2017, when South Dakota won decisively, 45-7. The two played each other on an annual basis from 1903 to 2011, but after the dissolution of the Great West Conference, they’ve only played twice.
Both programs have been reunited in the Missouri Valley Conference, where North Dakota has a chance for revenge and to improve on its all-time 61-30-5 record against the Coyotes.
1976 Yotes take back the Sitting Bull trophy from UND. pic.twitter.com/cknlWYXonX
— Coyote Brotherhood (@YoteBrotherhood) April 15, 2020
Despite the Hawks’ overall success against South Dakota, prior to this year, they were somewhat of a middling program with 18 losses over the course of their last three complete seasons. The Hawks have caught everyone by surprise in 2021 and have won their first two games in impressive fashion, but the market has adjusted, and they aren’t sneaking up on anybody at this point. Thursday will be North Dakota’s third consecutive home game, and the Hawks have won their last nine overall at home going back to 2018.
South Dakota’s Weaknesses Play to Hawks’ Strengths
Granted, South Dakota had a tough matchup against Illinois State in its only game so far this season, but the Coyotes managed to win in spite of some glaring issues.
A Week 3 #FCS Top Performance
RB Otis Weah – North Dakota
• 88 rushing yards 2 TDs pic.twitter.com/LTATnF07aY
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) March 2, 2021
Against the Redbirds, the Coyotes allowed five sacks and ran the ball 38 times for just 79 yards. If South Dakota doesn’t do something to get more out of its offensive line by Thursday, it’s going to be a long night. North Dakota has only allowed an average of 3.05 yards per carry to opposing rushers this season and has done a good job of getting after opposing quarterbacks with seven sacks in its two games.
South Dakota snagged four interceptions against the Illinois State, but were only able to win by a touchdown. The Coyotes managed to give up 167 yards on the ground despite shutting the Redbird passing game down. This week, they face North Dakota junior running back Otis Weah, who is averaging just under six yards per carry this season, and Hawks sophomore QB Tommy Schuster has completed 63% of his passes with just one pick against two strong opponents.
Riding the Wave
South Dakota should come into the game fired up after a big win to start its season, but North Dakota started the year in a groove and hasn’t taken its foot off of the gas. Considering the Fighting Hawks’ success at home and the deficiencies along the Coyotes’ offensive line, this doesn’t seem like the spot for UND to falter. Both teams have proven early on that they are capable of forcing turnovers, so betting on the total is a dicier play than simply choosing a side.
North Dakota has a good thing going and has three consecutive matchups away from the Alerus Center after this week. The Hawks should be motivated to keep the home winning streak alive before hitting the road, and take this one by at least a touchdown.
- The Pick: North Dakota -6.5 (-122)