Betting Odds Analysis for First Round of 2021 FCS Playoffs

  • Defending champions, North Dakota State, sit as seven-point favorites over Eastern Washington.
  • Top-seeded South Dakota State are massive 24-point favorites against Holy Cross.
  • Last season’s runner up, James Madison, is favored by 14.5 points against VMI.

FRISCO, Texas – For the next couple of weeks, 16 FCS football teams will be battling to be crowned 2021 FCS National Champions. Teams were selected by a committee that only ranks the top four teams in the bracket for the postseason. The teams will take part in a March Madness-style bracket until just one team remains.

The first-round matchups are generally created based on geographical location but avoid same-conference matchups in the first round. This first round has a lot of talent as well as a lot of mismatches.

The Defending Champs

North Dakota State are the reigning champs (have won eight of last nine FCS titles) and find themselves in contention to repeat as champions this season. The Bison are 6-2 this season and finished sixth in the polls. NDSU will play Eastern Washington (5-1), ranked ninth in the country, and are pegged as seven-point favorites over the Eagles.

North Dakota State vs Eastern Washington Betting Odds

  • Moneyline: NDSU -260, EWU +215
  • Spread: NDSU -7
  • Total: O/U 55

College football betting fans may be interested in knowing that Eastern Washington is the most prolific offensive unit in FCS this season, averaging a league-best 562.5 yards per game. North Dakota State has clearly missed Trey Lance and have been 50th in the country with 339.0 yards per game.

Eastern Washington has the ability to move up and down the field as fast as any team in the country and could be a hard team to put away. Underdog bettors could be in for an upset in the first round.

The Top Seed

South Dakota State (5-1) was given the top seed in the playoffs despite not being atop the FCS rankings. Betting on SDSU to beat their first-round opponent, Holy Cross (3-0), may be a bit tough considering online sportsbook list the Jackrabbits as 24-point favorite and don’t have moneyline odds available.

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South Dakota State vs Holy Cross Betting Odds

  • Moneyline: N/A
  • Spread: South Dakota State -24
  • Total: O/U 45

James Madison Vengeance Tour

James Madison lost in the FCS Championship game last season and have not lost again since. JMU went an undefeated 5-0 this year, was ranked as the top team in the country for the majority of the season and was still only given the No. 3 seed by the playoff committee.

The Dukes are expected to move past VMI (6-1), being listed as -630 favorites on the moneyline and 14.5-point favorites for the spread.

James Madison vs. VMI Betting Odds

  • Moneyline: JMU -630, VMI +415
  • Spread: JMU -14.5
  • Total: O/U 44.5

James Madison has the nation’s best defense by a wide margin. The Dukes allow just 175.6 yards per game, over 45 less yards per game than any other FCS team. The JMU defense has allowed just five touchdowns this season, the lowest of any team with more than three games played.

VMI scores an average of 30.0 points per game, but James Madison allows fewer than 10 per game. The JMU offense can hold their own, scoring about 34 points per game. The Over/Under odds for this matchup reflects the respect given to the James Madison defense.

How to Watch

All first-round games will be played on Saturday, April 24, and be aired on either ESPN or ABC.