Missouri Valley Football Conference rivals clash when the South Dakota State Jackrabbits travel to face the Northern Iowa Panthers in their first spring college football matchup of the year on Friday. South Dakota State (8-5, 5-3 in 2019), which had its playoff run ended by the Panthers last season, has been one of the most successful members of the MVFC the past 10 years, earning playoff appearances the past eight seasons. Northern Iowa (10-5, 6-2), meanwhile, has finished ranked in five of the past six seasons. The teams split a pair of games in 2019, with the Jackrabbits posting a 38-7 win over the Panthers during the regular season, before falling 13-10 in a quarterfinal playoff.
The game is slated to start at 8 p.m. ET at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Jackrabbits are 1.5-point favorites in the latest South Dakota State vs. Northern Iowa odds from William Hill Sportsbook, while the over-under for total points scored is set at 42. Before making any Northern Iowa vs. South Dakota State picks, you'll want to see the latest college football predictions and betting advice from SportsLine's Emory Hunt.
Hunt is the founder and CEO of Football Gameplan, which has been supplying analysis of all levels of football since 2007, and a former running back at Louisiana-Lafayette. He knows the game from a player's perspective, and is a specialist when it comes to picking all levels of college football. He enjoyed a dominant 2019 season, going 116-79 against the spread while returning nearly $3,000 to $100 bettors.
- South Dakota State vs. Northern Iowa spread: South Dakota State -1.5
- South Dakota State vs. Northern Iowa over-under: 42 points
- South Dakota State vs. Northern Iowa money line: South Dakota State -125, Northern Iowa +105
- SDSU: The Jackrabbits scored 75 points off of turnovers in 2019
- NIU: The Panthers held their opponents to 17.7 points per game a season ago
Why South Dakota State can cover
The Jackrabbits return a speedy weapon in sophomore wide receiver/punt returner Jaxon Janke. He caught 29 passes for 353 yards (12.2 average) and four touchdowns, while returning 27 punts for 289 yards (10.7 average) and one touchdown. He caught at least one pass in 12 of 13 games, and became the first Jackrabbit in the Division I era to top 100 punt return yards in a game, tallying 111 yards on four returns against Long Island, highlighted by his 77-yard TD.
Defensively, South Dakota State will be led by senior linebacker Logan Backhaus, who played in 13 games last year, finishing third on the team with 79 tackles, including 45 solo. He had 5 ½ tackles for loss and registered one sack for three yards. He had nine pass breakups, two quarterback hits, forced three fumbles, four interceptions and blocked one kick. He earned All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honorable mention and was honored as the team's Defensive Most Valuable Player.
Why Northern Iowa can cover
The Panthers also have a number of returning players with experience. Redshirt junior running back Tyler Hoosman was the team's second-leading rusher a year ago. He played in nine games and carried 92 times for 388 yards (4.2 average) and four touchdowns. In 2018, he played in eight games, carrying 44 times for 205 yards (4.7 average).
Also returning is redshirt sophomore quarterback Will McElvain, who has proven to be a dual threat. In 15 games in 2019, McElvain completed 203 of 382 passes (53.1 percent) for 2,778 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was intercepted seven times. He also rushed for 372 yards on 150 carries (2.5 average) and one score. McElvain, who redshirted during the 2018 season, was a three time All-District selection at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa.
How to make Northern Iowa vs. South Dakota State picks
Hunt has studied the matchup and found a critical X-factor that has him jumping all over one side. You can only get the pick at SportsLine.
So who wins Northern Iowa vs. South Dakota State? And what crucial X-factor causes one side to hit hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which side you need to jump all over, all from the proven expert who specializes in picking all levels of college football.