Albany vs. South Dakota State betting lines & prediction: Jackrabbits face challenge vs. Great Danes’ top-ranked run defense in FCS semifinals

Villanova put up a fight, but in the end South Dakota State earned the right to move onto the semifinal round of the FCS playoffs, where they will face Albany on Friday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

The opening line has the Jackrabbits listed as heavy favorites, but the Great Danes have the No. 1 run defense in the nation. Albany will need more to compete, but they might make this one closer than expected.

Albany vs. South Dakota State: spread, moneyline and total

South Dakota State briefly trailed Villanova in last weekend’s quarterfinals matchup but went on to win by 11. It was their smallest margin of victory since their 17-10 win over Southern Illinois in Week 8.

Albany needed a 16-point fourth quarter to get past Idaho.

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Albany vs. South Dakota State trends and history

  • Friday’s game will be the first time Albany and South Dakota State will play.
  • South Dakota State is 13-0 this season and working on a 27-game winning streak. Their last loss to an FCS opponent was vs. Montana State in the 2021 FCS playoff semifinals.
  • Albany is 11-3 and working on a seven-game winning streak. Their last loss to an FCS opponent was in Week 7, 38-31 against New Hampshire.
  • The Great Danes were 0-8 in games outside of the Eastern time zone prior to last weekend’s win in Idaho.
  • This season marks just the third time in program history that Albany has qualified for the FCS playoffs. They lost in their previous two trips, in the first round (2011) and the second (2019).
  • South Dakota State has qualified for postseason play in 12 consecutive seasons, 14 overall.
  • This season marks the fifth time in six seasons the Jackrabbits have made it to the semifinals. They are 2-4 in those games, winning in 2020 and 2022.
  • Albany finished the regular season ranked No. 15 in the Coaches Poll; South Dakota State was ranked No. 1 the entire season.

Albany vs. South Dakota State analysis

The Jackrabbits found themselves in a rare spot midway through the second quarter against Villanova — they trailed. It was the fourth time South Dakota State trailed in a game this season.

South Dakota and Drake briefly held leads after scoring on the opening drive. The Jackrabbits went on to beat South Dakota 37-3 and crushed Drake 70-7. North Dakota State took an early lead, lost it, but then briefly regained it in the second quarter.

SDSU went on to win that game 33-16.

But one game may hold the key to defeating the defending champs, vs. Montana State in Week 2. The Bobcats had a 10-0 lead at the half, holding South Dakota State to less than 100 yards of offense and forcing a turnover.

SDSU went on to score 20 points in the second half while holding the Bobcats to two field goals and won 20-16.

Albany has the No. 1 run defense in the country this season, allowing an average of 78.1 yards per game. They rank No. 8 in time of possession, No. 1 in turnovers and No. 16 in tackles for a loss. Should the Jackrabbits try to throw the ball, the Great Danes ranked No. 1 in sacks this year.

But even if they manage to slow down the SDSU offense, they’ll have a tough time scoring points. South Dakota State ranks No. 1 in the country in total defense (253.9 YPG allowed) and scoring (10.3 PPG allowed)

The Great Danes have a solid passing game, which was evident last weekend when Reese Poffenbarger threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns. He wasn’t facing the No. 7 pass defense like they will this week.

Bet(s) to consider

  • UNDER 46.5

Albany is a good enough team to make South Dakota State work for it, but it is hard to say whether their offense will succeed enough against a solid Jackrabbits defense to keep the final within three touchdowns.

SDSU will likely score 30-plus points in this game but don’t count on the Great Danes to make up the difference for the OVER to win.

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