Much like the Big Sky Conference I did yesterday, I will give my rankings for the Missouri Valley Football Conference with the team, its record, its prior ranking in the week and a summary of what each team did the week before, as well as what each team has coming up.
I will do this ranking from now until the end of the regular season.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference has been the top FCS conference for several years now and this week, the conference gets going for all teams after just one game a week ago.
So with that, here are my Missouri Valley rankings for this week:
1.North Dakota State (3-0, 0-0)
Last week: Bye
This week: Illinois State at home
The Bison are off to another hot start despite a very tough schedule. NDSU defeated Big South returning champion Charleston Southern and perennial national contender Eastern Washington both in overtime wins. The Bison then defeated an AP Top 25 team in Iowa for just the fourth time in the history of FCS wins over the FBS. This week, NDSU hosts the team that were co-champions in the MVFC in Illinois State. This is the first meeting of these two teams since they met in the 2014 national title game (a 29-27 NDSU victory). NDSU has won 22 straight games after bye weeks in the regular season and playoffs since a 2005 home loss to UC Davis.
2. Western Illinois (3-0, 0-0)
Last week: Win Over FBS Northern Illinois 28-23 on the road
This week: South Dakota State on the road
Quarterback Sean McGuire threw 21-of-37 for 315 yards with a passing touchdown and another rushing in the win over NIU. WIU has started the season with three straight wins for the first time since 2002, when the Leathernecks started 4-0. The other two wins were also impressive for WIU in a road victory over 2015 playoff participant Eastern Illinois and preseason Big Sky favorite Northern Arizona at home. WIU had talent back from last year but the question was new Coach Charlie Fisher taking over in Macomb—so far, very good.
3. Indiana State (3-1, 1-0)
Last week: Win Over Illinois State 34-31at home
This week: Missouri State at home
The Sycamores won the first MVFC game in the only match-up thus far in its win at home over Illinois State. IN State’s only loss thus far was to FBS Minnesota. The other two victories so far were over the in-state Pioneer League Butler at home and a road win at the Ohio Valley’s Southeast Missouri State. The Sycamores have started 3-1 each of the last three seasons, jumping out to a 4-1 start back in 2014 – the season the Sycamores made the playoffs for the first time since 1984 and won their first playoff game since 1983. The Sycamores have also not started 2-0 in Valley play since 2011 but will try to do just that this week.
4. Northern Iowa (1-2, 0-0)
Last week: Bye
This week: Southern Illinois at home
The Panthers started the season off great with a FBS win at in-state Iowa State but have fallen off in losses to two Big Sky Conference teams in Montana at home and then to Eastern Washington on the road. UNI has started slowly in each of the last three seasons now but have come on strong in conference play in the past seasons to make playoff runs. Coach Mark Farley hopes this trend continues as the Panthers begin MVFC play this week.
5. Illinois State (2-2, 0-1)
Last week: Loss to Indiana State 34-31 on the road
This week: North Dakota State on the road
The Redbirds looked to be flying to begin the season with an easy win over the Pioneer League’s Valparaiso and then over FBS Northwestern. IL State, however, is now reeling with two straight losses—at home to Eastern Illinois and last week at Indiana State. Starting quarterback Jake Kolbe was limited with shoulder soreness all week and the plan was for him to rest against Indiana State, but he came into the contest with the Redbirds trailing by 17 points and proceeded to complete 25 of his 32 pass attempts for 258 yards. He will need to be productive this week to avoid IL State’s third straight loss (something that last happened to the Redbirds in 2008) but it won’t be easy at NDSU this week.
6. Youngstown State (2-1, 0-0)
Last week: Bye
This week: South Dakota at home
The Penguins have two easy wins over NEC foes in Duquesne and Robert Morris and a loss to FBS West Virginia. While this is a good start for Coach Bo Pelini’s team, we really won’t know how good this team is until we now get into MVFC play. YSU has put up impressive offensive numbers with over 400 yards in each of its first three games.
7. South Dakota State (1-2, 0-0)
Last week: Bye
This week: Western Illinois at home
SDSU started the season with a loss at FBS Texas Christian and then opened the new Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium with an easy win over the Pioneer League’s Drake. But its next home game turned into a loss to the Big Sky’s Cal Poly. This week, the Jackrabbits hope to reverse a trend of losing the first MVFC game. SDSU has lost its past three conference openers. And the Jacks also lost to WIU last year to end the season—a loss that likely prevented a playoff seed.
8. Southern Illinois (2-1, 0-0)
Last week: Bye
This week: Northern Iowa on the road
The Salukis lost at FBS Florida Atlantic to begin the season and then won two home games over two Ohio Valley teams in Southeastern Missouri State and Murray State. The competition gets stiffer this week in a road contest in the UNI-Dome with Northern Iowa.
9. Missouri State (2-1, 0-0)
Last week: Loss at FBS Kansas State 35-0 on the road
This week: Indiana State on the road
The Bears have already surpassed the win total from last year with two wins (only one victory in 2015). MSU defeated NAIA Southwestern (KS) and the Ohio Valley’s Murray State but lost to FBS Kansas State last week. We will see if the Bears are able to win their first MVFC game this week—something that hasn’t happened in nearly two years (win over South Dakota in Oct. 2014).
10. South Dakota (1-2, 0-0)
Last week: Bye
This week: Youngstown State on the road
USD started the season with a loss at FBS New Mexico and then played two double overtime games against Big Sky foes—a win at home over Weber State and a loss at North Dakota. The Coyotes have never won a MVFC opener since joining the league in 2012. USD will have a tough challenge to change that record in a game at Youngstown State this week.
Missouri Valley Game of the Week
Western Illinois (3-0, 0-0) @ South Dakota State (1-2, 0-0), 7:00pm EDT
South Dakota State and Western Illinois met in the 2015 regular season finale and will play again in the MVFC opener for both teams. The Leathernecks pulled out a 30-24 double-overtime win (11/11/15) in Macomb, vaulting Western into the FCS playoffs and denying the Jackrabbits an opportunity for a top-eight seed. It also marked the Leathernecks’ first win over SDSU since the Jackrabbits joined the MVFC in 2008.
SDSU must try to stop the running game—something it could not do in the loss at home to Cal Poly.
Western Illinois is using a balanced attack and will look to continue this in Brookings on Saturday.
I think this game will likely be a similar, tightly contested game this week. I like SDSU, however, to bounce back with a win at home.
South Dakota State 31 Western Illinois 28
Illinois State (2-2, 0-1 @ North Dakota State (3-0, 0-0), 2:00pm EDT
The Bison and Redbirds meet for the first time since the two met in Frisco, Texas to end the 2014 season. IL State gave NDSU the most contested national title game that day in a 27-25 Bison victory.
This game is homecoming for NDSU and will need to hold down a hungry Redbird team that has lost two games in a row.
I don’t think NDSU will let this happen this week after having two weeks to prepare for this one.
I will take the Bison by a touchdown.
North Dakota State 27 Illinois State 20