The game of this week in the MVFC is in Cedar Falls with the Top 2 Sagarin rankings with NDSU coming to face UNI. UNI with four losses, however, are in a must win mode to stay in the playoff conversation. NDSU, meanwhile, will try to stay in the Top 4 seed conversation.
The other fun game this week is seeing South Dakota host Western Illinois in the return of Coach Bob Nielson seeing his former team in Western Illinois coming inside the DakotaDome.
Here is the College Sports Journal’s Missouri Valley Football Conference Power Rankings for the week of 10/23/2016. (Last week’s ranking in parenthesis).
1. (1) North Dakota State (6-1, 3-1)
Last Week: Beat Western Illinois 21-13 on the road
This Week: at Northern Iowa
The Bison won last week but where has the offense gone especially in the second half? The defense has been stingy especially in the red zone but will face a tough challenge inside the UNI-Dome this week with a hungry UNI team.
2. (2) South Dakota State (5-2, 4-0)
Last Week: Beat Youngstown State 24-10 at home
This Week: at Illinois State
After some early season struggles, the South Dakota State defense has returned to form in recent weeks. In their four conference games, the Jackrabbits have allowed averages of 20 points and 369.2 yards per game — well below their respective season averages of 29.3 points and 435.7 yards per game. SDSU can pull off the Illinois MVFC sweep with a win at the Redbirds this week.
3. (5) South Dakota (4-3, 3-1)
Last Week: Win over Illinois State 27-24 at home
This Week: vs. Western Illinois
South Dakota has matched its longest winning streak in Valley play (three games) and its best start in Valley play (3-1). The only other time that happened was back in 2013 when USD beat Missouri State, Indiana State and UNI in consecutive weeks. To break the record the Coyotes must defeat Coach Bob Nielson’s old school Western Illinois.
4. (4) Youngstown State (5-2, 3-1)
Last Week: Lost at South Dakota State 24-10
This Week: vs. Indiana State
Despite giving up their first rushing touchdown of the season in the loss to SDSU, the Penguins still lead the FCS in fewest rushing TDs allowed. In seven games, YSU has allowed just one rushing score. YSU returns home this week to play Indiana State.
5. (3) Western Illinois (5-2, 2-2)
Last Week: Lost to North Dakota State 21-13 at home
This Week: at South Dakota
The Leathernecks missed out on a couple of field goals and a couple of 4th down chances in the red zone in the loss to NDSU. Now WIU gets to see its old coach in Bob Nielson on the road in Vermillion. Look for Lance Lenoir to break the MVFC record for most catches in a career as he is just one away from the record currently (249 catches currently).
6. (6) Northern Iowa (3-4, 2-2)
Last Week: Win over Missouri State 61-7 at home
This Week: vs. North Dakota State
The Panthers went to sophomore quarterback Eli Dunne, who set a school record for passing yards in a debut, going for 418 yards and two touchdowns. Coach Mark Farley this week has been noncommittal if Dunne or prior starter Aaron Bailey will start against NDSU. UNI is must win mode the rest of the season to gain a FCS playoff spot.
7. (7) Indiana State (4-4, 2-3)
Last Week: Win over Southern Illinois 22-14
This Week: at Youngstown State
QB Isaac Harker has become the first Valley signal caller to cross the 2,000-yard mark passing this season after another 300-yard game vs. South Dakota on Oct. 15. Harker threw for 300 yet again at Southern Illinois this past week, throwing for 336 yards and three scores in ISU’s 22-14 victory over the Salukis – marking the first consecutive 300-yard games by a Sycamore QB since current WR coach Mike Perish threw for 300 or more in three straight games twice during the 2014 playoff season.
8. (8) Missouri State (3-4, 1-3)
Last Week: Lost to Northern Iowa 61-7 on the road
This Week: vs. Southern Illinois
The Bears were outmatched against UNI this past week but will have a winnable game at home this week against SIU. The Bears are improving despite the lopsided score last week.
9. (9) Illinois State (3-5, 1-4)
Last Week: Lost to South Dakota 27-24 on the road
This Week: South Dakota State
Freshman DeMarco Corbin’s career-best 108 yards rushing, ISU ball carriers ran for 233 yards and scored twice on the ground against USD but it wasn’t enough to win on the road. The competition gets tougher this week against the other South Dakota school for the Redbirds against league-leading SDSU.
10. (10) Southern Illinois (2-5, 0-4)
Last Week: Lost to Indiana State 22-14 at home
This Week: at Missouri State
SIU will look for its first MVFC win at MSU this week. Aside from a 21-point loss at UNI, SIU has been within 8-points in each of its MVFC losses this year. The Salukis just need to finish a game to get a victory.