College Sports Journal 2019 Division I Football Conference Preview: Pioneer League
August 11, 2019
Pioneer League Predicted Order of Finish
Championship Tier These teams are high caliber teams who will be in contention for PFL crown and the league’s automatic playoff bid.
1. San Diego The Toreros have earned PFL titles in seven of the last eight seasons, and they would have earned a share in 2013 had they not been declared ineligible for improperly awarding financial aid. USD looks somewhat vulnerable this year, but this team still has the most talent of any PFL roster despite the lack of experience. The 29-game PFL win streak could possibly end this year, but USD should still be the kings of the PFL.
2. Drake Drake’s momentum may have thought it would be lessened after former head coach Rick Fox stepping down in December. Howerver, Todd Stepsis takes the reins after serving as Drake’s defensive coordinator the previous five seasons. The Bulldogs offense is what needs to improve this year but eight starters are back. The defense, which has been one of the strongest squads in the PFL for the past few seasons, only returns four starters but under Stepsis, the new starters should gel and again be in the running for the PFL title.
3. Dayton The Flyers return seven starters on an explosive offense and six starters are back on defense. The key for Dayton will be to turn close losses into wins as the Flyers had three such losses and two against PFL champion San Diego and NEC champion Duquesne. With the experience back, the Flyers should turn around their 6-5 record from last year and be right in the mix for the PFL crown.
The Swing Tier These teams are headed towards the top side of the standings and if all goes well could suprise the top tier teams.
4. Butler The Bulldogs held one of the league’s tp upsets last year with a 23-21 win over the MVFC’s Youngstown State. The squad was hit with a number of injuries and fell to just 4-7 overall. If Butler can stay healthy, this team will be on the verge of PFL contention.
5. Stetson The Hatters went 8-2 last season and were in contention for the PFL crown late into the season. Coach Roger Hughes was tabbed as the PFL’s Coach of the Year last year as Stetson was 5-1 in close games. This team, howover needs to get over the hump of the top squads in the league and just might have enough in what might be a rebuilding year for many other top squads.
6. Davidson The Wildcat rushing attack ranked first in all the FCS with 428.5 yards per game. RBWesley Dugger ran for 1,241 yards and 16 scores last year is the leader of the running game. If this team wants to compete for a conference title though the defense needs to get much better.
7. Marist The Red Foxes improved their conference record from 3-5 in 2017 to 5-3 last year and two of those losses came by a touchdown or less.. The offense should be solid with eight starters back but the defense will be the biggest question mark with just four starters returning. If the new starters on defense can mesh, Marist could be a suprise team in the PFL.
The Bottom Looking Up Tier No one wants to be the bottom teams, but these teams have more than a few significant hurdles to get where they want to be.
8. Morehead State Replacing QB Lawson Page will be this team’s biggest question as Page led MSU with 920 yards rushing and eight touchdowns last year while also throwing for 2,240 yards and 16 scores. But the Eagles can still have a strong rushing attack with their top RB Jovan Smith returning. The defense will be the biggest reason for concern as this unit allowed 43.2 points per game last year.
9. Valparaiso Valpo went 6-5 in 2017 before dipping back down to 2-9 last year. Landon Fox is the Crusaders new head coach and he has great familiarity with the PFL. Fox was Dayton’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach these last 11 years. He should turnaround Valpo eventually but it will take some time for the turnaround to turn into wins.
10. Jacksonville The Dolphins used to be near the top of the rankings but have fallen on hard times last year where they fell to 2-8 overall. Coach Ian Shields defense will be the key to a turnaround. Last year, only once did JU hold an opponent to 20 points or less. Look for this team to be much like last year and finish at the bottom of the PFL.
Originally from LaMoure, North Dakota, Kent is a 1996 graduate of North Dakota State University. His prior writing experience is over 15 years having previously worked with D2football.com, I-AA.org, and College Sporting News before coming to College Sports Journal in 2016. His main focus is college football in the western half of the United States– the Big Sky Conference and Missouri Valley Football Conference within the Division I FCS. And in 2017, he began also to look at the FBS Group of Five conferences of the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.
Originally from LaMoure, North Dakota, Kent is a 1996 graduate of North Dakota State University. His prior writing experience is over 15 years having previously worked with D2football.com, I-AA.org, and College Sporting News before coming to College Sports Journal in 2016. His main focus is college football in the western half of the United States-- the Big Sky Conference and Missouri Valley Football Conference within the Division I FCS. And in 2017, he began also to look at the FBS Group of Five conferences of the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.