College Sports Journal Missouri Valley Football Conference Football Preview Week of 3/4–3/6 2021

SIU RB Javon Williams scores versus NDSU in one of the touchdowns for the Salukis in its 38-10 win over the Bison (Courtesy of SIU Athletics)

This week we get a Thursday game that matches two of the three undefeated teams left in league play when South Dakota visits North Dakota as one of the highlight games of the week in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. All other games this week in the MVFC will be on Saturday, March 6.

Last week, was a week of upsets with the highlight being Southern Illinois defeating North Dakota State for the first time in 40 games for the Bison. But that was not the only upset with North Dakota defeating South Dakota State and South Dakota defeating Illinois State as further upsets in Week 2.

NDSU looks to rebound against Missouri State on the road. The Bears are one of the three MVFC teams that remain undefeated as MSU defeated Western Illinois in both team’s opening game of the spring after both had Week 1 matches postponed to the final weekend of April 17th.

Northern Iowa rebounded in Week 2 after its close home loss to SDSU in Week 1 with a shutout win at Youngstown State. UNI hosts Illinois State this week in a game that the loser may be on the outside come playoff selection time.

SDSU looks to rebound this week with its home opener against Western Illinois, while SIU travels to Youngstown State looking to continue its winning ways after its home opening win over NDSU.

Here is a look at all five matchups this week with my predictions.

South Dakota (1-0, 1-0) at North Dakota (2-0, 2-0), 6:00 EST, March 4
TV: Midco Sports / ESPN+ (subscription required)

UND Game Notes 
USD Game Notes

South Dakota came up with a huge road victory in its first game of the spring last week at Illinois State. A big reason though for the Coyotes winning the game were seven turnovers by the Redbirds in a one touchdown difference. UND has proven it can hold onto the ball so USD will not be able to count on that many turnovers to win this game.

Outside of getting the seven turnovers, the USD defense was shaky to say the least in the game at Illinois State. It gave up almost 450 yards of offense. I don’t think the Fighting Hawks will turn it over like Illinois State did and will be able to move the ball on the USD defense.

The telling story for UND will be later in its MVFC schedule when it has to play outside of the friendly Alerus Center confines but for this week, UND take a firm grip with a 3-0 start to the MVFC standings with its third straight home game to start the season. North Dakota 31 South Dakota 17

Southern Illinois (2-1, 1-1) at Youngstown State (0-2, 0-2), 12:00 EST, March 6
TV: WBCB Youngstown / ESPN+ (subscription required)

SIU Game Notes 
YSU Game Notes

Southern Illinois is coming off one of the program’s biggest wins against former #1 North Dakota State last week and it will be interesting to see if there is any let-up with this team as it travels to Youngstown.

The Salukis last road game, which started the spring schedule against North Dakota, saw a team that turned it over five times and wound up losing in blowout fashion to UND. Coach Nick Hill and staff turned this team around and had a blowout win versus NDSU.

Youngstown State on the other side has not really had any offense to speak of through two games in scoring just seven combined points with games at NDSU and at home versus Northern Iowa. The Penguins defense though has shown signs of good play and if its offense could keep the ball a little more, this team could make strides as the season moves on.

I don’t think those strides will come this week for the YSU offense but its defense will keep the team in the game much like it did in its prior two games. But in the end it will be the Salukis winning this game comfortably. Southern Illinois 24 Youngstown State 7

Western Illinois (0-1, 0-1) at South Dakota State (1-1, 1-1), 3:00 EST, March 6
TV: Midco Sports 2 / ESPN+ (subscription required)

WIU Game Notes 
SDSU Game Notes

The Jackrabbits are hungry to get home after splitting its first two games on the road to start this spring season. And coming off a loss in its last game at North Dakota, it gets a Western Illinois team that lost its opener last week at home to Missouri State.

SDSU defeated WIU 52-24 in the last matchup between these schools in the fall of 2019. Given what I have seen so far from SDSU, it should be able to roll in this game with an easy win.

Given the home field and the hunger of coming off a loss, look for the Jacks to win comfortably in this game. South Dakota State 41 Western Illinois 20

North Dakota State (2-1, 1-1) at Missouri State (1-3, 1-0), 3:00 EST, March 6
TV: NBC North Dakota / ESPN+ (subscription required)

NDSU Game Notes 
MSU Game Notes

NDSU is coming off its worst loss in its Missouri Valley Football Conference history–the 38-14 set back at Southern Illinois. The last time NDSU lost by such a margin was a 37-6 loss at Cal Poly during the 2005 season when the Bison were still members of the now defunct Great West Football Conference.

The good news for the Bison is they get to play Missouri State this week to try to right the ship. The Bears have lost to the Bison nine straight times with last victory coming in the 2010 season finale, where NDSU narrowly got into the playoff field that year and lost eventually in the quarterfinals at Eastern Washington.

The Bears though are coming off a spring season opening win at Western Illinois and was the first win of the full season in four tries.

Missouri State will likely keep this game close to start the game but NDSU will find its offense in this game to win comfortably in the end. North Dakota State 31 Missouri State 14

Illinois State (0-1, 0-1) at Northern Iowa (1-1, 1-1), 5:00 EST, March 6
TV: NBC Sports Chicago / ESPN+ (subscription required)

ISU Game Notes 
UNI Game Notes

This is really the game of the day at least in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with the loser likely needing to win out the rest of its schedule to have any chance at a postseason bid.

The Panthers won the last meeting between the two teams 27-10 last season in Springfield and have won the last two meetings overall. UNI after a sluggish first half against South Dakota State that ultimately ended with the Panthers losing to the Jacks, have played much better since.

Illinois State looked like a team playing in its first game last week in turning the ball over a whopping seven times in its home loss to South Dakota.

The trend right now is for UNI to take care of business inside the UNI-Dome this week but this game should be the closest margin amogst the five contests this week.

Illinois State will be able to strike against the powerful UNI defense but in the end the Panthers will be able edge out a close win at home. Northern Iowa 27 Illinois State 24