College Sports Journal Missouri Valley Football Conference Football Preview Week of 4/10/2021

Western Illinois WR Tony Tate tallied 197 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns as Western Illinois defeated Youngstown State, 27-24. This would be the last game of the season for the Leathernecks as two day after this win, the school announced it is opting out of the remainder of the season. (Courtesy of WIU Athletics)

After a week of postponements and further schools opting out of this 2021 spring season, the Missouri Valley Football Conference is down to just two weeks left and there is a four-way tie for the top spot currently. Missouri State, North Dakota, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State all sit atop with identical 4-1 records in conference play right now.

This week, just two of those four though will be in action as NDSU travels to Northern Iowa, while Missouri State hosts Youngstown State this week.

The two games though are the double number of games from a week ago with Western Illinois defeating Youngstown State 27-24 for the Leathernecks first win of the spring. After the game though WIU decided to call it a season and end on a winning note.

South Dakota State and South Dakota were scheduled to play this week but COVID-19 positive tests within the USD program cancelled the Rushmore State rivalry this week. And since USD was scheduled to play Western Illinois in the final regular season weekend, that will end their season.

Southern Illinois looked as if it would also fall victim to the opt outs in the final two weeks of the regular season as the previously announced Illinois State and WIU were slated to be the final opponents for the Salukis. However, SIU was able to pick-up a non-conference game against the Southland’s Southeastern Louisiana in a game that will be played at home in Carbondale next week in the last regular season weekend.

There are four MVFC conference games left now in the season with two this week and two next week. The only team that fully controls its own destiny is NDSU as if the Bison win their last two contests, they will this spring’s MVFC champions. But a loss either this week at UNI or next week at home against SDSU, will open the door for one of the other three squads.

But first things first. Here are the previews of the two games this week in the MVFC and my predications.

2020 Missouri Valley Standings

PosTeamWLConf WConf LPFPAStreak

Youngstown State (1-5, 1-5) at Missouri State (4-4, 4-1), 3:00 EST
TV: ESPN+ (subscription required)

Missouri State hopes to keep its MVFC conference title hopes alive on what is classified as senior day for the Bears (although MSU is not expecting to lose anyone after this spring going into this fall). The Bears have been the surprise this spring after playing three games last fall that all ended in losses. But MSU has won four of five this spring and would need some help to win the the MVFC automatic qualifier spot but still a win in this game would give still as share of the MVFC crown.

Youngtown State has really been better than its 1-5 mark this spring with each game the Penguins were close in the fourth quarter but just have not found ways to win many of these tight games. YSU’s lone win was at home over South Dakota but the last three losses have been by eight points or less. The Penguins though will have a big say in the MVFC crown as this game this week on the road versus MSU and next week’s home game against North Dakota could leave YSU with a good feeling going into the fall 2021 season.

But I think MSU will have too much on the line and will find a way to win a close one in Springfield this week to keep the Bears postseason hopes alive. Missouri State 20 Youngstown State 13

North Dakota State (5-1, 4-1) at Northern Iowa (3-3, 3-3), 5:00 EDT
TV: ESPN+ (subscription required)

Rust might be a factor on both NDSU and UNI this week.

NDSU has not played since beating North Dakota, 34-13, on March 20. A game on March 27 was canceled with the Bison already at South Dakota., on the day of the game because of COVID-19 issues within NDSU’s Tier 1 personnel. That forced the postponement of its next game at home against South Dakota State inside the Fargodome to be moved to April 17.

After playing six straight games to open the spring season, UNI was preparing to travel to South Dakota when its game with the Coyotes on April 2 was canceled last week. UNI also has been without QB Will McElvain after he missed two games with Missouri State and Western Illinois because of COVID protocols.

This is the last game of the season for UNI and would like to make this last home contest count towards getting ready for the fall 2021 season. But NDSU has won eight of the last nine meetings with the Panthers and I think they will make it nine of ten. I think FB Hunter Luepke will be able to move the ball on the ground despite NDSU’s struggles at the QB position this spring. Both defenses will keep this game low scoring but in the end the Bison leave Cedar Falls with the victory. North Dakota State 27 Northern Iowa 14