College Sports Journal Missouri Valley Football Conference Game Previews: Week of 10/4/2019

Courtesy of Illinois State Athletics

The Missouri Valley Football Conference gets into conference action for the first time this week. And what a first week we have!! Two Top 25 match-ups highlight this week. The first is top ranked North Dakota State visiting Illinois State in a 2015 national championship rematch.

The other three games in the league play are also interesting as we get started with Indiana State traveling to South Dakota, Southern Illinois going to South Dakota State, and Western Illinois hosting Missouri State.

The league went 20-10 against its FCS peers this year and was 1-8 against FBS foes (Southern Illinois with the lone win over UMass). This count included seven games against ranked FCS teams (2-5 record) and two games against ranked FBS teams (0-2 record).

I will go over in detail for the NDSU-Illinois State game this week and will provide my picks for the other four games.

Game of the Week

North Dakota State (4-0, 0-0 MVFC) at Illinois State (3-1, 0-0 MVFC)
Where: Hancock Stadium, Normal, Ill.
When: Saturday October 5th, 12:00 pm CDT
TV/Streaming: NBCSCH/NBC ND /ESPN+ (subscription req’d)

Tale of the Tape:

North Dakota State Bison

The Bison have won nine of 11 all-time meetings against Illinois State, including the last seven straight since 2011. The streak includes a 29-27 win in the 2015 FCS national championship game, marking NDSU’s fourth straight title at the time.

For the ninth time since 2010, the Bison have made it through non-conference play without a loss after a 27-16 win against UC Davis. The victory brought NDSU to a bye week prior to the start of conference play. The Bison have not lost a regular season or playoff game after a bye week since 2005–this is a 30 straight win streak.

This run of wins included not only the win over UC Davis but also a win over another Top 25 in Delaware on the road to go with wins over Butler and North Dakota.

The North Dakota State defense has been stout as always. NDSU and Georgetown are currently tied for the fewest touchdowns allowed in the FCS with five apiece through four games this season and the Bison are ranked seventh in the FCS allowing just 13.8 points per game.

Last year, these two teams played in Fargo to a 28-14 NDSU victory.

Courtesy of NDSU Athletics

Key Player: QB Trey Lance is off to a great start to the season for the Bison in his first year under center. He has twice earned MVFC weekly honors and is completing 72.2 of his passes so far this season. Not only has he thrown for 698 yards and nine touchdowns, but he’s also rand for 282 yards and six scores on the ground. He did show some signs of vulnerability, however, in the close win over UC Davis in NDSU’s last game. He will need to overcome this for the NDSU offense to be better suited as it will face an even stouter Illinois State defense this week.

Illinois State Redbirds

The last time the Redbirds defeated the Bison was in 2010–a time when NDSU did not even have one national title.

Like NDSU, Illinois State likes to run the ball first offensively but the Redbirds like to keep it with a primary back whereas NDSU likes to spread the running game around. Illinois State’s primary option in the backfield is senior All-American RB James Robinson. He is currently 17th in the nation with 432 rushing yards and tied for first with eight touchdowns.

While most games it has been Robinson running the ball, the last game against Northern Arizona, QB Brady Davis rose to the challenge of a defense that was selling out to stop the run. With that, he exploded for 419 yards and two scores to help lead the Redbirds to the victory over the Lumberjacks. Davis recorded a career-best 419 yards, with 228 of those recorded by WR Andre Edgar.

Illinois State started this season with a loss to the FBS MAC’s Northern Illinois 24-3 but have now rattled off three straight victories since in defeating Morehead State, Eastern Illinois and Northern Arizona. The last game versus NAU was the closest game but ISU won 40-27.

Courtesy of Illinois State Athletics

Key Player: QB Brady Davis will be the spotlight player for the Redbirds in this game. Much like NAU did in the last game, expect the NDSU defense to dare the Redbirds to pass the ball by stacking the box to stop James Robinson and the run game. NDSU’s secondary is much tougher than NAU’s so the wide outs will need to get open for Davis and the Redbird offense to be successful.

Fearless Prediction: This seems like a trap kind of game for NDSU as it has (other than two of the seven national title seasons, always had at least one loss) when playing a strong team. But with a week off, the Bison were able to rest and prepare for what Northern Arizona threw at the Redbirds. On the other side, Illinois State will throw all its attention at this game as it tries to get back to the top of the MVFC standings after two off-years. I think, however, that the Bison will be too much in this game for the Redbirds to handle. I envision a similar scoring game as last year with NDSU pulling away late in the game in this year’s contest. NDSU 27 Illinois State 13


The rest of the field

Indiana State at South Dakota | Vermillion, S.D. • 2 p.m. CT [Midco/ESPN+ (subscription req’d]
The Sycamores go on the road and get a big win over the Coyotes. ISUB 33 USD 20

Missouri State at Western Illinois | Macomb, Ill. • 3 p.m. CT [ESPN+ (subscription req’d]
Of a great slate of games, this one has to be the least compelling of two winless teams. The Leathernecks get their first win. WIU 24 MSU 14

Youngstown State at UNI | Cedar Falls, Iowa • 4 p.m. CT [PSN/ESPN3 (subscription req’d]
In the second best game of the weekend, we will see if UNI can bounce back after its loss at the Big Sky’s Weber State. Youngstown State will look to keep its undefeated record with this first true road game. UNI pulls out a close back-and-forth game. UNI 31 YSU 28

Southern Illinois at South Dakota State | Brookings, S.D. • 2 p.m. CT [MyTV/ESPN+ (subscription req’d]
The Salukis have proven they can win on the road with its FBS win at UMass but SDSU is better than them. The Jackrabbits roll in this one. SDSU 38 SIU 20