College Sports Journal Missouri Valley Football Conference Game Previews: Week of 8/31/2019

The MVFC Conference has been the top conference in all of FCS for nearly the last decade. All 10 MVFC teams are in action this week in non-conference games. Four games are against FBS opponents highlight the slate this week, along with two MVFC-Big Sky Challenge match-ups. The other four games have the SIU-SE Missouri State annual rivalry

BYE: Youngstown State (1-0) is coming off a win in Week 0 in the FCS Kickoff Classic over Samford

Game of the Week:

Montana (0-0) at South Dakota (0-0)
When: Saturday August 31st 2:00pm CDT
Where: DakotaDome, Vermillion, SD
TV/Streaming: ESPN+ (subscription required)

Montana Grizzlies

Montana comes into the 2019 season having missed the FCS playoffs three years in a row, the first time that has happened since 1992. The 18-time Big Sky and two-time national champion Grizzlies have not won a conference title in ten years. Coach Bobby Hauck enters his second season in his second tour with the Grizzlies after finishing a win away from getting the FCS playoff win but lost in the last minute to vival Montana State. In total, three of Montana’s five losses wer by a touchdown or less. This year’s team returns the full offense and eight starters on defense so expectations are there to break the playoff-less streak this year.

Key Player: QB Dalton Sneed wasthe 2018 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year after he passed for 2,723 yards and ran for 675 while combining for 28 touchdowns. The senior is key to use his dual threat ability. He will have a great first target in WR Sammy Akem, who caught 59 passes for 879 yards and 13 TDs last year.

South Dakota Coyotes

South Dakota is opening at home for the first time since 2013 and for just the second time since 2010. The Coyotes have won 16 consecutive home openers since 2003 (t-5th longest in FCS). The Coyotoes are coming off a 4-7 season and have made some changes this year. USD is unveiling a “positionless” defense with new coordinator Travis Johansen that utilizes mainly a 3-4 look. This is the fourth year of the Coach Bob Nielson era at USD. This is also the ninth time South Dakota and Montana have met in a season opener. The last time was 2012 in Missoula (Montana won 35-24).

Key Player: QB Austin Simmons comes in to this season as the Valley’s leading passer last season. He has returning talent around him at the skill positions and youth on the line that protects. But against a tough Grizzly defense, he will be key to know where to throw the ball.

Fearless Prediction: The home field advantage will help the Coyotes to keep this one close but the Grizzles are the stronger team and will be enough to edge a close win in Vermillion. Montana 31 South Dakota 28

Fearless predictions for the rest of the slate

Thursday, Aug. 29

Southern Illinois at SE Missouri State | Cape Girardeau, Mo. • 6:30 pm CT ESPN+ (subscription required) The Redhawks looked strong last year and Salukis did not–that will stay the same this year. SEMO 27 SIU 14

Western Illinois at North Alabama | Florence, Ala. • 7 pm CT ESPN+ (subscription required) The Leathernecks travel to the still DI transitioning Lions and will get the MVFC a nice road win. WIU 31 UNA 17

South Dakota State at Minnesota
| Minneapolis, Minn. • 8 pm CT FS1/Fox Sports Go If this was last year, the Jacks would have been the big favorite but with a new QB, Minnesota prevails. Minnesota 35 SDSU 14

Missouri State at Northern Arizona | Flagstaff, Ariz. • 8 pm CT Pluto 539 The Bears get the first Big Sky-MVFC challenge game on the road against the Lumberjacks. Missouri State routed NAU last year in Springfield 40-8. But with QB Case Cookus back for the Lumberjacks, this will be much closer but still think the Bears will win. MSU 31 NAU 28


Saturday, Aug. 31

Indiana State at Kansas | Lawrence, Kan. • 11 am CT FOX The Les Miles era gets going at Kansas and what in the past would have been an easy warm game likely will not be the case this year with a strong Indiana State team that really should have made the playoffs last year. The Sycamores pull of the upset and get the season off on a strong note. ISU 31 KU 30

UNI at Iowa State | Ames, Iowa • 11 am CT FS1/Fox Sports Go Iowa State has been bad in the past and UNI has upset their in-state rivals when that has happened (as recently as Cyclone Coach Matt Campbell’s first game in 2016 25-20. UNI also won in 2013, 28-20. This will not happen this year. Iowa State 38 UNI 21

Butler vs. North Dakota State | Minneapolis, Minn. • 3 pm CT [NBC ND/ESPN+ (subscription required)] The Coach Matt Entz era gets going for NDSU with a game at the MLB’s Minnesota Twins Target Field against the Pioneer League’s Bulldogs. My kids and I will be in attendence to see this one but likely will be over at the half. NDSU 51 Butler 10

Illinois State at Northern Illinois | DeKalb, Ill. • 6 pm CT ESPN+ (subscription required) Illinois State has been a FBS recorded several FBS wins recently including a win over Colorado State last year. Northern Illinois was the MAC champions last year but lose several key components. Look for the Redbirds to keep this one close but NIU will narrowly come out on top. NIU 23 ISU 20