North Dakota State Picked To Repeat In Spring Season; NDSU Aims for 10th-Straight Missouri Valley Football Crown
February 4, 2021
North Dakota State has been tabbed as the Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason favorite in a poll conducted by league coaches. NDSU has been picked first in the pre-season poll for nine-straight seasons.
After winning its lone game in the fall, NDSU has won a league and FCS-record 38-straight games. North Dakota State has earned the league title for nine-straight years, four times sharing it with another league school.
This year, NDSU received 101 points in the coaches vote to edge UNI (92) and South Dakota State (91). Illinois State and Southern Illinois round out the Top 5 in the poll with 80 points and 68 points, respectively. South Dakota (52) is next, followed by the newest member of the Conference, North Dakota, with 39 points for 7th. Youngstown State (39), Missouri State (23) and Western Illinois (23) round out the voting.
In 2019, four MVFC teams earned selection to the NCAA Division I Championship, and North Dakota State won its eighth national championship in nine years. Counting last year, an MVFC member has reached the FCS semifinals 24 times in the past 24 seasons (and 27 times overall), and the MVFC has had two semifinal teams in four of the past six seasons. In the last decade, MVFC teams were 67-28 in the playoffs, and only one other conference (the CAA at 44-39) had a winning record. Since 2004, league teams have combined for a 81-41 record in playoff games, with eight titles – both tops in the FCS. Notably, only the MVFC (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019), CAA Football (2016) and Big Sky Conference (2010) have an FCS title the past decade (2010-19).
A pre-season favorite has claimed the league crown 22 times (in 34 previous polls). North Dakota State was picked to win the league last season, and the Bison earned both the league title and the national title (following a 28-20 win over James Madison in the NCAA Division I Football Championship game in Frisco, Texas). In 2019, the league fashioned a 27-19 non-conference record and won the Big Sky-MVFC Challenge Series for the third-straight year.
The season featured another MVFC win against an FBS school as Southern Illinois handled UMass, 45-20. Valley schools have had at least one win against an FBS opponent in each of the past 10 seasons, had 19-such victories from 2010-19 and the league has a total of 46 FBS wins in MVFC history. Three MVFC teams (North Dakota State, Missouri State and Southern Illinois) played non-conference games this past fall, for a total of five contests. Every game was against a ranked opponent. Three of the five games were against #11 UCA; Southern Illinois beat #25 Southeast Missouri State; and Missouri State also tackled fifth-ranked FBS Oklahoma.
After going 2-3 against ranked opponents in the fall, the MVFC has had at least one win against a non-conference ranked opponent every year since going 0-4 in that space in 2004.
Valley Football Preseason Poll, 2021 Spring Season
In addition to today’s team rankings, the Conference announced its preseason team, voted on by coaches, sports information directors, and a media panel. All 10 teams participating this spring have at least one honoree, topped by North Dakota State and South Dakota State with nine total selections each. NDSU has a league-best eight first-team pre-season picks. (Voting for the team took place last summer, and adjustments were made based on roster adjustments.) Notably, 35 players who were nominated this past summer for the projected 2020 fall pre-season team are not playing this spring. That figure includes 17 who would have garnered first-team honors.
2021 Missouri Valley Football Preseason Team (Spring Season)
Name School Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown / High School QB- Will McElvain UNI 5-11 200 So. Des Moines (Iowa) Lincoln High RB- Kai Henry South Dakota 5-8 200 Sr. Miami (Fla.) Northwestern High RB- Pierre Strong Jr. South Dakota State 5-11 210 Jr. Little Rock (Ark.) McClellan High RB- Javon Williams Jr. Southern Illinois 6-2 245 So. Centralia (Ill.) High FB- Hunter Luepke North Dakota State 6-1 245 So. Spencer (Wis.) High WR- Avante Cox Southern Illinois 5-10 170 Jr. Rochester (Ill.) High WR- Christian Watson North Dakota State 6-4 200 Jr. Tampa (Fla.) Plant High WR- Isaiah Weston UNI 6-4 210 Jr. Albertville (Minn.) St. Michael-Albertville High TE- Brett Samson South Dakota 6-2 240 Sr. Oconomowoc (Wis.) High OL- Dan Becker Youngstown State 6-5 295 Jr. Cincinnati (Ohio) Indian Hill High OL- ZeVeyon Furcron Southern Illinois 6-2 327 Sr. Crest Hill (Ill.) Joliet Catholic High OL- Drew Himmelman Illinois State 6-10 315 Sr. Geneseo (Ill.) High OL- Mason Scheidegger South Dakota 6-5 330 Sr. Fonda (Iowa) Newell Fonda High OL- Cordell Volson North Dakota State 6-7 310 Sr. Balfour (N.D.) Drake High LS- Ross Kennelly North Dakota State 5-11 213 Sr. Superior (Wis.) High PK- Matthew Cook UNI 5-11 180 So. Cedar Falls (Iowa) High DL- Jared Brinkman UNI 6-2 290 Sr. Iowa City (Iowa) Regina High DL- Anthony Knighton Southern Illinois 6-4 251 Sr. Fort Pierce (Fla.) Central High DL- Spencer Waege North Dakota State 6-5 274 Jr. South Shore (S.D.) Watertown High DL- Reece Winkelman South Dakota State 6-4 245 Jr. Marshall (Minn.) High LB- Logan Backhaus South Dakota State 6-4 205 Sr. Spirit Lake (Iowa) High LB- Jack Cochrane South Dakota 6-3 230 Sr. Mount Vernon (Iowa) High LB- Bryce Flater UNI 6-1 230 Jr. Grundy Center (Iowa) High LB- Jackson Hankey North Dakota State 6-1 219 Jr. Park River (N.D.) High DB- Omar Brown UNI 6-1 200 So. Minneapolis (Minn.) North Senior High DB- Qua Brown Southern Illinois 5-11 206 Sr. DeLand (Fla.) University High DB- Don Gardner South Dakota State 6-1 185 Sr. Chicago (Ill.) Wendell Phillips High DB- Josh Hayes North Dakota State 5-11 185 Sr. Lakeland (Fla.) Lake Gibson High DB- Michael Tutsie North Dakota State 5-11 192 Jr. Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central High P- Brady Schutt South Dakota 6-1 210 Sr. Orange City (Iowa) MOC/FV High RS- Jake Coates Youngstown State 5-10 180 Sr. Warren (Ohio) Warren JFK High
Honorable Mention (Offense): QB J’Bore Gibbs, South Dakota State; FB Tim McCloyn, Illinois State; WR Caleb Vander Esch, South Dakota; WR Damoriea Vick, Missouri State; TE Josh Babicz, North Dakota State; LS Dalton Godfrey, South Dakota; OL Wes Genant, South Dakota State; OL Ryan Tobin, North Dakota; OL Nick Ellis, UNI; PK Mason Lorber, South Dakota
Honorable Mention (Defense): DL John Ridgeway, Illinois State; DL Xavier Ward, South Dakota State; DL DeMarko Craig, Youngstown State; LB Jaxson Turner, North Dakota; LB Makel Calhoun, Southern Illinois; LB Zeke Vandenburgh, Illinois State; DB Jordan Canady, North Dakota; DB Michael Griffin II, South Dakota State; DB Charles Woods, Illinois State; DB Zack Sanders, Missouri State; P Adam Fellner, Western Illinois; RS Jaxon Janke, South Dakota State
Total picks (First Team denoted in parentheses), includes honorable mentions, by school: Illinois State – 5 (1); Missouri State – 2 (0); North Dakota – 3 (0); North Dakota State – 9 (8); Northern Iowa – 7 (6); South Dakota – 8 (5); South Dakota State – 9 (4); Southern Illinois – 6 (5); Western Illinois – 1 (0); Youngstown State – 3 (2). [Indiana State opted out for the spring.]