MVFC Power Rankings, Preseason

Hot Beef Take

Finally, college football season is here and the games start in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision this coming weekend, for seven teams anyway.  Six of those play against each other in special kickoff celebration exemptions.  The other(Portland State) will be playing against the FBS’ Brigham Young.  Of the six playing against each other, a mammoth southeast area inter-conference match-up involving FCS powers Chattanooga and Jacksonville State.  Of particular interest here, future Northern Iowa opponent, Cal Poly hosts Colgate in a rare Patriot League/Big Sky tilt.

But this is MVFC territory, let’s get focused on who’s who and what’s going on around here the following weekend.  The power rankings are a practice of a game of darts.  Just about everybody under the sun, even when it’s eclipsed this afternoon(if we’re lucky enough to witness it) has two teams head and shoulders above the rest of the conference and most of the country.  Below them are probably five or six teams with true, legitimate aspirations of playing after Thanksgiving(FCS Playoffs).  The order of those teams are also generally slotted similarly, but honestly, a break here or there could launch someone from the bottom of the group into the fray and plunge someone from the top down into the abyss.  So let’s see where everyone sits two weeks before they hit the gridiron.

  1. North Dakota State.  Big shocker here, right?  Despite the fact the Bison did not win a sixth consecutive National Championship last year, the MVFC is still their playground.  There’s a lot of talent back from a team with a known championship pedigree.  There’s no reason to slot them anywhere but here for now.  Up first: vs. Mississippi Valley State.
  2. South Dakota State.  Here’s the other favorite.  The Jackrabbits are going to be the one team in the Valley that EVERY single defensive coordinator will have nightmares preparing for that week.  This high octane offense should be prolific on a near historic level.  Scary, huh?  The defense should be good too.  They’re in the preseason national title contenders conversation.  Up first: vs. Duquesne.
  3. Youngstown State.  How often does a team make it to the national championship game the season before and end up third in the pecking order the following year in their own conference?  Not often, but welcome to Valley football.  The Penguins lost some key parts, especially on defense.  But considering that’s where the strength of their coaching lies, they should patch that together.  Up first: at Pittsburgh.
  4. Northern Iowa.  The Panthers return a lot of the pieces from a disappointing 2016.  But disappointment was just one missed assignment or kick that could have just as easily been 8-3 or 9-2, instead of 5-6.  Still, the bigger issue has to be the coaching turnover, as assistants continue to be raided by other institutions.  The talent is there, but the schedule is really tough.  Probably more questions than answers for the Panthers than anybody in the conference.  Up first: at Iowa State.
  5. Western Illinois.  The administration did them no favors selling their one non-conference game back to Coastal Carolina.  Now they only have four home games for the entire season, all in conference play.  The Leathernecks have plenty of talent though, including one of the highest regards quarterbacks returning.  That usually goes a long way towards success.  Up first: at Tennessee Tech.
  6. Illinois State.  The Redbirds are one of only two teams ranked in the preseason polls that didn’t have a winning record in 2016(Northern Iowa is the other).  Still, like most of the middle ground in the MVFC, there’s more than enough to make another run towards late-November.  Though the glass is not so full that resting on those laurels will guarantee anything.  Up first: vs. Butler.
  7. South Dakota.  Most pundits agree that the Coyotes are a team on the rise.  And they really seem to be the sexy pick to cause a stir, upset some of the big boys and crash the FCS Playoff party.  For that to happen, they will probably have to start that upset party in their non-conference slate.  They miss Missouri State in MVFC play, which means they play EVERY contender.  So every game is going to be tough, but also a chance to make a highly visible mark toward their resume.  Up first: at Drake.
  8. Southern Illinois.  Here’s where the bottom probably starts.  That not to say anything is impossible though.  The Salukis really need to get off to a good start and carry momentum into conference play to have a chance at making any serious waves.  In a really bad schedule quirk, they actually have a bye the opening week, meaning they will have to play all eleven games consecutively to end the season.  They start by picking the bones of what NDSU leaves from week 1.  Up first: bye, then vs. Mississippi Valley State.
  9. Indiana State.  For a team who snuck into the playoffs a couple seasons ago, the Sycamores seem to have really slid back.  Though, that might be an illusion really, as those around them have improved.  Part of that may be their home field, which we’ve addressed before.  They have almost no advantage at home as they are consistently near the bottom in attendance.  The non-conference schedule doesn’t look to give them any favors either.  Up first: vs. Eastern Illinois.
  10. Missouri State.  Honestly, it’s getting redundant to keep putting the Bears on the 10-line.  And finding adjectives describing the futility is becoming more and more difficult.  The defense has to improve first and foremost.  The last few years have proven that to be very laborious.  The coaching staff that took over a few years back should start to be seeing their own recruits on the field by now, which should help.  But this still looks to be a long season, at least for one more year.  Up first: at Missouri.