MVFC Power Rankings, Preseason

Hot Beef Take

Finally, the college football season is upon us in 2018. And this last weekend there were even four FCS schools who played, two against each other and two against FBS opponents. But those are more national exposure games. And if that does tickle you fancy, even just a little, you can check in on College Sports Madness online (www.collegesportsmadness.com). We’re currently counting down the last few teams in our Top 44 Preseason Capsules and placing those teams on the FCS Preseason Playoff tree in the Bracketology section.

But here in Missouri Valley country, the games don’t get going until this week. So, in continuing the preseason talk, let’s take a quick look at the starting point for the MVFC. Each week, the Power Ranking for the MVFC will give a quick synopsis of each team’s results, upcoming opponents and maybe a note or two. They won’t be arranged by conference standing or national ranking per se. They’ll lean more towards the “what have you done for me lately”. So like a fat man’s jeans, trying to do an out jump, let’s let’er rip!

1. North Dakota State. Big surprise here, I’m sure. Anybody who knows anything about college football knows what the Bison have coming back. They team is absolutely loaded and anybody knocking them off is going to need a Herculean effort and a large dose of luck to get it done. Winning the Missouri Valley this year, for the eighth straight time(shared or outright), is a secondary goal. This team has legit national championship aspirations. In fact, the casinos in Vegas have them as a near even investment towards winning it all. Considering names like Stick, Menard, Anderson and Dunn…it’s almost as scary Hitler, Hirohito, Sigfried and Roy. First victim: vs. Cal Poly.

2. South Dakota State. The consensus is that despite huge offensive specialty talent losses, the Jackrabbits are going to reload. It’s a fair assessment, as the spring game showed some real flashes of brilliance. Having the preseason offensive player of the year, Taryn Christion, at quarterback is a nice place to start. Though, it seems this can be said for about 70% of the teams in the FCS this season. But most don’t have a multi-faceted threat who’s getting ready to start his third year. If the defense can catch up to the offense’s proficiency, they could find themselves in the national semifinals again this year. First opponent: @ Iowa State(FBS).

3. Northern Iowa. From here on out, these teams have less margin for error than the top two, as the overall depth of talent doesn’t match – at least on the surface. The Panthers do like they do every year, in 2017. They over-schedule, playing one of the nation’s toughest slates, dig a hole record-wise, get it together and make a playoff run. This year’s schedule is no different. So 2018 could just be a repeat of the recent past. Oddly for this team, the offense appears ahead of the defense and that should make everybody in the Valley nervous. The Panthers always have it together on defense, so offensive support makes this outfit very dangerous. A lot of that will fall on quarterback Eli Dunne. If they get off to a hot start, the sky’s the limit. If not, it’ll be a battle. First up: @ Montana.

4. South Dakota. Along with Northern Iowa, spots 3-7 could be thrown into a ping-pong lottery machine and any order would be possible. The replacement of CFL-starting quarterback Streveler seems daunting. But people will nearly forget his name by year’s end after Austin Simmons takes control. There’s plenty of weapons to play with, not to mention head coach, Bob Nielson, getting everything in line. Much like the I-29 neighbors to the south, the defense needs to improve. But a few good stops per game should supply the Coyotes ample opportunity to wins, they are going to score points. First game: @ Kansas State.

5. Illinois State. The Redbirds athletic department did them no favors in scheduling their first game. Non-Division I opponents look like bye weeks to the Selection Committee. There were two teams in the Big Sky they could have played, if they’d been willing to go on the road, but apparently the home gate was more important. Quarterback Kolbe would be near all-conference, if he didn’t play in the MVFC, he’s very good. And they have a running back tandem, Robinson and Smith, that should keep the chains moving. But the defense has lost a lot to graduation and to team dismissals. This is probably the ultimate wild card in the MVFC – they could finish anywhere from third to eighth. First game: vs. St. Xavier, IL(sub-Division I).

6. Youngstown State. It seems almost unfair to have the Penguins down this far. And it’s not a personal shun. Offensively, they are running back McCaster and company. Quarterback Mays is just average, but might get a boost from all the attention that will be paid to the running game. Unfortunately, the receiving corps is thin on known talent. The defense should be sound, as coach Bo Pelini, is one of the better defensive minds in all of college football. And his motivation-style might be brash to those on the outside, but his kids would run through a wall for him – twice! The two Pioneer Conference opponents probably provide two wins, but little in preparation or clout with the Committee. First up: vs. Butler.

7. Western Illinois. Linebacker Taylor will be sorely missed, as he used to tackle everything that moved. In fact, rumor has it, he tackled a 700-pound elk in the Yukon Territory just this morning. Joking aside, the Double Mac connection should keep this offense going. Quarterback McGuire and running back McShane are a great tandem. McShane’s running mate, Norris is no slouch either. The defense does return a great deal of talent, but one has to wonder if they’ll succeed with Taylor being the glue. They play a brutal schedule. like many in the Valley. They get both Montana schools and a Big Ten opponent, Illinois, all before hitting the MVFC grind. The Leathernecks could be as good as a first round home playoff team or as unfortunate as a 4-7 team getting fat at Thanksgiving. First opponent: @ Montana State.

8. Southern Illinois. This team will go as far as quarterback Straub takes them. He won four games as a starter last year before getting injured. The receiving corps is very strong with Isom and James outside. The defense will need a group of players to emerge from fair anonymity to at least borderline stars. If that happens, most pundits see the Salukis as the surprise team in the MVFC for 2018. They’re probably still one more year away from serious playoff hopes, and that will still be tough consider the conference they call home. Out of the gate: @ Murray State.

9. Missouri State. The Bears have a long way to go before any sort of real threat could be made on even having a winning record. The playoffs are an afterthought in Springfield. First order of business is for coach Steckel to get a porous defense under control. He does have a huge in flux of JUCOs coming in to help on that side of the ball. The offense has no real stars either. This team needs to find its identity, some niche and build towards exploiting that before any marked improvement will be noticed. First opponent: @ Oklahoma State(FBS).

10. Indiana State. The Sycamores have a few good linebackers, Moss and Griffith, but when they’re the first players making contact with opposing offensive players – that’s bad. As poorly as the defense played overall last year, and they gave up almost 45 points per game, the offense was even more anemic, putting up barely 14 per game. That 31 point difference is pretty glaring. Everybody except North Dakota State will be licking their chops, waiting to play them. And the Bison won’t because they aren’t scheduled. There’s a lot of work to do in Terre Haute. First game: vs. Quincy(sub-Division I).