Week 3 is here and everyone has played at least one game (a few teams had bye weeks in week 1 or 2). This week is something of an OOC “Rivalry Week” for teams, with three long-standing rivalries being played out, a couple of those rivalry games, plus another game, are against Ohio Valley teams. No “full” FBS games this week, although we do have one against a “transitioning FBS” team.
Here’s the full conference schedule for the Week #3 (all times listed in Central)
1:00 PM – Central Connecticut (0-2) at #6 Youngstown State (1-1), ESPN3
2:00 PM – #10 North Dakota (1-1) at #23 South Dakota (2-0), ESPN3
2:00 PM – #18 Illinois State (1-0) at Eastern Illinois (1-1), OVC Digital Network
2:00 PM – Murray State (1-1) at Missouri State (0-2), ESPN3
5:00 PM – Indiana State (0-2) at #19 Liberty (2-0), ESPN3
6:00 PM – Drake (1-1) at #4 South Dakota State (2-0), ESPN3
6:00 PM – Southern Illinois (1-0) at Southeast Missouri State (0-2), OVC Digital Network
7:00 PM – #21 Northern Iowa (1-1) at Southern Utah (1-1), Big Sky Streaming
#2 North Dakota State and #20 Western Illinois are both off this weekend
— Valley Football (@ValleyFootball) September 11, 2017
Central Connecticut (0-2) at Youngstown State (1-1)
- Central Connecticut lost to Fordham, 38-31
- Youngstown State defeated Robert Morris, 30-0
History: YSU has played CCSU once, winning in 2010.
CCSU started off strong in their game against Fordham with 17 1st quarter points, but would ultimately fall late in the game, as they put up 7 points in the second half as opposed to Fordham’s 17. Through their first two games this season, QB Jacob Dolegala has 310 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, and a 40% completion rate. The Blue Devils have given up quite a few passing yards and don’t have much of a running offense. Their biggest receiving threat is WR Jose Garcia, who has 58 yards and 2 TDs on 4 catches so far this season. Last week, SO DB Tajik Bagley earned the NEC Special Teams Player of the Week award after returning the opening kickoff 95 yards for a TD, as well as picking up 8 tackles, a pass breakup, and a forced fumble on defense. He’s averaging 40 yards per return on 4 kickoffs this season.
Youngstown State meanwhile, did pretty much as expected against Robert Morris, holding them to 147 total offensive yards and 0 points. YSU SR QB Hunter Wells started the game but was injured during the first drive and was replaced by SO QB Nathan Mays, who threw for 149 yards and 1 TD in the game. JR RB Tevin McCaster leads the team currently with 81 yards per game and 2 TDs. SO S Kyle Hegedus is the current tackles leader with 19 total so far and JR DE Justus Reed getting quite a bit of pressure on QBs, with 4 sacks, 4 QB hurries, a forced fumble and recovery this season.
So, this game is YSU’s last OOC game of the season, and like most matchups between a MVFC team and a NEC team, the MVFC is going to be the favorite to win, usually by quite a bit. YSU lately has played 2 NEC teams each season and the majority of those games are what most would consider “blowouts”. Outside of a 21-14 OT win against Robert Morris in 2015, here’s the other ones they’ve played in the last few years: 48-3 over St. Francis, 45-10 over Duquesne, 38-6 over Robert Morris, and 30-0 over Robert Morris last week. I don’t really see this game being any different really.
I think the Penguins roll through to finish their OOC part of the season 2-1. Probably with a margin of around 32 points.
#10 North Dakota (1-1) at #23 South Dakota (2-0)
- North Dakota beat Missouri State, 34-0
- South Dakota beat FBS Bowling Green State, 35-27
History: This is one of those (currently) OOC “Rivalry Games” that I mentioned. Due to them both being the “flagship” universities in their respective states, and them being in the same conferences for much of their histories, the two teams have played each other 95 times going back to 1903 with UND holding a 29-61-5 advantage. Since joining DI in 2008, UND has won 1 out of the 5 meetings, with two games (including last year’s game) going to OT. The average margin of victory for those five games is 6.4 points. UND will be joining the MVFC in a few years also, so they will likely be playing each other pretty much every year after that point.
UND easily handled Missouri State last weekend, completely shutting down the Bears offense that had put up 43 points on Mizzou the previous week. Offensively, the “stars” of the show are JR RBs Brady Oliveira and John Santiago who, at this point, are averaging 89.5 and 36.5 ypg. Santiago finished last season with just slightly less than 1k yards, so he has the capability of putting up some big rushing numbers at times. The other strength of UND is their defense. Right now, the numbers are a bit skewed, due to giving up 37 points to Utah in their first game and then 0 to MSU, but they were the preseason pick to win the Big Sky this year, and their defense is a large part of that. SR LB Jake Disterhaupt is the current tackle leader on the team with 15 (10 solo) and the defense as a whole is currently 13th in the FCS in team sacks with 6.
USD meanwhile has been putting together an impressive start to their season, rolling up 77 points on Drake and then heading over to MAC bottom-feeder Bowling Green, taking an early lead and then never relenting in an 8-point win. The strength of the Coyotes lies in their SR QB Chris Streveler. Streveler is averaging 275 yards per game and has 6 TDs passing and he leads the team in rushing with 82 yards per game and 4 TDs. JR DB Danny Rambo had a big game at BGSU with 9 tackles, 2 for loss, and a pass breakup.
I have a feeling that this game is going to be a battle. Lots of strong feelings on both sides…a solid defense vs a very good passing and running QB…two very evenly matched teams. I’ve been waffling back and forth pretty much on a daily basis on who I think will win this game. Right now, I think I have to go against my personal feelings (mostly towards USD’s HC) and pick the Coyotes by 1 point (or if OT, 3).
#18 Illinois State (1-0) at Eastern Illinois (1-1)
- Illinois State took the week off (bye)
- Eastern Illinois lost to FBS Northern Illinois, 38-10
History: Despite what Wikipedia says, I believe that this is the second-oldest rivalry in the state of Illinois (Wikipedia says first, but Illinois and Northwestern started in 1892). EIU and ISU started playing each other in 1901 and have played this game 105 times total. Illinois State currently holds the series lead with 54 wins, 42 losses, 9 ties. Recently, this rivalry has been named the Mid-America Classic, complete with traveling trophy. The two schools are located less than a 2 hours drive apart.
Last week, Illinois State had their bye week, so they’ve only played one game so far. This means we don’t really have a ton of info to go on with regards to the Redbirds. In their only game so far, they dominated FCS non-scholarship Pioneer League team Butler, 45-0…which was pretty much to be expected. JR QB Jake Kolbe threw for 194 yards and 2 TDs and the defense dominated, holding Butler to 41 yards of total offense and only 3 first downs.
Eastern spent last week getting dominated by Northern Illinois. For the season, their primary QB SR Mitch Kimble is averaging 164.5 yards per game and has 1 TD and 2 INTs. They don’t have any receivers averaging over 40 yards a game, and their top rusher is JR RB Isaiah Johnson who’s currently at 44.5 yards per game. On defense, the Panthers are giving up 390 yards and 29 points per game.
As I said…not a lot to go on. Quite often in this rivalry, both teams really bring their “A” games and it can be quite a battle, even if one team is, on paper, dominant. I think that Illinois State will win this, but it’ll be a bit closer than most people expect. Redbirds by a TD (7 points).
Murray State (1-1) at Missouri State (0-2)
- Murray State lost to then #15 Central Arkansas, 41-13
- Missouri State lost at then #11 North Dakota, 34-0
History: The MSU’s have played each other 10 times. Once back in ‘42, then the other 9 times since 1982. Murray State has the lead in the series with an 8-2 record.
Murray State started the season by dismantling DII Kentucky Wesleyan and then proceeded to get steamrolled themselves when Central Arkansas came to town. So…yea….kinda need to throw the stats out the window on this one. Massey’s got them listed as having the 49th best offense and 97th best defense. The Racers have had some very good seasons in the past, but it’s been 6 years since they had a winning season, and this season doesn’t really look all that much better. They were picked to finish 8th out of 9 in the Ohio Valley Preseason poll. They’re led by JR QB Shuler Bentley, who has thrown for 197 yards per game and 5 TDs with a 64.6% completion rate. Most of those passing yards have gone to SR WR Jordan Gandy, who is catching 82 yards per game and has 3 receiving TDs. Their top rusher is FR RB D.J. Penick at 72 ypg and 1 TD. Defensively, SR LB Marico Paige leads the team in tackles with 13 (1.5 for loss and 1 INT), but JR DL Kenny Wooten will also be putting pressure on the QB, as he has 3 sacks for 17 yards so far this season.
Missouri State we’ve already discussed a few times. They put up a lot of points against Mizzou but gave up nearly twice that, then got shut out by North Dakota. They have a decent passing attack, courtesy of SO QB Peyton Huslig who transferred in from Garden City (KS) CC prior to this season. The long-lost Franco brother is throwing 242.5 yards per game with 2 TDs and 2 INTs. Most of those yards through the air land in the hands of SR WR Malik Earl (81.5 ypg, 1 TD) and SR TE Erik Furmanek (75.5 ypg). SR TB Calan Crowder is averaging 93.5 ypg and has 2 TDs on the ground. True Freshman LB Titus Wall is leading the team in tackles (might be one to watch in a couple of years as one of the top LBs in the conference) with 14 (9 solo). Going back to the Massey numbers, the Bears have 34th best offense and 79th best defense.
So, we’ve got two teams that are near the bottom of their respective conferences. Both teams have halfway decent offenses but fairly porous defenses. I think that both teams will put up a relatively high number of points in this game, but Missouri State should come away with a win by about a TD.
Indiana State (0-2) at #19 Liberty (2-0)
- Indiana State lost at Tennessee, 42-7
- Liberty beat Morehead State, 58-17
History: The Sycamores have played Liberty twice, winning both games.
Indiana State started the season losing a close game in the final seconds against Eastern Illinois and then followed it up by getting clobbered at Tennessee. I’m not quite sure what the deal is with their QB position. In the EIU game, they had JR Isaac Harker in at first, then about halfway through the second quarter, put in R-FR Cade Sparks. In the Tennessee game, Sparks started and played the first three quarters, then Harker was put in for most of the 4th quarter. I guess they’re thinking Sparks is the planned starter then…maybe? Anyway, assuming it’s Sparks, he’s thrown 11 passes for 165 yards with 1 TD. SR RB LeMonte Booker leads the ground game with (you know what…I’m just going to put the stats from the EIU game…it’s kinda pointless to look at how badly they did against the Vols)…154 yards and 1 TD against EIU. SO LB Jonas Griffith leads the team with 22 tackles, 1.5 for loss.
Liberty meanwhile…well…they beat Baylor in the first week, and then had their way with Morehead State. SO QB Steven Calvert is putting up 364 yards per game with 8 TDs. Most of those passes are going to SO WR Antonio Gandy-Golden (101 ypg and 3 TD) and JR WR B.J. Farrow (177 ypg and 3 TD). In total, they’re averaging 554 yards of offense per game and scoring 53 points per game. Their defense is a bit less outstanding than their passing attack but is still pretty decent with JR CB Jeremy Peters and SO S Rion Davis both sitting at 11 total tackles. They’ve given up 416 yards and 31 points per game so far.
Liberty is in their last season as an FCS team. I believe if I’ve read the info correctly, that this year they are considered FCS Independent. They play an FCS schedule and their games count as Big South games but are not eligible for the FCS playoffs. Next year is pretty much the same deal, but FBS. Play FBS schedule, not eligible for a bowl game. Since they’re not joining a conference at this point, they’ll be independent anyway, but starting in 2019, they should be eligible to participate in a bowl game, if they meet the requirements and get an invite.
Anyway, this game, they still technically count as an FCS for now. I think Indiana State will bounce back a bit from their game last week and make this a bit more competitive, but ultimately, Liberty is a better football team and will likely come away with the win…I say by 10 points.
Drake (1-1) at #4 South Dakota State (2-0)
- Drake defeated NAIA Southwestern (KS) College, 55-14
- South Dakota State won at Montana State, 31-27
History: SDSU and Drake have played 11 times, with Drake holding the series lead, 3-8.
So…yea…Drake. Apparently, they hadn’t had enough of the South Dakota DI schools and decided to make the trip up for more. If you recall, Drake opened their season by getting beat by 70 points on their own field by South Dakota. They won their next game, against a NAIA team. Drake is a Pioneer League team that doesn’t have scholarships for football, so it’s not really fair to compare them to a full-scholarship team…especially one that some people have picked to compete for a national championship this year. SR QB Grant Kraemer leads the offensive unit, averaging 224 yards per game w/ 6 TDs and SO WR has hauled in 9 passes at a 20.22 yards per catch average with 3 TDs. Their top tackler is JR LB Zac Rujawitz with 11 total tackles, 2.5 for loss.
South Dakota State meanwhile, is 2-0, beating up on Duquesne to open the season and then winning a close battle out in Bozeman against Montana State. They’ve got…idk…half of the Payton Award Watch List on their offense or something, they’re putting up 517.5 yards per game of offense…Christion is doing Christion things…Goedert, Wieneke, and the gang. If you follow the MVFC at all, you know who they are. Thankfully for the rest of us who have to play them every year, Goedert and Wieneke will be playing on Sundays next year and we won’t have to deal with them anymore. Defensively, still good, but not quite as impressive as their offense. The monster with the flowing blond locks is last year’s MVFC Freshman of the Year and the man who finished second in Jerry Rice Award voting last season, SO LB Christian Rozeboom. “The Boom” leads the team with 14 tackles this season and had 10 in the Montana State game.
Ok…so…here’s the deal. Drake lost to South Dakota by 70 points. USD’s QB is pretty good, but overall, South Dakota State is better on both sides of the ball than South Dakota. It’s literally whatever SDSU’s Coach Stig wants to put on the board here. If I remember correctly, he has a reputation for being a pretty nice guy, so I think he’s not going to want to completely embarrass Drake here. I could easily see SDSU reaching triple digits in this game if they really wanted to, but I think it’s more likely they’ll let off the gas once they’re up by 40 or so. They’ll probably still score a few more after that…almost by accident…so the margin will be more like 54 points.
Southern Illinois (1-0) at Southeast Missouri State (0-2)
- Southern Illinois beat Mississippi Valley State, 55-3
- Southeast Missouri State lost to Dayton, 25-23
History: This is OOC Rivalry Game #3 for the MVFC this week, with the two teams playing 84 times going back to 1909. SEMO holds the lead in the series, 40-38-8 although SIU has won 9 of the last 11 meetings (back to 2003). The two team’s stadiums are almost exactly a 1-hour drive apart over 2-lane state routes and old US highways, through a couple of small midwestern towns, southern Illinois farmland, down the Mississippi floodplain and across the big river into Missouri.
The Salukis have played only one game so far, against MVFC punching-bag Mississippi Valley State (who, in their first two games have been outscored by MVFC teams 127-10). Now, obviously a few pieces have changed, but last season SIU had the 4th best passing offense in the FCS. The run game was fairly mediocre and the defense was horrible, but boy could they pass the ball. Their QB is JR Sam Straub, they’ve got preseason all-MVFC Honorable Mention SR WR Connor Iwema who gets most of the catches and JR RB Daquan Isom who gets in on both the ground and receiving game. Preseason All-MVFC SR OL Austin Olsen does his best to give Straub time to find his receivers. Last year’s All-MVFC Honorable Mention LB Chase Allen is now a Miami Dolphin, so looking to fill his shoes will be SR LB Markese Jackson and JR LB Withney Simon. SO S Jeremy Chinn was a Freshman All-American and on the MVFC All-Newcomer team last year after snagging 3 INTs in 8 games.
The Redhawks got off to a rough start this season, losing to Kansas in their first game (pretty much expected) and then losing by 2 to Non-Scholarship Dayton (pretty much not expected). SEMO had more offensive yards in their game against Dayton but gave up quite a few rushing yards. Dayton won the special teams game with essentially double the average punt yardage of SEMO, much longer returns, and longer kickoffs. They also held onto the ball about 10 minutes longer. SEMO SR QB Jesse Hosket threw two TDs but also two INTs in that game, and SO WR Trevon Billington caught 6 passes for 135 yards and a TD. JR RB Marquis Terry had a 100-yard rushing game (111 net) with 1 TD as well, and SR LB Chad Meredith finished with 11 tackles, 1 for loss.
SIU shouldn’t really have any trouble putting up points on SEMO, but they might have some issues defensively trying to stop SEMO’s passing game occasionally. I don’t think the Salukis will lose, but it should be a much tougher game than their first game was. I think they’ll end up somewhere around 14 points up on the Redhawks.
#21 Northern Iowa (1-1) at Southern Utah (1-1)
- Northern Iowa defeated Cal Poly, 45-38 in OT
- Southern Utah won at Stephen F. Austin, 51-14
History: UNI has played SUU four times going back to 1996. UNI has won all 4 of the meetings.
Northern Iowa scraped out a narrow win against Big Sky member Cal Poly last weekend at the UNIDome. Aided by a couple of false starts on the part of the Mustangs, the Panthers took the 7 point win in overtime. It looks like, for the most part, the UNI offense is doing pretty well, averaging just under 400 yards per game (against a P5 FBS team and a Full-Scholly FCS team)…whaddya know…not screwing around with players in odd positions on offense actually works. JR QB Eli Dunne is putting up a conference-leading 292 yards per game through the air and a 143.8 QB efficiency rating. SR WR Daurice Fountain had a great game last week with 75 yards and 3 TDs. As is often the case, the UNI defense (especially at the LB spot) is fairly solid, with Preseason All-MVFC SR LB Jared Farley and JR LB Duncan Ferch leading the MVFC with 25 and 24 tackles respectively, as well as Preseason All-MVFC DB Malcolm Washington helping to lock down the backfield.
Southern Utah put up 51 points in their win at SFA last weekend, mostly through the air, with 418 passing yards and 4 passing TDs. SR QB Patrick Tyler conducts the Thunderbirds’ offense and has a young, but talented receiving corps with two targets going over 100 yards…131 and 1 TD going to True-FR WR Landen Measom and 101 and 1 TD going to SO WR Isaiah Diego-Williams. Measom also handles most kick and punt return duties. Tyler, who was named Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week this last week, also ran for 48 yards and a TD. On the other side of the ball, they have a 2016 All-Conference First Team DT with SR Robert Torgerson and Third Team S, JR Kyle Hannemann. True-FR PK Manny Berz was named the Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance including 3 for 3 on FGs (23, 28, 39) and 2 for 2 on XPs.
On paper, this looks like a tougher test than Cal Poly, but I feel like UNI is getting better offensively game-to-game and might have struggled with Cal Poly’s less common offensive scheme. I think they’ll pull out another win, but it’ll be a close one. UNI by a FG.