Are we really to week 8 already? Apparently yes, but it’s crazy how every season seems to just fly by faster than the last one.
All times listed as Central time zone and ranking numbers based on the AGS Poll. Here’s the full list along with starting times and places you can find them on TV/streaming video:
Saturday, October 16th
2:00 PM – Indiana State (2-4, 0-3 MVFC) at Southern Illinois (1-5, 0-3 MVFC), ESPN+
2:00 PM – Western Illinois (2-4, 1-2 MVFC) at Missouri State (4-2, 2-1 MVFC), ESPN+
2:30 PM – #6 Illinois State (5-1, 2-1 MVFC) at #1 North Dakota State (6-0, 3-0 MVFC), ESPN+
4:00 PM – #2 South Dakota State (4-1, 2-1 MVFC) at #23 Northern Iowa (3-3, 2-1 MVFC), ESPN3
5:00 PM – South Dakota (3-3, 2-1 MVFC) at Youngstown State (2-4, 1-2 MVFC), ESPN+
Indiana State at Southern Illinois
Last Year: Southern Illinois beat Indiana State 45-24 at INSU’s Homecoming
Indiana State is 2-4 on the season, having beaten DII Quincy University to open the season and Eastern Illinois. They also gave South Dakota State quite a game two weeks ago, taking the Jackrabbits to OT in Brookings, but then lost their Homecoming game to Missouri State last weekend by 3 points. INSU’s strength is their run game, with RB Ja’Quan Keys leading the conference with 132 yards per game and 11 TDs. Other than that though, there’s not a ton they have going for them. QB Ryan Boyle is averaging only 136 yards per game through the air with 2 TDs and 1 INT and runs for just under 40 ypg with 3 TDs. WR Dante Hendrix gets the majority of catches with 23 total and averages 47 yards per game. LB Jonas Griffith leads the conference in tackles, averaging 12 per game, with LB Katrell Moss #4 in the MVFC with 9.7 tackles per game. PK Jerry Nunez is 7 for 8 on FGs this season, with a long of 48 yards.
Southern Illinois is 1-5, winning their opener against Murray State by 39 points, but not having much success since, losing 5 straight including 1-score games against South Dakota and Youngstown State, before getting blown out by 48 by Illinois State. QB Sam Straub is #3 in the conference throwing for an average of 250 ypg with 9 TDs and 8 INTs and runs for ~30 ypg with 3 TDs. RB DJ Davis gets the ground game going with 104 ypg and 3 TDs and the top receivers are WRs Raphael Leonard (77.8 ypg with 4 TDs) and Landon Lenoir (40.33 ypg with 1 TD). Landon is the younger brother of former WIU standout WR Lance Lenoir. DE Anthony Knighton is tied for #1 in the conference for sacks, averaging .92/game and LB Bryce Notree tops the Salukis in tackles with 46 (34 solo).
The Sycamores and Salukis are both winless in the conference. Technically, that has to change after this game. I feel like Indiana State will get decent yardage on the ground, but SIU will be able to cover more of the field in less time with their passing game. I think we’ll probably see a good amount of offense in this game, fairly high scoring, but Southern Illinois will come out on top by a bit due to home field advantage. SIU wins by a FG, 33-30.
Western Illinois at Missouri State
Last Year: Western Illinois beat Missouri State 49-30 in Macomb, IL
Western Illinois is 2-4, but has played a fairly tough schedule, taking on both Montana FCS schools and Big 10 Illinois as well as both Illinois State and North Dakota State in back-to-back weeks. WIU has a decent passing game, with QB Sean McGuire throwing for 258.8 ypg with 14 TDs. He has, however, been prone to mistakes (generally in “come from behind” situations), throwing 9 INTs. WRs John Brunner and Isaiah Lesure are #7 and 8 in the conference averaging right around 62 ypg and 2 TDs each. The ground game, however, has been practically nonexistent, with the Leathernecks last in the conference averaging 80 ypg on the ground with 3 TDs. RB Steve McShane is the top runner with 47 ypg and 2 TDs, but with nearly 34 ypg and 4 TDs receiving, he’s just as much of a threat as a receiver as he is at running the ball. The WIU defense has really stepped up lately, giving up the 3rd fewest yards in the MVFC and has the #2 pass defense. LB Quentin Moon is #2 in the conference with 11 tackles per game and has the most solo tackles with 43 total. LB Pete Swenson and DE Khalen Saunders are #1 and 2 in the conference in tackles for loss averaging 2 and 1.58 per game respectively.
Missouri State is having an impressive season (as compared to most years recently) at 4-2, with a crushing of Northern Arizona by 32 and blocking a last-second FG to beat Illinois State by 3 as their “highlights” so far. Overall, they have a good offensive line, allowing the fewest sacks of any MVFC team (averaging 1 per game allowed). QB Peyton Huslig will be a handful to deal with, accounting for 260.8 average yards per game of total offense (rushing and passing), which is 3rd in the MVFC. His 352 rushing yards makes him the #1 rushing QB in the conference, more than 150 yards ahead of #2 (INSU’s Ryan Boyle) and he has 5 TDs rushing. RB Jason Randall is the other main ground threat with just under 60 yards per game and 5 TDs. In the passing game, Huslig throws for just over 200 ypg with 7 TDs and 7 INTs (he’s the only QB in the conference who doesn’t have more TDs thrown than INTs). There’s no real primary receiver, although WR Lorenzo Thomas has gotten the most catches, but 4 players average between 31 and 43 ypg, 5 receivers have at least 1 receiving TD, but nobody has more than 2. On defense, MSU is ranked last in the MVFC in passing defense and 2nd to last in rushing defense. That isn’t to say that they don’t have a few solid players. LB Angelo Garbutt leads the team with 56 tackles (30 solo), which is 5th in the MVFC. DE Matt McClellan is #3 in the conference in tackles for loss with 8 for 38 yards in 6 games, and is #2 in sacks with 5.5.
So, MSU has a pretty decent offense and WIU has a pretty decent defense. Specifically though, WIU has been really good at getting pressure on QBs (4 sacks against NDSU’s Easton Stick, for example). I think that’ll help limit the damage that Huslig will be able to inflict and WIU will come away with a 7-point win, 28-21.
Illinois State at North Dakota State
Last Year: North Dakota State beat Illinois State 20-7 in Normal, IL
Illinois State is an impressive 5-1 with big wins over FBS Colorado State, Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois, and Southern Illinois (so…I guess they win the “Lincoln Cup” this year?…it’s not a thing, but it should be). The Redbirds have the top defense in the MVFC, holding teams to 12 points and 275 total yards per game. LB Zackary Mathews tops the team and is #4 in the MVFC in tackles, with 54 (29 solo). DB Luther Kirk is tied for the top spot in the conference for interceptions with 3 so far (and 1 TD), and DE Romeo McKnight has 25 tackles, but leads the team in both tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (3). The offensive run game is no slouch either, with RB James Robinson sitting at #2 in the conference with 130.5 ypg and 9 TDs and was just recently added to the Payton Award watch list. RB Markel Smith also does a solid job, with 73.8 ypg and 3 TDs. In conference rushing rankings, ILSU actually has 2 players that get more yardage than the #1 rusher on 4 other MVFC teams (MSU, UNI, USD, and WIU). QB Brady Davis seems to be settling into his role better only averaging 152 ypg on the season, but putting up an impressive 4 TD performance last week. He has 14 total TDs and 1 INT in the season. WR Spencer Schnell is the primary recipient of most of Davis’s passes, with 33 catches for a 78.7 ypg average (3rd in the MVFC) and 5 TDs. Punter JT Bohlken is having a great season, averaging 44.4 yards on 31 punts with 14 of them of 50+ yards and 14 within the 20 yard line. 44.4 yards per punt would be the 7th best punting season in MVFC history.
North Dakota State, meanwhile, is a perfect 6-0 on the season, decimating OOC opponents by an average of 35 points, winning a close one against highly-ranked rival South Dakota State, then pulling ahead late in the game for dominating wins over UNI and WIU the last two weeks…both on the road. On the ground, the Bison are #1 in the conference on both sides of the ball, putting up 265.7 ypg while holding opponents to only 84.8 per game rushing (including holding WIU to a total of 9 rushing yards last weekend). RB Bruce Anderson is the #5 rusher in the conference, with 87 ypg and 3 TDs, with RB Lance Dunn also in the top 10 (#9) picking up 63.5 ypg and 5 TDs. QB Easton Stick is not a huge passing threat generally, putting up only 162 ypg with 10 TDs, but he’s only thrown 1 INT, so he’s efficient. WR Darrius Shepherd gets most of the catches, with 22 for 64.3 ypg and 5 TDs. Defense is where NDSU really shines though, with LB Jabril Cox tied for #1 in the conference with 3 INTs (and has taken 2 back for TDs). Safety Robbie Grimsley leads the team in tackles with 41 and an INT, and LB Dan Marlette comes in second with 36 tackles, 5 for loss, and has a fumble recovery for TD. Safety James Hendricks has 20 tackles, but also 2 INTs and a fumble recovery, 4 pass breakups and 6 passes defended.
This is probably the best Illinois State team I’ve seen since 2014 (when they made it to the championship game), and the Spack ‘stache has been unleashed, but this is also probably the best NDSU team I’ve seen since 2013 (when they went undefeated all the way through the championship game). ISU is going to put up a fight, and is probably going to make it hard for NDSU to get much yardage through the air, but ultimately I think the NDSU “ground and pound” game will wear down ISU’s defense a bit too much and the Bison will pull away in the 4th quarter for a 10-point win…24-14.
South Dakota State at Northern Iowa
Last Year: Northern Iowa beat South Dakota State 38-18 in Brookings (Hobo Day/Homecoming), then SDSU beat UNI 37-22 in Brookings in the 2nd round of the FCS playoffs.
South Dakota State is 4-1, having had their first game cancelled due to weather, destroying the rest of their OOC opponents, losing a close one at North Dakota State, struggling against Indiana State until finally winning in OT, and then getting back on track with a big win over Youngstown State last weekend. The Jackrabbits currently lead the MVFC in points per game (although that’s heavily impacted by putting up 90 points against Arkansas-Pine Bluff). Without that game though, they’d be tied for #2. Their top RB, Isaac Wallace, put up 82.6 ypg, but went down during the YSU game with what appears to be a (possibly career-ending) hip injury. They do have a few other RBs that are pretty solid though, with guys like CJ. Wilson getting 54 ypg with 1 TD and Mikey Daniel with just under 38 ypg and 4 TDs. QB Taryn Christion averages 232 ypg through the air with 16 TDs (#1 in the MVFC) and only 1 INT, and has the top QB efficiency rating and completion % in the conference. He also accounts for nearly 26 ypg and 3 TDs rushing. WR Cade Johnson is the top WR in the conference, averaging 86.8 ypg with 8 TDs (3 more than the #2 guy), and WR Adam Anderson is close behind with 77.4 ypg and 3 TDs. On defense, CB Zy Mosley is one of only 3 players in the conference with 3 INTs so far (and has only played in 4 games…the other two have played in 6, so his per game average is better). LB Dalton Cox leads the team with 30 tackles (18 solo) and has a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Northern Iowa had a rough start, losing at Montana and Iowa before heading home to decimate Hampton. In the MVFC, they shut out Indiana State, played well against NDSU until the 4th quarter and pretty much beat South Dakota the same way, pulling away in the final quarter to move to 3-3 on the season. UNI’s run defense is in the top half of the conference, as is their passing offense. QB Eli Dunne throws for 208 ypg with 12 TDs and 2 INTs and has run for 1 TD. He’s not a huge running threat though, with negative net yards this season. RBs Trevor Allen (66.2 ypg, 3 TDs) and Marcus Weymiller (50.2 ypg and 3 TDs) are the guys who get things done in the run game, while most of the passes are going to WRs Briley Moore (52.8 ypg and 3 TDs) and true freshman Deion McShane (18.3 ypg and 2 TDs). The previously mentioned RB Allen also gets in on the receiving game, catching 19 passes for just over 32 ypg. The other side of the ball has the #3 tackler in the MVFC, LB Chris Kolarevic with 65 (25 solo), 4 for loss, and 1 INT. LB Rickey Neal Jr. continues to do well after leading the MVFC in sacks last year, with 4.5 so far this season to go along with 25 tackles, 5 QB hurries and 2 pass breakups. DB Xavior Williams handles kick return duties and is #2 in the conference averaging 24 yards per return.
The Jackrabbits and Panthers are two of the better teams in the conference. On paper, I think SDSU is the better team overall. The loss of the RB Wallace hurts, but they don’t rely on the run game as much as they do the passing game, plus they have pretty good depth in that position. Last year, UNI spoiled SDSU’s Hobo Day (Homecoming) game…this year, I think SDSU will return the favor at UNI’s Homecoming…although it’ll be close. Probably 36-33 to the Jackrabbits.
South Dakota at Youngstown State
Last Year: South Dakota beat Youngstown State 32-28 in Vermillion, SD
USD is 3-3 so far, losing a close one to K-State to open the season, then beating Northern Colorado and losing at Weber State. In the conference they beat SIU, MSU, and then lost last week to UNI. South Dakota’s passing offense is the most productive in the conference by quite a bit, averaging just over 320 yards per game (43 ypg higher than #2). QB Austin Simmons is the one doing the tossing for all those yards, with 12 TDs and 4 INTs. Simmons also has run for 2 TDs. WRs Dakarai Allen (81.7 ypg with 4 TDs) and Levi Falck (55.3 ypg and 1 TD) are the ones doing most of the catching. RB Ben Klett picks up the most ground yards with 41.2 ypg and 3 TDs. The Coyotes defense, however, is 8th in the conference in yards per game allowed and a little better against the run than they are against the passing game. The Gray twins, DB Andrew and LB Alex lead the team with 53 and 48 tackles respectively. Andrew has 2 INTs and 2 forced fumbles and was just recently named to the Buchanan Award watch list. Alex has 31 solo tackles, which leads the team, 5.5 tackles for loss including 2 sacks, 1 int and 1 fumble recovery. DB Mark Collins Jr. is a sophomore who is currently leading the conference in passes defended with 11 breakups and 1 INT while only playing in 5 games. Punter Brady Schutt currently has a 43.1 yards per punt average (#2 in the conference) with 5 inside the 20.
Youngstown State is 2-4 overall, losing their first two games against Butler and at West Virginia. They won their first game against Valparaiso, then in the MVFC, they lost at WIU, beat SIU in a 3-point game, and were blown out by SDSU by 29 points last weekend. QB Montgomery VanGorder puts up 226 ypg with 11 TDs and 7 INTs and he runs for just under 26 ypg. Their primary offensive weapon is RB Tevin McCaster who is averaging just under 100 ypg (4th in the conference) with 6 TDs. WR Zach Farrar has 20 catches with a 51.2 ypg average and 1 TD. The Penguin kicking game has struggled this year (can penguins kick?…apparently not), with punter Mark Schuler only averaging 37.5 yards per punt (9th in the MVFC) and PK Zak Kennedy last in the conference (among actual starting FG kickers) going 5 for 12 (a 41.7% average). On the defense, LB Armand Dellovade leads YSU with 50 tackles (31 solo) including 1 sack, and 1 INT. DE Shereif Bynum is tied with a few players for 4th in the conference with 7.5 tackles for loss including 4 sacks and 8 QB hurries, and CB Bryce Gibson has 7 pass breakups (2nd most in the MVFC) to go along with 27 tackles and a forced fumble.
South Dakota isn’t really a “powerhouse”, but they do have a lot of good things going for them right now. YSU on the other hand, has really been struggling this year as compared to the last few years and looking at their remaining schedule, they could very well end up with only one more win this season…and I don’t think it’ll be this game. I think the Coyotes take this game by about 6 (possibly by two missed YSU FGs)…29-23.