MVFC Week 11 Preview

MVFC LogoCan you believe we’re already to week 11? For all but a few teams (the 24 in the playoffs, plus a few odd scheduling situations), there are only two more games left in their seasons. Quite a few things could be decided this weekend, depending on how the games play out, but it’s also entirely possible that maybe only 1 team will be eliminated from playoff consideration this Saturday.

Couple of quick things:

  • Conference-only stats now, just MVFC games (unless stated otherwise)
  • Ranking numbers for stats are within the MVFC (unless stated otherwise)
  • I will often round to the nearest yard for things like yards per game

All times are 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, November 10th
11:00 AM – #18 Northern Iowa (5-4, 4-2 MVFC) at Youngstown State (3-6, 2-4 MVFC), ESPN+
12:00 PM – Illinois State (5-4, 2-4 MVFC) at Indiana State (5-4, 3-3 MVFC), ESPN3
1:00 PM – #23 Western Illinois (5-4, 4-2 MVFC) at South Dakota (3-6, 2-4 MVFC), ESPN+
1:00 PM – #6 South Dakota State (6-2, 4-2 MVFC) at Southern Illinois (2-7, 1-5 MVFC), ESPN+
2:00 PM – #1 North Dakota State (9-0, 6-0 MVFC) at Missouri State (4-5, 2-4 MVFC), ESPN+

Northern Iowa at Youngstown State

The Series: The Panthers and Penguins have faced off 28 times going back to 1978 with UNI holding the 21-8 series lead. In games at Youngstown, UNI has a 9-4 advantage, although the home team has won the last five meetings, 3 at UNI, 2 at YSU. Last year’s game was a 19-14 win for the Panthers.

UNI’s Record: Northern Iowa is 5-4 overall with a 4-2 conference record. They started off the season with losses at Montana and at FBS Iowa, then a home shutout win over Hampton. In-conference, they have beaten Indiana State, South Dakota, South Dakota State, and Illinois State (last weekend’s game), and have lost to North Dakota State and Western Illinois.

YSU’s Record: Youngstown State is 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the MVFC. Their season started with a loss to Butler, a loss at FBS West Virginia, then a win over Valparaiso. In the MVFC, they have wins over Southern Illinois and South Dakota, and losses against Western Illinois, South Dakota State, Indiana State, and last Saturday at North Dakota State.

About Northern Iowa: UNI’s offense ranks 7th in MVFC games in yards per game, but is 4th in points. They lean towards the passing game, putting up 248 ypg through the air but only 139 ypg on the ground. QB Eli Dunne averages 144 ypg with 9 passing TDs and 4 INTs with TE Briley Moore leading the team with a 59 ypg receiving average and 2 TDs. On the ground, RB Marcus Weymiller is #6 in the conference with 83 ypg and 3 TDs and RB Trevor Allen is at #10 with 60 ypg and 3 TDs. The Panther defense is slightly above “average” in total defense and points allowed, and is much better at stopping a ground game (4th) than a passing attack (9th). LB Duncan Ferch picks up 8.8 tackles per game and is second in the MVFC in defending passes  with a 1.67 per game average. LB Rickey Neal Jr. is #2 in the conference in sacks, averaging just under 1 per game (5.5 in 6 games) and has forced 2 fumbles in the 6 MVFC games.

About Youngstown State: YSU’s offense puts up even fewer yards than UNI’s (377/game) but is last in the conference in putting up points (19.2). Both their offensive run game and passing game rank 6th in MVFC contests. QB Montgomery VanGorder has been starting most of the season, so is the one showing up at the top of the stats lists for the Penguins, but it looks like QB Nathan Mays is projected to start this game instead (he played some in the last two games). I don’t have great numbers for him for this season, since he’s only been playing sparingly, but over this year he’s played in 3 games, has a 57% completion rate with 1 TD and 0 INTs (on 28 passes) and has an efficiency rating of 130.4, which currently would put him around 8th in the MVFC. WR Jermiah Braswell has 18 receptions this season with a 17.2 ypc average for 52 ypg and 2 TDs. RB Tevin McCaster is the biggest name on YSU’s offense, running for 96 ypg and 5 TDs. McCaster is also currently 43 yards away from his second consecutive 1k+ rushing yardage season. The Penguins are, in general, much better on defense than they are on offense ranking 4th in total defense and 6th in scoring defense and having the #1 pass defense allowing only 202 ypg. LB Armand Dellovade is the star on that side of the ball, with 9.7 tackles per game (and had 16 against NDSU last weekend) and DT Savon Smith has 3.5 sacks in 6 games.

My Take: I think that, overall, UNI is a better team than YSU, although YSU’s defense really impressed me last weekend against NDSU and showed that they’re not giving up on a strong finish to the season. UNI, however, is fighting for a playoff spot and needs to close out the season with two more wins to reasonably be assured an at-large spot. I think they’ll be able to do it, pulling out a win by a TD, 28-21.

Illinois State at Indiana State

The Series: The battle of the ISU’s has taken place 69 times starting back in 1936. Illinois State has a 37-30-2 advantage in the series and has only lost twice in the last 10 years. Last year’s matchup was a 24-13 victory for the Redbirds in Normal.

ILSU’s Record: The Redbirds are 5-4 with a 2-4 conference record. They started the season with three straight wins against NAIA Saint Xavier, Eastern Illinois, and at FBS Colorado State. In the MVFC, they have wins over Western Illinois and Southern Illinois and losses to Missouri State, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and last week lost to Northern Iowa by 10.

INSU’s Record: The Sycamores are also 5-4 although they have a 3-3 conference record. They had a win over DII Quincy, lost at FBS Louisville, and like ILSU, have a win over Eastern Illinois. In conference, they have wins over Southern Illinois, Youngstown State, and last weekend’s 3OT win over South Dakota. Losses were against Northern Iowa, South Dakota State, and Missouri State.

About Illinois State: On offense, the Redbirds are 9th in the conference in total offense and 7th in scoring. The ground game is right about in the middle of the pack averaging 160 ypg, and in the passing game they’re a little below average, sitting at 7th with 207 ypg. QB Brady Davis looks like he’ll be the starter this weekend after missing the last game and a half due to an injury. He’s averaging 170 ypg with 9 TDs and 3 INTs. His top targets are WR Spencer Schnell with 68 ypg and 5 TDs and R-Freshman WR Andrew Edgar who has 64 ypg with 3 TDs. On the ground, RB James Robinson is the top active RB in the conference, averaging 97 ypg with 5 TDs. For the season, Robinson is 39 yards from hitting 1,000 rushing yards. The Redbird defense is #2 in the MVFC in both points allowed (22.5) and yards allowed (339 ypg). They are #3 both against the run (118 ypg) and the pass (221 ypg). LB Zackary Mathews leads the team with 9 tackles per game and DE Romeo McKnight has 6.5 tackles for loss through 6 MVFC games. DBs Devin Taylor and Luther Kirk have 2 interceptions each and Taylor has 6 pass breakups.

About Indiana State: The Sycamores have the #1 run game in the conference (246 ypg) but the #8 passing game (201.5 ypg), which adds up to #1 in total offense (447 ypg) and #3 in scoring (32.5 ppg). Part of the high run game numbers is the contributions of RB Ja’Quan Keys, who was lost a few games ago due to injury. Despite having only played in 4 MVFC games, he’s still 3rd in the conference in total rushing yards and 1st in rushing TDs. Since Keys has been out, others have really picked up the slack, with QB Ryan Boyle accounting for 380 yards of total offense and 7 TDs (passing + rushing) in their game last week, for example. Boyle is averaging 88 ypg with 4 TDs…rushing (in MVFC games) and through the air, he’s putting up 155 ypg with 10 TDs. Their top WR is Dante Hendrix at 85 ypg with 4 TDs. On the other side of the ball, INSU is 8th in points allowed (33.7 ppg) and 9th in yards allowed (478 ypg). Their run defense is last in the conference (250 ypg allowed) but they’re 6th in pass defense (227.7 ypg). They do have a handful of big time playmakers, however, with LBs Jonas Griffith and Katrell Moss leading the MVFC in tackles per game with 13.8 and 12.5 per game respectively and DB Jamal Jones comes in at #4 with 10 per game and leads the conference in recovered fumbles with 3 in 6 MVFC games.

My Take: The Redbirds have lost three straight…Sycamores have won three straight. With both teams at 5-4, both still have a shot at the playoffs, but they both have to win out. That’s obviously not going to happen…someone’s going to win this game. INSU has momentum on their side, but ILSU has been playing the toughest teams in the conference the last few weeks. My heart kinda wants Indiana State to win this, because of the turnaround from last year’s winless season, but I think Illinois State is going to do just enough to win, 30-28.

Western Illinois at South Dakota

The Series: The Leathernecks and Coyotes have faced off 8 times starting with a home & home series in 1976 and ‘77 that were both wins for USD. The two teams have played every year since 2012, with all but last year’s contest being a win for the Leathernecks. Last year was a 38-33 win for the Coyotes at Macomb, but was also the game where WIU WR Jaelon Acklin set the conference record for receiving yards in a game (343, 4th best in FCS history) and receptions in a game (19).

WIU’s Record: Western Illinois is 5-4 with a 4-2 conference record. They started with a close loss at Montana State, loss at FBS Illinois, and a win over Montana. In the MVFC, they have victories over Youngstown State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, and last weekend against Southern Illinois, and losses against Illinois State and North Dakota State.

USD’s Record: South Dakota is 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the MVFC. Their non-conference games included a close loss at FBS K-State, a win over Northern Colorado, then a loss at Weber State. In-conference, they have wins over Southern Illinois and Missouri State, and their losses are against Northern Iowa, Youngstown State, North Dakota State, and last week’s 3OT battle against Indiana State.

About Western Illinois: In MVFC games, WIU sits at #5 in total offense (404 ypg) and #6 in scoring (28.3 ppg). The run game is near the bottom, only putting up an average of 118 ypg, but the passing game is the best in the conference, with 287 ypg. QB Sean McGuire has a 274 ypg average (2nd in the MVFC)  with 14 TDs and 7 interceptions. WR Isaiah Lesure sits at #2 in the conference with 91 ypg and 4 TDs receiving and RB Clint Ratkovich has picked up 54 ypg with 3 TDs. As I mentioned, the ground game hasn’t been great this year, but RB Steve McShane is really more of an “all-around” threat, with 63 ypg and 5 TDs on the ground, 34 ypg and 2 TD receiving, and averages 11.7 per punt return. The WIU defense is currently the best at limiting total yardage with a 327 ypg average, #1 at stopping the run (110 ypg) and #2 against the pass (217 ypg) although they’ve given up 28.3 ppg, which is 6th in the conference. They lead the conference in sacks with 22. Defensive leaders include LB Quentin Moon with 8.5 tackles per game and LB Pete Swenson who leads the conference in tackles for loss (2.75 per game) and sacks (1.5 per game). Moon and Swenson are also tied for #1 in the MVFC in forced fumbles, with 3 each through 6 games. DBs Xavier Rowe and Zach Muniz are #2 and #4 in the MVFC for defended passes.

About South Dakota: South Dakota’s offense is #3 at covering yardage (417 ypg) and is tied for #4 in scoring with 28.8 ppg. Like WIU, they lean heavily on the passing game, putting up 283 ypg (#2) through the air, but only 134 ypg (#8) on the ground. QB Austin Simmons is the top QB in the conference for average passing yards per game with 280 along with 9 TDs and 4 interceptions. Simmons has also run for 24 ypg and 1 TD. WRs Dakarai Allen (90 ypg w/ 3 TDs) and Levi Falck (45 ypg w/ 2 TDs) are the top receivers and RB Kai Henry gets most of the ground yardage, averaging 56 ypg with 5 TDs. Henry is also #2 in the conference at kick returns, averaging just over 28 yards per return. Their O-line has been an issue, however, giving up 20 sacks through 6 MVFC games. When the other team has the ball, USD gives up the third-most yards in the MVFC (476 ypg) and the most points (38.8 ppg). They’re stronger against the pass (5th) than they are against the running game (9th). DB Andrew Gray leads the Coyotes in tackles with 9 per game with twin brother LB Alex picking up 7.7 per game. DB Mark Collins leads the conference in defended passes, averaging 2.4 per game with 1 interception.

My Take: WIU generally seems to do well playing in Vermillion and is still in the hunt for a playoff spot. USD is already out of playoff consideration at this point, but that just means they’ve got nothing to lose and would love to be the spoiler to Western. I think the offenses are fairly comparable between the two teams, but WIU’s defense has been playing pretty well, especially lately. Any team in the MVFC can be dangerous if you underestimate them but I think that having last-place SIU nearly knock off WIU last weekend will be the wake-up call that the Leathernecks need to push through. I think that it’ll be a close game, but that Western Illinois will stay ahead just enough to win by a couple of FGs, 34-28.

South Dakota State at Southern Illinois

The Series: The Jackrabbits and Salukis have played 8 times starting in 2008 with SDSU holding a 5-3 series lead. SIU won the first two meetings, before SDSU took over and won 5 out of the last 6. Last year’s game was a 49-14 Jackrabbit win in Brookings.

SDSU’s Record: South Dakota State is 6-2 with a 4-2 conference record. Their first game at FBS Iowa State was cancelled due to weather, then they beat both Montana State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff at home. In the MVFC, they have wins over Indiana State in OT, Youngstown State, Illinois State, and last Saturday against Missouri State. Their losses came against North Dakota State and Northern Iowa.

SIU’s Record: Southern Illinois is 2-7 this season and 1-5 against the MVFC. Non-conference matchups included a win over Murray State, loss at FBS Ole Miss, and a close loss to non-conference rival Southeast Missouri State. They have a conference win over Missouri State and losses against South Dakota, Youngstown State, Illinois State, Indiana State, and last weekend against Western Illinois

About South Dakota State: SDSU has the #2 offense in the MVFC in both scoring (35.5 ppg) and total yardage (421 ypg), with the #4 run game (188 ypg) and #5 passing game (232 ypg). They’re led by QB Taryn Christion, who counts for pretty much all of the passing yards, has 14 TDs and 6 interceptions, and is decent at running the ball, picking up 27 ypg with 3 TDs. The top RB is Mikey Daniel with 51 ypg and 3 TDs, while R-Freshman RB Pierre Strong Jr. has really picked up steam since Isaac Wallace went down to injury, having a 136 yard & 2 TD performance last week. WRs Cade Johnson (86 ypg, 5 TDs) and Adam Anderson (66 ypg, 5 TDs) are both in the top 10 of the MVFC. The offensive line is exceptional, limiting MVFC teams to a league-fewest 6 total sacks in 6 games and overall the offense is the least-penalized with only 41 yards per game in penalty yards. PK Chase Vinatieri may not be the most accurate FG kicker in the conference, but has a pretty serious range, making FGs from as far as 57 yards this season. The SDSU defense is good at limiting scoring (3rd w/ 23 ppg) despite giving up a decent number of yards (6th w/ 376 ypg). They’re 4th against the pass in MVFC games and 5th against the run. LB Christian Rozeboom leads the team with 6.7 tackles per game with DL Ryan Earith sitting at #3 in the conference in tackles for loss, averaging 1.25 per game. DB Jordan Brown defends passes at a rate of 1.17 per game, with 2 interceptions.

About Southern Illinois: The Saluki offense puts up 23.7 ppg (8th) against MVFC teams and is 7th in total yards (382 ypg), with much of it coming from their ground game where they are 3rd in the conference at 196 ypg. The passing game is 9th at 186 ypg. QB Matt DeSomer was given the starting job a few games ago and in those 3 games, has averaged 193 ypg through the air with 6 TDs and 2 interceptions, and has averaged 81 ypg with 1 TD rushing. Their other main rusher is RB DJ Davis, who is #7 in the MVFC with 74 ypg and 4 TDs. WR Raphael Leonard gets most of the receiving yards with 73 ypg and 1 TD, but TE Nigel Kilby also contributes to the short passing game, with 41 ypg and 4 TDs. On defense, SIU gives up the 7th fewest points and total yards in the conference, at 32 ppg and 425 ypg. They’re also 7th both against the run and against the pass. They’re decent at putting pressure on opposing QBs, sitting at 3rd for sacks (15 total in 6 games) and tied for 2nd for number of interceptions with the most interception return yards, picking up 176 yards and a TD off of 8 interceptions. LB Bryce Notree is their tackle leader, averaging 8.3 per game and DE Anthony Knighton is tied for 4th in the conference for sacks (4 in 6 games). DB Jeremy Chinn currently leads the conference in interceptions with 3 and has returned them for a total of 95 yards (also #1 in the MVFC).

My Take: SIU very nearly came away with a win last weekend against a decent WIU team, while SDSU absolutely crushed Missouri State. I feel like SIU might have a bit of a let-down after last weekend’s heartbreaking loss. I think South Dakota State should fairly solidly win this game, although it’ll be a bit closer than their game last week. My prediction is a 38-23 Jackrabbit win.

North Dakota State at Missouri State

The Series: The Bison and Bears have faced off 10 times beginning in 2008. NDSU has the 8-2 advantage in the series and have won the last 7 straight. MSU’s wins came in 2009 and 2010. Last year’s matchup was a 38-11 win for NDSU in Fargo.

NDSU’s Record: 9-0…6-0 in the conference. Non-conference wins over Cal Poly, North Alabama, and Delaware (all in Fargo). Wins at home against South Dakota State, Illinois State, and last weekend against Youngstown State, with road wins at Northern Iowa, Western Illinois, and South Dakota.

MSU’s Record: The Bears are 4-5 this season, with a 2-4 conference record. They opened the season with a loss at FBS Oklahoma State, a win over DII Lincoln University, and a win over Northern Arizona. In the MVFC, they have wins over Illinois State and Indiana State, and losses to South Dakota, Western Illinois, Southern Illinois, and their game last weekend at South Dakota State.

About North Dakota State: The NDSU offense ranks 4th in total offense (416 ypg) with the #2 run game (238 ypg) and last-place passing offense (177.3 ypg). The thing is, they don’t have to have a great passing offense in terms of big numbers when their ground game is so good and their offensive efficiency is also #1 in the conference. That just means that when QB Easton Stick does pass, he usually does it well and makes very few mistakes (only 2 INTs). For scoring, NDSU is #1 in the conference at 35.8 ppg. QB Stick averages 159 ypg with 11 TDs (and the 2 INTs) and WR Darrius Shepherd is the #1 receiver in the conference at 96 ypg with 4 TDs. Otherwise, it’s all about the ground game, with RBs Lance Dunn (83 ypg w/ 5 TDs), Bruce Anderson (65 ypg), and the QB Stick (49 ypg w/ 6 TDs) all in the top 15 in the conference for rushing yards. Shepherd is also at the top of the conference for punt returns, averaging 19.7 yards per return. The O-line does their part, allowing only 8 sacks (tied for #2 in the conference) in 6 MVFC games and Punter Garret Wegner helps the field position battle with a 43.3 yard average on 30 punts with 12 inside the 20. The Bison defense is also #1 in allowing points, giving up only 15 per game, and are #3 in total yards allowed (350 ypg). They’re #2 at stopping the run (111 ypg) but have been vulnerable to a good passing game at times, giving up 239 ypg through the air (8th). They are #2 in the conference at sacking opposing QBs (17 sacks) and are #1 in interceptions (10). No one specific player gets a huge number of tackles, but everyone does pretty much exactly what’s needed. LB Jabril Cox leads the team with 7 tackles per game and also has 3 sacks and LB Dan Marlette is just behind him with 6.8 tackles per game. DE Greg Menard is #3 in the MVFC for sacks with 5.5 through 6 games, and DB’s Jalen Allison, Robbie Grimsley, and James Hendricks have 2 interceptions each.

About Missouri State: The Bears have a pretty good passing offense, sitting at #4 in the conference at 243 ypg. That’s…well…that’s kinda about it, as they’re last in rushing offense (117 ypg) and total yardage (360 ypg) and 2nd to last in points put on the board (19.2 ppg). QB Peyton Huslig is the star of the offense, passing for 238 ypg with 9 TDs and running for 34 ypg with 4 TDs…although he also has 9 interceptions. Doing most of the catching are WRs Tyler Currie and Lorenzo Thomas, who have 69 ypg (4 TDs) and 62 ypg (1 TD) respectively. On defense, MSU is giving up a league-worst 484 ypg, are particularly weak against the pass (10th, 251 ypg) and only slightly better against the run (8th, 233 ypg). They give up 36.8 points per game, 9th in the MVFC. LBs Angelo Garbutt and McNeece Egbim lead the team in tackles with 10.5 and 9.3 per game with DE Matt McClellan picking up 3.5 sacks in 6 games. S Jared Beshore has 2 interceptions against MVFC teams.

My Take: Despite NDSU struggling against YSU last weekend, they’re still pretty well “head and shoulders” above everyone else in the FCS. If anything, I think last week might be a “wake up call” for the Bison and they will step things up for the last couple of games of the season. Against MSU, they have the advantage in pretty well every aspect of the game, so I just don’t really see this being a close game. NDSU doesn’t completely blow anyone out usually…once their up by a few scores, they usually take their foot off the gas and let their defense and punishing ground game just grind away until the game is over. I see this one being about like that, and NDSU coming away with something resembling a 36-10 win.

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Father, runner, drum corps alumnus. Former member of the Western Illinois Marching Leathernecks. Following Leatherneck football and I-AA/FCS football since 1996.

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