Most years there is parity in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but I don’t think there has ever been a year like this year.
Through the first half of the 2010 season, we don’t have any clue who will win the title.
Of the nine schools in the league, right now, everyone has at least one loss and at least one win within league play. No other FCS league can make that claim at this point in the season.* In fact, no FBS conference can make that claim, either.
Just when you think you have a team figured out in this league, they wind up losing or winning the next week to leave you scratching your head.
What does the MVFC race look like right now?
Team Conference Overall
Western Illinois 2-1, 4-2
Southern Illinois 2-1, 3-3
Northern Iowa 2-1, 2-3
Indiana State 1-1, 3-2
Illinois State 2-2, 3-3
Missouri State 1-1, 2-3
N. Dakota State 1-2, 4-2
Youngstown State 1-2, 3-3
S. Dakota State 1-2, 1-4
The conference records of the second rated conference in the opening Gridiron Power Index (GPI) poll (behind the Colonial Athletic Conference) have scattered records of 2-1, 1-1, 2-2, and 1-2.
Overall, Western Illinois and North Dakota State have the best records for all of the their games with both at 4-2.
It is suprising with these two teams at the top as Western Illinois finished 2009 winless in the league and just 1-10 overall, while North Dakota State finished just 2-6 in league play and 3-8 overall.
In the GPI rankings, WIU is at tied at No. 11, NDSU is at No. 14, Northern Iowa is at No. 18 and Southern Illinois is at No. 19. These are the four teams in the Top 25 of the rankings right now.
What have been the suprising results so far?
We don’t have to go to far back to find the suprising results. Just last week, normal MVFC cellar dweller Indiana State proved it will not be a push over any more with its 59-24 win over Illinois State.
Also, previously winless South Dakota State defeated Western Illinois, which was previously undefeated in conference, 33-29.
Other results previously had normal MVFC powerhouses Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa lose home out-of-conference games to Southeast Missouri State and Stephen F. Austin respectively.
What do I think will happen this year the rest of the way?
This year, there does not seem to a completely dominant team like in the past.
Last year, Southern Illinois finished undefeated (8-0) in the league and South Dakota State (7-1) had just one loss to SIU. Those were the top two teams and the lone two teams to make the FCS playoffs.
This year, we already know no team will finish undefeated within league play and the champion could have at least two losses within league play.
This league I don’t believe has ever had more parity yet has some great teams nationally giving it the second best ranking.
As long as there are three teams with the required seven Division I victories, there will be three teams from the league make the playoffs this year, although I see none getting a top-five seed.
But we shall see this league has so many ups and downs that every week the race will look completely different.
One thing is for sure in this league, it will not be a dull ending in this wacky league.
CSN West Game of the Week
Montana State (5-1, 3-0) at Northern Arizona (3-2, 1-1), 5:05 p.m. (all times Eastern)
Unlike the Missouri Valley, the Big Sky race looks like Montana State’s to win right now, who are a point away from being undefeated right now overall (the loss was at FBS Washington State, 23-22).
Northern Arizona returns home after four straight road games where it finished 2-2. NAU is coming off a narrow loss to Eastern Washington 21-14.
MSU has won three straight in the series in Flagstaff, including a 25-23 win in 2008. NAU, however, won last year’s matchup in Bozeman 23-10.
MSU leads the Big Sky in scoring, rush and total offense. MSU is second in the nation in scoring and total offense. The Bobcats average 233.3 rushing yards per game and have a league-high 15 rushing touchdowns.
NAU, meanwhile, leads the league in rushing defense, allowing 80.4 yards per game. The Lumberjacks have allowed just four rushing touchdowns, tied for the league low.
MSU could be without electricfying freshman quarterback Denarius McGhee, who suffered a left foot sprain in the Bobcats 44-31 win over Portland State last weekend and his status for this game is uncertain.
If McGhee can’t go, it will be senior and former starter Cody Kempt under center. Kempt started started 14 games overall in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
The Lumberjacks also have a top quarterback in preseason All-American senior Michael Herrick, who has not put up glaring numbers thus far. The ex-Mississipi passer has 1,044 yards with six touchdowns, but also seven interceptions.
I think this game will be close like the last meeting between these schools in Flagstaff. This will likely be a medium-level scoring game. I just like how Montana State is playing right now and even if their starting quarterback is sidelined, I think they will gain another close win. I like the Bobcats by a field goal. Montana State 26 Northern Arizona 23.
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CSN West News & Notes
*Montana State rallied from and 18-3 deficit to beat Portland State 44-31 on Saturday in Bozeman. At 5-1, the Bobcats are off to their best start since 1978 when Sonny Lubick led MSU to seven straight victories to open his first season.
*Montana’s running back Chase Reynolds scored his 54th touchdown in the Grizzlies’ 47-28 win over Idaho State, becoming the school’s all-time leader. Reynolds has 48 rushing touchdowns and six on the receiving end. Reynolds’ 54 touchdowns is tied for fourth most in Big Sky history.
*For the second time this season, Idaho State’s Tavoy Moore returned a kick and a punt for a touchdown in the same game. The junior took a kick 100 yards for a score against Montana early in the fourth quarter. Later in the fourth quarter, Moore returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown and earned CSN all-star status as last week's top special teams performer.
*Sacramento State’s Bryan Hilliard recorded his fifth straight 100-yard rushing game in the Hornets’ 42-7 win over Northern Colorado. Hilliard rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He has 693 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his last five games.
*Montana State kicker Jason Cunningham leads the nation in field goals per game (2.33) and is second in scoring (11.5 points per game).
*Missouri State quarterback Cody Kirby rushed for four touchdowns in Missouri State’s game at Murray State, a 72-59 loss — matching a season single-game best in the MVFC. Only five players in league history (WIU’s Travis Glasford did it twice) have rushed for more than four TDs in a game previously.
*North Dakota State quarterback Jose Mohler’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Justin Howard with :34 left gave North Dakota State a 34-29 victory at Youngstown State. Mohler was 11-for-14 passing for 192 yards and three touchdowns.
*South Dakota State knocked down a pass in the end zone on the final play and held on for a 33-29 win over Western Illinois. SDSU’s Thomas O’Brien threw a 13-yard pass to Colin Cochart for the lead with 1:36 remaining.
*South Dakota running back Chris Ganious had 142 yards and South Dakota led in the fourth quarter last week, only to fall to UC Davis, 17-13.