By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
It wasn't long ago when a Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule came out that opponents of Indiana State would drool at the chance to face the hapless Sycamores.
It was almost the sure victory for any opponent that would face the team from Terre Haute, IN.
Well, the times they are a changing.
That is what former Gateway Conference rival Western Kentucky found out on Saturday.
The hapless persona has now taken over for the former FCS power as they are now masquerading as a FBS team in the Sun Belt.
WKU left the Gateway — now the Missouri Valley Football Conference — after the 2006 season and have not done much at the higher level, winning just 10 games overall and just three against FBS opponents.
Indiana State not only beat WKU Saturday, it destroyed the Hilltoppers, 44-16.
This win should serve notice to the current MVFC squads as many found out last year that the phrase "certain win" combined with Indiana State is far from the truth this season.
How did the Sycamores beat Western Kentucky?
Sycamore quarterback Ronnie Fouch torched the Hilltopper defense for 227 yards and three touchdown passing, while running back Shakir Bell ran for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
The Sycamores seemed to dominate the supposedly higher subdivision team's offensive line the entire game and Indiana State's defense forced four turnovers.
The Sycamores' 44 points against Western Kentucky ties the school record for most points scored against an FBS school with a 44-point outburst in 1984 against Louisville.
Indiana State improved to 2-1 this season with the lone loss coming against another FBS team, Penn State.
It was the first time since 2004 that ISU won two non-conference games on a season (ISU has also beat in-state foe Butler this season).
The Sycamores defeated WKU for the first time since 1995 in what was their first FBS win since 2001 — a win over another masquerading FBS team in Eastern Michigan.
Is the turnaround that unexpected for Indiana State?
No, the Indiana State team under coach Trent Miles, who was part of the team when winning was commonplace for the Sycamores.
Miles was a wide receiver for the Indiana State that last played in the FCS playoffs in 1984.
The Sycamores began to turn things around last season, finishing at 5-6 and boasting wins over four MVFC foes, Illinois State, Missouri State, South Dakota State and Youngstown State.
It was quite a turnaround after Miles' team went 0-12 in 2008 and 1-10 in 2009.
In fact, Indiana State went 33 games from 2006 until a win in mid-2009 over Western Illinois without a win and hasn't posted a winning season since 1996.
What might we expect from this team the rest of this season?
Right now, ISU is not at the same caliber as some of the top MVFC teams, but wins over the same four teams that the Sycamores defeated last year do not seem out of the question.
In addition, I watched a Western Illinois team last Saturday get schooled by its FBS team in Missouri. A win against the Leathernecks also appears to be a possibility.
I donít know if ISU has enough power to compete against the three ranked MVFC teams of Northern Iowa, North Dakota State, and Southern Illinois, but these games should not be one sided.
Given that, a 7-4 record is not out of the question for Indiana State.
Remember, both Western Illinois and North Dakota State received at large FCS playoff bids a season ago with the same 7-4 marks, so a postseason spot may not be out of the question.
Even if ISU falls short of the postseason, the phrase "certain win" may be closer to what Indiana State does to its opponents rather than the other way around.
CSN West Games of the Week
Youngstown State (2-1) at Indiana State (2-1), 2:05 p.m. (All Times Eastern)
Like Indiana State, Youngstown State is looking for a season to get back to winning ways. The Penguins, so far, have done that.
YSU defeated Illinois State last week to equal its 2010 win total within MVFC after just a single game.
YSU is led by quarterback Kurt Hess, who tied a school record with four touchdown passes in the win at home against the other ISU team.
With Hess' performance and the aforementioned performance of Ronnie Fouch for the Sycamores, this game might be a passing dual.
This game should be high scoring but the home field might prove to be the deciding factor. I will take the Sycamores by a field goal. Indiana State 41 Youngstown State 38.
Montana State (2-1) at Eastern Washington (0-3), 7:07 p.m.
This is the home opener for the Eagles and most of the EWU faithful likely did not think their team would be looking for their first win of the season.
The Eagles have played well enough to likely be at least 2-1 coming into this game, but late-game turnovers have proven to be the downfall thus far for the defending national champions.
To say this is a most win would be an understatement for EWU.
After losing 17-14 at Montana last week, the Eagles will need to have a better performance from quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who seemed to shine last year in the fourth quarter rather than crumble like he has so far this season.
Montana State, which shared the Big Sky co-championship with Eastern Washington last season, has played well after falling at FBS Utah to open the season.
The Bobcats, who handed EWU its lone Big Sky defeat last year, blew out transitioning-D-II Minot (ND) State, 43-7, last week after thumping UC Davis, 38-14, at home the week before.
This game should be closer than the 30-7 win the Bobcats achieved last year.
So far, I haven't seen anyone defeat the Eagles on the red turf of Roos Field.
I will take the Eagles by a late touchdown to win. Eastern Washington 31 Montana State 24.