That has been Drake’s lone conference loss and the Bulldogs opponent this week is Jacksonville, who has not lost a game yet within PFL play.
By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Coluimnist
College Sporting News
This week’s game between Drake and Jacksonville in Des Moines will likely determine the victor in this one getting a least a share of the title.
How have each of these teams come into this game?
Jacksonville looked as if they were a team that would challenge for a postseason berth. They still might should they win out, but losses to begin the season at Western Illinois and The Citadel, who are both towards the bottom of their respective leagues, likely means a Pioneer Football League championship is the best they can do.
But after two opening season losses, the Dolphins have won six straight games including defeating the Big South’s Charleston Southern and last year’s co-PFL champion Dayton. Overall, the Dolphins sit at 6-2 overall and a perfect 5-0 in league play.
Drake lost just that game against San Diego in league play, and also lost to the Great West’s North Dakota while defeating two lower division schools in Grand View (IA) and Missouri S&T. Drake sits at 7-2 overall and 5-1 in league play and has this game, along with long-time PFL rival Dayton, also at home.
The Bulldogs are led by senior quarterback Mike Piatowski who has thrown for 2,455 yards this season and 19 touchdown passes. His leading receiver, Nathan Paddock, has 41 catches for 631 yards and six touchdowns.
Jacksonville enters the game ranked 16th nationally and first in the PFL against the pass on defense.
Offensively, the Dolphins will rely on senior quarterback Josh McGregor who has thrown nine touchdown passes in his last two games with a total of 22. He has 109 for his career which is tied for seventh on the all-time FCS list.
With two more TD tosses, McGregor will tie himself for third on the school’s touchdown pass list with 24. He also is first and second with 32 in 2010, and 31 in 2009.
Will the home field mean anything for Drake this week?
Yes, the Bulldogs have won their last eight games at Drake Stadium. Also, Jacksonville has never before defeated Drake in Iowa. The Dolphins are just 2-8 all-time against Drake in their history.
If the last two games are any indication on how this game will go, it will be a close one. Jacksonville defeated Drake 45-38 last year but the Bulldogs won 39-35 in 2009.
The weather forecast right now appears to be good for a mid-Iowa November day with a high Saturday in the low to mid 60s, but with some gusty winds possible.
That's not too bad for a team coming from Florida to the middle part of the country.
Should the Pioneer Football League champion have a spot in the FCS playoffs?
While these two teams are battling for the top spot in the league, I think the winner of this league is more than deserving of a playoff spot. The PFL champion played the Northeast Conference (NEC) champion for the Gridiron Classic for five years up until last year when the NEC was offered an automatic bid into the FCS postseason.
The PFL champion won four of the five contests played between the two conferences, so the level of play in the PFL has to be at least equal to that of the NEC.
Even in the latest Gridiron Power Index (GPI), the PFL ranks ahead of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and is just narrowly behind the NEC.
Jacksonville is ranked #58 and Drake is tied for the #74 spot currently. To put that into perspective, the top GPI team in the NEC is Albany at #47 and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference top team is Norfolk State at #48. Both of those league’s get their top team in the FCS postseason party so I don’t see why the PFL champion also doesn’t get their chance.
I know the arguments will be that the PFL champion will likely be sent home after the first round, but that is the case in (for example) the NCAA Division I basketball tournament for the smaller conference teams.
The PFL has proven in the past that they can compete with FCS scholarship conference teams and likely would be able to put not only a scare, but could surprise a first round opponent from time to time.
While the PFL champion likely will not get a chance this year to prove that it is worthy of being on the same field as one of the Top 20 teams in the country, it will still be fun to watch how these two teams on Saturday will perform for the right to be the PFL champion this year.
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CSN WEST GAMES OF THE WEEK
Jacksonville (6-2, 5-0 PFL) @ Drake (7-2, 5-1), 2:00pm Eastern
As mentioned above, this game likely will be a closely contested affair. The home field has meant a lot in the past several years. This will be a battle of two top PFL senior quarterbacks so I don’t think either team will have too much trouble scoring.
I believe that Drake will find a way to win this game to set up a log-jam in the PFL standings. I will take the Bulldogs by four.
Drake 45 Jacksonville 41
#1 North Dakota State (8-0, 5-0 MVFC) @ #11 Indiana State (5-3, 3-2), 2:04 Eastern
NDSU comes into this game after a hard-fought win over Northern Iowa last week in Fargo. The win over then #2 GPI ranked UNI and the loss of prior #1 Georgia Southern has the Bison now in the lead spot.
NDSU brings in one of the strongest defenses in the country but Indiana State counters with a strong offense that is balanced with the passing of Ronnie Fouch and the running of Shakir Bell.
NDSU’s offense is also a balanced attack with the throwing of Brock Jensen and the running of D.J. McNorton. I don’t believe Indiana State’s defense will be able to stop the Bison offense as much as the Indiana State offense will be stopped by the NDSU defense.
Even though Indiana State had a bye week to prepare for this game, I still think
NDSU will get their ninth notch in what will likely be a close game. I like the Bison by a touchdown.
North Dakota State 24 Indiana State 17