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MVFC Football Week 8 Power Rankings

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

From the very start, this season has had a bit of a “spring training” feel to it. No one else on the planet is playing football right now and it sort of feels like forcing a square peg into a round hole playing this spring season. The last couple weeks have really reaffirmed this feeling for me as only three of ten scheduled MVFC games have been played. With ISU opting out and a (seemingly FCS football program specific) outbreak over the Dakotas, none of the league’s top three playoff contenders have played for two weeks. This week’s slate was set to feature two games between the league’s top four teams to help weed out our playoff situation, but both contests were wiped out. Maybe I’m just bitter because my alma mater is struggling, but this season is starting to feel like a silly exercise to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I got to see some FCS football this year. But it just isn’t giving me the thrill that I usually have. There won’t be much to say, but here are this week’s power rankings.

Week 8: MVFC Power Rankings

1.) South Dakota State (No Change), 4-1, STATS #4: The Jackrabbits were set to play a massive top five contest against NDSU this week, but the game was postponed to April 17 due to COVID in the NDSU program. Fortunately there was still an opening on each team’s schedule to play this game at the end of the season instead of cancelling it outright, especially now that this weekend’s schedule game against South Dakota has been cancelled due to COVID in the USD program. The Bison-Jacks game is obviously going to be a huge game for MVFC playoff implications. At 4-1, the Jacks will need to beat the Bison in two weeks to feel assured of a playoff spot.

2.) North Dakota State (Up One), 4-1 (5-1), STATS #2: COVID in the Bison program has now cost NDSU both games against the schools from South Dakota. This week’s game with SDSU was pushed to April 17. The Bison now haven’t stepped on the field since March 20th. Unlike the USD game, this one was rescheduled, and it is a good thing too as that contest will be crucial for determining a league champion. NDSU will now turn their attention to a contest with UNI in Cedar Falls this Saturday. The UNI defense will be a tricky test for NDSU ahead of their big one against SDSU. At this point, a win over UNI probably gets the Bison into the playoffs regardless of what happens against the Jackrabbits. I went ahead and moved the Bison ahead of the Fighting Hawks despite both teams being idle, as I think UND’s missed chance against MSU paired with their open week next week against Illinois State now leaves them in a more vulnerable state than NDSU. UND probably needs to beat Youngstown to feel safe, while NDSU probably still gets in with an additional loss.

3.) North Dakota (Down One), 4-1, STATS #6: The Fighting Hawks had to cancel their scheduled contest at home against Missouri State due to COVID in their program. It is the second consecutive week COVID will keep them off the field. This game will not be rescheduled, either, since UND already has a game at Youngstown State in the books on April 17. This might have been a break for UND, as the Bears would have been chomping at the bit to claim a piece of the MVFC playoff pie. Conversely, a win for UND likely would have all but sewn up a playoff spot. Instead, the Hawks will now have a three-week hiatus before they return to the gridiron since this Saturday’s originally scheduled game against Illinois State has already been wiped off the books due to the Redbirds’ abandoning of their season. As it stands, they will return to play at Youngstown April 17. If they beat the Penguins, UND will be in great shape for a playoff berth but a loss to the pesky Penguins would leave them in trouble. I moved the Hawks behind NDSU as I think a three-week break leaves them more vulnerable than NDSU at this point.

4.) Missouri State (No Change), 4-1 (4-4), STATS #15: The Bears scheduled game against North Dakota this week was cancelled costing MSU a huge playoff resume building opportunity. What really sucks about the situation is that it isn’t even their fault. North Dakota was the program dealing with the COVID issues that got the game cancelled. The Bears have a 4-1 record in the spring, but their loss is a 25-0 home loss to the only likely playoff team they’ve faced. They didn’t have South Dakota State on the schedule, and now they don’t have North Dakota either. Instead, they have close wins over bad South Dakota and Western Illinois teams, a win over a underachieving UNI team, and their biggest win against Southern Illinois who is a good team but will also probably miss the playoffs. Pair that with an 0-3 fall record and it might not be enough to get over the hump. The Bears host Youngstown State this weekend. Assuming they win, they’ll finish the spring with a 5-1 record. They’ll need to root for teams like Northern Iowa and Youngstown State to beat NDSU and UND to help their chances. As of right now, I don’t see them getting in. Finding a way to add another decent game on April 17 wouldn’t hurt either (although it looks like they’re saying they won’t do that as of now).

5.) Southern Illinois (No Change), 3-3 (4-3), STATS #16: The Salukis were scheduled to face Illinois State this week, but the game was lost when ISU abandoned their season. SIU would probably still be in the playoff hunt with a normal 24-team field but I don’t see it happening for them as it stands. They are currently fifth in the MVFC pecking order with little opportunity to move up. Their attention is now on their final game against Western Illinois coming up this Saturday. They will be looking to finish the season strong and carry some momentum into the fall.

6.) Northern Iowa (Up One), 3-3, STATS #24: The Panthers were scheduled to go to the Dakotadome to take on South Dakota, but the game was cancelled due to COVID in the USD program. The biggest question remaining for UNI will be who will start their final scheduled game at home against NDSU on Saturday. Will McElvain started the Panthers’ first four games and led them to a 2-2 record, putting up mediocre stats in the process. Since McElvain has been out with COVID, redshirt freshman Justin Fomby has taken over the last two weeks and has gone 1-1. He too has put up middling statistics, but Panther fans see him as a stronger thrower. We’ll see who takes the field with the hope of pulling an upset on Saturday in the UNI-Dome.

7.) Western Illinois (Up Two), 1-5, STATS NR: All year long I have been saying that I didn't think Western Illinois would win a game this year. I talked about it like it was basically a foregone conclusion. I was wrong. In the lone MVFC game played this week, the Leathernecks rallied to beat the Youngstown State Penguins 27-24. As usual WIU relied on QB Connor Sampson to move the ball. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 301 yards and two TDs. They struggled, as usual, to maintain a running game but Ludovick Choquette put up probably their best running effort of the year with 62 yards on 16 carries. Western outgained Youngstown 364-362 and played turnover free football while forcing three turnovers by YSU. The Leathernecks got off to a solid start as they held the Penguins to a punt on their first possession, and then returned that punt to the house for a 7-0 lead. Youngstown answered with an 87-yard TD drive to tie the game, and then stopped WIU on fourth and goal at the one on their next possession. After two more punts, the half ended in a flurry as YSU scored to take a 14-7 lead and WIU answered with a 43-yard TD pass to make it 14-13 with less than two minutes to play. YSU then drove 75 yards in ten plays, scoring on the final play of the half to take a 21-13 lead into the break. They extended their lead to 24-13 with a field goal on their first drive of the second half, but it was all Leathernecks from there. They returned the ensuing kickoff for a TD to make it 24-19 and forced a YSU fumble on their next possession. WIU left points on the board by missing field goals on each of their next two possessions, but the often-maligned defense stood tall, forcing YSU to punt twice and then throw a pick on their next three possessions. WIU finally capitalized on the turnover, scoring on a 28-yard pass from Connor Sampson to Tony Tate to take a 27-24 lead. The defense sealed the win with a forced punt and an interception on the final two YSU possessions, allowing WIU to go into victory formation to seal the W. Western will head to Carbondale next week to face SIU.

8.) Youngstown State (Down Two), 1-5, STATS NR: The arrow was pointing up for the Penguins. After a couple of rough outings against NDSU and UNI to start the year, YSU took SIU to the wire in a 30-22 loss and had SDSU on the ropes losing 19-17 on a last second field goal. Then the Penguins took the South Dakota Coyotes to the woodshed in a 28-10 victory. Today in Macomb, however, that upward trajectory took a hit. YSU blew a double-digit lead, gave up two special teams TDs and committed three turnovers in a 27-24 loss to the previously winless Western Illinois Leathernecks. It was a rough start for the Penguins as their first punt of the game was returned for a TD to give WIU the lead. YSU responded two possessions later on a 73-yard TD run by Jaleel Mclaughlin to tie it up at 7. Momentum shifted even more towards YSU after they stopped the Leathernecks at the one-yard line on fourth down. Two possessions after that, the Penguins took a 14-7 lead on an eight play 50-yard drive. WIU then scored quickly to make it 14-13, but YSU drove down the field and scored on the final play of the half capping a 75-yard drive in 1:26 to take a 21-13 halftime lead. The Penguins kicked a field goal on their first possession of the second half but gave up a TD on the ensuing kickoff to make it 24-19. The YSU offense sputtered the rest of the way, fumbling, punting twice and throwing a pick on their next four possessions. They survived two WIU missed field goals during that time, but Western finally took advantage after the last interception by scoring a TD and taking a 27-24 lead. YSU was forced to punt on their next possession and threw a pick with their final try leading to the final margin of 27-24 in favor of the Leathernecks. YSU was only outgained by two yards and outgained Western on the ground 176-63. Jaleel Mclaughlin led the way with 122 yards on 17 carries. But the three turnovers, two kick return TDs allowed, and sputtering second half offense doomed the Penguins. They'll attempt to regroup at Missouri State next Saturday.

9.) South Dakota (Down One), 1-3, STATS NR: Last week I joked that the football Gods do not want South Dakota to play in their newly renovated dome. Their season opener was moved to the final week of the season due to COVID in the WIU program. Their next two games were road games. The finally got to host MSU (heartbreaking loss) before hitting the road again. Their next game was a home game with NDSU that was cancelled due to COVID. This week they were scheduled to face UNI. That game was also cancelled due to COVID in their program. Their game at SDSU was also cancelled, leaving USD as the reining winners of the USD-SDSU game. South Dakota will hope to take the field one last time at home against Western Illinois April 17.

Maybe we’ll see some actual flippin games next week! I won’t hold my breath. See you then.

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