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MVFC Football Week 9 Power Rankings
Another team opted out this week as the MVFC continued to trudge along in this weird spring season. The league has now completed just five of the fifteen originally scheduled spring games over the last three weeks and two of the league’s top three teams have not played in almost a month. Western Illinois became the third MVFC team to opt out of the spring and the second (along with Illinois State) to do it midseason. One has to wonder if Indiana State had the right idea in avoiding this mess. UNI coach Mark Farley said he would have opted out preseason if he would have known how the season was going to go down (although I can’t be sure if he was talking more about UNI sucking or all the cancellations). Still the league and the FCS at large trudge on with one more week left until the 16-team playoff field will be announced. At least five MVFC teams still hold out hope they will be included in the field. Here are the rankings for this week.
Week 9: MVFC Power Rankings
1.) South Dakota State (No Change), 4-1, STATS #4: For the third week in a row, SDSU was unable to take the field. This time it was COVID in the South Dakota program (their scheduled opponent for the week) that got their game cancelled. South Dakota State was unable to avenge their upset loss at the hands of the Coyotes in 2019, and more importantly they lost a resume building opportunity. While the Jackrabbits are highly rated and well thought of, they may have to perform well against NDSU in Fargo this week to feel great about their playoff chances. A loss makes the Jacks just 4-2 with losses to both of the league’s other top teams. A 44-3 win at SIU is pretty good, but is it good enough to snag one of the five at-large bids? Maybe. But if they don’t want any Selection Day drama, the Jackrabbits need to win the Dakota Marker on Saturday. That is easier said than done in normal times, let alone in a situation where you are playing in a pandemic and haven’t taken the field in nearly a month.
2.) North Dakota State (No Change), 5-1 (6-1), STATS #2: It was ugly at times, but NDSU got a 23-20 win over UNI at the UNI-Dome to all-but secure a spot in the FCS playoffs. Zeb Noland continued to be only OK against the UNI defense, completing 8 of 16 passes for 154 yards and a TD. The Bison won this game as they have won most of their games this season, by controlling the ground game and playing solid defense. Hunter Luepke ran for 95 yards on 19 carries and the team pounded out 155 yards on 41 carries overall. The defense did their job in containing UNI’s run game and shutting down QB Will McElvain. They got off to a bit of a slow start with two punts and a missed field goal on their first three possessions, trailing UNI 6-0. But a kickoff return late in the half, and a quick field goal drive in the final 30 seconds of the half featuring a 61-yard pass put them ahead 10-6. Neither team could do much early in the second half and it took until very late in the third quarter for NDSU to score on a two play 41-yard drive to make it 17-6. UNI’s offense then awoke from a deep slumber and scored a TD of their own(with the assistance of a big PI call that negated a turnover). The Bison then drove down the field once again on a 12-play, 71-yard drive to make it 23-12. UNI scored again to make it 23-20, but there wasn’t enough time for a follow up as NDSU recovered the onside kick attempt. The Panthers did get the ball back with a minute to go, but the NDSU defense shut down their final effort to hold on for the win. The Bison now (theoretically) will face SDSU in a huge FCS showdown on Saturday. NDSU can clinch their 11th consecutive MVFC title with a win and guarantee themselves a playoff spot in the process.
3.) North Dakota (No Change), 4-1, STATS #6: The Fighting Hawks originally scheduled game against Illinois State was cancelled when the Redbirds opted out of the season a few weeks ago. Like SDSU, the North Dakota has not taken the field since March 20th after three consecutive games have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID and opt outs. They’ll head to Youngstown State on Saturday with a record of 4-1. They have a solid win over SDSU and another very good win against SIU on their resume. If they can avoid a trip up against the Penguins, North Dakota should feel pretty good about their chances of snagging one of the at-large bids (if they don’t win the automatic bid with an SDSU win over NDSU). However, playing Youngstown is tricky as they showed in nearly upsetting SDSU. Should the Hawks slip up (and they’ll have gone over a month without playing when they take the field) they’ll be squarely on the bubble and sweating it out on selection Sunday.
4.) Missouri State (No Change), 5-1 (5-4), STATS #14: The Missouri State Bears are MVFC Champions! Congrats to the Bears, their fans and everyone else involved. My suggestion is to celebrate this accomplishment this week as if it is the end of your season. Unfortunately, there is a decent chance today’s 21-10 win over Youngstown State will be the last game you play this year. There is no telling what the committee will do with the Bears and the MVFC at large. But with no wins against the top three teams in the league and three fall losses it isn’t looking likely that MSU will get the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, there is reason to celebrate. This was not a game MSU statistically dominated. They outgained the Penguins by only one yard (268-267), and they were only able to amass 82 yards through the air. QB Jaden Johnson was only able to complete six of twelve passes for 73 yards (and two TDs) and Matt Struck was even worse going 1-6 for nine yards. Penguin running back Jaleel McLaughlin was still able to get his, netting 100 yards on 20 carries. But MSU had a better day on the ground overall with 186 total yards including 99 on 22 carries from Celdon Maning. QB Jalen Johnson added 56 yards himself. The game started off slowly with five punts and a missed field goal between the two teams to start the game. Youngstown finally hit a field goal in the second quarter but MSU answered with a huge 15-play 85-yard TD drive to take a 7-3 lead into the break. The Bears took that momentum back out onto the field in the second half with a TD on their first two second half possessions to make it 21-3. They mostly cruised from there, turning it over on downs once and punting twice in their remaining possessions. But it was enough. Youngstown got it to 21-10 with a TD drive in the 4th quarter, but a fumble on their next drive sealed the game and league title for the Bears. Conference champions for the first time since 1990, the Bears’ regular season is over. They’ll hold out hope they aren’t finished and root for Youngstown State and NDSU next week to improve their odds of making the playoff field. It is a longshot but not an impossibility that we will see the Bears on the field once again this spring.
5.) Southern Illinois (No Change), 3-3 (4-3), STATS #18: The Salukis had a second game cancelled this week because their opponents took their ball and went home. SIU was scheduled to play Illinois State on April 3 and Western Illinois this week. Both teams quit before they could take the field against SIU. With no games scheduled for this week as well, it appeared the Southern Illinois season was over. But SIU went out and scheduled a nonconference game with Southeastern Louisiana in Carbondale. It is an interesting move as both teams are currently sitting on the outskirts of the playoff bubble. The winner would presumably get a boost into playoff contention while the loser would be dealt a knockout blow. It is actually a pretty good idea as both teams have everything to gain and nothing to lose. While SIU does look to be on the outside looking in with blowout losses to UND and SDSU as well as a loss to Mo State, they do have the marquee blowout win over North Dakota State. They’re hoping for a little magic at the end of the year.
6.) Northern Iowa (No Change), 3-4, STATS RV: The Panthers season came to an end this week and they went out doing what they loved: playing a boring almost unwatchable style of football and losing a close game. After missing two weeks due to COVID, Will McElvain returned as QB1 for some reason and the Panthers kept it close with NDSU before ultimately losing, 23-20. McElvain was his usual average self, completing 14 of 27 passes for a somewhat-above-average 193 yards. Tyler Hoosman added 70 yards on 23 carries on the ground. The UNI defense held NDSU to 309 yards while the offense was able to put up 291 yards of their own and both teams played turnover free football. UNI started the game up 6-0 after they engineered two field goal drives on their first three possessions while forcing NDSU to punt or miss a field goal on their first three. However, the game turned on a kickoff return TD by NDSU after the Panthers’ second field goal. UNI allowed a field goal drive as time expired in the half, with NDSU throwing a 61-yard pass with less than 30 seconds left to make it 10-6. The Panther offense punted in each of its first three second half possessions moving the ball for a total of negative seven yards in the process. After NDSU broke through with a TD to make it 17-6, UNI finally responded with a TD of their own to make it 17-12. NDSU then drove 12 plays in 71 yards converting two big third and longs to make it 23-12 to more-or-less put the game away. UNI did respond with a TD of their own to make it 23-20. The Panther defense held NDSU on the next drive giving UNI the ball on their own three with a minute to go, but the Panthers predictably failed to move the ball on the “drive” and turned it over on downs after four plays. NDSU won 23-20. UNI’s season that started with the Panthers ranked as the #3 team in the nation came to a merciful end as NDSU kneeled it out. Panther fans can look forward to more frustrating Farleyball in the fall.
7.) Youngstown State (No Change), 1-5, STATS NR: The Penguins had a decent performance statistically against Missouri State this week. But they were effectively blown out by the third quarter. Youngstown trailed 21-3 early in the second half before ultimately falling to the Bears 21-10. Jaleel McLaughlin continued to show that he is one of the best backs in the league, running for a clean 100 yards on 20 carries. Joe Craycraft was under center for YSU for the first time since week two. He also had a clean 100 yards on 10 of 24 passing, adding a TD. After a slow start to the game in which the Penguin defense held MSU to a punt on their first three possessions, YSU finally broke through with a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. It was all downhill from there for Youngstown. Missouri State would score TDs on their next three full drives giving them a 21-3 lead late in the third quarter. Meanwhile Youngstown punted twice and turned the ball over on downs. They finally broke through in the fourth with a 5-play, 58-yard TD drive to get the score to 21-10. However, that was where the score would remain until the final horn. The Penguins fumbled on their next possession and turned it over on downs with their final gasp. YSU has one more game to go at home against North Dakota on Saturday in a contest that means more to the Fighting Hawks than it does for the Penguins. They’ll look to play spoiler on senior day.
8.) South Dakota (No Change), 1-3, STATS NR: With the SDSU game getting cancelled and their final opponent, Western Illinois, opting out of the season the Coyotes have wrapped up the 2021 spring slate. It was a running joke that the football Gods didn’t want the Coyotes to play any home games this year but that joke has warped into a reality. Their opening game against WIU at home was postponed to the end of the season due to COVID amongst the Leathernecks, then cancelled later on when WIU opted out. Their home game against NDSU was cancelled due to COVID with the Bison, and their home game against UNI was cancelled due to COVID in their own program. South Dakota ends the season with four straight cancellations and a 1-3 overall record. They played just one game in the newly renovated Dakotadome. But they did have a true freshman QB emerge and some experience moving into the fall. We’ll see you then, Yotes.
And there you have it. One week to go and everything to play for. I want to see a #FourBidValley. Go do it.