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MVFC Week 2 Primer

All eleven MVFC teams are in action this week. Below you’ll find a preview of each matchup and my prediction for the game. I am 10/10 in my predictions so far after I correctly predicted the winner of every game in my week 1 primer. However, I ultimately underestimated the league. While I was pretty close on some scores, I was way off on others, and it was usually because the MVFC squad out-performed my expectations. Never again. Armed with a renewed confidence in the MVFC’s FCS dominance I am going to become an even bigger homer than I was before. But is it even possible to be too big an MVFC homer? If all we do is win against FCS and take top 25 FBS teams to the brink, at some point you stop being a homer and just start being a guy stating facts.

Here is what to look for next week:

-#9 North Dakota (1-0) @ Utah State (1-0) – Friday, 8pm: The week opens with this MWC-MVFC matchup between 9th ranked North Dakota and Utah State who were picked to finish 5th of 6 in the Mountain Division of their league. The Mountain West had a bit of a mixed bag in week one. Their flagship team, Boise State, blew a big lead in a loss to UCF. UNLV and Colorado State suffered losses to FCS teams while Wyoming and New Mexico avoided an FCS loss by a whisker. On the other side, though, Fresno State nearly upset #11 Oregon, Nevada beat Cal, and these Utah State Aggies rallied past the Pac 12’s Washington State Cougars. The Aggies should be flying high and full of confidence when they host the Fighting Hawks on Friday, and quite frankly that is right where UND will want them. North Dakota should have their fair share of confidence as well, and already have a road win of their own under their belts. Color me unimpressed with a win over Washington State. I still think this is a game UND will win, and with the Aggies getting that W against Washington State they will probably feel a bit like a W will be easy here. I don’t think it will be. I think this will be a battle and the outcome will not be in doubt until late in the game.

My Prediction: North Dakota 27, Utah State 26

-Indiana State (1-0) @ Northwestern (0-1) – Saturday, 11am: Indiana State played and won their first game in two years in week zero, and have had two weeks to prepare for a Wildcats team that got pretty well thrashed by Michigan State in week one. Despite this reality, it feels like NU (who has lost to an MVFC team already this decade) will probably overlook the Sycamores a bit. That would be a dumb move by a bunch of smarty-pants Northwestern students. That said, I don’t know if ISU is going to have the mustard to keep up with Northwestern for four quarters. Despite the win, the Sycamores were statistically outplayed by Eastern Illinois in game one, and the Panthers are picked to finish last in the OVC. Good discipline (zero turnovers to three) won them the game, but that won’t be enough here. ISU is going to have to make some plays and they will need more from their new QB to have a chance in this one. Northwestern has played in the B1G title game two of the last three years. This team isn’t as good as those, but its still probably good enough to beat the team picked tenth in the Valley. Whether they properly estimate them or not.

My Prediction: ISU plays well at the start, but Northwestern pulls away just before or just after halftime. Wildcats win 31-17.

-Youngstown State (1-0) @ Michigan State (1-0) – Saturday, 11am: Kicking off simultaneously with the ISU/NU game will be this contest between the Penguins of Youngstown and the B1G’s Michigan State Spartans. Both teams will come into this riding high. Youngstown won an overtime thriller over UIW to open the season and Michigan State got an easy conference win on the road in their victory over Northwestern. The Spartans were not supposed to be very good this season, picked in the preseason to finish 7th out of seven in their division, but they are off to an outstanding start. Youngstown State was also not supposed to be very good, picked 9th in the MVFC. Jaleel McLaughlin will be one of the best players on the field for either team, and it will be interesting to see how he follows up his monster performance against UIW. He won’t likely put up the same kinds of numbers, but he will get a chance to perform on a big stage and show the world what he can do. While McLaughlin will be one of the better players in the game, most of the other guys on the “best players in this game” list will be wearing green. QB Crenshaw is going to need to have a career day, and the Penguin defense will need to do much better than they did in week one for YSU to pull it out.

My Prediction: I think Michigan State’s talent will overwhelm and they will pull away, 38-20.

-Northern Arizona (0-1) @ South Dakota (0-1) – Saturday, 1pm: Oh look! An FCS vs. FCS game! Hooray! South Dakota technically opened the newly renovated Dakotadome last year in their single spring home game that actually got played. But this game feels like the true grand opening. The renovated digs look sharp, and along with a new-ish outdoor practice USD’s facilities are now in line with the rest of the MVFC. Throw in the six-year-old newish arena, the new track complex and the new soccer complex and USD has some of the most up-to-date facilities of a school that size in the nation. They also come into this one with a little bit of confidence after nearly picking off a Big 12 school in week one. They had the upset of Kansas in their grasp before a long KU drive (aided by several USD mistakes) ended in the game winning TD in a 17-14 loss. Northern Arizona, picked 7th out of 13 in the Big Sky preseason poll, hosted the defending champs Sam Houston State in week one. They took a pretty solid thumping, 42-16, in game that was exactly as one-sided as it looked. Northern Arizona probably faced the better team of these two in week one, but USD still had the better performance. There is still some concern over whether freshman Carson Camp will be the guy long-term under center as he only completed 10-22 passes for 98 yards in the opener. USD was able to run the ball effectively with two freshman backs leading the way, and their defense looks to be stout. That should be enough against a middle-of-the-road Big Sky team at home.

My Prediction: This one will be competitive, but I am going with the Coyotes, 31-21.

-Valparaiso (0-1) @ #5 North Dakota State (1-0) – Saturday, 2:30pm: There are a couple of full-on mismatches on the MVFC schedule this week and this is one of them. It is almost painful to write about. Valparaiso, newly christened the Beacons and members of the MVC in other sports, is a non-scholarship program out of the Pioneer League. They opened their season on the road against NAIA Indiana Wesleyan and got handled, falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter en route to a 28-10 loss. Their opponent, North Dakota State…..well… all know about North Dakota State. The Bison opened their season with an easy win over Albany in which they locked down the Great Danes defensively. NDSU fell from #4 to #5 in the STATS poll despite the win (due to being leapfrogged by Montana who defeated Washington). Just in case they needed a little extra motivation, there it is. But if that motivation is required in this one, I will be shocked. The Bison’s second and third string should get the chance to show what they can do here. Valpo is just going to have to go out there and take it. May God have mercy on their souls.

My Prediction: NDSU 56-0.

-Illinois State (1-0) @ Western Michigan (0-1) – Saturday, 4pm: Last week, Illinois State opened up their season with a 49-7 win over non-scholarship outfit Butler. It was an easy victory and the Redbirds dominated, but we will find out more about the ‘Birds in this contest with Western Michigan. The Broncos are still a solid program, but it does feel like more than five years have passed since they played in the Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin. The boat has rowed onto Minnesota, and WMU has been just 24-19 since. Not bad (they’ve been bowl eligible every year), but not great either. There’s no real shame in getting blown out at the Big House if you’re a MAC team, which the Broncos did week one, 47-14. There wasn’t much about the Broncos to glean from that game much the same way there wasn’t much about Illinois State to glean from their win over Butler. Illinois State will likely need stronger QB play to pull this one out, though. Bryce Jefferson completed some long ones but was only 8-17 overall against Butler. If ISU can establish the run (WMU gave up 335 rushing yards to Michigan) and get something from the QB there is no reason they can’t win this one. They’ll be the underdogs, and no one can really know what to expect from these two teams. But a Redbird win is certainly possible. In fact, at the time of this writing ESPN gives the ‘Birds a 17.8% chance.

My Prediction: I will go with Western Michigan in a horsefight, 27-24.

-#8 Southern Illinois (1-0) @ Kansas State (1-0) – Saturday, 6pm: The Valley’s final tussle with the FBS is also the league’s fourth game of the year against the Big 12. It is a very interesting one, too. Southern Illinois is one of the better FCS teams in the nation, while K-State is a middle-of-the-road Big 12 team. The Wildcats were picked to finish 7th in the league preseason. On paper, this should be the most winnable game of the four Big 12-MVFC contests. If that turns out to be true, the Salukis should win because the first three games ended in one-score losses for the MVFC. SIU is the highest rated MVFC team of the four playing a Big 12 opponent this year, and K-State is the second lowest of the Big 12 teams. That said, K-State did open the season with a relatively impressive performance. The Wildcats beat Stanford (picked to finish 4th in the Pac 12 North) by a score of 24-7. They led 24-0 before the Cardinal posted a late TD, and their defense held Stanford to 233 total yards. The Cardinal may be an average power 5 team, but that is an impressive performance regardless. SIU was pretty good in week one too. Nic Baker put up 460 yards and four TDs in a 47-21 win over rival Southeast Missouri State. Both teams will be coming into this one with a lot of confidence.

My Prediction: ESPN currently gives SIU a nice 6.9% chance of winning this one. I want to pick SIU. I really do. But K-State looked pretty good against Stanford. I think SIU could win this one, but they are decidedly underdogs. I am going with K-State by a score of 34-21. I hope I am wrong.

-Lindenwood (0-1) @ #2 South Dakota State (1-0) – Saturday, 6pm: South Dakota State leapfrogged JMU into #2 in the STATS FCS poll after their blowout win over Colorado State last week. They captured 11 first-place votes and are looking like a genuine national championship contender. They really have everything you need: a solid QB, a great run game, good receivers, a good line, and a great defense. None of those pieces should be challenged by the visiting D2 Lindenwood Lions on Saturday. The Lions are probably not the worst team an MVFC squad will face this week (looking at you Crusa…..Beacons). But they should be the second worst. Lindenwood did have a 9-4 season in 2019, and were ranked #21 in the D2 preseason poll this year. But they opened their schedule with a 40-20 loss to Angelo State. If SDSU is a national title contender, and I think they are, this should not be a close game at all. The backups should be in by the 3rd quarter.

My Prediction: SDSU 48-10.

-#19 Central Arkansas (0-1) @ #23 Missouri State (0-1) – Saturday, 7pm: The Bears moved up a spot in the STATS FCS poll after taking Oklahoma State to the wire last week. This week they come home to face a familiar opponent in Central Arkansas, who fell five spots to #19. This should be one of the better FCS-on-FCS games of week two. UCA has built a pedigree recently in the FCS and has become one of the better programs in the nation. MSU is coming off a banner year and is hoping to build some tradition of their own under Coach Petrino (and whoever inevitably follows him after he bolts for a bigger school). UCA chose to build a full fall schedule last year rather than play in the spring, and they finished with a 5-4 record that included a 4-1 mark against FCS teams (their lone loss coming to Trey Lance and NDSU). It also included a 2-0 record against Missouri State, with MSU losing by a TD at home and by nine on the road. Now Central Arkansas has left the Southland and will hang out in the “AQ7” for this season before moving onto the Atlantic Sun next year. They opened their season with a 40-21 loss to Arkansas State, an FBS team who was picked to finish 2nd in the Sun Belt West Division. Nothing to be ashamed of there (UCA led 7-6 at the break, and trialed by only six after three quarters), but I would say MSU’s performance against Oklahoma State was more impressive. These two teams should throw down in this one and it should be a great game for anyone who can take it in.

My Prediction: I will pick the (MSU) Bears by a weird score. Let’s say 29-25. Why not?

-Western Illinois (0-1) @ #4 Montana (1-0) – Saturday, 7pm: Western Illinois challenged themselves in their opening game by hitting the road and taking on a team (Ball State) that won the MAC last year and is picked to do it again. However, this game may very well be a tougher test for the Leathernecks. Montana is ranked #4 in the country and coming off a mammoth win over #20 (FBS) Washington, 13-7. We thought the Griz may be good, but we didn’t realize they would be THAT good. The win catapulted Montana five spots to #4 in the FCS poll. It wasn’t a fluke either. Montana rushed for 127 yards to Washington’s 65 and held the Huskies to just 291 yards of total offense while forcing three UW turnovers. The Griz are for real. But they aren’t the only team in this contest that surprised last week. After winning just two games total the last two seasons, Western Illinois were not fancied to do much against the defending MAC champions. But the Leathernecks were tied at halftime and weren’t out of the game until the fourth quarter, only losing by a 31-21 final. It wasn’t a bad performance for the team picked to finish last in the Valley. However, the environment they faced in Muncie will be nothing compared to what they’ll see at Wa-Griz on Saturday. And the team they’re playing may be better too. Throw in the fact that Western came back from ten down to beat Montana late in the fourth quarter in their last meeting in 2018 (a result that had it been flipped might have seen the Griz in the playoffs that season) just to give them a little more motivation, and the fact that Montana hasn’t played a real home game in two years in front of their crazy fans. Add all that up, and it could be a long day for Western. All that said, I seriously doubted them last week and they (sort of) proved me wrong. Do it again Leathernecks!

My Prediction: The Griz defense dominates, and they win 27-7.

-#21 Northern Iowa (0-1) @ Sacramento State (1-0) – Saturday, 8pm: Last week, the Panthers went into Ames and went toe-to-toe with the 7th ranked team in the country. UNI had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win but ended up falling to the Cyclones by a score of 16-10. That performance netted them a move from #21 to #21 in the STATS FCS poll. The FCS world doesn’t want to seem to give the Panthers any love and continue to be down on UNI despite the solid performance in Ames. That is probably because UNI finished 3-4 last year and appeared to be allergic to scoring points. But this is a team that was 10-5 in 2019 and made the quarterfinals of the playoffs. They came into last season ranked as high as #2 in some polls. UNI is out to prove that they are closer to the 2019 version of themselves than the 2021 spring version. The same could be said for Sacramento State, who is not ranked in the STATS poll but is receiving votes. One would expect a little bit more respect for the Hornets after they won the Big Sky in 2019. They finished the regular season 9-3 (with only one FCS loss to Weber State) and claimed the #4 overall seed in the playoffs where they lost a rain-soaked game to Austin Peay. That success in 2019 hasn’t translated to 2021 accolades (the Hornets took the spring season off) and they find themselves unranked. So here we have two teams that think they aren’t getting enough respect and are out to make a statement. Sacramento State is 1-0 after a 19-7 win over Dixie State in which the Hornets defense dominated. UNI is also a defense-first team……perhaps one of the most imbalanced teams in the FCS in that regard. This has all the makings of a knock-down drag out defensive battle.

My Prediction: This is one of the more interesting FCS-FCS games on the schedule this weekend. If UNI is able to move the ball, Panther fans will be bouncing off the walls. But Northern Iowa has taken several west coast road trips the last few years and they have almost always gone poorly. Can the Panthers change that trend? Can they move the ball against this defense? I am going to say yes and mostly no, and I am going to pick UNI by a score of 14-13.

That’s it for the MVFC games this week. All these games will be on the ESPN family of networks except for the two involving B1G teams (BTN) and the Friday game between UND and Utah State (CBSSN). I will see ya’ll on the other side. Go Valley!

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