Camp is in full swing for the teams that own the FCS nation. With that being said, it is time for myself to unveil my initial 2019 MVFC Power Rankings and Previews for each team.
(The power rankings will be somewhat short, then I will dive into each team’s returning pieces and schedule analysis in different articles)
10. Missouri State Bears (Last Year 4-7)
The Missouri State Bears clock in at dead last in the initial MVFC Power Rankings. Despite starting with 4-2 record last year, they proceeded to drop their remaining 5 contests being outscored by a whopping 63-224 during that stretch. While they do return their starting QB Husling and a healthy amount of playmakers on that side of the ball, it is tough to see how an extra year of that talent is going to put numbers on the scoreboard.
While the gap has closed between the Bears and the lower part of the conference, Dave Steckel’s crew is still a few years away from making a legitimate playoff push and trying to win 4-5 games in the conference.
9. Southern Illinois (Last Year 2-9)
Nick Hill’s team could be the biggest question mark going into the season. After a disappointing 2-9 season, Hill cleaned house on the defensive side of the ball, and he decided to hire a former MVFC Defensive Coordinator in Jason Petrino. Petrino, the former South Dakota DC and more recently head coach at Rocky Mountain College, will be tasked with trying to improve a defense that gave up a staggering 40.7 points in the MVFC. With a high powered offense, any improvement in that category should result in more wins in Carbondale.
8. Western Illinois (Last Year 5-6)
I know, the 5- 6 team of last year has slipped into a measly 8th place in the conference. To be honest with you, there is not a lot to be excited about it Macomb. Sean McGuire is gone to the CFL, however this offense is going to go as far as senior Clint Ratkovich can take it. I would not expect Jared Elliott’s squat to be more than a nuisance in every Valley team’s squad and maybe squeak out one or two wins.
7. Youngstown State (Last Year 4-7)
Oh Youngstown, literally the most unpredictable in the Valley. The loss to Butler last season will forever go down as the worst loss by a Valley team in recent memory. Finishing 4-7 with a measly 3 conference was definitely not in the plans for Bo Pelini’s squad. Tevin McCaster, the work horse for this program is gone. Despite this loss, the combined efforts of Nathan Mays and sophomore Miles Joiner hope to provide a spark to a Youngstown team that is only three years removed from a National Championship birth.
6. Indiana State (Last Year 7-4)
Is there a more confusing team than the Sycamores going into the 2019 season? The 7-4 snubs of the FCS playoffs have a lot to prove going into this fall. Despite not having NDSU on the schedule, they are looking to improve and get over the snub of last year and make it to the playoffs. MVFC preseason QB Ryan Boyle looks to lead a squad that shocked people last year. However,anything less than a playoff berth would be considered as a failure in Terre Haute.
5. South Dakota (Last Year 4-7)
From the second round of the FCS playoffs to a disappointing 4-7 record, Bob Nielson is looking to right the ship in Vermillion and get back to the postseason in Vermillion. Despite the disaster of a defense that occured last year, the Coyotes arguably boast the best quarterback (Austin Simmons) and wide receiver (Daraki Allen) in the MVFC and maybe FCS. With a coordinator change in Travis Johanson, look for the Coyote to utilize mixed personnel and create stops. If this squad can find its rhythm early, look for USD to rise in the rankings.
4. South Dakota State (Last Year 10-3)
Despite the loss of Taryn Christion, offensive weapons, and both coordinators, the Jackrabbits (as much as it pains me to say) are poised for another run at the MVFC title. The defense, anchored by future All-American Chase Roozeboom will keep the Jackrabbits in every game they play in the Valley. The loss of Eichness and Brown will provide some struggles for Gibbs or Connors, whoever the starting QB will be come the opening game. However, a very favorable home schedule should see the Rabbits entering the showdown with Indiana State at 4-1 and should be able to guide SDSU to their 8th straight FCS Playoff appearance.
3. University of Northern Iowa (Last Year 7-6)
It seems like every year the Panthers’ schedule one of the toughest schedules in FCS, 2019 is no different. They will more than likely be 2-1 going to Ogden in a battle than may be the tipping point of UNI’s season. Replacing workhorse Marcus Weymiller will be a struggle for a squad that put over 25 points a game. However, the bread and butter of UNI returns. The defensive squad led by mastermind coordinator Jeremiah Johnson lost key pieces from a squad that snuck into the second round of the playoffs. As Farley’s time in Cedar Falls is dwindling to an end, look for the Panthers to have one of two big runs before his retirement.
2. Illinois State (Last Year 6-5)
Against conventional wisdom, I am going to put the Redbirds in the 2nd slot. With 1,290 yard rusher James Robinson at running back and Junior QB Brady Davis, Illinois State boasts one the most experienced backfields and can wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Unfortunately, they open conference play hosting the Bison which will be a major test towards seeing if the Redbirds can compete for an MVFC title.
1. North Dakota State (Last Year 15-0)
Shocker. I know.
However, if there was an opportunity for someone within the conference to take a shot and (the Bison, they should take that chance ASAP.
With Kleiman gone to Kansas State, DC Matt Entz is ready to carry the mantle and continue the Bison tradition. However, the Bison are forced to replace 8 starters on offense and have yet to name a starting quarterback. Trey Lance and Iowa State transfer Zeb Noland are neck and neck according to reports and there is still no clear front runner. From Brock Jensen to Carson Wentz to Easton Stick, the question marks surrounding the position is a situation unfamiliar to the Bison. Despite these questions, NDSU recruits and develops players at a different level than any other MVFC program. While the Bison could be vulnerable for one or two losses, don’t expect them to fall from the top of the conference anytime soon.