Valley Football Weekly Notebook: Nov. 6
Just three games are on the slate this weekend, but the biggest -- in terms of league championship implications -- is the Dakota Marker Game in Fargo as top-ranked North Dakota State hosts No. 16 South Dakota State. The winner is assured of at least a share of the MVFC crown.
#16/20 South Dakota State at #1/1 North Dakota State (2:30 pm CT) [FCS]
Note: It’s the 99th meeting in a series that began in 1903. The Bison hold a 53-40-5 edge in the series, which includes a 38-14 win last year in Brookings. The Bison also won the most recent game in Fargo, 31-24. That game featured two INT returns for touchdowns for NDSU.
UNI at South Dakota (12 pm CT) [ESPN3]
Note: The Panthers are 24-17-1 all-time against the Coyotes. The last time South Dakota beat UNI was in 1981. UNI is 3-0 against South Dakota under coach Mark Farley, last winning in 2010 (19-14).
Youngstown State at Western Illinois (1 p.m. CT) [ESPN3]
Note: Youngstown State leads the all-time series, 16-12, and the Penguins have won seven of the past eight games. YSU beat Western last year, 56-14, in Youngstown, but the Leathernecks won the last meeting in Macomb, 40-38, in 2010.
MVFC Dominates GPI Rankings
The Missouri Valley Football Conference continues to hold the No. 1 spot in the Gridiron Power Index (GPI), the index ranking for the NCAA Division I FCS and a top indicator of at-large playoff selection. Eight league teams rank among the Top 30, led by North Dakota State’s No. 1 overall ranking. Every MVFC school is in the Top 60.
Down the Stretch
With two weeks remaining, four league teams are still in the mix mathematically to win or share the conference title. The winner of the North Dakota State-South Dakota State game (Nov. 10, 2:30 pm on FCS) will earn at least a share of the league title. The loser of that game could still earn a share of the title (Illinois State and Indiana State are also in the mix to share the crown, although neither could win it outright).
Previous Best Finishes for 4 “Title Contenders”
Illinois State (1st, 1999)
Indiana State (t2nd, 1988 & 1996)
North Dakota State (1st, 2011)
South Dakota State (2nd, 2009)
For All the Marbles?
The SDSU-NDSU contest will not determine the league’s AQ, but the most recent “winner-take-all” contest in the league was on Nov. 7, 2009. That day, Southern Illinois defeated the Jackrabbits, 34-15, to claim an outright title. [The game was the first meeting between two teams with 6-0 league records.] Before that game in 2009, the last time the league had a decisive Saturday similar to that 2009 game was in 2005, when UNI claimed the league’s automatic bid on the final weekend of the regular season with a 25-24 victory against SIU. That forced a three-way co-championship and UNI won a tiebreaker with the tri-champs (SIU, YSU).
Winning on the Road
Four league teams have better than .500 records on the road this season, led by Illinois State’s perfect 5-0 ledger. Last weekend, the road team won four of the five conference games. Only five times since 2004 has the league had a weekend with four road wins in conference play.
Winning on the Road, Part II
In 2007, UNI set a league record by winning six road games. Only 15 teams in league history have won five road games in a season and all 14 previous ones (Illinois State has 5 this year) reached the playoffs. Prior to UNI in 2007, no previous league team had claimed six road victories in a season, although NDSU (2011), WKU (2002), YSU (1997) won six away from home in a season as each won a national title.
Counting this year, four league teams have reached seven or more wins in a season six times in 28 seasons - most recently in 2006.
8-3 = Playoffs
In 27 previous seasons, 50 league teams have had eight or more regular-season wins, and all but five made the playoffs: UNI (in 1989 and 1999), WIU (in 1994), and YSU (in 2001 and 2005) are the only league teams to win eight and not make it.
Playing Some Serious D
North Dakota State leads the nation in scoring defense and in total defense. No league team has ever led the nation in total defense, while three previous MVFC teams have led the nation in scoring defense (Western Illinois, 1998; Southern Illinois, 2004; and North Dakota State, 2011). The Bison could challenge the league’s all-time records for points allowed and yards allowed.