It's finally here. The final week of Missouri Valley Football Conference play has arrived and as expected, how the FCS playoff bracket looks is going to be largely determined by what happens Saturday. Six teams no doubt need a win to either make the playoffs or position themselves better in the playoffs. Four of those teams eye Top 8 seeds.
You always remember November. And stakes may have never been higher in a final week of Valley Games.
Here are five big storylines to watch for:
Are South Dakota and South Dakota State playing for a seed?
The quick and easy answer is yes. The tougher question is which seed would SDSU get with a win and which seed would USD get with one? This game is the most anticipated matchup between the two rivals in the Division I era. SDSU has owned the series, but the Coyotes have vaulted to a top team in the FCS.
USD looked to be a lock for a playoff seed at the beginning of the season, but has lost three of its last four games. A win here, though, likely gives them a seed and pushes SDSU out of the Top 8. For SDSU, four straight wins, including No. 2 North Dakota State, has pushed the Jacks back into the national discussion. A 9-2 finish as one of the hottest teams in the FCS should get the Jacks a Top 5 seed.
COMPARE: South Dakota vs. South Dakota State
Who’s the best quarterback in South Dakota?
SDSU's Taryn Christion was the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year last season. USD's Chris Streveler is a frontrunner for the Walter Payton Award for the best offensive player in the country. Watching these two go at is going to be a blast. Both are so valuable for their team that whoever has the best performance is probably going to bring home the "W".
COMPARE: Taryn Christion vs. Chris Streveler
Does Western Illinois need a statement win?
There has been a lot of talk of the Valley getting six teams in the playoffs. That's a fourth of the playoff field. A more realistic scenario is the top conference in the FCS getting three seeds. Behind NDSU and one of the South Dakotas, WIU is sitting pretty for a possible No. 8 seed. The problem is all three of its losses came against the three Dakota teams.
But with a victory against Southern Illinois, the Leathernecks would be 8-3 with an FBS win and should jump the loser of the SDSU-USD game. To really make its case, WIU needs a statement win against SIU. Don't give the committee an excuse to play you on Thanksgiving weekend because you couldn't put the 4-6 Salukis away.
What happens if NDSU wins?
First off, the Bison would win an outright MVFC title, which is rare to do in such a tough conference. The Bison have clinched at least a share of a ridiculous seventh straight title, but this would only be their third time winning it outright. And here's the thing: the champion of the top conference in the FCS with just one loss to a playoff team should absolutely be the No. 2 seed.
An NDSU win over Illinois State would be its sixth Top 25 win this season, which is easily the most in the FCS. A victory here should wrap up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It also knocks Illinois State out of the playoffs at 6-5.
What happens if Illinois State wins?
Things get crazy if the Redbirds get a huge upset on their home turf. For one, it sends NDSU possibly all the way down to a fourth or fifth seed, which completely changes the national picture and potentially sets up a semifinal showdown at James Madison. Secondly, that's when talks of getting six teams from the MVFC into the postseason become real.
You can't leave Illinois State out at 7-4 and a win against the Bison. NDSU, SDSU and WIU are all presumably in. Even with a loss, USD should get in at 7-4 with an FBS win. And then there's Northern Iowa, who should beat Indiana State to finish 7-4 with wins against SDSU and USD.
Now of those six in this scenario, who gets left out if the committee doesn't want one conference stacking the bracket?
Whatever happens, it's going to be a wild weekend, folks.