SUM IT UP
(NOTE: Team by team previews in this conference are below)
The Valley has widely been regarded as the best conference in the FCS for the last few years. It has routinely featured the most teams in the Top 25 polls, playoffs, quarterfinals, semifinals, national title game and on and on. However, the MVFC has the most question marks entering a season in recent memory. From top to bottom, it's still probably the most competitive league as far as teams beating up on each other in the conference play gauntlet. But when it comes to the playoffs and the national picture, it's a little less clear.
North Dakota State is the clear-cut favorite at the top of the MVFC and the FCS. After that, it's a guessing game. South Dakota State, South Dakota and Western Illinois made the playoffs last year. All three teams lost key seniors who were extremely important to their success. Northern Iowa is coming off a postseason appearance but has question marks on defense and another brutal nonconference schedule. Illinois State and Youngstown State eye a return to the playoffs after missing out last year, but they also lost a significant amount of starters and are breaking in transfers at the quarterback position.
Let's not be mistaken, though. The Valley is still a Top 2 conference in the FCS. It's just tough to determine how far, if at all, some of the top teams fall with the 2017 departures. Thirteen of the 15 All-MVFC First Team offensive players were seniors. Nine of the 15 First Team defensive players were also seniors. There's a lot of talent gone from playoff teams. If you ask 10 people to pick their Top 5 finishes this year in the Valley, you'll probably get 10 different variations. In other words, this is going to be another fun year.
Taryn Christion has been a top MVFC QB for the last couple years. (SDSU Athletics)
NAMES TO KNOW
THE NFL PROSPECTS: Bruce Anderson, RB, NDSU — Ranked the 21st best RB prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft
Jordan Brown, CB, SDSU — Ranked the 22nd best CB prospect
Easton Stick, QB, NDSU — Ranked the 20th best QB prospect
THE VETERAN COACH: John Stiegelmeier, SDSU
Stiegelmeier is the winningest football coach in SDSU history with a 148-97 record. He's been the head coach for 21 seasons.
BOUNCE BACK ARTIST: Greg Menard, DE, NDSU
Menard tore his ACL during preseason camp but looks to be 100 percent a year later. The 2018 preseason All-American had 11 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2016.
TOP FANBASE (*)
NDSU – Bison fans are all about making their presence felt on social media. They did just that with our two-month FCS team-by-team previews as the No. 1 team in the FCS in terms of fan engagement.
(*) – Based on fan engagement with our previews this summer.
SIU – With some of the top teams maybe taking a step back this year, the Salukis have a great chance to move up the standings and make the playoffs. Nick Hill and his staff have not only brought excitement back to this program, but also a ton of talent in their recent recruiting classes. We could see the result of that in 2018.
NDSU – The Bison are loaded with experience and depth at almost every position group. On paper, NDSU looks like a better football team than last season. And when last year ended with a national title, the writing is on the wall on what the 2018 Bison can accomplish.
RANKING THE MVFC
|RK||HERO SPORTS (SAM'S POLL)||COACHES|
|5||South Dakota (up)||Ilinois St.|
|6||Illinois St.||South Dakota|
|7||Western Illinois||Western Illinois|
|8||Southern Illinois||Southern Illinois|
|9||Missouri St.||Missouri St.|
|10||Indiana St.||Indiana St.|
THE DIFFERENCE: UNI has a really good-looking team this year with a loaded offense. If the defense can play solid, which it usually does, look out. As for USD, the loss of Chris Streveler, who should have won the Walter Payton Award, stings. There's no replicating what Streveler did at quarterback. But the rest of the starting lineup from 2017 remains mostly intact. Streveler was Superman last year. With the talent and experience coming back, Austin Simmons doesn't have to be Superman for this team to return to the playoffs.
FCS PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The MVFC
IND.'s in 2018 (*): North Dakota
(*) — Will be in the MVFC in 2020