HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days" where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs and all 13 conferences. Today, we present … the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
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(NOTE: Team-by-team previews in this conference are below)
NAMES TO KNOW
THE NFL PROSPECT: RB James Robinson, Illinois State
Robinson is ranked the No. 1 small-school pro prospect by Draft Scout. He ran for 1,290 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER: RB Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State
Strong is just a sophomore but has already established himself as a top back in the FCS. He ran for 1,116 yards and 11 touchdowns last year with most of that production coming in the second half of the season.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER: LB Jabril Cox, North Dakota State
Cox was last year's MVFC Defensive Player of the Year after totaling 91 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, four sacks, seven quarterback hurries and four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
SUM IT UP: The MVFC got three teams into the playoffs in 2018, a low number compared to previous years. Even with North Dakota State and South Dakota State making it to the semifinals, it still felt like a bit of a down year for the conference. Now entering 2019, several questions surround the Valley. But overall, there appears to be plenty of playoff contenders and national contenders in this league. NDSU looks to keep its foot on the gas but has its most turnover since this run began. SDSU has a loaded roster but has a question mark at quarterback. Illinois State is getting a lot of preseason hype but hasn't lived up to expectations in recent years. Northern Iowa is always in the playoff mix, and Youngstown State has the schedule and returning talent to push for the postseason, but both have questions at quarterback as well. Indiana State had an argument to be in the playoffs last year and returns just about everyone, but the Sycamores won't be sneaking up on anyone this season.
So as you can see, there are a lot of buts in this conference. Every team has a question mark. And the battle to make the playoffs will be tight once again.
THE FAVORITE: North Dakota State – As we stated in our most recent podcast (which can be heard below) until a Valley team can hold the conference trophy to itself, you have to go with the Bison here. NDSU has won at least a share of the MVFC championship every season since 2011. And while this team has been challenged and knocked off by several different teams over the years, it's always been the Bison at the top.
THE THREATS: South Dakota State, Illinois State, Northern Iowa – Like we said above, these teams have a ton of talent coming back. But …. can SDSU and UNI find solid QB play? Can the Redbirds put it all together? Those questions need to be answered in a positive way to dethrone the Bison.
THE DARK HORSES: South Dakota, Youngstown State, Indiana State – The Coyotes arguably have the top returning quarterback in the MVFC with Austin Simmons. YSU is one of the toughest opponents in the FCS when it wants to be. And the Sycamores face their biggest preseason expectations in quite some time. These are all solid teams and are good enough to make the playoffs. Right now, though, they are grouped in the middle tier of the Valley. Can one of them rise up?
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