When you have six teams chasing playoff spots and four more teams not too far behind, every week is full of marquee matchups. This Saturday is no different in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Here's a look at 5 storylines to watch this weekend:
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Is South Dakota ready to challenge for the MVFC title?
There's no doubting the Coyotes are for real this season. On paper, they have the best resume right now with four wins, one against an FBS opponent and two against ranked FCS opponents. Now, that obviously doesn't mean they're the best team in the FCS. But USD, ranked No. 6 in the Coaches Poll, can certainly prove its in contention for a conference title when No. 3 Youngstown State comes to town.
And hey, the Penguins were the national runner-ups last season who just took down South Dakota State, a team thought to be the third best in the nation, last week. A Coyote win puts them right in the national picture. [divider]
Can YSU's defense put on a second straight strong performance?
The question coming into this season was how in the world do you stop SDSU's three-headed monster of quarterback Taryn Christion, wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert. Well, Bo Pelini and the Penguins figured that out. Now the big question is how do you stop USD's dual-threat quarterback Chris Streveler. We'll see if YSU can solve that puzzle Saturday. [divider]
Can Illinois State keep on rolling?
North Dakota State wants its national title back. YSU made it to Frisco last year. This could be SDSU's year for a national title. USD is on the rise. WIU is on the rise. Lost in all this has been Illinois State, who is 4-0.
Brock Spack has built a real solid program, one that was playing in the national title a few years ago. But no one seems to be talking about the undefeated group this year that has a lot of returners back. The Redbirds have a shuffled schedule with a road nonconference game this week at Northern Arizona. NAU is a solid team with a great quarterback. Just keep winning, Illinois State, and people will begin to recognize the talent on your team. [divider]
How does Western Illinois and South Dakota State rebound against tough opponents?
WIU and SDSU were riding high entering last weekend, but left with sobering losses. The Leathernecks had a spirited comeback in their first home game of the season and their Homecoming game. Down 38-6 in the third quarter, WIU rallied, but fell 38-33. The Jackrabbits, meanwhile, had their offense humbled and their defense with their egos, and probably body parts, bruised with YSU running all over them.
How do they respond? WIU plays at Northern Iowa, which is always a tough place to get a win. And SDSU hosts Southern Illinois, a team they allowed 39 points against last season in a 6-point victory. Getting back on the winning track won't be easy. [divider]
Does SDSU's defense rise to the occasion?
Those 39 points last season brought up questions on if the Jacks' defense was good enough to carry them deeper into the playoffs. Those questions have gotten even bigger this season. Last week, YSU rushed 63 times for 310 yards and had a time of possession of 45:14. SDSU's defense couldn't get off the field as the offense ran just 37 plays.
SIU's offense can put up some points. The defensive unit for the Jackrabbits needs to have a good performance here. Not just to get a win, but to show the team is still a national title contender.