What to watch for this weekend in the Missouri Valley Football Conference: [divider]
Who gets knocked down to second place?
— YSUPenguinsAthletics (@YSUsports) November 4, 2016
Three teams sit at the top of the Valley standings at 4-1 and two of those face off Saturday. South Dakota State suffering its first conference loss last week opened the door for Youngstown State and North Dakota State. The Penguins play at the Fargodome in a game that not only impacts the standings, but has future playoff implications.
Last season, YSU imploded while Bo Pelini caused a scene on the sidelines with the officials. The Bison scored 17 straight points in the fourth quarter in Youngstown to come back and win 27-24. That turn of events set NDSU up for a fifth straight national championship, as a third loss would have made the Bison leave the Fargodome earlier in the playoffs. [divider]
Which offense steps up?
Both defenses won the games for YSU and NDSU last week. The Bison moved the ball fine against Northern Iowa, but turnovers and three-and-outs late in the game put their defense's back against the wall. The YSU offense didn't score a touchdown last week and the Penguins needed a punt return for a touchdown to defeat Indiana State 13-10.
This game might not be as bad as the first quarter between Philadelphia and Minnesota a couple weeks ago, but it could turn into a game of field position. The biggest key may be which offense can produce touchdowns, not field goals, the few times they reach the red zone. [divider]
Do the Jackrabbits finish strong?
Let's turn it up a notch tomorrow, Jackrabbit Nation.
— SDSU Football (@GoJacksFB) November 4, 2016
A letdown week was sure to happen for SDSU. Last week was that week. The Jacks went from undefeated in the conference with the best FCS vs. FCS win of the season to now having three losses. With three games remaining, the first two at home, SDSU needs to rebuild momentum to earn a seed in the playoffs.
Because, apparently, SDSU hasn't impressed the FCS Playoff Committee to be considered a Top 10 team in the nation:
— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) November 3, 2016
Central Arkansas? Anyway, the Jacks will have to prove their worth. [divider]
Where is UNI's head at?
The Panthers are 3-5. Four of those losses came to ranked teams by a combined 18 points. Right now, NDSU, SDSU, YSU and Western Illinois are probable playoff teams. Is the Valley a five-bid conference this season? And if so, would a 6-5 UNI team get the nod ahead of South Dakota, who is currently 4-4 with games remaining against SDSU and NDSU and also have the head-to-head win against the Panthers?
UNI's focus this week has been on getting a road win at Indiana State. But these questions are certainly being asked inside and outside the program. UNI had all the momentum late last week to defeat the Bison, but couldn't finish. It will be interesting to see if the Panthers are motivated or demoralized when they take the field. [divider]
Does Illinois State cause another shakeup?
The Redbirds' (4-5, 2-4) upset last week over SDSU made the MVFC much more interesting. They can do it again this week with a win at WIU. The Leathernecks are 6-2 overall and 3-2 in conference play. USD is also 3-2 in the conference, 4-4 overall, and has a winnable game against Southern Illinois.
While the three-way battle at the top of the Valley has gotten interesting, the current two-way tie for second place is also one to keep an eye on.