Previewing The Valley: Game Of The Week

I started this post at 10:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night. I started looking through the Missouri Valley Football Conference composite schedule for games that stood out. Honestly, the same teams kept creeping up on me. I mean, I have South Dakota in here like six times.

Now, it could be the lack of sleep or the beer (lightweight) I had before typing this up, but I’m satisfied with this list. Even if I think the Coyotes will be in the featured game of the week a bunch (four) of times, it still makes sense.

Another thing that stood out to me was the lack of big non-conference games. Outside of North Dakota State at Eastern Washington, nothing looks sexy. That’s odd because this early on the season, the non-conference games tend to always be the easiest to look forward to.

Conference games can take time to develop into something big. It has a lot to do on where both teams are at in the standings at that point in the season. Outside of your rivalry games, it is hard to predict if a game like USD at Illinois State will mean something or be a game against cellar dwellers.

However, at the beginning of the season, teams are still brimming with grand expectations. We expect big things out of these teams because the predictions told us to be. NDSU at EWU is sexy because both teams are picked to finish high in their conference and because of how exciting the game was last year between them.

Like I said, though, that’s kind of it. No big FBS games and no big game against a team that isn’t from Big Sky. It comes across as kind of flat.

It won’t take away from the excitement of the conference season schedule nor the three non-conference games highlighted as I take a look at the best games of each week.

As a reminder, be sure to check out my other Missouri Valley Football Previews

  • Top 5 Players
  • Games of the Week
  • Newcomers to Watch
  • Best Names on Each Roster
  • Season Predictions

Week 1
Northern Iowa @ Iowa State – Saturday, September 2 – 7:oo p.m.

There are six games scheduled against FBS schools for Valley schools this season. Eight if you count Coastal Carolina and Liberty as FBS teams. The school you’d recognize the most is the University of Tennessee of the SEC. They host Indiana State on September 9. You may watch that one, if you enjoy carnage.

However, this game offers the best chance of a Valley team pulling off the upset over a Power 5 conference school. UNI has won two of the last three meetings against the Cyclones, including last season’s 25-20 season opening victory. Valley fans like the upset over FBS schools and this one could be the cream of the crop.

Week 2
North Dakota State @ Eastern Washington – Saturday, September 9 – 3:00 p.m.

Let us remember…

NDSU vs. EWU: Part 3

Week 3
North Dakota @ South Dakota – Saturday, September 16 – 2:00 p.m.

This is USD’s first appearance on this list. The reason I find them so intriguing is one player: Chris Streveler. Streveler was the MFVC’s Newcomer of the Year after transferring in from the University of Minnesota. The game that put him on the radar was last year’s 47-44 double-overtime loss to UND.

The Fighting Hawks are picked to win the Big Sky this season and they will have to prove their worth it early with an uncomfortable non-conference schedule. A home game against Missouri State is sandwiched in between the season opener against Utah and this one. This will be a good measuring stick game for both teams.

Week 4
Illinois State @ Missouri State – Saturday, September 23 – 2:00 p.m.

This might be the weakest week on the whole calendar. This game happens to be the first conference game of the season for the entire Valley. The other team’s will open up the following week.

Neither team is expected to do much. At the very least, it could give us a change to talk about the best name in the conference.

Week 5
South Dakota State @ Youngstown State – Saturday, September 30 – 6:00 p.m.

Youngstown State’s season is going to go one of two ways. We will either see them win seven games and sneak into the playoffs or we will see them go 3-8 with a bunch of close losses. Either way, they are going to be a tough out for any team.

Their defense will be put to the ultimate test this Saturday as they defend their home turf against what everyone expects to be the best offense in the Valley.

Week 6
Youngstown State @ South Dakota – Saturday, October 7 – 2:00 p.m.

I foresee this game as being the one that decides who is going to be the fourth team to make the playoffs out of the Valley. It may seem early but we have to consider the schedule for both teams. This game for YSU comes in the middle of playing NDSU, SDSU and at Northern Iowa. This appears to be the lone game they may have a shot at winning.

The game for USD comes in the middle of a relatively easy stretch. However, they end their season with UNI, NDSU on the road and then SDSU at home. The more wins they pile up early, the more likely they will survive a losing streak at the end of the season.

Week 7
Northern Iowa @ South Dakota State – Saturday, October 14 – 2:00 p.m.

Speaking of losing streaks, when will UNI’s appear? Last year, they lost four out of five games early on in the season. They lost three straight in October in 2015. This game might mark the beginning of such a losing streak. What could make it worse is that you could potentially see the Panthers coming into Brookings carrying a 4-1 record.

The Jacks could be sitting even better if everything goes well for them. In a quirk of the schedule, this will be SDSU’s first afternoon game of the season. They open up the year with five straight evening kick-offs. The home team has not won in this series since 2013 when SDSU defeated UNI 37-34 in double-overtime.

Week 8
South Dakota @ Illinois State – Saturday, October 21 – 2:00 p.m.

Assuming USD beats YSU, which I am, this game appears as the next biggest hurdle on their schedule. You understand that every team will look at NDSU, SDSU and UNI as the big three on their schedule. It’s the games against the middle of the pack teams that will make or break your season.

Illinois State will have to be carried by quarterback Jake Kolbe as most of their offensive threats from last season are gone. Kolbe, a junior, was solid last season and even spectacular at times. The Redbirds season will come down to how Kolbe plays, especially in a game that features two of the better quarterbacks in the Valley.

Week 9
Northern Iowa @ North Dakota State – Saturday, October 28 – 2:30 p.m.

It was a Matt Plank interception at the NDSU 18 with 2:07 to go in the game that preserved a 24-20 win for the Bison last season. Carson Wentz provided the heroics in 2015 with a last second touchdown to give NDSU a 31-28 win. I could go back with a few more examples but we don’t need to remind Panther fans.

The NDSU/SDSU rivalry has picked up steam in recent memory but this rivalry has been go from day one. I don’t expect this game to be any different, especially as both teams will be jostling for a stronghold near the top of the conference standings.

Week 10
North Dakota State @ South Dakota State – Saturday, November 4 – 2:00 p.m.

Circle this game with a red marker. Do it again, same color, same marker. Okay. Now, do it again. This game will be that important.

This one will decide the following two things: 1) Who will win the Valley 2) Who will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Biggest game of the entire Valley schedule. By a mile.

Week 11
Youngstown State @ Southern Illinois – Saturday, November 11 – 1:00 p.m.

There is a letdown of good games when we get this deep into the schedule. At this point, you have an idea of who will make the playoffs from the conference but one or two teams are still making a push.

This game stands out because the SIU game was the beginning of the push to the title game for the Penguins. Momentum has to start somewhere and what better place to start than in the middle of the easiest stretch of games for YSU.

Week 12
South Dakota State @ South Dakota – Saturday, November 18 – 2:00 p.m.

This rivalry doesn’t have the same kind of feel you would like an inter-state rival to have. Sure, you know they play each other and it’s a conference game. Beyond that, it feels kind of blah. A lot of that has to do with the lack of competition USD has provided in this game.

SDSU has won the last eight games by an average of 12.5 points. In fact, USD has only won three times against the Jacks since 1990. Two of those three came in Vermillion. USD has closed the gap over the last couple years, with last year’s game going SDSU’s way in the final minutes. This one could be fun if USD lives up to (my) expectations.