Tough MFVC race is wide open for now

Ariy-El Boynton

Ariy-El Boynton

The puzzle pieces are starting to come together in the Missouri Valley Football Conference title race. After the weekend’s end, every team will play at least one conference game. The Jacks have played the most conference games with three.

Last week pitted the two Valley teams that made the FCS playoff last year in Southern Illinois and the University of Northern Iowa. The Salukis in front of 14,000 plus fans and the 1983 National Championship team beat the UNI Panthers 27-24 in Carbondale, Ill., on Sept. 27.

With 33 games remaining in conference play, Southern Illinois seems to have an inside track to a 2008 regular season championship and the coveted Missouri Valley Football automatic FCS playoff berth.

Last year on Dec. 1, 2007, the Panthers lost to the University of Delaware, who was quarterbacked by current Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco. A week later, SIU lost to Delaware, also. Both UNI and SIU could not beat the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens despite both playing at home.

This season with Southern Illinois’ win, the Panthers, along with a host of teams, are looking up at SIU as the top team in the conference.

In other conference news, for the sixth-straight week in a row, six Valley Football teams have been ranked in the FCS coaches’ poll.

UNI is ranked fifth despite losing last week. North Dakota State comes in just behind the Panthers at six. Southern Illinois is 2-1 and ranked 13. SDSU, despite winning, dropped five spots to land at 18. Western Illinois is ranked 21 and Youngstown State is 23rd.

This week’s marquee conference game pits NDSU against the SIU Salukis. The Bison have three things going for them against Southern Illinois. NDSU is 22-2 at home in the last five years. The Bison are coming off a bye, and it will be homecoming in Fargo. Last time NDSU played, they lost to Youngstown State 32-24 in Youngstown, Ohio.

In other action, Missouri State (MSU) and W. Illinois tussle in Springfield, Mo. A pair of “ISUs” will hit the gridiron. Indiana State and Illinois State will play in Terri Haute, Ind. Youngstown State will head out west to take on Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah. The Jacks will host McNeese State.

With the Jacks taking a hiatus against Valley Football for three weeks, the conference race will become clearer when they play Indiana State on Oct. 25.

Two weeks from now when the Jacks have a much-needed break, there will be some good football played in the Valley Football Conference. SIU will host Indiana State on the Valley Football TV Network. YSU will travel to MSU. NDSU will host back-to-back home games against Western Illinois. UNI will host Illinois State in the UNI-Dome.

By the end of October, pay close attention to the contenders in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The better teams will raise above the pretenders in the long season.