Monday, September 24, 2012

Saturday Thoughts

YSU's Kurt Hess powered through the rain as
threw for 290 yards and 4 TD's against UNI
Youngstown State affirmed its power on Saturday as they continued to knock down opponents as they come; on Saturday it was Northern Iowa who took one on the chin. I don't want to take anything away from Northern Iowa, they played great--on offense. However, Youngstown State also played great--on offense. Defensively, Youngstown State made a couple of key plays that sealed the win.

For Northern Iowa, the schedule continues to be tough and they can not afford to lose any more games. Unfortunately next weekend they face North Dakota State which will be another insanely tough game for the Panthers--this time, however, they will finally be able to host one of these tough teams. The home-field-dome advantage might play a factor in how the game is played out, but I feel that North Dakota State has so many weapons that it will be tough for Northern Iowa to keep up. Also, what separates the Panthers and the Bison are their defenses, North Dakota State has allowed 14 points through three games. On the other hand, North Dakota State hasn't seen an offense like Northern Iowa's yet this year. We'll see how these two teams match up on Saturday; it should be a good game.

The other big win over the weekend was South Dakota State over Indiana State. The Jackrabbits haven't been an overpowering team since 2009 when they made it to the playoffs. After two years of underachieving (5-6 both years), South Dakota State looks to be a fairly potent opponent for any team. The difference between this years team and last years team has been the defense and the offensive line/running back. Last Winter, Offensive Coordinator and O-Line coach Luke Meadows took a job with Florida Atlantic which left a void for an O-Line and O-Coordinator. Eric Eidsness--also the quarterbacks coach--took over the O-Coordinator position and the O-Line position was filled by John Flynn--who was a former offensive lineman and later a GA for Oklahoma. During his time as a GA at Oklahoma he worked with NFL Draftees, Trent Williams, Phil Loadholt, and Duke Robinson. It seems this coaching change has made a significant impact considering these lineman are the same from last year's SDSU team.

SDSU RB, Zach Zenner breaks through the Sycamore defense.
Zanner ran for over 200 yards, again.
(Photo: Matt Kryger/Indy Star)
Indiana State came on the losing end of that South Dakota State game and that loss certainly revealed Indiana State's weaknesses. First, the run game--ah hem, Shakir Bell-- was stopped in his tracks. After the run game was stymied, the Sycamores turned to their passing game, which showed promise, but was ultimately inconsistent and not enough to keep moving the chains. With the passing game came the pressure from the Jackrabbit defensive lineman. Indiana State quarterback Mike Perish was sacked six times in the loss to the Jackrabbits. Indiana State will need to prove themselves against Southern Illinois next weekend in order to redeem themselves as a contender. However, the loss the South Dakota State hurts them significantly. In addition to beating all the bottom half of the MVFC teams, the Sycamores will also need to win two of three games against the following teams: Youngstown State, North Dakota State, and Illinois State. Luckily, the Sycamores avoid Northern Iowa this year in unbalanced scheduling.

Team on the rise: Southern Illinois. Southern Illinois has played fairly well the past two weeks. The most significant improvement that I've seen with the Salukis is their ability to create turnovers and not turn the ball over themselves. This past weekend they were significantly out-gained in offensive production by Missouri State, however, Missouri State turned the ball over three times. This--and 100 yards of penalties by the Bears-- allowed Southern Illinois to come out of Springfield victorious. Missouri State is struggling to say the least. They started out the season playing two ranked FBS teams pretty tough, and now they've lost two straight against okay--but not formidable--FCS competition. Next week the Bears will have a chance to show what they've got against South Dakota State in Brookings.

Illinois State is a team that is 4-0 and has the ability to control games. Of course, they've played Eastern Michigan (FBS, but still...), Dayton, Eastern Illinois (I think they're a pretty decent OVC team), and Western Illinois. We'll see what this Redbird team has when they face off against Youngstown State in a few weeks. However, I think Illinois State's schedule is built to their favor. The Redbirds have a very real chance of being 6-0 when they enter that game against Youngstown State. This weekend the Redbirds will travel to Vermillion, South Dakota to take on the Coyotes. I don't think this Coyote team is as bad as many are preaching. Yet, I don't think that South Dakota has the firepower to hang with Illinois State.
Conference Standings Through Week 4

Last on my list here is Western Illinois. Not to say here other than they played well and hung closer with Illinois State than many people predicted. I think Western Illinois has talent--mostly on defense and at the running back position. However, I think that the O-line, quarterbacks, and wide-receivers need some work in order for Western Illinois to compete. The Leathernecks will enjoy a much-needed weekend off before they square off with South Dakota on October 9th.

Miller's Power Rankings: Week #4

Penguin recievers Andrew Williams (80) and Marcel
Caver (16) celebrate in the pouring rain during
Youngstown State's huge win over Northern Iowa.
(Photo: Dustin Livesay/The Jambar)

#1 Youngstown State (4-0), 263 (points)

Youngstown State finds themselves back on the top of the Power Rankings this week after a big win against Northern Iowa. So far, Youngstown State has gone undefeated against pretty stiff competition--excluding Valpo, of course. Youngstown State looks to be on track for a magical season. Youngstown State will travel to Fargo in another huge MVFC game.

#2 North Dakota State (3-0), 253

North Dakota State demolished Prairie View A&M 66-7 on Saturday. The starters were out very quickly and even the 2nd and 3rd stringers could not be stopped. After cleaning Prairie View's clock, North Dakota State turns their eyes to Northern Iowa in a game that could decide Northern Iowa's playoff fate. 

#3 Illinois State (4-0), 227

Illinois State won as expected against Western Illinois. However, give the Leathernecks some credit, they stayed with the Redbirds and kept it close... until you look at the stats. Illinois State passed for 210 and ran for 163 in a very balanced offensive attack---the Leathernecks had a grand total of 137 yards of offense. The Redbird will travel to Vermillion, South Dakota to take on the Coyotes. 

#4 Northern Iowa (1-3), 116

Again, Northern Iowa dropped another game and fell to 1-3. This team is easily the most powerful 1-3 team in probably FBS and FCS. After losses to Wisconsin, Iowa, and Youngstown State, Northern Iowa now gets the pleasure of hosting North Dakota State. Northern Iowa simply can not lose any other game for the rest of the season. 

#5 South Dakota State (3-1), 114

South Dakota State played very well against ranked Indiana State on Saturday and proved once again that their run game and defense is for real. If the Jackrabbits get their pass attack going again, this team could be very dangerous. South Dakota State has put them in good position for playoff contention, however, they will need to upset either Northern Iowa, North Dakota State, or Youngstown State to feel relatively comfortable for a playoff selection. 

#6 Southern Illinois (2-2), 77

Southern Illinois is on the rise. This week they came away victorious in a game versus Missouri State. Although their wins came from Southeast Missouri State and Missouri State, they jumped Indiana State this week as the Sycamores only wins came from a non-scholly and an NAIA school. Southern Illinois will get a chance to solidify its position above Indiana State this weekend as they take on the Sycs at home. 

#7 Indiana State (2-2), 59

Indiana State has a strong run game--thats always been known--but their defense was compromised this past weekend as South Dakota State ran all over the Sycamores. Also, Indiana State became inept after the Jackrabbits shut down Shakir Bell. Indiana State will need to find other ways to win games rather than by the run game--excuse me, Shakir Bell--alone. Indiana State needs to beat Southern Illinois to reclaim their spot as a middling MVFC school. 

#8 South Dakota (1-2), 43

The Coyotes went to Evanston, Illinois and played Northwestern well. Northwestern did run all over South Dakota, but they didn't put up 73 points like Nebraska did on Idaho State this past weekend. A respectably game was played by South Dakota. This week South Dakota will have a chance to prove itself worthy of respect as they welcome Illinois State to Vermillion. 

#9 Western Illinois (2-2), 13

Western Illinois started the MVFC play against Illinois State last weekend and it turned out as expected. Illinois State controlled the game and came out with the W. Western Illinois seems flat and not dynamic enough to compete in the Missouri Valley this year. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, they've got to find a solution to the poor quarterback performance. 

#10 Missouri State (0-4), 1

Missouri State just can not find a way into the win column. I thought they might have a chance to beat Southern Illinois, and they did! Honestly, they controlled the game on Saturday against Southern Illinois and there was no reason why they should have lost--well there is... here are the stats: Missouri State has 362 yards of total offense compared to the Salukis 198. The Bears also won the time-of-possession battle, the kicker in this game was poor coaching and turnovers. Missouri State racked up 100 yards of penalties and turned the ball over three times--that alone could lose any game, for any team. Missouri State has a long ways to go. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Looking Ahead to Week #4

Northern Iowa's defense will need to play lights out
against Youngstown State.  (Photo: Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
It gets real. Excluding North Dakota State and South Dakota who are still messing around in non-conference play after having a nice week off, the other Missouri Valley schools will begin the yearly meat-grinder that is Missouri Valley conference play. Right out of the gate we have a huge game with enormous playoff implications featuring Youngstown State and Northern Iowa.Youngstown State has not beaten Northern Iowa since the Tressel era and will look to end that 11-year losing streak to the Panthers. Another big matchup will feature two teams, Indiana State and South Dakota State, who are both blowing up the NCAA rushing statistics--both Shakir Bell and Zach Zenner are averaging more than 200 yards rushing per game. If your internet service provider is kind enough to include the services of ESPN 3, Youngstown State-Northern Iowa, Missouri State-Southern Illinois, and North Dakota State-Prairie View A&M will all be televised via ESPN 3.


Southern Illinois 31, Missouri State 38

Indiana State 28, South Dakota State 17

Northwestern 45, South Dakota 20

North Dakota State 38, Prairie View A&M 10

Illinois State 45, Western Illinois 13

Youngstown State 29, Northern Iowa 28

Southern Illinois at Missouri State is an interesting matchup. This game, although it features two struggling teams, is in fact a pretty big game for these two programs. Southern Illinois is coming off of a nice win against Southeastern Missouri State which gave the Salukis some much needed momentum and confidence. On the other hand, Missouri State fell to 0-3 against Murray State in a game that I expected the Bears two win. I'm not sure what the Bears are going to have to do to get in that win-column, but I don't see Missouri State coming out with a win here against the Salukis. Southern Illinois is getting better every week, and Kory Faulkner finally played a game worthy of praise last week--384 yards and 3 TDs. The biggest weakness for both of these teams are their defenses and whoever can control that aspect of the game should win this game.

Indiana State RB, Shakir Bell (Photo:
South Dakota State will travel to Terre Haute to take on Indiana State in another big conference match-up. These two teams have been running the ball extremely well; In my opinion whichever team mixes up their play-calling the best and keeps the defense off-balance will win this game. I've been very impressed with Indiana State Mike Perish and I think he will provide that balance that will win this game. However, the Jackrabbit defense has been extremely stout; if they keep the Sycamore offense in check, South Dakota State could pick up a huge win.

So I predicted North Dakota State to beat Prairie View by only 28 points. I understand that might be offensive to some Bison fans, but let me just explain myself quick. The Bison will be up at least 38-0 in the fourth quarter, 2nd and 3rd stringers will be in, and the Panthers get some points in garbage time. Don't worry Bison fans! I'm still predicting a dominant performance. For example, last week I attended the Iowa State-Western Illinois game. Although the score only said 37-3, that game was completely controlled by the Cyclones and the winner was never in doubt.

It could get ugly in Macomb this weekend. The Redbirds are a very potent team on offense and have the capability to score from anywhere on the field. If Western wants to stay in this game they will need to come up with some big turnovers and play to that homecoming crowd and maintain momentum. However, if the Leathernecks find themselves down by 14, this one could be over; I still haven't seen that big playmaking ability from anyone on the Western Illinois squad.

South Dakota will be the last Missouri Valley team to play an FBS game this year. They'll face up with Northwestern of the Big Ten. Scary thing about this Northwestern team: they are the only team in Division one that has three wins against BCS competition. Northwestern sort of gimmicky offense that could torch the Coyotes on the ground, especially since South Dakota's run defense is currently one of their biggest weaknesses. On the contrary, South Dakota always plays well against FBS competition, so I expect them to put up some points, but I don't see them keeping up with the Wildcats.

Youngstown State RB, Jamaine Cook
I literally have no idea what is going to happen in this Youngstown State-Northern Iowa game. Honestly, I have no idea. Northern Iowa's schedule has been so brutal, yet they have played very well against that tough competition. Youngstown State played amazing against Pittsburgh two weeks ago, but since then they have slacked on the competition and have played teams from the Pioneer League and the NEC. Sawyer Kollmorgen vs. Kurt Hess and Jamaine Cook vs. David Johnson, it will be interesting to see who emerges as the big playmakers in this crucial Missouri Valley match-up. The game should be a sell-out, the environment should be amazing, and if you're attending this game have fun because it should be a barnburner.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Is Matt Brown the best QB in the MVFC?

In case you missed it this past weekend, Illinois State found itself in an absolute gem of a double-overtime game versus Eastern Illinois of the Ohio Valley Conference as the two teams racked up a combined 1,042 yards of offense and 105 points. Of those numbers, 473 yards and five scores came from the arm of senior ISU quarterback Matt Brown, who is making his case this season as the top passer in a Valley stocked with top-tier QBs.

Image source:
In addition to his video-game numbers from this past weekend, Brown has totaled 820 yards and nine touchdowns on 69% completion through three games this season, including a very steady 155 yards, one score and one of his two interceptions in the Redbirds' big win over FBS opponent Eastern Michigan.

Coming into the season, there was a sort of unspoken "old guard" of returning quarterbacks that would be contending as the top passers in what is a very run-oriented league. In no particular order, that list was:
  • Kurt Hess, Jr., Youngstown State, who helped propel the Penguins to produce the most offense in the Valley last season;
  • Brock Jensen, Jr., North Dakota State, the ultra-efficient game manager who guided the Bison to a Valley crown and the 2011 FCS national championship;
  • Austin Sumner, So., South Dakota State, the freshman who gave Jackrabbit fans a reason to head to Coughlin Alumni Stadium with his ludicrous numbers through the air;
  • Matt Brown, whom you should know at this point.
 That list is staying more or less consistent, though one addition in particular, Northern Iowa's freshman Sawyer Kollmorgen, has emerged as the go-to candidate for MVFC Freshman of the Year and has kept the Panthers competitive in the hellish schedule that includes close losses to Big Ten opponents Wisconsin and Iowa.

The production of Sumner in particular has taken a step back with the eruption of sophomore running back Zach Zenner, who leads the conference in rushing through the first three games of the season with an average of 222 yards per game on the ground (and had the Jacks' only two scores over UC-Davis this past weekend). Not to take any credit from Zenner, but Sumner has not only thrown at just over 50% completion, but has six interceptions to just three touchdowns so far in 2012. To write him off would be simply irresponsible, but with a suddenly-potent rushing game it's hard to see the SDSU coaching staff going back to that Texas Tech offense and have Sumner throw the ball sixty times per game.

 Hess, similarly, hasn't put up the kind of numbers he was notching at this point in the season last year, throwing just four touchdowns in three games (certainly trending far below his mark of 26 in 11 games last year) and has a game-high of just 186 versus Albany this past weekend. It's fair to argue that the Valley holds in store some sterner defenses, but with the added dimension of knowing the upcoming opponents better than one-shot out-of-conference foes like Valparaiso and Pittsburgh, it's hard to gauge whether he'll return to his 2011 form. In any event, the Penguins are a Top-5 team nationally, are 3-0, and are very real contenders for a deep playoff run if they can keep their level of play up through the MVFC season, so you won't hear too many complaints from the Penguin faithful anyway.

Jensen has more or less kept pace with his progress from last season, keeping his razor-sharp passing on the money (64% completion in two games) and his role as a game-manager at the forefront. Jensen faces the unpleasant reality of NDSU's offensive scheme, which is predicted on running the football, and will very rarely attempt anything more than 25-30 passes per game, making his stats a bit stunted by design but nonetheless keeping his numbers in the prime of efficiency as he rarely throws interceptions.  With a health pair of backs leading the way on the ground for the Bison, don't look for Jensen to challenge for the league's end-of-season offensive MVP title.

The wild card in this whole discussion is the aforementioned Kollmorgen, who has a stunning 739 yards, six scores and a single interception to his credit as a passer through the Panthers' three games this season. The real magic of Kollmorgen comes from his status as a redshirt freshman taking over for the sensational Tirrell Rennie, and he delivered some sensation of his own when he nearly led the Panthers to a fourth-quarter upset of the then 12th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers. Kollmorgen threw for 265 yards and a flawless three touchdowns in that game, two of which came in the fourth quarter in a furious comeback bid. While his talent isn't any surprise, or at least shouldn't be to anyone who knows how UNI Head Coach Mark Fairley puts his teams together, his numbers do raise some eyebrows. With a pair of talented backs in David Anderson and Carlos Anderson, Northern Iowa strikes one as a run-first team trying to get back to a more pro-style offense that they were forced to abandon with the ludicrous athleticism Rennie brought to the table the past two years. With such a transitory offense and a good stable of running backs, the Panthers seem more suited to a grind-it-out game yet are throwing the ball 28 times per game. I'm curious to see if the Panthers adopt a more conservative game when they don't have to play from behind against FBS opponents, and the next few games against Youngstown State and North Dakota State should give us a much clearer picture of where UNI wants to go with their offense. A masochistic voice in my head can't wait to see how Kollmorgen fares against NDSU's secondary, which is arguably the best and deepest in the country.

What all this boils down to is that Brown has both the stats and the accomplishments, bringing ISU from a pretender to a contender with a 7-win rap sheet last year, to claim his title as the best passer in the league through non-conference season so far. Obviously with just three games in the books it's tough to set any anticipations in stone, but with conference season right around the corner I'm awfully excited to see what he and the rest of the Valley QBs bring to the table.

Miller's Power Rankings: Week #3

Northern Iowa's RB David Johnson tries to find room against
Iowa. Despite losing, Northern Iowa played well in Iowa City.
(Photo: QCTimes/Kevin Schmidt)

#1 Illinois State (3-0), 206 (points)

Illinois State pulled off a dramatic overtime win in Normal this weekend over Ohio Valley Conference rival Eastern Illinois. You might argue that this win displayed Illinois State's weakness, however, I disagree. Illinois State proved that they can change their game-plan halfway through and still come out with a win facing adversity. Matt Brown stepped up huge and delivered the best game of this collegiate career throwing 5 touchdowns and nearly 500 yards. 

#2 Youngstown State (3-0), 171 

Youngstown State struggled with NEC foe Albany on Saturday. However you look at it, this was definitely the Penguins worst performance this year. Kurt Hess was off and the defense couldn't stop Albany's quarterback Will Fiacchi. Albany is a strong team from the NEC, however, Youngstown State should have pulled away in the second half with its' depth. The Penguins are still undefeated, but they will need to have a good week of practice if they want to beat Northern Iowa next weekend.

#3 North Dakota State (2-0), 138

North Dakota State had a weekend off and will face a winless Prairie View A&M team in Fargo next weekend. 

#4 Northern Iowa (1-2), 100

Despite being 1-2, Northern Iowa is playing very well--and the formula has picked up on it. Iowa slowly put the Panthers away over the weekend, but I think Northern Iowa played well and proved they will compete for a playoff bid even with an extremely tough schedule. Northern Iowa will get a chance to make a statement next weekend when they battle it out with Youngstown State

#5 South Dakota State (2-1), 92

South Dakota State has sort of snuck up on me. I figured the defense would be improved from last year, but so far this year. The Jackrabbit defense didn't allow a touchdown to UC Davis and the Aggies were never even in the red-zone. Besides running back Zach Zenner, the Jackrabbit offense fizzled out multiple times as it crossed mid-field. South Dakota State will play Indiana State next weekend and will need to work on finishing drives in order to stay on the rise. 

#6 Indiana State (2-1), 85

After two straight weeks of playing lower-level competition, Indiana State has fallen below South Dakota State in the Power Rankings. Indiana played Drake--a good team from the Pioneer League-- over the weekend and struggled to stop the Bulldog offense early on. The game was tied 10-10 at halftime, but the Sycamores pulled away in the second half and won 27-10. Shakir Bell had 2 TDs and 349 yards rushing. 

#7 Southern Illinois (1-2), 45

I predicted against it--but Southern Illinois got a much needed win and some even more needed confidence over the weekend as they beat Ohio Valley Conference member Southeast Missouri State. Kory Faulkner played his best game this year throwing for 2 touchdowns 384 yards. Southern Illinois will play Missouri State in Springfield next week. 

#8 Western Illinois (2-1), 44

Western Illinois traveled to Ames, Iowa to battle Iowa State over the weekend and played better than anticipated. The score says 37-2, however, the game wasn't that close. Western Illinois racked up only 178 yards of offense compared to Iowa State's 504. The Cyclone second string came in during the third quarter, and the third string came in during the fourth. Next weekend Western Illinois will take on Illinois State. 

#9 South Dakota (1-1), 40

South Dakota is the only Missouri Valley team that hasn't played an FBS opponent. That will change next weekend as they travel to Evanston, Illinois to play Big Ten member, Northwestern. 

#10 Missouri State (0-3), 19

I've got to say I'm a little disappointed to see Missouri State lose to Murray State over the weekend. The team just looked flat. Ashton Glaser threw two interceptions and the defense played poor as well. Next week the Bears will try to get back on track as they host Southern Illinois next weekend.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday Thoughts

The Missouri Valley Football Conference picked up some more wins over the weekend in non-conference play--the only teams that lost were Northern Iowa and Missouri State. The wins this week were closer than last week; both Youngstown State and Indiana State struggled putting away weaker FCS opponents. The most surprising game, in my opinion, was Southern Illinois. Although, that must have not been too surprising to some considering the Salukis were receiving votes in the top 25 poll, even before the weekend, when they were sitting at 0-2.

Illinois State QB, Matt Brown (Photo: Steve Smedley)
Illinois State 54, Eastern Illinois 51

Instant classic in Normal over the weekend. Eastern Illinois is a pretty solid team from the Ohio Valley Conference and played Illinois State through two overtimes. The Redbirds final scoring strike was a 25 yard touchdown pass from Matt Brown to Tyrone Walker to end the game. Matt Brown passed for 473 yards--a career best--in a thriller. Illinois State is well on its way to playoff eligibility and should pick up another win next week against Western Illinois.

Indiana State 27, Drake 10

This game was tied 10-10 at halftime, however, the Sycs dominanted the second half and pulled away. Shakir Bell ran for 349 yards and 2 touchdowns. I was high on Mike Perish last week, but this week he was less than spectacular throwing for only 94 yards with 1 TD and an interception. Drake's quarterback Michael Piatkowski out-performed Perish throwing for 329 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. In the end, Indiana State controlled the second half and did what they needed to do to pull of a nice win against a pretty good Drake football team.

South Dakota State RB, Zach Zenner
(Photo: The Collegian/Aaron Stoneberger)
South Dakota State 12, UC Davis 8

Ugly game up in Brookings over the weekend, however, South Dakota State's defense is once again proving that it belongs as they shut-out the UC Davis offense. The Aggies only points came from a pick-six (something that apparently is still plaguing the Jackrabbits) and was capped off with a two-point conversion. On a good note, running back Zach Zenner hasn't missed a beat. He ran for 193 yards and two touchdowns yesterday. The Jackrabbits will need to start strong and finish drives if they are going to knock off the Sycamores in Terre Haute next weekend.

Iowa 27, Northern Iowa 16

Northern Iowa played great against Big Ten competition again. However, they now sit at 1-2 and can't risk losing many more games if they want to be playoff eligible. Sawyer Kollmorgen played okay, but not as well as in the past. Northern Iowa just couldn't punch the ball into the endzone to finish off drives. They also couldn't stop the run--Iowa running back Mark Weisman ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns--and the Panthers couldn't run. Northern Iowa was held to 94 total rushing yards. Next week Northern Iowa returns to some normal, yet hard, competition as they face conference foe Youngstown State in a huge early season conference game.

Youngstown State 31, Albany 24

This game was much closer than I anticipated. I knew that Albany would score some points, but I figured Youngstown State would pull away after the half much like Indiana State did this weekend. The Penguins were off their game and won, to me, is an indication of a very good team. I don't want to take anything away from the way Albany played though, they are a good team from the NEC--and ranked in my ballot the past two weeks. We'll be seeing more from this Albany team come playoff time.

Southern Illinois WR, LaSteven McKinney
(Photo: Adam Vogler)
Southern Illinois 35, SE Missouri State 14

As I stated before, this was a much needed win for Southern Illinois. Kory Faulkner performed much better in this game than in the previous two. He will need to continue that success into the conference schedule in order for the Salukis to completely turn things around. I still am surprised that the Salukis don't run the ball more, they have two very talented backs. the Southern Illinois defense also played very well after two dismal performances. After three weeks, this Saluki team has played better each week. If they continue that trend, the Salukis could emerge as a darkhorse this season.

Iowa State 37, Western Illinois 3

I attended this game last night and was surprised that Iowa State didn't score more points. Western had trouble moving the ball all night and had trouble containing the Cyclones shifty tailbacks. Iowa State racked up over 500 yards of offense compared to 178 for Western Illinois. An a good note, Nikko Watson looked good, he had a couple of big runs but most of his yards were in a 'cloud-of-dust'. Western will face a tough Illinois State team next week.

Murray State 28, Missouri State 23

Missouri State still can not pull off a win. From looking at the stats, it looks like they shot themselves in the foot all game. Ashton Glaser threw two interceptions and they couldn't get the run game into high gear. At 0-3, Missouri State has a long way to go in oder to turn the season around. Southern Illinois will come into Springfield next week, in a must-win situation for both teams.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Looking Ahead to Week #3

UNI QB, Sawyer Kollmorgen could be the catalyst in an upset
against Iowa this weekend. (Photo: Jeff Hanisch-U.S. Preswire) 
This week is the last week of non-conference play for most Missouri Valley Football Conference members, only North Dakota State and South Dakota--those two are on byes this week--will play non-conference games next week against Prairie View A&M and Northwestern, respectively. For a couple of teams, this week is absolutely crucial for playoff implications. For example, if Northern Iowa doesn't beat Iowa this weekend, they must run the table in the Valley to be selected for a playoff bid. A very realistic possibility would see losses to Iowa, Youngstown State, and North Dakota State; If that situation would happen, I'm afraid Northern Iowa would be sitting out of this years playoff. A 7-4 team traditionally would be waiting for an at-large bid, however, Northern Iowa beat Central State--a non-counter--so in actuality that 7-4 record is 6-4 in the eyes of the playoff selection committee. However, if Northern Iowa beats one of those three teams, I believe an 8-3 (7-3) Northern Iowa team gets into the playoffs easily.

Southern Illinois and Missouri State are also competing in games that could be eye-openers in terms of what those teams specifically will do the rest of the season. Southern Illinois plays Southeast Missouri State, if they lose this game a 3-8, 2-9 season is a real possibility. On the other hand, Missouri State is playing its first FCS team. After two straight weeks of playing tough competition--and playing well against it--we could see what this Missouri State team is really made of. Western Illinois, who sits at a 2-0 against weak competition will most likely get a reality check when they visit Ames this weekend.

MSU QB, Ashton Glaser
(Photo: Jesse Scheve/News-Leader)

Illinois State 42, Eastern Illinois 24

Iowa 24, Northern Iowa 23

Indiana State 41, Drake 7

South Dakota State 34, UC Davis 21

Youngstown State 52, Albany 17

Southeast Missouri State 35, Southern Illinois 31

Iowa State 52, Western Illinois 0

Missouri State 28, Murray State 17

South Dakota State needs this win against UC Davis. If they win this weekend, the Jackrabbits will need to beat two teams out of either Youngstown State, Northern Iowa, North Dakota State, or Indiana State to make the playoffs--considering they beat the teams they are expected to beat. If South Dakota State losses this weekend, then they would have to beat three of those teams, and realistically, that would be out of reach. If SDSU is going to upset two teams, it would be against Indiana State and Youngstown State on Hobo Day. I don't see the Jackrabbits going to either Dome and coming out with a win.

Illinois State should roll against Eastern Illinois, two weeks ago I saw Eastern Illinois' offense and was pretty impressed. However, that was against a sub-par Southern Illinois defense. This game could have the potential to be a high scoring game, but I think in the end the Redbirds balance will wear out Eastern Illinois. The Redbirds should have this game in the books by the late third quarter.

I think the Valley will compete well again this week. I might be getting ahead of myself with playoff implications, a lot of "Ifs and ors" this week but still a crucial time in the FCS.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Miller's Power Rankings: Week #2

Illinois State QB, Matt Brown, celebrates in a statement
win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Illinois State won
(Photo: MichiganExposures)
#1 Youngstown State (2-0)

Youngstown State again proved why they should be #1; they pummeled Valparaiso 59-0 while being up 49-0 at halftime. Kurt Hess was barely in the game but still threw 2 TD passes. 

#2 Illinois State (2-0)

Illinois State pulled off an expected FBS win against Eastern Michigan 31-14. Matt Brown looked good, but Darrelynn Dunn looked better. Illinois State looks to be a very balanced team this year with a much better defense. 

#3 North Dakota State (2-0)

Quite literally, North Dakota State and Illinois State are neck-and-neck at #2 and #3, I believe the only reason Illinois State jumped them in the system was because the Redbird's opponent win % was 5 points higher. Bison are already on cruise control and look like they won't be stopped. 

#4 Northern Iowa (1-1)

As expected Northern Iowa rose in this weeks Power Ranking as they destroyed D-II Central State. I added the ranked FBS variable, but even without that variable Northern Iowa would have secured the #4 spot. Quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen looks amazing; I know its only the 2nd week, but he is my choice for MVFC Freshman of the Year so far. 

#5 Indiana State (1-1)

The Sycamores took care of Quincy 44-0. Shakir Bell only had 69 yards rushing, albeit limited action. Quarterback Mike Perish looks like he is the real deal and a great replacement for Ronnie Fouch. Indiana State could be an upset away from contention for the MVFC crown this year. 

#6 South Dakota State (1-1)

South Dakota State has their running game back. RB Zach Zenner ran for 279 yards and a TD this week. The Jackrabbit passing game has been less spectacular, but when you have a back that runs for nearly 300 yards, you really don't have to pass. Still, QB Austin Sumner threw 2 TDs in a 31-14 win in Hammond, LA. 

#7 Western Illinois (2-0)

After playing their second sub-D1 opponent, and struggling against them, Western Illinois has dropped significantly. Caulton Ray and Nikko Watson are bright spots on the team, but many others will need to step up if they want more than two wins this year. Needless to say, in the next few weeks the Leathernecks could be at the bottom of these rankings.

#8 Missouri State (0-2)

Missouri State rose a bit in the Power Rankings; certainly, out of all the MVFC teams, the ranked FBS variable helped the Bears out the most. Next week we should know more about the Bears as they play a more comparable opponent, Murray State. 

#9 South Dakota (1-1)

Missouri State was the most positively effected MVFC from the ranked FBS variable; on the other hand, South Dakota was the most negatively effected. With a big loss against Montana last week, and a close victory this week against lesser-scholarship team Colgate, South Dakota sits at #9. 

#10 Southern Illinois (0-2)

Southern Illinois played better than last week, however, still the rankings peg Southern Illinois as the weakest MVFC team. Next week Southern Illinois plays Southeast Missouri State. They must win next week in order to save any remaining confidence. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saturday Thoughts

North Dakota State CB, Aireal Boyd
The Missouri Valley went 8-2 this week. Included in those wins were two wins against FBS competition. Illinois State demolished Eastern Michigan 31-14 and North Dakota State controlled Colorado State in their 22-7 victory. Southern Illinois and Missouri State were the only teams that lost, they lost 30-14 and 35-7 respectively to FBS competition. In other games, Indiana State put Quincy away early as they won 44-0, Northern Iowa steamrolled Central State 59-0, and Youngstown State flew by Valpo 59-0. As expected, South Dakota and South Dakota State took care of their opponents and came away with wins last night as well. The most surprising game was again, Western Illinois. Western Illinois struggled with Indianapolis more than I thought they would; they won by 10 points. This was the second week in a row that Western Illinois has played below my expectations.

Illinois State 31, Eastern Michigan 14

Illinois State came out strong and took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Soon after, Eastern Michigan came running back to take a 14-10 halftime lead. The second half was completely dominated by Illinois State and the Redbirds pulled away to seal-the-deal. The Redbird defense in the second half was amazing; it was 3-and-out time-after-time for Eastern Michigan. Illinois State will take on Eastern Illinois next week. This should be a revenge game for the MVFC as Eastern Illinois took down conference-mate Southern Illinois in the first week.

Miami (OH) 30, Southern Illinois 14

This game didn't surprise me much. However, Southern Illinois performed much better in this game than they did against Eastern Illinois last week. The Salukis actually out-gained Miami in total offense 349 to 336. This could be a step towards getting their defense in order. Next week Southern Illinois will play Southeast Missouri State at home.

Indiana State 44, Quincy 0

Indiana State got on the board quick; 21-0 after the first, 37-0 at halftime. After halftime the starters were out and Indiana State was just running the ball. Sycamore defensive lineman Ben Obaseski got a TD run today. Next week Indiana State will play non-scholarship Drake. Drake played Montana State tough last night, the Bulldogs lost by 10. This game might not be as easy as it looks for Indiana State.

Illinois State WR, Tyrone Walker
Youngstown State 59, Valparaiso 0

The Penguin starters barely played in this game. Kurt Hess went 7-10 for 136 yards and 2 TDs, Jamaine Cook only carried the ball eight times. Didn't really matter how much they played, they still racked up 524 yards of offense. Next week, Youngstown State will play Albany, a tougher team from a lesser-scholarship conference.

South Dakota 31, Colgate 21

The Coyotes picked up a nice win here. They played much better on defense, however, Colgate had a lot of success running the ball. South Dakota will need to fill those gaps once conference play comes around. Colgate had two backs go over 100 yards in this game. On a good note, Coyote RB Marcus Sims had a great day running; he averaged over 9 yards a carry and scored once. USD will be on bye this week, however in two weeks USD will take on Northwestern who struggled with Vanderbilt last night.

Louisville 35, Missouri State 7

Again, Missouri State played well against ranked FBS competition. Missouri State hung in there and was only down 18-7 at halftime. Ashton Glaser is a pretty good quarterback for the Bears and things are looking up for them. However, in two games they still have been outscored 86-16; even if its against ranked FBS competition, these losses take their toll. Missouri State will get a home game versus Murray State next week. Murray State is 0-2 as well and was beaten pretty bad by Central Arkansas last night.

Western Illinois 27, Indianapolis 17

I predicted Western Illinois to win 35-14; it was worse than that. Indianapolis hung in there with Western Illinois and only lost by 10. Western Illinois has a tremendous amount of work to do if they want to challenge Iowa State next week. Indianapolis out-gained Western Illinois in total offense by about 50 yards, if they hadn't turned the ball over four times they might have beaten the Leathernecks. On the bright side, the Western Illinois running game was alive and well again, Caulton Ray and Nikko Watson both had decent days. However, a quarterback change seriously needs to be considered. I'm afraid Leatherneck quarterback Josh Hudson just does not have "it".

North Dakota State 22, Colorado State 7
Northern Iowa WR, Phil Wright
(Photo: Matthew Putney/WCFC)
The best part of this game was that I immediately went over to the Colorado State rivals message board. Holy cow Batman, it was pure gold. Honestly, anyone who didn't expect this is an idiot who is conceited to the level of delusion. But of course, I'm forgetting that 95% of FBS fans do not understand that there are good teams at the FCS level, and because of those 95% of FBS fans, these wins are just that much sweeter. Really, there isn't much else to say; it was a normal game for the Bison, Brock Jensen was efficient and threw a TD pass, Sam Ojuri and John Crockett combined for over 100 yards, and the defense played amazing. North Dakota State will be on a BYE this next week; they'll match up with Prairie View A&M in two weeks.

Northern Iowa 59, Central State 0

I picked 63-0, pretty close, but easy prediction. Freshman quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen was stellar again he threw 3 TDs by the time Jared Lanpher took over in scrub time. Not much else to say about this game other than I think that Northern Iowa might seriously have a shot at beating Iowa next week.

South Dakota State 31, Southeastern Louisiana 14

South Dakota State RB, Zach Zenner
(Photo: Randy Bergeron/SELO Public Info)
The Jackrabbits were fairly dominant in this game. Southeastern Louisiana was completely overpowered at the line-of-scrimmage as Zach Zenner ran for 278 yards and a TD. Quarterback Austin Sumner added two touchdown passes as the Rabbits cruised past the Lions. South Dakota State will definitely need to work on their red-zone offense in order to pull off the big wins against top MVFC competition. Had South Dakota State converted their FG's into TD's this game would have been a larger blowout.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Looking Ahead to Week #2

The Missouri Valley should collect lots of wins this week. UNI, Youngstown State, Western Illinois, and Indiana State play week competition and should blow-out their opponents. South Dakota and South Dakota State play FCS opponents Colgate and Southeastern Louisiana. The USD-Colgate game could be close, but I expect the Coyotes to pull off a close victory at home. Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Missouri State, and North Dakota State all play FBS teams.

Taylor Nelson, TE North Dakota State (Photo:

Miami (OH) 35, Southern Illinois 14

Illinois State 31, Eastern Michigan 24

Indiana State 52, Quincy 13

South Dakota 31, Colgate 28

Louisville 45, Missouri State 10

Western Illinois 35, Indianapolis 14

Brett LeMaster, WR Northern Iowa
(Photo: Morry Gash/LacrosseTribune)
Northern Iowa 63, Central State 0

North Dakota State 24, Colorado State 10

South Dakota State 35, Southeastern Louisiana 14

All-in-all, I expect the Missouri Valley Football Conference to perform very well this week. Some blowouts, a couple close games, and a couple losses to FBS squads. I am going to keep a close eye on the Western Illinois-Indianapolis game; if Western struggles again like it did last week against Butler it might secure most peoples thinking that it will be a long season for the Leathernecks. It will also be interesting what happens in the South Dakota State-Southeastern Louisiana game. The Jackrabbits have a chance to prove how improved their defense has become over the offseason. This game should also give quarterback Austin Sumner a chance to settle down and get back to normalcy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Some Highlights from Last Weekend

South Dakota State's Zach Zenner blasted straight up through the Kansas defense on his way to a 99-yard touchdown run. Check out what happens to the Jayhawk's defensive end and defensive tackle on the right side. SDSU had troubles running the ball last year; this year looks like they'll do a little better.

Nice little touchdown pass here from Kurt Hess to Andre Stubbs. Pittsburgh bit hard on the play-fake. I wished I could have watched this game and seen for myself how dominant Youngstown State was. Unfortunately for fans of other Missouri Valley Conference Schools, Kurt Hess & Company will likely repeat this same play many times this season.

Another Youngstown State highlight here. This is what I love to see, all those times FBS teams try to trick FCS teams in order to test how much they will bit on the run. Here, Youngstown State makes Big East Pittsburgh look silly.

This is more of a recap highlight from the entire Western Illinois-Butler game. Kevin Rudolf and Lil' Wayne were apparently calling the game.

Condensed game recap from the Montana-South Dakota game. I STRONGLY recommend muting these videos if you watch them; its just a bunch of screaming. Two separate videos equalling about half an hour long. You can watch the whole thing or just get a taste of what the Coyotes look like. (Video #1 on top #2 on bottom)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Saturday Thoughts

After a rough opening on Thursday, the Missouri Valley stepped it up on Saturday. The games on Saturday featured five games against FBS competition, two games against weaker FCS opponents, and a Big Sky-MVFC match-up. Missouri Valley teams managed only three wins out of the eight games on Saturday, however, the way they performed against higher-level competition is what stood out to me.

Illinois State RB, Cameron Hunt
(Photo: Steve Smedley/The Pantagraph)
Illinois State 56, Dayton 14

No surprise here. Illinois State welcomed a non-scholarship team and had their way up and down the field. QB Matt Brown was very solid (22-34, 192, 3 TDs) and was able to get the offense going early which allowed the Redbird run game to get going. Two Redbird running backs went over 100 yards on Saturday. Darrelynn Dunn took the majority of the carries and ran for 127 yards and 3 TDs. Cameron Hunt also eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Illinois State travels to Ypsilanti, MI this week to take on Eastern Michigan; I expect Illinois State to come out with a win.

South Dakota 24, Montana 35

South Dakota played close with Montana throughout the majority of the game; they were actually winning in the third quarter 24-16. However, as I suspected, Montana would pull away late in the game. In fact, Montana dominated this game. The Grizzlies put up 586 yards of offense compared to the Coyotes 233 yards. The 'Yotes were lucky the game was this close.

Northern Iowa 21, Wisconsin 26

This game was much closer than I thought. I knew that Northern Iowa had always played tough against Iowa State and Iowa, but Wisconsin is on a whole different level. I expected this game to look much like other FCS-BCS match-ups and Northern Iowa proved once again that it is not just another FCS team. Sawyer Kollmorgen, a freshman, threw for 265 yards and 3 TDs in his first game ever. On the downer-side-of-things, if Northern Iowa had been able to run at all then they might have been able to win this game. David Johnson was UNI's leading rusher on Saturday with 18 yards.

Youngstown State 31, Pittsburgh 17

YSU WR's Andre Stubbs and Christian Bryan
(Photo: US Presswire)
The Penguins made a statement in this game that they are the real deal. I knew that Youngstown State would be good this year, but I was skeptical of their defense. This upset of Big East Pittsburgh erased any doubts I had against Youngstown State. Kurt Hess was solid and threw two touchdown passes, but the standout performance on offense was freshman Andre Stubbs. Stubbs had over 170 yards all-purpose and scored twice. Next up for Youngstown State is FCS non-scholarship Valparaiso.

South Dakota State 17, Kansas 31

This game played out like a typical FCS-FBS match-up. South Dakota State hung in their--trailing 10-7 at half-- but SDSU's defense wore out and Kansas took control. Austin Sumner threw 4 INTs, but three were in garbage time in the fourth quarter. This week SDSU will battle SE Louisiana; look for a close game but I expect SDSU to come back to South Dakota with a victory under their belt.

North Dakota State 52, Robert Morris 0

The nations best defense last year made a statement in this game that they're back. North Dakota State absolutely destroyed Robert Morris. The Colonials were held to 88 total yards of offense. This week the Bison travel to Colorado State. Colorado State is coming off of a fresh 22-17 win over rivals Colorado. We'll see how Colorado State responds at home this week. I still expect North Dakota State to win.
Sycamore RB, Shakir Bell (Photo: ISUAthletics)

Missouri State 9, Kansas State 51

I was following this game pretty closely. I saw the 9-6 halftime score and thought maybe Missouri State might be a different team this year--then the fourth quarter happened. Kansas State scored 35 fourth quarter points. The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Bears this week as they travel to Louisville.

Indiana State 17, Indiana 24

I was pretty confident that Indiana State would pull of the upset here. I figured Shakir Bell would run all over the Hoosier defense--and he did (192 yards and a TD). However, it wasn't enough to keep up with the Hoosiers. This week the Sycs will take out their frustration on Quincy; the starters should be out by halftime.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Miller's Power Rankings: Week #1

Youngstown State's RB Jamaine Cook stiff arms Pittsburgh DB
Lafayette Pitt in Youngstown State's 31-17 trashing of the Panthers

#1 Youngstown State (1-0)

Can't argue with Youngstown State being #1. A powerful performance against FBS Pittsburgh was a great start for the Penguins. Next up: Valparaiso.

#2 North Dakota State (1-0)

Very strong performance against Robert Morris. This week will be more of a test for North Dakota State as they travel to Colorado State. 

#3 Illinois State (1-0)

Much like North Dakota State, Illinois State demolished a weaker FCS opponent. This week Illinois State will travel to Ypsilanti to take on lowly MAC member, Eastern Michigan.

#4 Western Illinois (1-0)

Western Illinois is barely hanging on to the #4 spot merely because they got a win. Next week they should get another win (Indianapolis) but they'll drop below Indiana State, Northern Iowa, South Dakota State, and maybe South Dakota with the strength of schedule penalties for playing non-scholarship and sub-D1 opponents.

#5 Indiana State (0-1)

Indiana State played well against Indiana. However their defense needed to step up just a little more to pull off the upset. Regardless, Shakir Bell ran for 192 yards on a Big Ten team. He is a serious contender for the Walter Payton Award. 

#6 Northern Iowa (0-1)

Northern Iowa played well against a Big Ten opponent as well. However, they will need to figure out their run offense to make a move to beat Iowa in a couple weeks. 

#7 South Dakota State (0-1)

South Dakota State managed to hang with Kansas until the fourth quarter. The Jackrabbits pulled within a touchdown but the defense wore out and Kansas took control. SDSU will travel to Louisiana and battle it out with Southland member SE Louisiana. 

#8 South Dakota (0-1)

The Coyotes are going to need to come together on defense; giving up 568 yards of offense is just unacceptable. Despite their poor defensive performance they led Montana 24-16 in the 3rd quarter. They can't count on being in that position in most games. The Coyotes have Colgate at home this week. 

#9 Missouri State (0-1)

I thought Missouri State was on upset alert, then they gave up 35 points in the fourth quarter. Next week they travel to Louisville. 

#10 Southern Illinois (0-1)

Southern Illinois by far had the worst performance in the MVFC in the past week. With all the talent they have on their team they should not give up 49 points. This week Southern Illinois will see if they can do better against MAC opponent Miami (OH).