Tuesday, November 27, 2012

MVFC Playoffs: Live Chat, Wednesday 9:00 PM (CST)

Monday, November 26, 2012

MVFC Playoffs: South Dakota State 58, Eastern Illinois 10

South Dakota State's Zach Zenner stiff arms an Eastern
Illinois defender. Zenner ran for 295 yards and 3 TDs.
(Photo: The Collegian/Nick Lowrey)
South Dakota State won their first ever FCS playoff game (in fact, first ever playoff game, period) on Saturday as they destroyed Ohio Valley Champion Eastern Illinois 58-10. It took the Jackrabbit offense approximately half a quarter to get going and that was all she wrote for the Panthers of Eastern Illinois. Standout running-back Zach Zenner ran for 295 yards and three TDs as he lead the march against the Panthers. Quarterback Austin Sumner added a touchdown as time expired in the first half to give the Jackrabbits a 34-3 lead entering halftime.

The most important aspect of this game was the Jackrabbit defense. Eastern Illinois came into this game boasting a powerful offensive attack that featured two Walter Payton Award finalists, Jimmy Garoppolo and Erik Lora. Garoppolo was held to 221 yards (half to Lora) and most importantly was kept from throwing a touchdown the entire game. The Jackrabbit defense was stout and put Eastern Illinois out of the game almost before it got started. Erik Lora did have 12 catches for over 100 yards but his impact was kept minimal as he was frequently unable to do anything after the catch.

Zach Zenner's day was basically done halfway through the third quarter, Reggie Gandy came in and put up insane numbers as a back-up. Gandy ran 16 times for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns. In other words, South Dakota State's offensive line absolutely destroyed the Eastern Illinois defensive front on their way to over 434 yards of rushing. Here are some more numbers to show you how dominant the Jackrabbit performance was:
Zach Zenner runs away from the Eastern Illinois
defense on his way to a 68-yard TD run.
(Photo: Elisha Page/Argus Leader)

Total Offense:
South Dakota State LB's, Ross Shafrath (44) and Chris Tracy (7)
wrap up Eastern Illinois receiver Sam Hendricks
(Photo: Elisha Page/Argus Leader)

 Eastern Illinois - 399
 South Dakota State - 580

Time of Possession:

 Eastern Illinois - 22:57
 South Dakota State - 37:03

Penalty Yards:

 Eastern Illinois - 9-100
 South Dakota State - 4-20

First Downs

 Eastern Illinois - 17
 South Dakota State - 29

Most importantly, the score, 58-10, showed how dominant the South Dakota State Jackrabbits were on Saturday. Not only does this score show how good South Dakota State was on Saturday, but it also shows how good the Missouri Valley Football Conference really is. Now, the Ohio Valley has been getting some more rep this year with Tennessee State, Tennessee-Martin, Eastern Kentucky all ending at 8-3 with Tennessee-Martin getting an FBS win (20-17) over Memphis. However, Eastern Illinois won the OVC auto-bid going 6-1 in the conference and 7-4 overall.

What does all this mean? Well, In my opinion it means one of a couple things. First, maybe Eastern Illinois just didn't come to play. We saw it when South Dakota State traveled to Northern Iowa earlier this year (although, I'm still certain that Northern Iowa was a more powerful team than their record shows) Secondly, maybe the OVC isn't as good as they've been pumped up to be this year. Or thirdly, the Missouri Valley really is as good as its been pumped up to be this year. One thing is for certain however, the selection committee really messed up this years bracket. It was stated that South Dakota State was one of the last two selected (along with Stony Brook) but South Dakota State was obviously not the worst, or even the second worst, team in the playoffs this year. This next week matchup between North Dakota State and South Dakota State should not be happening and it is an absolute slap in the face to the Missouri Valley Football Conference that it is, in fact, happening. However, regardless of our opinions, North Dakota State and South Dakota State will battle it out again after three weeks, this time the loser's season will be done.

Next weekend, three Missouri Valley teams will be playing. Two, North Dakota State and South Dakota State will be playing each other and the third, Illinois State, will be traveling to Boone, North Carolina to take on Appalachian State. We all know the how the Bison and the Jacks match up, since we've seen it once before. However, Illinois State at Appalachian State is a very interesting game. Appalachian State will feature a very dynamic quarterback Brett Jackson, however, their defense is allowing close to 24 points a game. Looking back at their schedule, the Mountaineers have been very consistent. Winning 30-something to 20-something has been a common theme in their 2012 season. Illinois State will need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to walk away from Boone with a win and a chance to move on in the playoffs.

Illinois State at Appalachian State will begin at 2:00 EST while North Dakota State vs South Dakota State will begin at 4:00 EST.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The South Dakota Showdown: In Pictures

Jackrabbits warming up. 
Jackrabbit QB's, Sumner & Kline, warming up.
The Dykhouse Student-Athlete Center. 
A quick look at the Coyote fans in their corner of Coughlin-Alumni Stadium
MVFC Pre-game hand shake. The crowd has definitely filled in. 
A look at the south Endzone before the game. 
Opening kick-off; the rivalry is officially back.
SDSU's front seven; the Jackrabbit defense allowed just 22 yards of rushing.
Not the best picture quality here; tried to get a LOS shot. I guess my camera just can't handle that level of zoom.
Tough start for the Coyotes, excellent start for the Rabbits. 
Just some random action. 
Jackrabbit Pre-game, pre-game, warm-ups. First look at the throwback jersey's. 
Coyotes warming up. Yes, I was there early.

Miller's Power Rankings: Week 12

#1 North Dakota State (10-1), 542 (points)
South Dakota State's LB, Chris Tracy, scores on a fumble
recovery in the first quarter against South Dakota.
(Photo: GoJacks.com)
North Dakota State won the Missouri Valley outright Saturday night as they pulled way from the Redbirds late in the game to seal the victory. in doing so, North Dakota State also secured the #1 seed in the playoffs. It is very likely that the Bison should make a push for a second-straight national champion. However, the team the Bison might need to worry about the most is #4 Old Dominion who are on their way to the FBS next season.

#2 Illinois State (8-3), 326

Illinois State had a chance to beat North Dakota State but blew several chances to pull away in the second half, instead, the Bison put on the pressure and the Redbirds collapsed. However, Illinois State did enough this season to earn a second-round playoff game at Appalachian State. Illinois State will have a monumental task putting together a big playoff run. If they beat App State, they will have to go through (presumably) #2 Eastern Washington and #3 Montana State. 

#3 South Dakota State (8-3), 297
South Dakota State snuck into the playoffs with a respectable, but not over-powering, 8-3 season. The Jackrabbits earned the their way into the playoff over the weekend with a 31-8 stomping of long-time rival South Dakota. Although a larger crowd was expected, the healthy crowd of 15,200 was good enough for 7th largest crowd in Coughlin-Alumni Stadium history.  Austin Sumner showed once again that he has regained some of his confidence from last season and proved to be lethal as he was finding wide-open receivers all day. Zach Zenner also had a day; he slowly put together 164 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Jackrabbits were extremely stout; the Coyotes sniffed the endzone once but ended up turning the ball over on fourth down. Next weekend South Dakota State will be the only Valley team playing in the first-round of the playoffs. The Jackrabbits will host Eastern Illinois and their electrifying passing-attack; should the Jackrabbits win, they will have a second chance at knocking off conference rival North Dakota State. 

#4 Youngstown State (7-4), 276
Youngstown State needed one more win to get into the playoffs. The losses against Illinois State and Southern Illinois hurt the worse; in both those games the Penguins were winning at halftime and failed to come back out to play in the second half. Kurt Hess & Company will be back next year. However, they'll lose standout running back Jamaine Cook. Besides that loss, this Youngstown State team is still very young and will only improve over the offseason. 

#5 Southern Illinois (6-5), 256
The slow start to 2012 hurt the Salukis who turned out probably the third best defense in the Valley behind North Dakota State and South Dakota State. Next season the Salukis will look much the same, similarly to Youngstown State the Salukis are still young and show promise. Steve Strother who was a big producer on offense for the Salukis will graduate and also Kenneth Boatright's presence on the defensive line will be missed next year. At 6-5 the Salukis looked to have a mediocre season, but there was plenty to be happy about after two straight losing seasons. After comparing the 2011 SDSU-SIU & 2012 SDSU-SIU (games that I've watched in their entirety), I think the Salukis have alot to look forward to. In that 2011 matchup against South Dakota State, the Salukis looked completely defeated and lackadaisical; in 2012, they showed spirit and pride--the confidence factor cannot be overlooked and 2012 was definitely a successful confidence building season for the Salukis. An argument can be made saying that Southern Illinois should be above Youngstown State with a head-to-head win, however, I'll stand by the argument that it is a little more complicated than that. Remember, Indiana State beat Southern Illinois who beat Youngstown State who lost to Indiana State. So in all actuality, we can probably arrange these teams any which way and still make a legitimate argument. I think that the computer does an okay job of arranging them (Youngstown State with the best FBS win in FCS & Indiana State with wins over Quincy and Drake brought them up and pulled them down respectively)

#6 Indiana State (7-4), 231
Indiana State had a disappointing end to 2012. After their upset victory in Fargo it looked like Indiana State might end 9-2 and grab a seed in the playoffs. Illinois State was playing inconstantly and Youngstown State was in free-fall and most predicted Indiana State to win against those two teams. However, the opposite happened and the worst-case scenario came into fruition in Terre Haute. After setting #1 North Dakota State, the Sycamores did not even get the necessary 7 D-I wins to be eligible for the playoffs. We've seen it before, scheduling an FBS team and a D-II team makes it extremely difficult for teams to make the playoffs. However, Indiana State, Shakir Bell, and Mike Perish will be back next season. Hopefully with a playoff-friendly schedule. 

#7 Northern Iowa (5-6), 202
Everyone predicted this was how the Panther season would end. After losses to Iowa and Wisconsin, then losses to Youngstown State and North Dakota State, Northern Iowa would get to a point in their schedule where they shouldn't lose another game. The Panthers won 4 of their last five and reminded us that they are still Northern Iowa, and they'll be back next year.

#8 Missouri State (3-8), 103
Missouri State showed promise, but still made alot of glaring mistakes that will inhibit this team from being a threat in the Missouri Valley. It seemed that the Bears were competitive in each of their games and even pulled off an upset win against Illinois State. However, offensively the Bears are going to need to find some sort of identity if they want to push their squad to the next level--defensively, they're on the right track. 

#9 South Dakota (1-10), 40
The conference newcomer South Dakota had a very rough season, winless in the conference was definitely not the way many Coyote fans had hoped to see. The good news is that the Yotes are young, and Joe Glenn will continue to mold this team into a better, more competitive version of themselves. Inconsistency was the word of the season for Coyote fans. Offensively the Coyotes had times where they looked pretty good, but most times the offense was ineffective and fizzled out before anything ever got started. The same can be said about the defense, there were games where the defense kept them in the game, then there were others (North Dakota State, Indiana State, South Dakota State) where the defense played on their heels and did not create any chaos to get the opposing offense out of rhythm. I will say, it will be interesting to watch this Coyote team over the next couple season. 

#10 Western Illinois (3-8), 13
Although Western Illinois finished the season with two more wins than the Coyotes, both of those wins game against non-scholarship Butler, & sub-D-I Indianapolis (of course, their other win came against, the Coyotes). However, in the last five games, Western scored only 17 points and was shut-out twice. Their max output on offense during those five games was 224 total yards of offense. The difference between South Dakota and Western Illinois was that the Coyotes showed some promise at the end of the season against Northern Iowa and Youngstown State; Western, on the other hand, got completely outplayed in the second half of the season. The Leathernecks will need to do some major soul-searching to prepare for 2013. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Miller's Power Rankings: Week 11

The Dakota Marker will stay in Fargo for another year. The
Bison clinched at least a share of the Missouri Valley
title on Saturday.
(Photo: Dave Walls/Fargo Communications)
#1 North Dakota State (9-1), 485 (points)
North Dakota State clinched at least a share of the Missouri Valley title over the weekend as they edged South Dakota State in a defensive battle. Defensively the Bison are everything they are hyped to be and their offense does exactly what it needs to do to win the game. Next weekend the Bison will have the opportunity to win the Missouri Valley outright with a win over Illinois State.

#2 Illinois State (8-2), 339

Illinois State has put themselves in good position for a post-season invitation. However, they could win a share of the Missouri Valley title if they beat North Dakota State next weekend. After a bye-week the Redbirds should be well rested to take on the Bison. Matt Brown will need to play a flawless game and the defense will need to keep the Redbirds in the game. 

#3 South Dakota State (7-3), 265

South Dakota State played well in Fargo but made a couple of crucial mistakes that might have cost them the game. At any rate, the Jackrabbits never had the lead and the Bison defense shut Austin Sumner/Zenner down when it counted the most. Next week South Dakota State will rekindle their rivalry with South Dakota. The Jackrabbits will need to win next week if they want to keep their post-season hopes alive. 

#4 Indiana State (7-3), 261
Indiana State had a bye-week last week and will need to come up with a big win this weekend against Youngstown State to keep their slim chance of playoffs alive. Indiana State's defense has developed into one of the best in the Missouri Valley and that unit will give Kurt Hess and company alot of trouble. However, the Sycamores cannot sleep against this Youngstown State team. Although the Penguins have been down since their loss to North Dakota State, last week they scored 31 points (the most since since their win against Northern Iowa) which showed that they still have the ability to score points. Also, Indiana State has one victory over a Division II school (Quincy) which is proving to be a bad scheduling decision because it will likely keep this very good Sycamore football team out of post-season play.

#5 Youngstown State (6-4), 221
Youngstown State got another much-needed win last week as they dismantled Western Illinois and won comfortably. Jamaine Cook ran for 133 yards and 2 TD's on Saturday as they Penguins put the most points on the scoreboard since September 22nd. However, Kurt Hess again proved to be regressing as he threw for only 152 yards and an interception. Hess will need to be his best if the Penguins want to knock off Indiana State to get to 7 wins this season. 

#6 Southern Illinois (5-5), 218
Southern Illinois was on a bye week and hopefully they figured out how to get their offense to complement the defense. The Saluki's have proved to be stout on the defensive side, however, Kory Faulkner and the offense has been stagnant in the most crucial of times this season. Southern Illinois should have no trouble with Western Illinois next weekend and will likely end the season with high-confidence. 

#7 Northern Iowa (4-6), 202
Northern Iowa played very poorly against South Dakota last weekend in Vermillion. Kollmorgen was less-than-spectacular and the defense was sub-par. I'm not sure if the Panthers didn't show up or were not motivated to play a 1-8 team. Whatever the reason, if the Coyotes had another five minutes, they could have won. Northern Iowa will end the season against Missouri State, which suddenly is not a gimmie win. 

#8 Missouri State (3-7), 140
Missouri State is 3-1 in the past four games, their only loss was by four points to top ranked North Dakota State. Defensively the Bears have found a pretty good rhythm and have been able to frustrate opposing offenses. This weekend the Bears will face Northern Iowa, they will need to shut down David Johnson and Carlos Anderson if they want to beat the Panthers. 

#9 South Dakota (1-9), 15
Although the Panthers played very poorly over the weekend, give some credit to South Dakota. The Coyotes came out to play on Saturday and proved that they can compete and shouldnt' be overlooked. The Coyotes have only 1 win (over Colgate, now a playoff team) but that is not stopping them from playing with some motivation. That tell me alot about the character of this team and this weekend when they play South Dakota State the Coyotes will give the Jackrabbits all they have. 

#10 Western Illinois (3-7), 13
Western Illinois has been outscored 167-27 over the past five games, two of their three wins are from sub-division I schools, and to make matters worse, they'll face a very good Southern Illinois team to end the season on Saturday. Confidence will likely end on a low-note in Macomb and the Leathernecks will look toward the off-season to get better. Remember, two years ago the Leathernecks were a playoff team who beat Coastal Carolina in the first-round. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Western Illinois will be back. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

SDSU@NDSU Live Chat, Wednesday, 9:30 PM CST

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Missouri Valley Playoff Projections: Week 10

Matt Brown and the Redbirds have put themselves in a
very good spot in terms of playoff selection.
(Photo: GoRedbirds)
The playoff picture in the Missouri Valley got a little more clear over the weekend. However, it looks as if only three MVFC teams have legit shots at the playoffs this year. North Dakota State and Illinois State have already notched 8 D-I wins which is considered a lock coming from a conference like the Missouri Valley. South Dakota State currently sits at 7-2 which is a great spot for them as they have South Dakota coming to Brookings for the last game of the season. However, they must win one game before they get too comfortable. North Dakota State and South Dakota State are the only teams that control their own destiny for the Missouri Valley crown; if they win out, they'll get the auto-bid and most likely a seed, although it is argued that the Bison will receive a seed regardless.

The situation becomes more tricky for Illinois State to win the auto-bid. Essentially, South Dakota State must beat North Dakota State then lose to South Dakota to end 8-3. North Dakota State will need to lose to both South Dakota State and Illinois State to end 8-3. Illinois State will need to beat North Dakota State and they would end 9-2. I would assume Illinois State would grab the auto-bid and North Dakota State and South Dakota State would enter the playoffs, albeit, seedless.

There are, however, two teams who could end up with 7 D-I wins which would place them eligible for playoff selection. However, ALOT would have to happen across all conferences in the FCS landscape for a 7-win team to be selected. Both Youngstown State and Indiana State have opportunities to end with 7 wins. In this extreme scenario where a 7-win team from the Missouri Valley would be selected it would be tough to determine which team has the better resume. On one hand, the early season success of Youngstown State is nothing to scoff at, however, Indiana State proved they can compete with the best as they knocked off top-ranked North Dakota State in Fargo. So, what is more impressive? A win against North Dakota State or a win against Pittsburgh? In my opinion, the Indiana State win against North Dakota State was far more impressive. The relative success of Pittsburgh in the middle of the season (as depicted in their game against #4 BCS Notre Dame) has shown us that this is not the same Pittsburgh team that played against Youngstown State. It is a very valid argument when a new head coach comes in, the first few games can be rocky, as was the case in Pittsburgh. I'm not trying to downplay the significance of the win, I'm just saying there is something to think about there. North Dakota State, on the other hand, has had continued success and is a strong program with an amazing coaching staff. For Indiana State to come into Fargo and beat a #1 ranked team, with confidence, is a far larger statement than beating an FBS team right out of the gate.

So that is a quick review of where the anticipated eligible Missouri Valley teams stand. However, as we all know determining playoff teams requires a comprehension of the entire FCS field and how each conference is doing. For example, this year it will be very unlikely that a 7-win team will be selected into the playoffs because of the amount of 8+ win programs. Here is a list of teams who are anticipated to have 8+ wins at the end of the regular season:

Big Sky
Northern Arizona (8-1)
Eastern Washington (7-2)
Montana State (8-1)
Cal Poly (7-2)

Big South
Stony Brook (9-1)

New Hampshire (8-2)
Old Dominion (8-1)
James Madison (7-2) (If they beat 'Nova)
Richmond (6-3)
Villanova (6-3) (If they beat JMU)

Bethune-Cookman (7-2)

North Dakota State (8-1)
South Dakota State (7-2)
Illinois State (8-2)

Wagner (6-3)
Albany (7-2)

Ohio Valley
Tennessee-Martin (7-2)
Tennessee State (8-2)
Eastern Kentucky (7-3)

Patriot League
Lehigh (9-0)
Colgate (6-3)

Georgia Southern (7-2)
Wofford (7-2)
Appalachian State (7-3)

Central Arkansas (8-2)
Sam Houston State (7-2)

Obviously, there is a lot going on in the FCS the next couple weeks and talk up until now is purely speculation and guesswork.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Roth's Power Rankings: Week 10

1) North Dakota State
The Bison escaped thanks to a last-minute endzone interception against a surprisingly game Missouri State team. Right now the Bison offense is in full-fledged 2009 mode and the defense is going back to its old job of bailing the team out, but despite that NDSU is still the best team in the conference, especially with Indiana State losing this weekend. A huge Dakota Marker game looms this Saturday for at least a share of the conference title.

2) South Dakota State
Austin Sumner got back to his form last season as he threw against Southern Illinois 45 times and completed 26 of them without an interception. Meanwhile Zach Zenner had just 17 carries and the SIU defense held him to 49 yards. Is he running out of steam, or does the coaching staff recognize that teams are starting to key on the sophomore back and are going to the air as a result? Sumner needs to have a huge game if they want to win at NDSU on Saturday.

3) Illinois State 
Right now it looks like the Valley will get three into the playoffs and Illinois State is playing the part of the third team. With just one game left to play at home versus NDSU in the final week of the season, the Rebirds effectively have their ticket punched with eight wins. Good enough for a first-round bye? Probably not.

4) Indiana State
The loss to Illinois State was a back breaker, and playing D-II Quincy early in the season might not be enough to let the Sycamores sneak into the playoffs. They get a bye week to prepare for a monster game at Youngstown State to cap off the regular season, and a win there leaves them at seven D-I wins and on the bubble for the playoffs. They'll need some help from around the country (and will be rooting for Lehigh this weekend versus Colgate) if they want in to the field of 20.

5) Southern Illinois
It's almost too bad to see their loss to SDSU as they still had a snowball's chance of being considered for the playoffs at 6-4 if they win, with just cupcake WIU to play to end the season. SIU will want to get their first winning season in three years and should vent their frustrations on a hapless Western squad after their bye week.

6) Northern Iowa
The Panthers put a nice little thumping on WIU to remind folks that at one point they were considered among the favorites to win the conference. Panther fans have to be ready for this season to be over and freshman QB Kollmorgen will be ready to get working on the preface to his sophomore campaign which should hold plenty more promise. I'm interested to see what they do to South Dakota and Missouri State to finish their season. 

7) Youngstown State
From third in the nation to barely squeaking out a win over South Dakota, breaking a four-game losing streak. I've cited elsewhere that YSU's defense is not good enough to keep the 'Guins in the game when their offense isn't clicking, and so far that looks to be the case. Luckily they played a mostly-garbage USD team and were able to steal a 13-10 victory that won't earn them any respect. Playoffs are still a shadow of a chance and could set up a big finish when they play Indiana State to finish the season.

8) Missouri State
NDSU barely managed to snap a three-game win streak and needed a last-minute endzone pick to do it. MSU got feisty at the end of the year, and it's too bad their body of work leading up to this was so bad that I couldn't rank them higher than eighth.

9) South Dakota
Only ranked above Western Illinois by virtue of having scored points this weekend.

10) Western Illinois
40-0. Ouch.      

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Miller's Power Rankings: Week 10

South Dakota State reciever's Trevor Tiefenthaler gets up
after catching the game-winning TD with 7 seconds remaining.
(Photo: Joel Hawksley/TheSouthern)
#1 North Dakota State (8-1), 445 (points)
As expected, North Dakota State won in Springfield and likely sealed a spot in the playoffs. However, it was more of a challenge many Bison fans expected. Brock Jensen had another sub-par day (3 INTs) but should likely get back into rhythm next week if wideout Zach Vraa is 100%. The Bison defense stepped up and bailed the offense out with another stellar performance. Despite allowing 17 points, the defense only allowed 149 yards of total offense (only 22 yards of passing) and forced three turnovers. Next week they'll take on the Jackrabbits for the Dakota Marker and likely the Missouri Valley title should either team win out. North Dakota State will have multiple key aspects of the game going for them next Saturday. One, the pass defense; South Dakota State has been held to season lows the past two weeks which has been countered with a late-season surge of quarterback Austin Sumner. However, if North Dakota State forces the Jacks to throw the ball the Bison will likely force young Sumner into making crucial miscues. Should the Bison defense shut down the Jackrabbits early, the Bison should win Saturday mostly uncontested. On the other hand, the South Dakota State defense has been a high-point for this Jackrabbit team all season. The Jackrabbits certainly have talent and the ability to force turnovers and create chaos for the opposing offense. Next weekend will likely be a barnburner in Fargo... of course, I've used that phrase once before in week #5 and we all know how that turned out.

#2 Illinois State (8-2), 313

Illinois State likely knocked the Sycamores out of the playoffs over the weekend and again are finding themselves in a position to shoot for a Missouri Valley title. The Redbirds will have a week off to prepare for a battle against top-ranked North Dakota State. Over the weekend the Illinois State pass defense came up with 2 INTs to help seal the victory against Indiana State, if the defense brings the same intensity and focus to Fargo the Redbirds could make some noise. However, the two losses that Illinois State did suffer came from teams they should have beaten, to me that shows a lack of focus and maturity which could play a role in the fate of this Redbird team. With eight wins Illinois State has a good chance of punching an at-large bid to the playoffs. However, they will be routing for no upsets in other leagues or else they could be on the outside looking in. 

#3 South Dakota State (7-2), 265

As soon as many South Dakota State fans wrote off playoffs, Sumner led the Jackrabbits 94 yards for a touchdown with seven seconds left to keep playoff hopes alive in Brookings. What is concerning about this Jackrabbit team is that the offense seems to have flip-flopped. The past two weeks South Dakota State has accumulated 635 yards of passing opposed to 103 yards of rushing. We can argue that the success of the passing game has been an opportunistic transition as teams boxed up defenses at the line to stop breakout running-back Zach Zenner. Sure. However, great teams have the ability to mix-up play calling and run an effective balanced offensive attack; South Dakota State has proved powerful, either passing or running, but not at the same time. They will have to do BOTH if they want to keep a stout Bison defense on their heels this weekend. Again, both North Dakota State and South Dakota State control their fates, if they win their games, they win the Missouri Valley outright. SDSU+NDSU+Dakota Marker+Playoffs+MVFC title=Barnburner. 

#4 Indiana State (7-3), 262
Indiana State had a real let-down this past weekend against Illinois State. The Sycamores looked posed to control their destiny and find themselves in the playoffs. However, offensively Indiana State did not have control and made crucial mistakes that cost them the game against Illinois State and, ultimately, the playoffs. The good news for Indiana State is that Mike Perish is young and will have plenty of time to develop into a great Valley quarterback, also, Shakir Bell will be back next year. At the beginning of the year, it looked like this matchup between Youngstown State and Indiana State would be a game with playoff implications, however, after Youngstown State's collapse and Indiana State's slip-up this game will ultimately be about pride for these two squads. If Indiana State wins, they will finish the season 8-3, which is a great record. However, with that win against Quincy (D-II) not counting in the eyes of the playoff selection committee a 7-3 Indiana State team will likely be left out. 

#5 Southern Illinois (5-5), 193
Southern Illinois nearly pulled off a big win against South Dakota State over the weekend. However, the defense stopped playing 2 minutes early and Jackrabbit quarterback Austin Sumner threw a late TD to end all playoff hopes for the Salukis. The playoff hopes were a stretch before this loss as the Salukis could only end 7-4, however they can now only reach 6 D-I wins which leaves them ineligible for playoff selection. Thats the bad news. The good news is that the Salukis have proved alot this year and next year Southern Illinois should be a real contender with a very, very good defense. Saluki quarterback Kory Faulkner also proved that he can be an effective quarterback. Southern Illinois will face Western Illinois in two weeks for their final game of the year and should end with a winning record despite a rough start to 2012. 

#6 Youngstown State (5-4), 183
Well, Youngstown State ended the losing streak, but this unimpressive win really captures what has happened to this Penguin team. All life has been sucked out of Youngstown State and it will take everything they have to finish 7-4. Despite being outgained significantly in yardage in the first half, the Coyotes hung with Youngstown State and took the game all the way to the final minutes. Kurt Hess and company will take on Western Illinois who has a world of problems of their own. This game should allow the Penguins to gain a little confidence before they match up with Indiana State. 

#7 Northern Iowa (3-6), 174
Northern Iowa got a good confidence-building win against a weak Western Illinois squad. 40-0 was the final score in Macomb as the Panthers smothered any possibility of momentum for Western. Running back David Johnson ran for 149 yards and quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen threw 2 TDs in the rout and will look to do the same next weekend against South Dakota. The best Northern Iowa can do is 5-6 and with a surging Missouri State team, 4-7 could be a realistic ending for a season-to-forget in Cedar Falls. 

#8 Missouri State (3-7), 116
Missouri State played well against North Dakota State, defensively. However, as I mentioned last week, quarterback Kierra Harris needs to turn that corner and make less mistakes if the Bears want to challenge teams. The Bears will have a week off before they take on Northern Iowa. The game against the Panthers will be a confidence builder and a way to end 2012 on a positive note. 

#9 Western Illinois (3-6), 24
Speaking of ending seasons on a positive note, Western Illinois needs to seriously find a way to play defense or else they might not grab any momentum by the time the offseason arrives. The next two games for the Leathernecks include Youngstown State and Southern Illinois. Both of those teams  have had their struggles, but none of their struggles can compete with the amount of frustration Leatherneck fans have seen this season. Offensively, the Western Illinois line has been the worst in the Valley. This has contributed to multiple problems included poor quarterbacking, sub-par running, and terrible confidence. The past two weeks Western has been outscored 82-3. Leatherneck fans, this team is young and Western will be back in the coming years. 

#10 South Dakota (1-8), 13
South Dakota is still winless in the conference. However, they played better against the Penguins. Quarterback Josh Vander Maten got the starting nod despite poor performances the past two weeks, while he didn't turn the ball over against Youngstown State, he also didn't get in the endzone. Running-back Jasper Sanders scored the only Coyote touchdown of the day as he scampered from 22-yards out. South Dakota has two games left, they'll host Northern Iowa this weekend and then travel to Brookings, SD to take on rival South Dakota State.