Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014 Power Rankings: Week 3

#1 North Dakota State (3-0), 58.65 (points)
The Bison are back stronger than ever. Also, hosting College
GameDay, again.
(Photo: Dave Wallis, The Dickinson Press)

North Dakota State hasn't skipped a beat since losing head coach Craig Bohl and a handful of high performing seniors. After watching this team for three straight weeks it is clear to me that the Bison have in fact reloaded. New QB Carl Wentz looks like a typical Bison quarterback and RB John Crockett is as explosive as ever. Wondering about the Bison D? Well, no problems there either; in past three games the Bison have allowed only 21 points. Next week the Bison will have a bigger test as they host Montana in what will surely be a heated contest. Montana struggled to put away South Dakota last night in Missoula.  

#2 Southern Illinois (3-0), 40.97
Southern Illinois has started off exactly how they needed to in hopes of finding the playoffs for the first time since 2009. A big reason for SIU's quick success this season is the return of a consistent and powerful running offense; RB Malcolm Agnew is averaging 8.0 yards per carry and is averaging nearly 150 yards a game. Combine that running game with an efficient QB in Mark Iannotti--he has passed for 639 yards, 10 TDs, 3 INTs, and a 71% completion percentage--and the Salukis are on track to be a major contender this year for the Missouri Valley Football crown. Defensively, the Salukis are solid. Next week Southern Illinois travels to West Lafayette, Indiana where they will take on the Purdue Boilermakers who have struggled over the past two seasons. 

#3 Illinois State (2-0), 38.40
The Redbirds have outscored their two opponents 96-15 over the past two weeks, albeit over a SWAC team and what seems to be a poor Eastern Illinois squad. Regardless, Illinois State did what they needed to do to show themselves worthy of praise and this team looks ready to bounce back after a mediocre 2013 showing. As with Southern Illinois, Illinois State has too found a consistent run game. RB Marshaun Coprich has carried the ball 48 times over two games and has run for 137 yards per game and has scored 4 TDs. Indiana transfer QB Tre Roberson has added some fire in that run game by adding a pesky dual threat option; through the air Roberson has been adequate completing just under 60% of his passes and throwing for 4 TDs. I don't imagine that the Redbirds have opened up the offense too much; however, once we get into the core of conference play we can expect to see some fireworks coming from this team. Illinois State will host Austin Peay next Saturday. 

#4 South Dakota State (2-1), 37.23
South Dakota State has done what they needed to do over the past three weeks. They played respectable against Missouri, at one point getting within 4 before the Tigers pulled away in the fourth quarter. Against Cal Poly, the Jackrabbits displayed their high powered run game which was complemented nicely with the pass game. Last night, the Jackrabbits got up on SUU 21-0 in the first half, however, the offense slumped in the second and put up a field goal in the second half--the other 2 points came off of a blocked extra-point which was returned for a safety. All in all, the Rabbits looks like they have what it takes to compete on a high level in the Valley this year. All-Conference QB Austin Sumner did go down in the first game and won't be back for another 5 or 6 weeks. Back up QB, Zach Lujan has done an acceptable job filling in, however, he has thrown for the most INTs in the conference through three games. South Dakota State will welcome D-III Wisconsin-Oshkosh to Coughlin-Alumni Stadium next week.
Indiana State hoists the Victory Bell as the Sycamores beat
Ball State for the first time since 1987.
(Photo: Tribune Star-Joseph C. Garza)

#5 Indiana State (2-1), 31.30
So far, the Sycamores have been the big surprise this year in the Missouri Valley. In week one, they didn't get scorched by Indiana, however, they only gained 166 yards of offense in that game. However, after that game I felt that this wasn't the same Indiana State team that laid down last season. In week two, they affirmed my feelings by giving Tennessee Tech an enormous beat down. The Sycamores were nearly flawless in that game and opened the eyes of many who watch the Missouri Valley week-in and week-out. The Indiana State reemergence continued this week; yesterday the Sycamores beat Ball State for the first time since 1987 taking down a team from the FBS. What has this team hot? Defense. Indiana State is tied with South Dakota State at 5th in the Missouri Valley in scoring defense, giving up only 20.7 points per contest. Additionally, they are #2 in pass defense allowing only 160 yards per game while forcing opposing QB's to less than 50% completion percentage. This Sycamore defense is swarming and flying all over the field. Concurrently, turnovers tell the same story, Indiana State is +7 in turnover margin which is tops in the Valley thus far. Next week Indiana State will look to stay hot against against Liberty from the Big South Conference. 

#6 Missouri State (2-1), 30.04
Kierra Harris has this Missouri State team on the ups. Missouri State's only loss is to Oklahoma State and in FCS games they have outscored their opponents 72-27. As I was watching the Missouri State-Northwestern State game in week one, I thought, same old Missouri State; a ton of talent, no execution. Then, something happened. A fire was lit, or Northwestern State stopped playing. Whatever it was, it was exactly what Missouri State needed. The Bears scored 20 fourth quarter points in a come-from-behind victory against the Demons and never looked back. In week two, they lost by 17 points to Oklahoma State. Yesterday, the Bears throttled North Dakota 38-0 in their newly renovated Plaster Sports Complex. QB Harris has passed for 8 TDs against just 1 INT over three games and has found a go-to deep threat in WR Julian Burton. Burton is reeling in just under 20 yards per catch and has 3 TD receptions already this season. Next week is probably the biggest out-of-conference game for Missouri State of the season; they'll travel to Central Arkansas against a contending Southland Conference squad. 

#7 Youngstown State (2-1), 28.22
Jelani Berassa caught six passes for 167 yards against

I'll be honest, Youngstown State is easily the team that I have not paid as much attention to as the rest. We still really have no idea what is to come from this team. So far, they've played a Big Ten team (should have beat them), Duquesne, and Butler. We haven't seen exactly how Youngstown State will compete against an FCS opponent on par with Missouri Valley teams this season. Next week Youngstown State will continue its cupcake non-conference schedule as it takes on St. Francis. For what its worth here are some high performers for Youngstown State thus far: RB Martin Ruiz is averaging 124 yards per game and looks to continue his success he achieved last season. Youngstown State has played two different QB's, Hunter Wells and Dante Nania. I tried to look for the reason to the switch to Hunter Wells this week; I'm uncertain if Nania was injured in the game before or if it was a coaches decision. Maybe a Youngstown State fan could add more light. Whatever the case, Youngstown State has not thrown an interception yet this season and both of these QBs have performed well. 

#8 Northern Iowa (0-2), 24.40
Northern Iowa will not stay down here for very long. They've played two games; two great games--to FBS teams. I stayed up last night and watched most of the UNI-Hawaii game, I fell asleep around the halftime and was surprised to see that UNI crawled back and stayed into the game. At the beginning of the game the Panthers looked out of sync and all over the place. Hawaii's first score came off of a botched snap and Hawaii was picking apart the UNI secondary. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, UNI is a very powerful team which can score on any play; they're definitely expected to compete for the Valley crown this year. I really wish the UNI administration would quite doing this to the football team, it seems every year the Panthers get into a hole because of scheduling. The Panthers are already in a hole losing two non-conference games; they really can only afford to lose two more games to be considered for the playoffs. On the plus side, the other non-conference games do come against FCS opponents which will benefit the Panthers in the long-run should they take care of business and win the next two games against Northern Colorado and Tennessee Tech. Jr. QB Sawyer Kollmorgen is probably the most experienced QB in the Valley now that Austin Sumner has gone to injury. However, his efficiency has dropped in the first two games--of course, the competition was stiffer than others--he is completing only 45% percent of his passes. I expect that number to rise in the coming weeks as UNI gets back on track. 

#9 Western Illinois (2-1), 20.62
Western Illinois has an almost identical resume' as Youngstown State at this point; we don't really know much about them as they have competed against non-comparative competition with losing a game to ranked FBS opponent Wisconsin, and winning handily against two Pioneer Conference opponents Valparaiso and Drake. QB Trenton Norvell has picked up the pace this season passing for 633 yards, 5 TDs, and 3 INT through three games. Defensively WIU has done a very respectable job; they only allowed #18 Wisconsin 37 points; which, with all things considered is pretty darn good when the rest of the world expects you to get blown out by 50. Next week Western will take on Northwestern who is 0-2 and was beaten by Northern Illinois two weeks ago. 


#10 South Dakota (1-2), 16.47
South Dakota has one win so far this season against NAIA opponent William Penn who was playing the Coyotes tough until halftime when the 'Yotes kicked it in gear. On a  positive note, South Dakota was able to find some success moving the ball against #3 Oregon, albeit, in a blowout loss. In the second half of the William Penn game the Coyotes were able to get the ball moving and put up considerable points in the 4th quarter making the score better reflect the differences in divisions. USD's best performance came last night against highly FCS ranked Montana. The Coyotes lost only 28-20 and were pushing the ball the entire game. Defensively the Coyotes will need to solidify against the run on defense. Montana RB, Jordan Canada, ran for 7 yards per carry last night as the Griz torched the Yotes on the ground. This will create monstrous problems for South Dakota as they look forward into the conference schedule as many of the Valley teams this year boast powerful running attacks. Next week, South Dakota gets chance to get Northern Arizona back after last years lost to the Lumberjacks.