While NDSU rests this Saturday and heals up after a bruising win at Colorado State, there’s some interesting matchups for the rest of the Valley teams in this the last non-traditional weekend before conference play begins. Illinois State hosts Eastern Illinois; interesting game here, the Panthers won at home against Southern Illinois two weeks ago, the Redbirds may have a letdown after their win against Eastern Michigan, ISU has shown they’ll be a contender all year long. SDSU has its home opener this weekend with a Big Sky foe, Cal Davis in Brookings; Indiana State hosts non-scholarship Drake, Missouri State finally gets to play an FCS school after 2 payday games when they host Murray State. Dale Lennon has to be nervous in Carbondale these days, the Salukis got lit up in their opener with Eastern, then lost at Miami of Ohio last weekend. Now they come home to host Southeast Missouri, a team that made the FCS playoffs a couple years ago, Lennon and company cannot afford an 0-3 start even before Valley play begins. The game that’s caught my eye will be in Youngstown this Saturday when the Penguins host Albany, the champs of the Northeast Conference. Great Danes gave Stony Brook a good game in playoffs last year, this will be a good test for YSU, especially before conference opener next week with UNI. Two teams play FBS games this weekend, Western Illinois, who has barely won games against Butler and Indianapolis, now gets an Iowa State team that just beat Iowa for the 2nd straight year, Cyclones are going in the right direction under Paul Rhoads, that game with NDSU in 2014 should be great. Finally, Northern Iowa plays its 2nd FBS game of the season at Iowa this Saturday in a game that might be a lot closer than we thought even a month ago. I’m not sure honestly what to make of the Panthers yet, the score with Wisconsin I think surprised even the most faithful readers of this blog, it did me, but then the Badgers go and lose to a bad Oregon State team. So let’s see what happens this week, remember UNI nearly got Iowa in 2009, they had 2 field goal tries at the end of the game and had both blocked. Jeff and I detailed the gauntlet that the Panthers had to start the year with Wisconsin, Iowa, Youngstown and NDSU as 4 of their first 5 games, they may come out better than anyone would have thought.
Speaking of UNI, plenty of news has circulated this week after Troy Dannen, the AD said he’s contemplating a move up to FBS. Of course I know how this will spark Bison fan outrage here, cause if UNI moves up NDSU has to as well, and while I don’t disagree with that take, I don’t think Northern Iowa is in any hurry to make the move. From what I’ve read on this subject, Dannen has plenty of ideas on his plate, from going to non-scholarship football to make the ultimate move. I interviewed Mark Emmert from the Des Moines Register on this subject, he talked to Dannen on the move, you can listen to that interview here. I posted the question on Twitter a couple days ago and I know it’s a sore subject with some here, but I’m afraid the topic isn’t going anywhere until the new structure of college football is settled, could the Valley as a conference make the move up to FBS? I don’t think so, I only believe four schools could pull it off at this moment (NDSU, UNI, Youngstown and Southern Illinois); Illinois State has talked about it, but needs renovations to it’s stadium, plus the four schools I just mentioned would all need to do some major improvements before they can think FBS. They also need a league so if the entire Valley doesn’t go, that’s the other stumbling block. I know some will think I’m beating a dead horse, but topic isn’t going away. FCS Pick ‘Em games back tomorrow.