The grind of Missouri Valley play begins on Saturday and for all the talk that it’s a long season and you’re not out of it if you lose in week one; the numbers would tell you that’s not exactly the case. It’s been seven years since a Valley team lost its conference opener and still won the league title, Northern Iowa did that in 2008, falling 27-24 at Carbondale, but finished 7-1 and shared the league crown with the Salukis. Chris Klieman told me he believes 6-2 could win the league this year, but it’s been a few years since that mark won the title.
- 2014: 7-1 (NDSU and Illinois State)
- 2013: 8-0 (NDSU)
- 2012: 7-1 (NDSU)
- 2011: 7-1 (NDSU and UNI)
- 2010: 6-2 (UNI)
2010 was the last time 6-2 won the league, but when you look at the games in week one, beyond NDSU-SDSU, Northern Iowa-Illinois State is a huge game. Southern vs Western is a good one, and let’s see how USD plays Youngstown State. Klieman very well could be right, but recent history would tell you, if you want to win the league, you had best win your opener. NDSU struggled in that facet when they joined the Valley, losing its first three conference openers:
- 2008: at Youngstown State (lost 32-24)
- 2009: at Southern Illinois (lost 24-14)
- 2010: at Northern Iowa (lost 16-9)
- 2011: vs. Illinois State (won 20-10)
- 2012: at Northern Iowa (won 33-21)
- 2013: at SDSU (won 20-0)
- 2014: at Western Illinois (won 17-10)
Interesting to note: NDSU has opened on the road in seven of the eight years they have been in the Missouri Valley Conference. Furthermore, NDSU-SDSU should not be the first game of conference play, this should be the next to last or last game, with UNI also at the back end. Hopefully the Valley can change that for schedules in 2019-20(schedules are already made for ’16, ’17 and ’18).