In the FCS Huddle: 2013 Missouri Valley Preview

It's not the four starting defensive linemen weighing on North Dakota State's bid for three straight FCS national titles, but coach Craig Bohl senses a heavy load.

"I think complacency is something you don't want to talk about," he said. "It's kind of like the thousand-point gorilla that's in the other room.

"But it's important for us to acknowledge it."

With 18 returning starters, the best defense in the FCS and a raucous home venue at the Fargodome, North Dakota State has all the pieces in place for yet another special season.

They're a clear favorite to be playing again on Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas. Bohl just doesn't want the Bison players to forget what got them the national championship site in the first place.

"The best way I know how to guard against (complacency) is just take care of your business every day and make sure you have good competition within your football team," Bohl said. "You've got a clear vision on what things are going to need to be accomplished. And to really move forward, while it's important to celebrate your past victories, to kind of just sit and meander in the middle of all that, that's a proven ground for complacency.

"We need to really pay attention to detail, our systems (and) executing (them), staying healthy and really maintaining a competitive edge."

Just winning the Missouri Valley Football Conference would be a huge accomplishment for most teams. As Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley said, the conference has transformed from having balance with a lot of good teams to balance with great teams.

Illinois State reached the FCS quarterfinals last season and South Dakota State has the look of a team headed there this season. Six of the programs have qualified for the playoffs since 2009.

North Dakota State, which has defeated Sam Houston State from the Southland Conference in each of the past two national championship games, will try to follow the 2005-07 teams at Appalachian State as the second program to win three straight FCS titles.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2013 Missouri Valley Football Conference race.

The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:

1. North Dakota State

2. South Dakota State

3. Northern Iowa

4. Youngstown State

5. Illinois State

6. Indiana State

7. Southern Illinois

8. Missouri State

9. Western Illinois

10. South Dakota

Team-by-team capsules:



COACH: Craig Bohl (89-32 in 10 seasons at North Dakota State)

LAST SEASON: 14-1 overall, 7-1 Missouri Valley; No. 1 TSN Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (9 offense/9 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Brock Jensen, Sr. (207-of-338, 2,331 yards, 17 TD, 8 INT; 111 carries, 357 yards, 12 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Marcus Williams, Sr. (39 TT, 1 TFL, 4 PBU, 7 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Sam Ojuri, Sr. (215 carries, 1,047 yards, 12 TD)

RB John Crockett, Jr. (194 carries, 1,038 yards, 9 TD)

FB Andrew Grothmann, Sr.

WR Ryan Smith, Sr. (49 receptions, 549 yards, 3 TD)

WR Zach Vraa, Jr. (44 receptions, 606 yards, 4 TD)

WR Trevor Gebhart, Jr.

TE Taylor Nelson, Sr.

LT Billy Turner, Sr.

LG Josh Colville, So.

C Jesse Hinz, R-Jr.

RG Tyler Gimmestad, Sr.

RT Joe Haeg, So.

DE Cole Jirik, Sr. (57 TT, 13.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 10 QBH, 2 FF, 1 FR)

DE Kyle Emanuel, Jr.

DT Leevon Perry, Sr.

NG Ryan Drevlow, Sr.

LB Grant Olson, Sr. (148 TT, 11.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks 2 PBU, 4 QBH, 1 FF, 2 FR)

LB Travis Beck, Jr. (98 TT, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 4 FF)

LB Carlton Littlejohn, Jr. (86 TT, 10 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 2 INT, 3 PBU, 2 QBH, 3 FR, 4 FF, 1 BLK)

CB Brendin Pierre, Sr.

SS Colten Heagle, R-Jr.

FS Christian Dudzik, Jr. (57 TT, 2 INT, 4 PBU, 3 FR, 1 FF, 1 BLK)

PK Adam Keller, Jr. (18-of-24 FG, 57-of-61 PAT; 111 points)

P Ben LeCompte, So. (55 punts, 43.2 average, 65 long)

BIG LOSSES: C Joe Lund and CB Andre Martin (51 TT, 1.5 TFL, 6 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 203.47 (21 in FCS, 1 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 166.73 (98 in FCS, 7 in MVFC); Total Offense, 370.20 (57 in FCS, 4 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 33 (22 in FCS, 1 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 93.87 (4 in FCS, 1 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 140.60 (2 in FCS, 1 in MVFC); Total Defense, 234.47 (1 in FCS, 1 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 11.53 (1 in FCS, 1 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: Bohl, the 2012 Eddie Robinson Award recipient, has the Bison program at a dominant level, a winner of two straight FCS national titles. This year's roster is more experienced than it was heading into last season, so a third straight title is certainly not out of the question. But he's reminding his players that their two losses the last two seasons came at home against Missouri Valley teams that didn't even make the playoffs. The Bison defense has been the best in the nation for two years running and has standouts in abundance with the likes of Williams, Olson, Beck, Heagle and Perry. On offense, Jensen is at the controls of a run-heavy unit (two straight seasons of two 1,000-yard rushers) which beats up the opposition with a big offensive line. A trip to South Dakota State on Sept. 28 will be difficult, but the Bison have the road map to winning games and to getting back to Frisco, Texas, for a shot at a third straight national championship.


Aug. 30 - at Kansas State

Sept. 7 - Ferris State

Sept. 21 - vs. Delaware State

Sept. 28 - at South Dakota State

Oct. 5 - vs. Northern Iowa

Oct. 12 - vs. Missouri State

Oct. 19 - at Southern Illinois

Oct. 26 - at Indiana State

Nov. 9 - vs. Illinois State

Nov. 16 - at Youngstown State

Nov. 23 - vs. South Dakota


LOCATION: Brookings, S.D.

COACH: John Stiegelmeier (102-76 in 16 seasons at South Dakota State)

LAST SEASON: 9-4 overall, 6-2 Missouri Valley; No. 14 TSN Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (7 offense/5 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Zach Zenner, Jr. (300 carries, 2,044 yards, 13 TD; 28 receptions, 197 yards)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB T.J. Lally, So. (107 TT, 8 TFL, 6 sacks, 3 PBU, 3 QBH, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Austin Sumner, Jr. (209-of-372, 2,443 yards, 15 TD, 14 INT)

RB Reggie Gandy, So. (70 carries, 321 yards, 2 TD)

WR Brandon Hubert, Sr. (34 receptions, 482 yards, 3 TD)

WR/KR Trevor Tiefenthaler, Sr.

WR Jason Schneider, Jr. (19 receptions, 253 yards, 2 TD)

TE Cam Jones, So.

TE Vince Benedetto, Sr.

LT Bryan Witzmann, Sr.

LG Alex Parker, Sr.

LG Taylor Suess, Sr.

RG Josh Kage, Sr.

RT Trevor Gregor, Jr.

DE Doug Peete, Sr. (54 TT, 13.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 6 PBU, 8 QBH, 2 FF)

DE Marshall Peugh, Sr. (55 TT, 5.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR)

DT Chase Douglas, Sr. (35 TT, 6 TFL, 3 sacks, 6 QBH)

LB Charles Elmore, So. (15 TT, 1 sack, 1 FF)

S Andrew Brown, Sr.

CB Winston Wright, Sr. (59 TT, 2.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 4 FR, 1 INT)

CB Je Ryan Butler, So. (35 TT, 2 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 INT)

PK Justin Syrovatka, Jr. (18-of-22 FG, 32-of-33 PAT; 86 points)

BIG LOSSES: WR Tyrel Kool (47 receptions, 592 yards, 2 TD), LB Ross Shafrath (150 TT, 3 TFL, 6 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FF, 2 INT) and S Skyler Luxa (68 TT, 3 INT, 7 PBU, 1 BLK)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 177.23 (34 in FCS, 3 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 190.38 (75 in FCS, 5 in MVFC); Total Offense, 367.62 (61 in FCS, 5 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 23.38 (77 in FCS, 5 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 21 (124 in FCS, 4 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 181.31 (24 in FCS, 4 in MVFC); Total Defense, 305.31 (8 in FCS, 3 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 16.38 (5 in FCS, 3 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: The Jackrabbits are a Top 10 team, worthy of making life tough on North Dakota State. They feature the 2012 FCS rushing champion in Zenner, who had nine games of at least 100 yards and three over 200 during his 2,044-yard sophomore campaign. They need to get a better season out of QB Sumner, who played hurt and is coming off offseason thumb surgery. In turn, his receiving corps has to raise itself after the top two pass catchers departed. Witzmann, an All-American, anchors a good offensive line. It won't be easy to replace Shafrath after his 150-tackle production, but Lally is one of the better sophomores in the nation. Plus, the Jackrabbits had one of the better defenses in the FCS last season, and it will play with a physical style again. The Jackrabbits must have more discipline after a penalty-filled season. There's no doubt this has the makings of a huge season.


Aug. 31 - vs. Butler

Sept. 7 - at North Dakota

Sept. 14 - vs. Southeastern Louisiana

Sept. 21 - at Nebraska

Sept. 28 - vs. North Dakota State

Oct. 5 - vs. Southern Illinois

Oct. 12 - at Western Illinois

Oct. 19 - at Missouri State

Oct. 26 - vs. Northern Iowa

Nov. 9 - vs. Indiana State

Nov. 16 - at South Dakota

Nov. 23 - at Youngstown State


LOCATION: Cedar Falls, Iowa

COACH: Mark Farley (104-46 in 12 seasons at Northern Iowa)

LAST SEASON: 5-6 overall, 4-4 Missouri Valley

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB David Johnson, Jr. (178 carries, 1,021 yards, 13 TD; 32 receptions, 383 yards, 5 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Jake Farley, Jr. (85 TT, 1 TFL, 4 PBU, 4 PD, 1 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Sawyer Kollmorgen, So. (185-of-313, 2,460 yards, 21 TD, 8 INT)

WR Chad Owens, Jr. (39 receptions, 461 yards, 4 TD)

WR Brett LeMaster, Jr. (32 receptions, 601 yards, 4 TD)

WR Phil Wright, Sr.

TE Sam Rohr, So.

OL Dan Kruger, Sr.

OL Jack Rummells, Sr.

OL Mark Blessington, Sr.

OL Ryan Bingaman, Jr.

DE Chris Jepsen, Sr.

DL Mac O'Brien, Sr. (25 TT, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PD, 1 INT)

DT Xavier Williams, So (50 TT, 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 PD, 1 FF, 5 BLK)

LB Jordan Gacke, Sr. (79 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 PD)

LB Max Busher, Jr.

LB Zach Cutkomp, Sr.

LB Sam Tim, Sr.

DB Deiondre' Hall, So. (29 TT, 1 FR)

DB Edwin Young, So.

PK Tyler Sievertsen, Sr. (10-of-13 FG, 41-of-41 PAT; 71 points)

BIG LOSSES: RB/KR Carlos Anderson (98 carries, 403 yards, 1 TD; 27-yard KO return average) and P Kyle Bernard (38 punts, 44.1 average, 70 long)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 148.36 (63 in FCS, 5 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 234.91 (36 in FCS, 2 in MVFC); Total Offense, 383.27 (52 in FCS, 3 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 30.27 (32 in FCS, 2 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 41 (141.36 in FCS, 7 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 196.27 (39 in FCS, 7 in MVFC); Total Defense, 337.64 (31 in FCS, 7 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 21.36 (27 in FCS, 5 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: A 1-4 start led to the Panthers' first losing season since 2002, but coach Mark Farley is expecting a quick turnaround this year. The early season schedule isn't nearly as hard as a year ago. The Panthers also can rely on their young talent, namely the big RB Johnson, a Walter Payton Award nominee, and QB Kollmorgen, the Missouri Valley freshman of the year a season ago. The 16-time Missouri Valley champs have to improve defensively as they lost some key defenders. Jake Farley, the star linebacker and coach's son, leads a solid front seven, but the secondary is replacing both starting cornerbacks - never an easy assignment. If you want special teams, Sievertsen is 28-of-33 on field-goal attempts in his career and Williams set the school record with five blocked kicks as a freshman. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they will have to overcome road trips to North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Illinois State, but they must feel they will qualify for the FCS playoffs for a 17th time.


Aug. 31 - at Iowa State

Sept. 7 - vs. Drake

Sept. 21 - at Northern Colorado

Sept. 28 - vs. McNeese State

Oct. 5 - at North Dakota State

Oct. 12 - vs. Southern Illinois

Oct. 19 - vs. South Dakota

Oct. 26 - at South Dakota State

Nov. 2 - at Illinois State

Nov. 9 - vs. Youngstown State

Nov. 16 - at Missouri State

Nov. 23 - vs. Western Illinois


LOCATION: Youngstown, Ohio

COACH: Eric Wolford (16-17 in three seasons at Youngstown State)

LAST SEASON: 7-4 overall, 4-4 Missouri Valley

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (6 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Kurt Hess, Sr. (176-of-278, 2,112 yards, 15 TD, 7 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Julius Childs, Jr. (51 TT, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: TB Torrian Pace, Sr. (62 carries, 320 yards, 5 TD)

TB Demond Hymes, So.

TB Adaris Bellamy, Sr.

WR/PR Christian Bryan, Jr. (30 receptions, 372 yards, 3 TD)

WR Andrew Williams, So. (27 receptions, 424 yards, 3 TD)

WR Jelani Berassa, Sr. (injured last season)

WR/KR Andre Stubbs, So. (21 receptions, 271 yards, 1 TD)

C Chris Elkins, Sr.

LT Kyle Bryant, Sr.

LG Fred Herdman, Sr.

DE Kyle Sirl, Sr. (18 TT, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 QBH)

DE Terrell Williams, So.

DT Octavious Brown, Jr.

MLB Teven Williams, Jr. (63 TT, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 1 PD)

OLB Travis Williams, Jr. (61 TT, 7 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 2 PD, 3 QBH, 1 FF)

OLB Dom Rich, Sr.

FS Donald D'Alesio, Jr. (38 TT, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR)

SS Jameel Smith, R-Fr.

CB Dale Peterman, Sr. (50 TT, 1.5 TFL, 7 PBU)

PK Joey Cejudo, Jr.

P Nick Liste, Sr.

BIG LOSSES: RB Jamaine Cook (279 carries, 1,279 yards, 15 TD) and DT Nick DeKraker (26 TT, 5.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 QBH)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 186.82 (29 in FCS, 2 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 198.91 (70 in FCS, 4 in MVFC); Total Offense, 385.73 (50 in FCS, 2 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 28.91 (42 in FCS, 4 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 95 (5 in FCS, 2 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 213.64 (59 in FCS, 10 in MVFC); Total Defense, 308.64 (11 in FCS, 4 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 23.73 (45 in FCS, 6 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: The Penguins beat the University of Pittsburgh last season and began the season with four straight wins, only to lose four in a row and fall short of their first FCS playoff appearance since 2006. Much of the pressure to get there will fall on Hess, one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS but, of course, one lacking the postseason resume. He has a standout group of wide receivers and will really air it out after the loss of Cook, who rushed for over 4,000 yards in his career. Elkins, Hess' center, is an All-American, and the offensive line allowed only eight sacks last season. The defense is looking for playmakers, but it fueled a season-ending three-game winning streak by allowing only 23 points over the run. The secondary struggled last season, but returns three of its four starters from last season and added some transfers. The key to making the playoffs is to have a great - not just good - start to the season, because the final stretch of Northern Iowa, North Dakota State and South Dakota State is brutal.


Aug. 29 - vs. Dayton

Sept. 7 - vs. Morehead State

Sept. 14 - at Michigan State

Sept. 21 - vs. Duquesne

Sept. 28 - at Southern Illinois

Oct. 5 - at Indiana State

Oct. 12 - vs. Illinois State

Oct. 19 - vs. Western Illinois

Nov. 2 - at South Dakota

Nov. 9 - at Northern Iowa

Nov. 16 - vs. North Dakota State

Nov. 23 - vs. South Dakota State


LOCATION: Normal, Ill.

COACH: Brock Spack (28-18 in four seasons at Illinois State)

LAST SEASON: 9-4 overall, 5-3 Missouri Valley; No. 8 TSN Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (7 offense/5 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Lechein Neblett, Jr. (49 receptions, 667 yards, 5 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Colton Underwood, Sr. (95 TT, 10.5 sacks, 19.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 9 QBH, 1 BLK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Jared Barnett, Jr. (Iowa State transfer)

RB Cameron Hunt, Sr. (70 carries, 313 yards, 2 TD)

RB Colin Keoshian, Jr. (Glendale CC transfer)

RB Jonathan Miller, Sr. (29 carries, 116 yards, 1 TD)

FB Jordan Neukirch, Sr.

WR Phil Dudley, Sr. (32 receptions, 229 yards, 1 TD)

WR Cameron Meredith, Jr.

TE James O'Shaughnessy, Jr. (19 receptions, 403 yards, 3 TD)

LT Josh Aladenoye, Sr.

LG Mike Liedtke, Jr.

RG Rocco Ammons, Jr.

RT Jermaine Barton, Jr.

DT Albert Sparks, Sr.

DT Brandon Prate, Jr.

OLB Alex Donnelly, So. (43 TT, 3 TFL, 3 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR, 1 INT)

MLB Pat Meehan, So.

CB Mike Banks, Jr. (55 TT, 3 TFL, 10 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 INT)

CB Matt Goldsmith, Sr.

SS Ezra Thompson, Sr. (46 TT, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR, 2 INT)

PK Nick Aussieker, Jr.

BIG LOSSES: QB Matt Brown (272-of-439, 3,370 yards, 27 TD, 12 INT; 57 carries, 152 yards, 7 TD), RB Darrelynn Dunn (266 carries, 1,015 yards, 13 TD), WR Tyrone Walker (90 receptions, 1,319 yards, 9 TD) and LB Mike Zimmer (127 TT, 5.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 5 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 INT)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 134.08 (79 in FCS, 6 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 262.69 (23 in FCS, 1 in MVFC); Total Offense, 396.77 (46 in FCS, 1 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 30.23 (34 in FCS, 3 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 128.23 (27 in FCS, 5 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 206.77 (47 in FCS, 8 in MVFC); Total Defense, 335 (28 in FCS, 6 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 26.08 (56 in FCS, 8 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: The $25 million renovation at Hancock Stadium is complete, and the Redbirds are ready to shine even more after going to the FCS quarterfinals last year (winning at Appalachian State in the second round). But there's a lot of change as Spack is incorporating some new transfers and plugging in five new starters in the defensive front seven, including all three linebackers. On offense, there's a foundation with the return of four starters on the line. They will try to let Iowa State transfer QB Barnett have a big season, as Brown did last season in winning Missouri Valley offensive player of the year honors. Keoshian, a junior college transfer, joins Hunt to keep the running back position productive. On defense, only DE Underwood and DT Sparks are returning starters in the front seven. Ben Ericksen (seven interceptions) was a huge loss at safety as well. Basically, the Redbirds need some new starters to emerge throughout the lineup. Spack's squad will have to do damage during a three-game homestand in the second half of the season.


Aug. 29 - at Ball State

Sept. 14 - at Eastern Illinois

Sept. 21 - vs. Abilene Christian

Sept. 28 - at Missouri State

Oct. 5 - vs. Western Illinois

Oct. 12 - at Youngstown State

Oct. 19 - vs. Indiana State

Oct. 26 - vs. South Dakota

Nov. 2 - vs. Northern Iowa

Nov. 9 - at North Dakota State

Nov. 16 - at Southern Illinois


LOCATION: Terre Haute, Ind.

COACH: Mike Sanford (first season at Indiana State; 16-43 overall)

LAST SEASON: 7-4 overall, 5-3 Missouri Valley

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (7 offense/5 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Shakir Bell, Sr. (269 carries, 1,475 yards, 11 TD; 19 receptions, 142 yards, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Calvin Burnett, Sr. (60 TT, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 8 PBU, 1 QBH, 4 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Mike Perish, Jr. (155-of-280, 1,615 yards, 10 TD, 8 INT)

QB Robert Tonyan, R-Fr.

RB George Cheeseborough, Sr. (59 carries, 224 yards)

WR Demory Lawshe, Sr. (31 receptions, 393 yards, 3 TD)

WR/RS Tanney Riley, Sr. (22 receptions, 219 yards, 1 TD)

WR Chris O'Leary, Jr.

TE Garrick Dikos, Sr. (8 receptions, 84 yards)

LT Paul Patrick, Jr.

C FN Lutz III, Sr. (injured last season)

RG Adam Masters, Jr.

DE Connor Underwood, So. (48 TT, 6 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 5 QBH, 1 INT)

DE Tyler Stafford, Sr.

DT Russell Jones, Sr.

DT Tyler Boyd, Sr. (41 TT, 2 QBH)

LB Zakee Bashir, Sr. (14 TT, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF)

CB Othniel Harvey, Sr.

CB Mark Sewell, So.

S Donovan Layne, Jr. (48 TT, 1 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 INT)

S Larry King, Sr. (57 TT, 1.5 TFL, 3 INT, 3 PBU, 2 QBH)

S Kamerin Mitchell, Sr.

PK Tanner Fritschle, Jr. (15-of-18 FG, 29-of-30 PAT; 74 points)

BIG LOSSES: TE Michael Mardis (34 receptions, 408 yards, 4 TD), DE Ben Obaseki (43 TT, 5.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 8 QBH, 1 FF), LB Aaron Archie (126 TT, 10 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 QBH) and P Lucas Hilerman (62 punts, 44.1 average, 66 long)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 158.82 (51 in FCS, 4 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 149.09 (106 in FCS, 9 in MVFC); Total Offense, 307.91 (100 in FCS, 7 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 23.09 (79 in FCS, 6 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 129 (29 in FCS, 6 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 167.36 (14 in FCS, 3 in MVFC); Total Defense, 296.36 (5 in FCS, 2 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 14.27 (3 in FCS, 2 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: Sanford previously was the head coach at UNLV from 2005-09 and helped develop Utah State's surging offense in recent seasons. His new team in Terre Haute has posted a winning record in three straight seasons for the first time since the end of a six-year run in 1969. Much of the spotlight will be on Bell, already a two-time Walter Payton Award finalist. He enters his senior season with 3,794 rushing yards, needing just 542 more to surpass Vincent Allen's school record and 953 more to top Herb Donaldson's Missouri Valley record set at Western Illinois. Perish, a pro-style quarterback, needs more consistency with the athletic Tonyan looming behind him, but Sanford will keep getting the ball to Bell. The defense was superb last season, finishing fifth in the FCS in total defense and third in scoring defense. The secondary will be strong with Sewall expected to fill the job of the only lost starter, cornerback Johnny Towalid. The defensive front, led by Underwood, needs to produce more pressure after totaling only 16 sacks last season. The Sycamores likely will fall short of the playoffs again after opening with seven of their first 10 games on the road.


Aug. 29 - at Indiana

Sept. 7 - at Purdue

Sept. 14 - vs. Quincy

Sept. 28 - at Tennessee Tech

Oct. 5 - vs. Youngstown State

Oct. 12 - at South Dakota

Oct. 19 - at Illinois State

Oct 26 - vs. North Dakota State

Nov. 2 - at Missouri State

Nov. 9 - at South Dakota State

Nov. 16 - vs. Western Illinois

Nov. 23 - vs. Southern Illinois


LOCATION: Carbondale, Ill.

COACH: Dale Lennon (35-23 in five seasons at Southern Illinois; 137-55 overall)

LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 5-3 Missouri Valley

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (7 offense/4 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: TE MyCole Pruitt, Jr. (49 receptions, 577 yards, 4 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Bryan Presume, Sr. (78 TT, 2 sacks, 5 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 PD, 3 QBH, 2 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Kory Faulkner, Sr. (191-of-325, 1,865 yards, 11 TD, 10 INT)

RB Mika'il McCall, Jr. (130 carries, 489 yards, 8 TD; 17 receptions, 173 yards, 1 TD)

RB Malcolm Agnew, Jr. (Oregon State transfer)

RB Ken Malcome, Jr. (Georgia transfer)

FB Ray Agnew, Sr.

WR LaSteven McKinney, Jr. (43 receptions, 363 yards, 3 TD)

WR John Lantz, Sr.

LT Victor Craven, Sr.

LG Nate Haremza, Sr.

C Tanner Crum, Jr.

RT Ethan Wirth, So.

DE Blake Miller, Jr. (23 TT, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FR)

NT T.J. Beelen, So.

LB Tyler Williamson, Jr. (32 TT, 4.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 3 FF, 2 FR, 1 INT, 1 BLK)

LB Cory Lee, Jr. (36 TT, 1 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 PD, 4 QBH, 1 FR)

LB Taylon Hunter, Sr.

S D.J. Cameron, So. (58 TT, 5 PBU, 1 FF, 2 INT)

S Boo Rodgers, Jr. (injured last season)

CB Terrell Wilson, Sr. (60 TT, 3 TFL, 8 PBU, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 INT)

CB Courtney Richmond, Jr.

P Austin Pucylowski, Sr.

BIG LOSS: RB/RS Steve Strother (135 carries, 554 yards), RG Richard Wilson, DE Ken Boatright (62 TT, 13.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 PD, 10 QBH, 1 FR, 2 BLK) and OLB Jayson DiManche (49 TT, 15 TFL, 8 sacks, 2 PBU, 5 QBH, 1 FR)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 123.18 (89 in FCS, 8 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 172.73 (88 in FCS, 6 in MVFC); Total Offense, 295.91 (107 in FCS, 8 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 22.45 (85 in FCS, 7 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 111.27 (10 in FCS, 3 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 211.18 (56 in FCS, 9 in MVFC); Total Defense, 322.45 (21 in FCS, 5 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 19.45 (15 in FCS, 4 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: There's starting to be some distance from the seven-year run of 2003-09 in which the Salukis racked up 70 wins. They are a mere 15-18 over the last three seasons. They probably won't be Missouri Valley contenders this season, either. The Salukis really have options at running back with newcomers Malcolm Agnew (Oregon State transfer) and Malcome (Georgia) set to join McCall - each is a junior. Add in that QB Faulkner has his two favorite pass catchers back in All-America TE Pruitt and WR McKinney, and the offense should improve considerably this season. The defense, on the other hand, was rocked by graduation. Presume is the leader at linebacker and it helps to get Rodgers back from injury in the secondary. But the better quarterbacks in the conference should be looking forward to playing the Salukis, who will have some growing pains defensively.


Aug. 31 - at Illinois

Sept. 7 - vs. Eastern Illinois

Sept. 14 - vs. Charleston (W.V.)

Sept. 21 - at Southeast Missouri State (at St. Louis)

Sept. 28 - vs. Youngstown State

Oct. 5 - at South Dakota State

Oct. 12 - at Northern Iowa

Oct 19 - vs. North Dakota State

Nov. 2 - at Western Illinois

Nov. 9 - vs. Missouri State

Nov. 16 - vs. Illinois State

Nov. 23 - at Indiana State


LOCATION: Springfield, Mo.

COACH: Terry Allen (28-49 in seven seasons at Missouri Valley; 123-108 overall)

LAST SEASON: 3-8 overall, 3-5 Missouri Valley

STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (7 offense/10 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Dorian Buford, Sr. (59 receptions, 642 yards, 2 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: SS Caleb Schaffitzel, Jr. (109 TT, 3.5 TFL, 5 INT, 6 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Kierra Harris, Jr. (99-of-163, 997 yards, 7 TD, 8 INT; 68 carries, 155 yards, 3 TD)

QB Ashton Glaser, Sr. (116-of-210, 1,221 yards, 2 TD, 12 INT; 35 carries, 73 yards, 4 TD)

RB Ryan Heaston, So. (84 carries, 424 yards)

RB/KR Vernon Scott, Sr. (87 carries, 343 yards, 1 TD)

WR Julian Burton, Jr. (25 receptions, 368 yards, 2 TD)

WR Eric Christophel, So.

TE Matt Swan, Sr.

LT Zack Cooley, Jr.

LG Kurt Kutter, Sr.

RG Richard Galbierz, Jr.

DE Anthony Grady, Sr. (49 TT, 8 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR)

DE Martin Montgomery, Sr.

NT Eric Pearce, Sr.

ILB Andrew Beisel, Jr. (73 TT, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 QBH)

ILB Ryan Callender, Sr.

OLB Nick Canavan, Sr. (65 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 QBH)

FS Mike Crutcher, Jr. (67 TT, 3 PBU, 2 FF,2 INT)

CB Sybhrian Berry, Sr. (45 TT, 4 PBU, 2 INT)

CB Howard Scarborough, Sr.

PK Austin Witmer, Sr. (12-of-16 FG, 20-of-22 PAT; 56 points)

P Chris Sullens, So. (66 punts, 41 average, 70 long)

BIG LOSSES: TE Matt Thayer (38 receptions, 294 yards, 1 TD) and LB Nate Davis (75 TT, 9 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 PD, 1 QBH, 2 FF)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 125.91 (87 in FCS, 7 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 201.64 (67 in FCS, 3 in MVFC); Total Offense, 327.55 (93 in FCS, 6 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 17.45 (107 in FCS, 8 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 162.64 (64 in FCS, 8 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 190.36 (33 in FCS, 5 in MVFC); Total Defense, 353 (42 in FCS, 8 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 25.36 (53 in FCS, 7 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: Opinions vary on how good Missouri State will be this season. The Bears were competitive in many games last season and posted an upset at Illinois State during a three-game winning streak. With a highly experienced returning team, they might be ready to surprise a couple more opponents. They will have to reverse their minus-13 turnover margin of a year ago. It's one of the reasons Harris surpassed Glaser (12 interceptions) as the starting quarterback. Harris has plenty of weapons back in the skills position, led by Buford and his game-breaking speed. As a freshman, RB Heaston had two 100-yard games off the bench and should be ready for a larger role. There are 10 starters back on defense. The defensive line is deep and features 6-foot-7, 289-pound Grady at an end, while the secondary is quite strong, with Schaffitzel, a Buck Buchanan Award candidate, the leader. Finishing with a .500 season would be an accomplishment.


Aug. 29 - vs. Northwestern State

Sept. 7 - at Iowa

Sept. 14 - at Murray State

Sept. 21 - vs. Central Arkansas

Sept. 28 - vs. Illinois State

Oct. 5 - at South Dakota

Oct. 12 - at North Dakota State

Oct. 19 - vs. South Dakota State

Oct. 26 - at Western Illinois

Nov. 2 - vs. Indiana State

Nov. 9 - at Southern Illinois

Nov. 16 - vs. Northern Iowa


LOCATION: Macomb, Ill.

COACH: Bob Nielson (first season at Western Illinois; 170-59 overall)

LAST SEASON: 3-8 overall, 1-7 Missouri Valley

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (7 offense/8 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RT Jimmy Holtschlag, Sr.

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB J.J. Raffelson, So. (105 TT, 4 TFL, 2 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Hayden Northern, So. (34-of-70, 321 yards, 6 INT; 1 rush TD in four starts)

QB J'Vaughn Williams, R-Fr.

RB Nikko Watson, Jr. (164 carries, 660 yards, 1 TD)

WR Fredson Salomon, Sr. (30 receptions, 373 yards, 2 TD)

WR Kyle Robiskie, Sr.

TE Mason Howington, Sr.

LT Jeff Lindsey, Sr.

LG Brandon De La Cruz, So.

RG Mike Love, So.

DT Ryan Demming, Sr. (41 TT, 6 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 PBU, 5 QBH, 1 FR, 1 BLK)

DT Jacoby Sessions, Sr. (26 TT, 1.5 TFL)

LB Devon Butler, Sr. (55 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 PBU)

LB Kevin Kintzel, Jr. (43 TT, 5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF)

CB Martinez Davis, Jr. (38 TT, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 5 INT)

CB/PR Antoine Ford, Sr.

SS Jonathon Rollins, Jr. (87 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR)

FS David McDaniel, Jr. (58 TT, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 4 INT)

BIG LOSSES: RB Caulton Ray (164 carries, 555 yards, 3 TD) and P/K Pat Smith (10-of-10 FG, 11-of-11 PAT, 41 points; 84 punts, 38 average, 54 long)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 113.09 (103 in FCS, 10 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 106.91 (117 in FCS, 10 in MVFC); Total Offense, 220 (121 in FCS, 10 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 9.73 (120 in FCS, 10 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 187.45 (89 in FCS, 9 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 165.73 (10 in FCS, 2 in MVFC); Total Defense, 353.18 (44 in FCS, 9 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 28.27 (69 in FCS, 9 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: Nielson led Minnesota-Duluth to the NCAA Division II national championship in 2008 and '10. He has made a smart move by entrusting a lot in a coaching staff with a Missouri Valley background. The schedule offers a lot of winnable home games. But WIU averaged a mere 9.7 points per game in 2012, second-worst in the FCS (107 points to Rhode Island's 105). Nielson brought in quarterback Trenton Norvell from the University of Cincinnati to push the young returning quarterbacks. Amazingly, the Leathernecks threw for only two touchdowns last season. In a ball-control offense, a lot of the game plan will revolve around RB Watson, who had a breakout season, working behind RT Holtschlag, the senior leader of a young O-line. The Leathernecks, who utilize a 4-3, have concerns with their depth at the defensive line and linebacker positions. Raffelson led the team in tackles (105) as a freshman and will move to the weakside linebacker spot because of Butler's emergence.


Aug. 29 - vs. Hampton

Sept. 7 - vs. Quincy

Sept. 14 - at Minnesota

Sept. 21 - at UNLV

Sept. 28 - vs. South Dakota

Oct. 5 - at Illinois State

Oct. 12 - vs. South Dakota State

Oct 19 - at Youngstown State

Oct. 26 - vs. Missouri State

Nov. 2 - vs. Southern Illinois

Nov. 16 - at Indiana State

Nov. 23 - at Northern Iowa


LOCATION: Vermillion, S.D.

COACH: Joe Glenn (1-10 in one season at South Dakota; 189-110-1 overall)

LAST SEASON: 1-10 overall, 0-8 Missouri Valley

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Josh Vander Maten, Jr. (151-of-268, 1,662 yards, 7 TD, 7 INT; 138 carries, 495 yards, 6 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Tyler Starr, Sr. (74 TT, 4 sacks, 7 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 PD, 4 QBH, 2 FF, 1 BLK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Jarrid Bryant, Sr. (Arizona State transfer)

HB/RS Jasper Sanders, Sr. (81 carries, 264 yards, 3 TD)

HB Jordan Roberts, R-Fr.

HB Trevor Bouma, R-Fr.

WR Terrance Terry, Jr. (53 receptions, 567 yards, 3 TD)

WR Tyson Graham Jr., R-Fr.

WR Anthony Williams, Sr.

LT Matt Huffer, Jr.

C Cody O'Neill, Sr.

RT Marc Murtha, Sr. (started four games before suffering season-ending injury)

DE Emilious Davis, Sr. (35 TT, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF)

DE Drew Iddings, So.

DT Kenny Greer, Jr.

DT Nick Jacobs, So.

ILB Kyle Guziec, Jr. (47 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 FR)

OLB Ryan Hillier, So. (38 TT)

OLB Keyen Lage, So. (33 TT, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 FR)

SS Devin Taverna, Sr. (79 TT, 5 PBU, 3 INT)

FS Aaron Swift, Sr. (74 TT, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 3 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 1 BLK)

CB Dyllon Knox, Sr.

PK/P Brian Saakvitne, R-Fr.

BIG LOSSES: RB Marcus Sims (120 carries, 586 yards, 4 TD), WR Will Powell (55 receptions, 625 yards, 2 TD) and LB Tim Marlette (85 TT, 7.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 BLK)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 120 (94 in FCS, 9 in MVFC); Passing Offense, 164.73 (103 in FCS, 8 in MVFC); Total Offense, 284.73 (112 in FCS, 9 in MVFC); Scoring Offense, 17 (108 in FCS, 9 in MVFC); Rushing Defense, 195.73 (98 in FCS, 10 in MVFC); Passing Defense, 190.91 (34 in FCS, 6 in MVFC); Total Defense, 386.64 (73 in FCS, 10 in MVFC); Scoring Defense, 31.45 (93 in FCS, 10 in MVFC)

OUTLOOK: After a rough first season in the Missouri Valley, the Coyotes need to start winning the close games. In conference play, they lost four times by three points and one time by seven points. So perhaps USD is ready to get on track with a much better season. Vander Maten must make the offense go, and he should with a healthier line in front of him. The Coyotes will use a running back by committee scheme and have a good young receiver in Terry. The defense was hammered too often last season. Starr, the star senior, didn't have the same production as a junior as he did in his sophomore season, but returns to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List figuring to have a big senior campaign. The entire linebackers corps is seasoned even after the loss of Marlette. The Coyotes had been 21-22 in their first four seasons on the FCS level. Glenn is confident they will be more competitive this season.


Aug. 31 - vs. UC Davis

Sept. 7 - at Kansas

Sept. 21 - at Northern Arizona

Sept. 28 - at Western Illinois

Oct. 5 - vs. Missouri State

Oct. 12 - vs. Indiana State

Oct. 19 - at Northern Iowa

Oct. 26 - at Illinois State

Nov. 2 - vs. Youngstown State

Nov. 9 - vs. Montana

Nov. 16 - vs. South Dakota State

Nov. 23 - at North Dakota State