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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 27 2013

Big showdowns for Missouri Valley teams today

FARGO – The Missouri Valley Football Conference has three teams ranked in the top six of the FCS Division I coaches poll. And all three will be involved in matchups involving top 10 teams today.

The league focus, of course, is in Brookings when No. 6 South Dakota State hosts No. 1 North Dakota State. But one state to the east, No. 5 Northern Iowa hosts No. 9 McNeese State (La.) in one of the better nonconference FCS games of the season.

“Just the excitement is the biggest implication,” said UNI head coach Mark Farley. “It’s so early in the season, so I don’t know how it will play out in the overall picture of things.”

Both UNI and McNeese have signature FBS wins. The Panthers handled Iowa State 28-20 in the season opener. McNeese, a member of the Southland Conference, stuck a 53-21 whipping on South Florida.

“No question, it’s the Southland vs. the Missouri Valley,” Farley said. “At least we have a place to work from after this game, whether it’s from a league or team standpoint. This is a heck of a game. They have speed and size and a lot of confidence right now.”

Nobody has stopped the Cowboys yet in four games. In addition to the USF blowout, McNeese beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 58-14, West Alabama 44-42 and Big Sky Conference member Weber State 43-6.

“You look at those scores and everything tells you it’s a huge task at hand,” Farley said.

Southern Illinois looking to return to playoff hunt

Besides the Bison-Jackrabbits, the other notable matchup involving two preseason contending picks is Youngstown State traveling to Southern Illinois, which is hoping to return to FCS playoff contention for the first time since reaching postseason in 2009.

“I’m curious to see where our football team is at, our identity and who we are,” said SIU head coach Dale Lennon.

After starting 0-2, the Salukis have won two straight. SIU has gone over 400 yards of total offense in all four games after doing that just twice all of last season. The Salukis also lead the league in rushing defense, giving up 83.5 yards per game.

Youngstown, meanwhile, inserted four new starters on defense last week in a 59-17 pounding of Duquesne.

“We have new guys with new roles,” said Youngstown head coach Eric Wolford.

USD, Western hoping to rebound after last week

Rebound is the theme of the week at both Western Illinois and the University of South Dakota. Coyotes head coach Joe Glenn said his team “laid an egg” in the first half last week in a 22-16 loss at Northern Arizona.

The situation was to be addressed in practice this week, he said, joking that the coaches may have to get a chair and whip out.

“We got shook for our lunch money in the first half last week,” he said. “We have to figure out who we are again.”

USD could use a better does of offense. It’s had just five touchdowns in three games with quarterback Josh Vander Maten having a hand in all five – three rushing and two passing.

In an oddity, the Coyotes have lost 17 straight road games since winning at the University of Minnesota three years ago.

It took until the third quarter of its fourth game, but WIU committed its first turnover of the season in a 38-7 loss at UNLV.

“We got beat badly last week, but at the same time we’ve identified areas where we can get better,” said Leathernecks head coach Bob Nielson.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia