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Permalink 10/13/09 , CSN West, CSN Columns

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CSN West: Valley Game of the Year Should Settle Some Questions

floated rightBy Kent Schmidt, CSN West Columnist

All the preseason publications. All the hype. All the bragging rights. All the playoff and league title implications. They all come to the UNI-Dome field in Cedar Falls, Iowa this Saturday.

Like seen in the past three years, the winner of the Southern Illinois-Northern Iowa game will have the inside track for the Missouri Valley Football Conference title in 2009.

Both teams, like in the past, are undefeated within the conference when they meet. And like past, recent seasons, the winner will likely be the winner in the MVFC.

...

How do both teams come into this game?
Both Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois have 3-0 records within the Missouri Valley Football Conference play. In fact, both the Panthers and Salukis have enjoyed double-digit victory margins in every conference game.

UNI comes in ranked #2 in the GPI rankings, while SIU is #7.

UNI has an overall record of 5-1 with their lone loss coming at the beginning of the season to in-state rival FBS Top 10 ranked Iowa by a single point and had a chance to win twice with two field goal attempts to end the game but both were blocked.

SIU has an overall record of 4-1 and its lone loss was also to a FBS team in Marshall by three points.

The two teams have had just one common opponent in North Dakota State. UNI just defeated NDSU 42-27 last weekend while SIU defeated the Bison 24-14 three weeks ago.

UNI’s other MFVC wins were even easier wins over Missouri State and Indiana State. SIU’s other MFVC wins were over Western Illinois and Illinois State.

UNI’s last league loss came at SIU on Sept. 27, 2008. SIU’s last conference loss was at North Dakota State, 35-27, on Oct. 4, 2008.

What is the history behind this matchup?
The home team in this series has won this game since 1997. A year ago, SIU won the matchup in Carbondale with a 27-24 win. Two years ago, SIU lost a trilling game 30-24 in Cedar Falls.

SIU last won in Cedar Falls the same year they last won the national title game in 1983.

Overall, UNI has won the last 11 games played in the UNI-Dome. Overall, UNI leads the series 15-12 all time.

One thing, however, second year Saluki Coach Dale Lennon’s last trip to Cedar Falls resulted in a UNI loss. The then North Dakota coach, defeated UNI 35-31 in 2006 in a stunning upset when UND was still playing as a DII team.

What will we see in this game?
I think this will be a high scoring game with two prolific offenses but both defenses are two to of the top FCS stoppers as well.

UNI leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 10.83 points per game, gives up just 261.5 yards per game (ranking 11th in FCS) and allows just 89.0 rushing yards per game. The Salukis have the sixth-best scoring offense with 36.8 points per game and are fifth in total offense (463.2) and second in rushing offense (246.4).

On the other side, the Panthers are fourth in the nation in total offense and second in scoring offense while SIU is 21st in scoring defense. The Panther offense averages 41.83 points per game, which is the second-highest mark in FCS behind only Stephen F. Austin. The Panthers have thrown just two interceptions this season, but the Saluki defense has picked off 10 passes in five games, which ranks sixth in FCS.

SIU brings in the top running back in FCS in Deji Karim, who averages 166.8 yards per game and is also tops in all-purpose yardage with 227.8 per game. He ranks second with a kickoff return average of 35.14 and is fourth nationally in scoring at 10.8 points per game. His nine touchdowns on the year tie for the most scored, as he adds one kickoff return with his eight rushing touchdowns.

UNI quarterback Pat Grace leads the MVFC with 245 yards passing per game and he has 15 touchdowns with just two interceptions. UNI has a plus-seven in the turnover ratio overall. Grace ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 187.22.

The Panthers also average 216.5 yards per game rushing, with Derrick Law leading the way with 84.6 yards per game. Six different Panthers have scored rushing touchdowns this year.

Defensively, UNI has 18 sacks on the year and 38 tackles for a loss. James Ruffin and Elijah Hodge have 8.0 and 6.5 sacks, respectively, and Hodge leads the team with 45 tackles. UNI has blocked one punt that was returned for a touchdown and Jarred Herring has returned a kickoff for a touchdown as well.

Given all these stats, I am looking forward to a great game where I will be. I think this will wind up being a rather high scoring game and the outcome will be just like the past two years—not knowing until the game’s final possession.

I will have my pick below as this is my game of the week.

Both teams have lived into the hype so far as both were picked as the top two teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Now let’s hope this game lives up to the billing. I have a feeling they will give us another classic.

CSN West Games of the Week

Southern Illinois (4-1, 3-0) @ Northern Iowa (5-1, 3-0), 4:05 pm Central

I gave most of the stats for this game above. As mentioned, I think this game will be decided at the end. I think the home field, however, will lead to a victory for UNI. I will take UNI by a field goal, UNI 31 SIU 28.

Eastern Washington (4-2, 3-1) @ Montana (5-0, 2-0), 1:05 Mountain

This contest looked like it was going to be a Big Sky matchup between two undefeated BSC teams, but EWU failed last week to win at home over Weber State. The WSU game, however, for the Eagles was a 31-13 loss. EWU’s other loss was to FBS California.

Montana last week played its last nonconference game in defeating Top 25-ranked Cal Poly 35-23. Montana’s closest games so far were two seven-point triumphs — at Northern Arizona (41-34 in OT) and 17-10 at UC Davis.

EWU will look to break a three-game losing streak to the Grizzlies. Montana last year won 19-3 in Cheney. EWU did, however, triumph in 2005 in Missoula and lost just 24-23 in 2007 on the road.

Montana has won 18 straight games within the Big Sky with the 34-20 loss to EWU being the last time the Grizzlies lost in 2005.

The Grizzlies lead the Big Sky Conference in scoring offense (36.0 ppg), scoring defense (16.8 ppg), rushing defense (72.4 ypg), rushing offense (149.4 ypg) and total defense (343.3 ypg). EWU is second in the league in scoring defense (22.8 ppg), and second in rushing offense (145.8 ypg).

For some reason, the Eagles always give the Grizzles a good game, and I don’t think this will be any different. However, I don’t think Montana will succumb to the upset. I like Montana by four, UM 28 EWU 24.

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CSN West News & Notes

- Sacramento State notched a 38-17 victory over Idaho State. For Idaho State, it was its 19th straight road loss and 13th straight conference road loss. ISU hasn’t won a conference road game since beating Northern Colorado in Greeley 41-13 on Oct. 7,
2006. The 13 straight conference road losses is not a record. Northern Colorado is 0-14 in conference road games since joining the league in 2006.

- Eastern Washington’s senior wide receiver Aaron Boyce joined the 3,000-yard receiving club this season and has 3,216 yards in his career to date.

- EWU senior quarterback Matt Nichols became the 10th quarterback in Big Sky history to amass 10,000 career passing yards. Nichols threw for 354 in EWU’s 31-13 loss to Eastern Washington. Nichols passed Erik Meyer to become the school’s all-time leading passer with 10,315 yards.

- Northern Arizona quarterback Michael Herrick and wideout Ed Berry helped the Lumberjacks over Montana State 24-10 on the road. Herrick completed 75 percent of his passes for 388 yards, while Berry caught 12 of those passes for 182 yards and a touchdown.

- UC Davis QB Greg Denham completed 27 of 41 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns in the Aggies’ 24-23 overtime triumph at South Dakota. The Aggies’ Jacob Maxson blocked Coyote kicker Sam Sawyer’s extra-point attempt in the first possession of the overtime period.

- With 30 seconds left before halftime, North Dakota’s Dominique Hawkins intercepted Stony Brook quarterback Michael Coulter at the SBU 35 and ran in for a TD, breaking a 7-7 tie and swinging the momentum in North Dakota’s 31-24 victory.

- Southern Illinois’ Deji Karim had a personal-high 310 yards of all-purpose yardage in the Salukis’ 43-23 victory against Illinois State. Karim’s figure ties for 14th-best all-time, and is the second-best this year in the MVFC. Karim already has 1,139 all-purpose yards through five games.

- The Missouri Valley Football Conference is the home to the top two FCS rushers in the country as SIU’s Deji Karim leads the nation (166.80 yards per game) while NDSU’s Pat Paschall ranks No. 2 (144.83).

- Drake and San Diego meet on the West Coast this week in a game that will have a big impact in Pioneer Football League standings. The Bulldogs are 4-1 overall with a 2-0 PFL mark while the Toreros have a 3-2 overall mark and are 2-1 in PFL play.