Week five MVFC predictions

Fanny Frey

 Although the Western Illinois football team opens conference play at Southern Illinois on Saturday, five Missouri Valley Football Conference teams have open weeks this week, leaving four MVFC games on the schedule this weekend. 

Just an FYI, I’m terrible at predicting scores, but I feel pretty confident about these picks.

Liberty (3-1) at Indiana St. (2-1) 

Last season, Indiana State finished 1-11 overall and 0-8 in the conference. This season is much different, especially after their 27-20 upset win at Ball State. The key has been senior quarterback Mike Perish, who has thrown for 840 yards and six touchdowns this season. 

Liberty is in the Big South Conference and is ranked number 22 in the FCS top 25 poll. The Flames are coming off a 38-21 victory against No. 25 Bryant and are winners of three straight after dropping their season opener 56-29 to the North Carolina Tar Heels. Leading the Flames is their head coach Turner Gill, a former star quarterback at Nebraska, who compiled a 5-19 record at Kansas before being hired by Liberty in 2012. 

This will be a close game, but I give a slight edge to the visitors. Liberty wins 24-17. 

Tennessee Tech (1-2) at Northern Iowa (1-2)

Of all the venues in the MVFC, the Northern Iowa Dome in Cedar Falls might be the loudest. Keep that in mind as Tennessee Tech was already blown out 49-14 at Indiana State, who is not quite as talented as Northern Iowa. 

The Panthers have a strong schedule and almost beat both of their FBS opponents. The Iowa Hawkeyes defeated Northern Iowa 31-13 in the opening week, and a week later, the Panthers played in sunny Honolulu against the Hawaii Warriors, only losing by a field goal, 27-24.

 Northern Iowa has a steady run game led by senior running back David Johnson, as well as experienced junior quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen, who has thrown for 804 yards while tossing six touchdowns. That solid offensive attack will produce points for the Panthers in front of their home fans, and Northern Iowa will roll to a 44-10 victory. 

Austin Peay (0-3) at Illinois St. (2-0) 

Of the four Valley games this week, this one was by far the easiest to pick. 

Austin Peay is flat out struggling early on; the Governors have only scored 13 points in three games. Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Illinois destroyed them 63-7 last week, and Illinois State defeated Eastern 34-15 a week before that. 

Illinois State is just outside the top 25 voting and well rested after their second open week of the season. The Redbirds sport a well rounded defense with leadership on the defensive line, line backing core and secondary while junior running back Marshaun Coprich leads the way on the ground. 

Not even close at all. Redbirds trounce Austin Peay 59-0. 

Western Illinois (2-2) at Southern Illinois (3-1) 

The Leathernecks’ showdown with the Salukis, in my mind, will be the best Valley game of the week. 

SIU is ranked 17th in the nation, but coming off a 35-13 road loss at Purdue, which was surprising seeing how much the Boilermakers have struggled recently. Before that showing, Southern was able to put up the points behind a strong passing connection between junior quarterback Mark Ianotti (847 passing yards, 10 touchdowns) and senior tight end MyCole Pruitt (26 receptions, 306 receiving yards, three touchdowns). 

Defensively, the Salukis are anchored by a strong line backing contingent led by senior outside linebacker Tyler Williamson and sophomore inside linebacker Chase Allen, who leads SIU in solo tackles with 19. 

This brings up a tough challenge for J.C. Baker, Kyle Hammonds and company with the Leatherneck ground game. Western will look to the air with sophomore quarterback Trenton Norvell, who is coming off a 292-yard passing performance in a 24-7 loss at Northwestern. 

Carrying a record of 2-2, this is a game for the Leathernecks to realize what level they’re at this year. We all know what the Western defense is capable of, with linebackers Kevin Kintzel and J.J. Raffelson leading the way. But offensively, the Leathernecks need to prove that they can get the job done against a quality opponent. 

And Saturday in Carbondale, Illinois is the perfect time and place to do so. The Leathernecks will surprise some people with a 20-14 win.