The FCS is the least understood, yet most impressive college football level in Division I — and Gridiron Heroics is going to tell you all about it, 12 months a year, conference by conference, beginning with this week’s FCS football preview series for 2022. Today we publish the FCS’:
Missouri Valley Football Conference for 2022
The college football programs are good, these programs produce NFL-level talent, they beat FBS teams every year (want evidence? stay tuned – we will publish this in the next week) and they still get overlooked. But Gridiron Heroics won’t be overlooking the FCS as everybody else does annually, we will be embracing the level and the stories these schools tell, year in and year out.
Enjoy the preview.
Also, from Monday, Aug. 22 until our FCS overall preview finale, Gridiron Heroics’ team of eight (yes, eight) FCS reporters break down the 15 conferences that make up the awesome, special level that is — the FCS. Check out the previews with the links below, conference by conference:
THE REST OF THE BEST FCS CONFERENCES IN AMERICA (click on links below)
OVERALL FCS PREVIEW: Overall FCS Preview
MONDAY, AUG. 22: ASUN-WAC & Big Sky
TUESDAY, AUG. 23: Big South, CAA, MVFC
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 24: OVC, Patriot
THURSDAY, AUG. 25: Pioneer, Southland
MONDAY, AUG. 29: HBCU DAY – MEAC & SWAC
TUESDAY, AUG. 30: NEC, SoCon
MONDAY, SEPT. 13: Ivy League (1st game Sept. 16)
RELATED STORY: The Top 30 for 30 Shows in College Football — We Rank Them
BMAC AND THE NACH PODCAST (Aug. 23 episode at top)
FCS NUTS AND BOLTS: All of the key facts for the 2022 FCS season
THE FCS CONFERENCE:
THE 2021 CHAMPIONS:
North Dakota State (NDSU) Bison – 14 – 1 (overall) 7 – 1 (conf.) 2021 FCS National Champions
The Bison begin this season ranked number one in the Stat Perform Preseason Rankings.
NEXT BEST TEAMS:
South Dakota State (SDSU) 11-4 (overall) 5-3 (conf.) The Jack Rabbits are ranked number two in the preseason rankings.
Missouri State (MSU) Bears 8-4 (overall) 6-2 (conf.) The Bears are ranked number five in the preseason rankings.
Southern Illinois (SIU) Salukis 8-5 (overall) 5-3 (conf.) The Salukis are ranked number nine in the preseason rankings.
THE FOUR PREVIEW PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2022:
SR. Linebacker – Spencer Cuvelier – University of Northern Iowa
Spencer has been named to the 2022 Buck Buchanan Award preseason watchlist. Northern Iowa’s standout linebacker was putting up big numbers before an injury ended his season after eight games. During those eight games, Cuvelier had 75 total tackles (3rd on the team). Also 4.5 tackles for loss, and two fumble recoveries.
JR. Quarterback Zack Annexstad – Illinois State
The 2017 three-star recruit from IMG and 2018 walkon at Minnesota transferred to ISU in January. Coming into the 2022 season the Redbirds were in need of an upgrade at quarterback. If Zack can stay healthy he should just be the upgrade needed. Coach Brock Spack has made several positive statements regarding his new quarterback. “He took the reins and he’s done a great job,” Spack said. “He’s been an awesome addition.” ISU ranked 115th in passing in 2021, With an average of 124 yards per game. According to Spack, Annexstad has added dimensions such as getting more receivers involved in the passing game, understanding coverages and defensive pressures, and knowing where to go with the football in various situations.
SR. Fullback Hunter Luepke – North Dakota State
The two-time (2020, 2021) Perform Stats All- American is set for a third this season. Also named to the preseason Walter Payton Award watchlist. In the modern era of football, the fullback is generally not a highly acclaimed position. Hunter is the exception to the rule. Although the Bison are known for using the fullback. Luepke lives up to being a great fullback. His postseason performance in 2021 was All-American worthy. Luepke had 42 carries for 261 yards and four touchdowns. Three touchdowns came in the championship game against Montana State.
SR. Quarterback Jason Shelley – Missouri State
Named as the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year in 2021 after throwing for a school-record 3,347 yards and racking up another program-record 3,789 yards of total offense, both of which led the conference. Threw 20 touchdowns to only 6 INT’s. Also a Walter Payton Award Finalist in 2021. Is a Stats Perform Preseason Second Team All-American. With an expected improved offensive line and veteran receiver Ty Scott returning, Shelley should have another exceptional season.
Often called the FSC’s version of the FBS power conference SEC. In the 2022 NFL Draft, there were an FCS-leading nine picks. UNI Offensive Lineman Trevor Penning was the nineteenth overall pick by the New Orleans Saints. The MVFC is poised to have a distinct presence in the top ten rankings for most, if not all season. With quite possibly another National Championship Trophy.
The bad that could possibly come this season for the MVFC could be the fact that every team in the conference will have a target on their uniforms. Every team will get the highest level of competition.
THE BIGGEST CONF GAME OF THE YEAR (AND WHY):
South Dakota State AT North Dakota State (Oct. 15) – This could very well be a number one vs. number two matchup.
THE BEST CHANCE FOR AN FBS UPSET WIN (AND WHY):
The North Dakota State at Arizona is my pick for the best chance of an upset. It boasts the number one FCS ranked Bison against the struggling Wildcats.
THE HAPPY CONFERENCE HISTORY NUGGET:
In 1992, when the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference merged with the MVC, the football conference kept the Gateway charter, with a minor name change to Gateway Football Conference. After Eastern Illinois joined the Ohio Valley Conference for football in 1995, Youngstown State joined in 1997 and was followed by Western Kentucky in 2001. Southwest Missouri State changed its name to Missouri State in 2005. The Gateway changed its name to the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2008.
THE PREDICTION — WHO GOES TO THE FCS POSTSEASON:
The MVFC sent five teams to the postseason a year ago and I believe that this will be the case again this season. North Dakota State, Missouri State, Southern Illinois, and South Dakota State. It is sure to be a tough conference schedule. Once the postseason arrives these five should be ready for what challenges await.
THE SURPRISE — WHO WILL SHOCK THE CONFERENCE (AND WHY):
Illinois State Redbirds. If the addition of veteran quarterback Zack Annexstad delivers. The Redbirds will look to greatly improve their passing game and be more balanced on offense. I look for the Redbirds to improve to 5-6 overall at season’s end.
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