How will YSU fare in the MVFC?

Jimmy Carter’s wife, Rosalynn, once said this about polls: “Don’t worry about polls, but if you do, don’t admit it.”

She was talking about politics but I think it’s a good point. Also, I spent 15 minutes searching the Web for a funny quote about college football polls and couldn’t find any.

(I did find a funnier quote about polls from Erma Bombeck: “I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62 percent of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.” But I didn’t want to include that because I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a family paper.)

(Also, it’s kind of depressing, right?)

ANYWAY, I mention Carter’s quote because our preseason Missouri Valley Football Conference ballots are due this week. I’m not a big fan of preseason polls, particularly ones involving FCS teams that don’t start training camp for two weeks, but I don’t want to risk losing voting rights for one of the three most important preseason polls at the FCS level. I mean, that’s just not something you mess around with.

Of course, a lot of Youngstown State fans can’t even name all 10 teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conference (Official motto: 1,000 miles wide and three teams deep), so I probably shouldn’t sweat it. Especially since I truetrue did a lot of research and feel confident in my choices.

Here’s my picks:

  1. North Dakota State. The defending champions lost three all-conference players to graduation but return a strong core. Besides, last year’s Bison were more of a team than a collection of impressive individuals. The Bison rank No. 2 in the country in Lindy’s preseason poll behind last year’s runner-up, Sam Houston State.

  2. Northern Iowa. The Panthers lost a lot to graduation, including the conference’s defensive player of the year, linebacker L.J. Fort (who signed with the Browns as a free agent), disruptive defensive lineman Ben Boothby (who chose medical school over NFL free agency) and dynamic quarterback Tirrell Rennie.

But with sophomore QB Jared Lanpher (who led UNI past YSU last year) returning and a typically talented roster around him, the Panthers should be good again.

They always are.

  1. Youngstown State. The Penguins return everyone on what should be the FCS’s best offense but I don’t trust that defense. Expect a playoff berth and maybe one or two postseason wins but I think YSU is still a year away from making a national championship run.

  2. Illinois State. This pick is kind of a toss-up between the Redbirds and Indiana State but I’ll go with Illinois State because it returns QB Matt Brown and won five straight last season before falling to Northern Iowa in overtime.

  3. Indiana State. The Sycamores return last year’s MVFC offensive player of the year in RB Shakir Bell and probably have the preseason defensive player of the year in senior DL Ben Obaseki. But there’s something about them I don’t trust, probably due to last year’s 1-3 finish.

  4. South Dakota State. Not-so-fearless prediction, Part I: The Jackrabbits will start slow and finish strong.

Not-so-fearless prediction, Part II: The press box at Coughlin Stadium will smell like cow poop. (No joke. The whole campus smells like it.)

Not-so-fearless prediction, Part III: YSU will snap its four-game losing streak to SDSU.

  1. Southern Illinois. Jerry Kill’s record as Salukis head coach from 2003-07: 50-14.

Head coach Dale Lennon’s record over the 2008-09 seasons, playing mostly with Kill’s recruits: 20-5.

Lennon’s record over the past two years, playing mostly with his own recruits: 9-13.

This is called a trend.

  1. South Dakota. The Coyotes went 6-5 last season as a member of the five-team Great West.

The Great West is not the MVFC.

  1. Missouri State. The Bears won two games last year. One was against Western Illinois. The other was against the Penguins in the season finale.

This is not the last time you will hear about that game.

  1. Western Illinois. The Leathernecks (man, I love that nickname) went 1-10 three years ago, then went 8-5 two years ago and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Then QB Matt Barr graduated and the Leathernecks went 2-9 last year.

My predictions? Matt Barr will remain graduated. And the Leathernecks won’t go 8-5.

All-conference picks

I have five Penguins on my all-conference preseason team, including 2011 first-teamers Kurt Hess (QB), a junior, and Jamaine Cook (RB), a senior. The others are senior OL Mark Pratt, senior DL Aronde Stanton and sophomore LB Travis Williams.

The way this list works is, you take all the first and second teamers from the 2011 team and put them on the 2012 preseason team. Then you fill in the gaps with honorable mention and all-newcomer team picks from 2011. Then you hope you never again have to write Zwiefelhofer.

Here’s my picks:


QB — Hess

RB — Bell, Cook

FB — Brock Lough, Indiana State

WR — Tyrone Walker, Illinois State; Will Powell, South Dakota

TE — Matt Thayer, Missouri State

OL — Pratt; FN Lutz, Indiana State; Jimmy Holtschlag, Western Illinois; Bryan Witzmann, South Dakota State; Brian Palangi, Northern Iowa

K — Tyler Sievertsen, Northern Iowa


DL — Stanton; Obaseki; Nate Palmer, Illinois State; Kayon Swanson, Southern Illinois

LB —Williams; Aaron Archie, Indiana State; Evan Frierson, Illinois State; Tyler Starr, South Dakota

DB — Varmah Sonie, Northern Iowa; Marcus Williams, North Dakota State; Colten Heagle, North Dakota State; Winston Wright, South Dakota State

P — Cole Zwiefelhofer, South Dakota

Returner — Steve Strother, Southern Illinois

The preseason poll and all-conference picks will be released Aug. 2.

Joe Scalzo covers YSU football for The Vindicator. Write to him at

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