September 28, 2015
AP Photo

(STATS) - Linebacker Jesse Bobbit assessed South Dakota State's win this past Saturday and then added the concept that it's always important for the Jackrabbits to carry momentum into the next game week.

Especially this one.

"The Bison give us an urge to do even better," Bobbit said.

It's what all the South Dakota State players are saying about North Dakota State. Conversely, it's what the Bison are saying about South Dakota State.

It's also how Northern Iowa and Illinois State feel about each other.

The baseball pennant races conclude this weekend, but the day-night doubleheader to pay attention to the most is in the Missouri Valley Football Conference on Saturday. First it's No. 7 Northern Iowa at No. 4 Illinois State, then it's No. 3 North Dakota State at No. 5 South Dakota State.

With the beginning of the conference schedule in the Valley, the premier FCS conference holds four of the top seven spots in the STATS FCS Top 25 for the second straight week. Among the other top spots, Jacksonville State remained at No. 1 and Coastal Carolina was No. 2 again while James Madison moved up to No. 6 in the new national media poll on Monday.

South Dakota State was one of only two members of the 10-team Valley in action this past weekend, and the Jackrabbits (3-0) ran away from Robert Morris for a 34-10 victory. They moved up one spot in the rankings from a week ago, extending a big start to the season that includes a win over Big 12 member Kansas.

But, as Bobbit pointed out, SDSU has to prepare even better this week. North Dakota State (2-1) is the four-time defending FCS national champion and has won the last seven meetings against the Jackrabbits, including in the playoffs two of the past three seasons.

"We start every practice," SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said, "and say, 'I'm going to play like it's my last play.'"

Illinois State (2-1) and NDSU shared the Missouri Valley title last season and the two went on to have a thrilling finish in the national championship game. The only team to beat both of the conference co-champs in the regular season was Northern Iowa.

This season, UNI (2-1) is the only FCS team with wins over two Top 25 opponents. To make it a trio, the Panthers would have to stop Illinois State's 14-game home winning streak at Hancock Stadium, second-longest in the FCS to North Dakota State.

While most of the Valley teams rested a week before the start of conference play, No. 1 Jacksonville State won at UT Martin 48-41 in the Ohio Valley Conference and Coastal Carolina pulled away from Bryant 31-17 in a non-conference matchup.

Each of the top seven teams in the poll received at least one of the 158 first-place votes. The group was led by Jacksonville State (3-1), which received 89 first-place votes and 3,814 points, and Big South power Coastal Carolina (4-0), which received 40 first-place votes and 3,705 points.

With NDSU remaining third and Illinois State fourth, it was the first time this season the top four spots in the poll went unchanged.

The fifth spot changed, however, after Villanova tumbled to No. 14 following a loss to Penn in its first game since quarterback John Robertson, the 2014 FCS player of the year, was sidelined by a knee injury.

After South Dakota State, unbeaten James Madison moved up three spots to No. 6. The Dukes (4-0) from CAA Football rallied past SMU 48-45 Saturday night to become the sixth FCS program to beat an FBS team this season.

The rest of the Top 10 was Northern Iowa, Chattanooga (3-1), Eastern Washington (2-2) and Youngstown State (2-1), yet another Missouri Valley program.

Montana State (2-1) moved up to No. 11 followed by Sam Houston State (1-2), Montana (2-2), Villanova (2-2), Fordham (3-1), Portland State (3-0), Eastern Kentucky (2-1), Liberty (2-2), Richmond (2-1) and New Hampshire (2-2).

Then it was No. 21 Indiana State (2-1), giving the Missouri Valley the national high with six ranked teams; Southeastern Louisiana (2-1); McNeese State (3-0); Harvard (2-0) and William & Mary (2-1), which moved into the Top 25 for the first time this season after Cal Poly dropped out.

A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the STATS FCS Top 25. In the voting, a first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.

The Top 25 is released every Monday afternoon during the regular season, except for Sunday morning, Nov. 22, prior to the selection of the 24-team FCS playoff field. A final Top 25 will follow the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 9 in Frisco, Texas.

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