(STATS) - With nonconference matchups between the Big Sky and Missouri Valley ever growing, the two FCS conferences announced Tuesday their games will be promoted as part of a challenge series.
This season, there are eight matchups involving nine programs, with six being hosted by the Big Sky school. Each game will involve at least one team ranked in the STATS FCS Preseason Top 25.
"The history of games between these two great FCS conferences is long and strong and it's wonderful to give these games even more significance with this Big Sky/MVFC Challenge Series," MVFC commissioner Patty Viverito said. "Inter-conference FCS matchups featuring nationally ranked teams make the football season more interesting and meaningful for teams and fans alike."
Five of this year's games will be played Sept. 9: No. 2 North Dakota State (MVFC) at No. 5 Eastern Washington (Big Sky), No. 23 Cal Poly (Big Sky) at No. 18 Northern Iowa (MVFC), No. 4 South Dakota State (MVFC) at Montana State (Big Sky), No. 25 Western Illinois (MVFC) at Northern Arizona (Big Sky) and Missouri State (MVFC) at No. 8 North Dakota (Big Sky).
North Dakota will play at South Dakota (MVFC) and Northern Iowa will visit Southern Utah (Big Sky) on Sept. 16, while No. 20 Illinois State (MVFC) will travel to Northern Arizona on Oct. 7.
Since the MVFC was founded in 1985, its teams have a 50-33 edge against Big Sky teams, with 30 meetings in the FCS playoffs. The two conferences, which have produced 13 FCS champions, split eight matchups last season.
The Big Sky and the MVFC created a challenge series logo, in the form of a shield, to be used this year and in future seasons.
"It was important to both leagues to highlight and promote the outstanding achievements of our players, coaches and programs," Big Sky commissioner Andrea Williams said. "This year will be no different, with top teams in the country meeting in great nonconference matchups."