(STATS) - After sharing the Missouri Valley Football Conference title last season, North Dakota State and South Dakota State are looking eye-to-eye heading into the 2017 season.
This year's MVFC preseason poll was the tightest in conference history, with NDSU edging SDSU for the top spot Tuesday, 380 points to 379.
The preseason favorite has claimed at least a share of the title 19 times in 31 previous polls. Last season, South Dakota State (9-4) beat preseason favorite North Dakota State (12-2) when both finished 7-1 in MVFC games, but the Bison came back to eliminate the Jackrabbits in the FCS playoff quarterfinals. One round later, the Bison's run of five consecutive FCS titles ended with a loss to James Madison, the eventual national champion.
South Dakota State and North Dakota State also led the way on Monday's MVFC preseason first team with nine and seven selections, respectively. Youngstown State was picked third in the preseason poll. The Penguins (12-4) won four playoff games on the way to a national runner-up finish last season.Illinois State (6-6), also a playoff qualifier last season, was fifth in the poll behind Northern Iowa.
MISSOURI VALLEY FOOTBALL CONFERENCE PRESEASON POLL=
Head Coaches, Media and Sports Information Directors Poll
1. North Dakota State (21 first-place votes), 380
2. South Dakota State (19), 379
3. Youngstown State, 290
4. Northern Iowa, 255
5. Illinois State, 246
6. Western Illinois, 188
7. South Dakota, 182
8. Southern Illinois, 132
9. Missouri State, 81
10. Indiana State, 67