For the sixth straight year, North Dakota State is picked to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference championship, but this year’s margin in the pre-season poll is as close as it’s ever been.

The Bison (12-2 in 2016), and the team they shared the regular season crown with last season, South Dakota State, are separated by just one point overall, and two first place votes.

The Jackrabbits (9-4 in 2016), who beat NDSU in Fargo during the regular season in 2016, but later lost on the Bison’s home field in the FCS Playoffs, received 19 of the 40 first place votes from league coaches, media and sports information directors. The Bison grabbed the other 21.

Last season’s FCS runner-up, Youngstown State (12-2 in 2016), is third in the poll.

South Dakota finished seventh in the balloting. The Coyotes began league play 2-1 last season, before losing their final four games to finish 4-7.

2016 was a very good year for Missouri Valley football. The league put four teams in the FCS Playoffs, including landing two of the top eight seeds (NDSU and SDSU).

2017 Missouri Valley Football Conference Preseason Poll
Team (First-Place Votes) Points
1. North Dakota State (21) 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