The U.N.I. football team is accustomed to being the pre-season favorites but they come into the new season as an underdog. The Panthers have been picked to finish fourth in the pre-season Missouri Valley Football Conference poll. U.N.I. has won or shared five conference titles in the last decade.
U.N.I. coach Mark Farley says they’ve always tried to take a hard path and when you’re picked 4th it speaks to the parity of the conference, and he says he agrees with the rankings. Farley says it will be a very difficult and competitive season for his team.
The Panthers missed out on the national playoffs in 2009 after posting a 7-4 record. They don’t open until a September 11th matchup at home against North Dakota State in what will be their conference opener. Farley says they start out with a difficult schedule and have a lot to get done before then.
Farley says the Panthers want to get back into post-season contention and he says the team has done a nice job since January of working toward those expectations. Southern Illinois is the pre-season favorite. The Salukis went unbeaten in the Valley in 2009.
Southern Illinois coach Dale Lenon says the previous two years that he has been there, they polls have been wrong. He says the polls are fun, but the reality is that everything is determined on the field and the players have to do the work. Lenon knows the Salukis will have a target on their back.
He says they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that, but know they will get the best game from other teams.