U.N.I. football coach Mark Farley calls it the most balanced conference race he has ever been a part of. Western Illinois leads the Missouri Valley football race with a 3-1 record and the 2-1 Panthers are tied for second. They host Illinois State this weekend for homecoming and the Redbirds, at 3-2, are one of four teams with a pair of losses.

Farley says he hasn’t seen the balance, even as an assistant coach, as he says every team has quality players. He says that’s the biggest thing that has changed in the league are the explosive players. Farley says the Redbirds will provide a challenge as they are a “very big” team with players that can make big plays.

A year ago the Redbirds knocked U.N.I. out of the national playoffs with a 22-20 win in which they scored the winning touchdown with one second remaining. He says it was a big win for them and they played an excellent game and he says they are a quality team again this year.

Farley says they are thrilled to be at home but is not sure how much of an advantage it will be. He says they have a number of transfers from larger schools who have played in the bigger settings.

Illinois State coach Brock Spack says a team could still win the conference with two losses. Spack says there is a strong chance the champion of the conference could have two losses, as there are a lot of games left.

Spack says the Redbirds are happy to be in the thick of the title chase this late in the season, as he says when you hit this part of the schedule and you are playing for something, that’s a good thing.

Spack says the Panthers will be tough to beat, especially in the UNI-Dome. He says the Panthers are in the heart of the championship race and it will be a tough environment, but it should be fun.