TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- The Indiana State Sycamores improved in one poll while they held steady in another this week ahead of the regular season finale at Youngstown State on Saturday, November 17. Kickoff is set for 2:00 p.m. (ET).
The Sycamores are No. 18 in this week's The Sports Network Top 25 Poll, holding in the same spot following a week off. ISU remains the only team in the nation to down No. 1 North Dakota State, while Illinois State checks in at No. 11 and South Dakota State is No. 21. Youngstown State is receiving votes in the poll, as are Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois and Drake.
Indiana State moved up to No. 19 in this week's FCS Coaches Poll, up from No. 21 last week. NDSU remains No. 1 while Illinois State is No. 11 and South Dakota is No. 23. Southern Illinois and Youngstown State are also receiving votes from the coaches.
The Sycamores are also No. 8 in the most recent GridIron Power Index, with new rankings due to come out on the morning on November 13.
Saturday's game against Youngstown State will be televised nationally on ESPN 3.
The Sycamore defense has been outstanding so far this season, allowing just 130 points over the first 10 games, including the program's first shutout since 1996 with the 44-0 victory over Quincy on September 8. ISU has allowed just 10 offensive touchdowns to the opposition in the last 38 quarters of action. ISU's defense is allowing an average of 13.00 points per game which ranks second in the MVFC and nationally. Indiana State leads the conference in pass efficiency defense with a 93.64 rating. The Sycamores are allowing 286.6 yards per game which is second in the league and sixth-best in FCS. ISU is also giving up just 159.3 passing yards per game which is second in the league and eighth-best nationally.
Indiana State is ranked No. 8 in the latest GridIron Index, the leading indicator of a team's standing in the FCS ranks. The Sycamores have steadily climbed the GPI all season long, reaching a high of No. 5 on October 29. ISU's No. 5 ranking earlier in the season is the highest that the program has been ranked since the GPI national rankings were introduced in 2008.
Indiana State junior Shakir Bell went over the 1,000 rushing yard mark for the season in just the seventh game as he put up 96 yards on the ground as the Sycamores downed No. 1 North Dakota State in front of a near capacity crowd at the Fargodome 17-14. Bell rushed 26 times in the game for 96 yards as he broke his own school record set last year for being the fastest Sycamore to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a season. Bell now has 3,740 yards for his career which is third on ISU's all-time list. Bell is averaging 142.1 rushing yards per game which is second in the MVFC and fifth nationally. Bell has reached 100 yards rushing in 18 of his 31 career games. Vincent Allen (4,335 yards from 1973-77) and David Wright (4,181 yards from 1992-95) are the only two players to sit ahead of Bell on the ISU all-time career rushing list.
Following the 45-14 victory for Indiana State over South Dakota on October 27, the Sycamores were ranked in each of the national polls heading into its matchup against Illinois State, who likewise was ranked in each poll. The Sycamores were No. 14 in The Sports Network Top 25 while they were No. 17 in the FCS Coaches Poll. The No. 14 national ranking for the Sycamores was tied for the highest in program history since joining the MVFC. ISU was No. 14 in both 1989 & 1995. The Sycamores were ranked as high as No. 1 in 1984 -- the last time the program advanced to the FCS Playoffs. The No. 14 ranking was the highest for the Sycamores in the Trent Miles era.
Indiana State is undefeated in 2012 on the road in Missouri Valley Football Conference play, owning victories over Southern Illinois, Western Illinois and No. 1 North Dakota State. ISU also won its final road league game in 2011 at Missouri State, giving the Sycamores a four-game road MVFC winning streak heading into the regular season finale at Youngstown State on November 17. ISU's four-game road winning streak is the longest in program history and the Sycamores are looking for their first-ever undefeated record on the road in league play, when they attempt to make it a perfect 4-0 this weekend at Youngstown.
The Sycamores are averaging 38.93 yards per net punt, which is tops in the league and fifth nationally. Special Forces also ranks sixth nationally and second in the league in kickoff return average, boasting a 25.04 tally per opportunity. Hileman is averaging a league-best 43.77 yards per punt, a total which is eighth best nationally.
The Indiana State Sycamores are 7-3 overall and 5-2 in Missouri Valley Football Conference play entering the Youngstown State contest. The Sycamores have already secured their third consecutive winning campaign which would is the first time ISU has enjoyed that many winning seasons in a row since the 1967-69 years under Jerry Huntsman when ISU posted six consecutive winning seasons.
The Indiana State Sycamores have put together a total of 38 offensive scoring drives through 10 games this season. Of those, 24 have come after an opponent's final score -- good enough for 63.2 percent of all scoring drives. The Sycamores have outscored their opponents by a 116-80 margin in the second half this season, including a 64-29 advantage in the fourth quarter. The Sycamores improved to a perfect 7-0 this season when leading heading into the fourth quarter as they made a 38-7 lead standup with the victory over South Dakota.