With the calendar now flipped to November, the college football regular season enters its final month. Like the leaves falling from the trees, here's a smattering of facts and figures from our Prairie State Pigskin notebook.
Illinois State and Southern Illinois each remains in contention for spots in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs.
Following this past weekend's 27-10 home loss to Northern Iowa, STATS FCS Senior Editor Craig Haley dropped the Redbirds from No. 11 to 17th in his weekly power rankings. ISU fell from seventh to eleventh in this week's STATS FCS poll.
After defeating Indiana State in Terre Haute last weekend, SIU has won three straight games and improved its record to 5-4. With a win over an FBS opponent (UMass) earlier in the year, the Salukis are very much in the hunt for a playoff spot. SIU received 74 votes in this week's STATS poll, essentially placing the Salukis No. 32.
The website nobowls.com still has the the Redbirds and Salukis in the 24-team playoff field.
HERO Sports also weighed in with its playoff predictions earlier this week. Brian McLaughlin still remains high on Illinois State, placing the Redbirds as the eighth and final seeded team. Sam Herder put ISU as his second "near seed" team.
Both analysts had Southern Illinois in the bracket. McLaughlin put SIU in the non-seed category, while Herder had the Salukis among the "last three in."
With three games left before the playoff pairings are announced, here are the remaining schedules for Illinois State and Southern Illinois with opponents' current records in parentheses.
ISU: at South Dakota State (7-2), hosts Missouri State (1-7), at Youngstown State (5-4)
SIU: hosts Missouri State (1-7), at Western Illinois (1-8), at North Dakota State (9-0)
Mr. Robinson's neighborhood
Despite rushing for only 39 yards in last week's loss to Northern Iowa, Illinois State running back James Robinson stands on the threshold of his second straight 1,000-yard season.
Robinson enters Saturday's game at South Dakota State with 963 yards rushing through nine games. The senior from Rockford has broken the 100-yard mark four times this year with a season-high 180 yards against Indiana State Oct. 26 at Hancock Stadium.
STATS FCS Senior Editor Craig Haley noted that in Robinson's All-American career, the Redbirds are 4-10 when he is below 50 yards.
A look at recent Novembers may not reveal anything about this year (because so many different factors figure into the mix). It may just be a mixed scattering of results similar to the leaves strewn across your lawn.
Regardless, let's glimpse at the last three seasons (discounting playoff games); here is a breakdown of each team's November record (2016-2018):
Illinois State 3-5
Western with a win
That win means the Leathernecks will avoid their first winless season since 1944. It also means WIU snapped a 10-game losing streak that stretched back to last season.
"We needed it," WIU head coach Jared Elliott told Prairie State Pigskin. "Very proud of how my boys continue to fight in midst of such an adverse year."
As for the school record for futility, Western lost 14 games between the 1943 and '44 war-depleted seasons.
Quarterback Connor Sampson earned Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors with a career-best 368 yards passing yards and three touchdowns.
The ying and the yang
EIU is coming off a bye week as it prepares for an Ohio Valley Conference road game at Tennessee State. The Panthers are 0-9 overall and 0-5 in the OVC.
Eastern last posted a winless season in 1941 when the Panthers were 0-7. That fall Eastern scored only 19 points and was shut out in its last four games.
Over the course of 1941 and '42 the Panthers lost 13 of 14 games. In 1943, at the height of World War II, Eastern did not field a team nor play any games. The Panthers opened the 1944 season by defeating rival Western Illinois 12-0.
EIU's longest losing streak is 14 games, split between the 1976 and '77 seasons. The Panthers lost the first 10 games in 1977 before closing the year with a 17-0 win over Evansville. The following season, 1978, EIU won the NCAA Division II national championship.