As you've seen over the past couple of weeks on Midco Sports Network, the Sioux Falls Storm (5-0) appear poised to add another banner to their collection at the Sioux Falls Arena.
The league's coaches, who have ranked the defending Indoor Football League champions No. 1 in every edition of the weekly coaches' poll, cleary agree. If that's not good enough, a quick glance at the team's statistics should erase any remaining doubt.
We'll get our first real gauge of that dominance Saturday, as the Storm visit the Allen Wranglers (5-1) in a game many have billed as a potential championship preview.
Scouting The Wranglers
Allen made a lot of headlines in the offseason with a signing frenzy that included former NFL All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens. When he plays - T.O.'s contract only obligates him to appear in home games, though he can be talked into traveling for the right price - Owens has been pretty good (16 rec., 193 yds, 7 TD in four games).
Owens, however, isn't the only weapon offensively. Wide receiver Maurice Avery (30 rec., 309 yds, 8 TD), a second team All-IFL selection with the Omaha Beef last season, quarterback Ben Sankey (68 pct., 418 yds, 10 TD, 2 INT) and running back Darius Fudge (81 rush, 280 yds, 12 TD) are also among the top performers in the league at their positions.
The Wranglers also feature the IFL's stingiest defense, allowing a league-low 35.9 points per game. Several familiar faces highlight that group as well, including former Storm DL Mike Landry (9 tackles, 1.5 sacks).
And you can now add DB Jovan Jackson to that list. Jackson was acquired from Cedar Rapids on Thursday (Apr. 12). If he plays, it would be the second time the Storm have faced him this season.
Front Office Acquisition
The Wranglers overhaul wasn't limited to the field. Former IFL commissioner Tommy Benizio was introduced as the team's new co-owner and acting president at a news conference on Thursday (Apr. 12).
It was Benizio, who had served as commissioner since the IFL's inception in 2008, that enforced the league's sanctions against the Storm for insurance violations during the 2009 season. Penalities included five forfeited wins (Sioux Falls was 6-0 at the time), roster reduction, and a $10,000 fine. The Storm failed to make the playoffs that season, ending its run of four consecutive championships.
To be fair, the league's owners are the ones that voted on those sanctions, but Benizio's involvement in the process certainly didn't endear him to the Storm or its fans. Those hard feelings were certainly evident at the Sioux Falls Arena during last year's United Bowl, where Benizio was met with a resounding chorus of boos.
My Best Guess
If there is one game in the IFL that I would really liked to have seen in person this season, it would probably be this one. Could there possibly be a more intriguing matchup?
If you the focus strictly on the field, it's a showdown between the top offense and defense in the league. Allen is certainly capable of causing problems for Sioux Falls on both sides of the ball, which is something maybe one other team, the Tri-Cities Fever, could claim.
Throw in the fact that the Wranglers are 2-0 at home and coming off a bye, and the upset bid seems to be shaping up quite nicely.
But, I'm sticking with what I know...or at least what I've seen for myself.
Storm 57, Allen 41