FARGO — A common method in predicting the order of finish in the Missouri Valley Football Conference is not so much starting with writing in the first place team but going the other way. Work from No. 11 to No. 1.

In the last couple of decades, it was an easy pick to write Missouri State near the cellar, if not last place. Bobby Petrino has the Bears thinking otherwise.

MSU earned a tie for the league title in the interrupted and sometimes chaotic spring season, but it was a championship nonetheless. The Bears were picked to finish sixth in this year’s preseason poll with Petrino, the veteran coach with a big name, having the school starting the season with a swagger it hasn’t had for a long time.

“The belief and confidence has really changed,” Petrino said.

Petrino remembers the first win last spring, a 30-24 comeback victory over Western Illinois, when the postgame reaction was almost over the top.

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“They thought they won the Super Bowl,” he said. “In the locker room, the guys were so excited. Then we got in other close games and the guys started believing they could make plays and have the confidence not to hesitate. We got better and better each week.”

Petrino hasn’t wasted time in scouring the transfer portal for immediate help.

“We tried to hit about every position and make it more competitive,” he said. “What’s what we had to do to be able to get better in practice.”

That includes linebacker Dimitri Moore from Vanderbilt, who was an all-SEC freshman selection. MSU brought in three transfer wide receivers from FBS schools.

Petrino appears high on running back Kevon Latulas, who was productive in the three games last fall, but was ineligible in the spring.

“He was our most explosive player,” Petrino said. “We have to get more big plays, whether it’s breaking tackles or throwing down field.”

Quarterback appears to be still a question mark. Matt Struck, a transfer who played last year, transferred again.

Perhaps Jason Shelley, most recently of Utah State, will be the guy. He’ll compete with returning quarterback Jaden Johnson.

“We’re excited to see how that competition plays out,” Petrino said.

Here's a look at the schedule for the Kicking Through COVID series:

July 30: Illinois State

July 31: Indiana State

Aug. 2: North Dakota

Aug. 3: North Dakota State

Aug. 4: Northern Iowa

Aug. 5: South Dakota

Aug. 6: South Dakota State

Aug. 7: Southern Illinois

Aug. 8: Western Illinois

Aug. 9: Youngstown State