NSIC Week One Predictions
by, 09-01-2011 at 03:14 AM (2795 Views)
Southwest Minnesota at Northern State
Last Year: 28-24, Southwest
The Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs have to replace 22-Seniors off of their roster from last season, including starting quarterback Ryan Ratekin. That will be a tough task for this young Mustang group this season, while Northern State is hoping to make progress in their second season under Coach Tom Dosch.
The Wolves return starting quarterback Nick Wanner, who threw for 885-yards and led the team in rushing in 2010, as he rushed for 343 yards (491-yards when sacks are taken out).
It is hard to know with these two teams coming into this week's match up, because there is just so much that is new about both of them.
The man for the Mustangs who gets to step in for Ratekin at quarterback, is Tyler Peschong, the younger brother of Andrew Peschong who played on Southwest's Elite 8 basketball team in 2008-09. Peschong is a junior on the field, and in his fourth year in the program, but has limited game experience, he has started just one game on his career, last year's season finale against Concordia.
Southwest is going to have to run the ball more effectively than they did in 2010, they were dead last in the conference in rushing, but Warren Matthews and Gannon Moore both return to the Mustang ground game. Look for the Mustangs to try and get both of them touches not only in the backfield, but in a variety other ways as well.
Outside of Wanner, running backs Matt Anderson and Chad Morrison are the leading rushers back this season for the Wolves. However, there is a lot of new names and faces in the Wolves programs ready to run the ball for Northern.
The Wolves only wins last year came against Minnesota Crookston and Minnesota State Moorhead, they averaged giving up over 400-yards a game, and were outscored on the season 316-177. They have a long ways to go to get competitive in the Northern Sun once again, but a victory over Southwest who has beaten them three straight times would be a sign they were ready to take the next step.
I am not sure if they can do that though; look for the Mustangs to win a tight one in Aberdeen.
Extra Point: Northern State is 11-2-1 against Southwest in Aberdeen all time. The only Mustangs wins were in 2009 and in 1990.
Nebraska Kearney at Wayne State
Last Year: 24-17 ot Wayne State
With Nebraska Kearney moving to the MIAA and with the Wayne State's expansion to 16-teams this will be the last regular season meeting between the two teams for the foreseeable future.
The Wildcats are led by a talented defensive end, Richard Daniel, is not only the NSIC South Division Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, he also has been named pre-season first team All American by two different publications. Daniel led the NSIC with 17.5 tackles for loss in 2010, he also had 9.5 sacks. The 220 pound defensive end, will continue to be the main pass rushing threat that opposing offenses will have to worry about.
Nothing is guaranteed in Wayne, with some talented individuals at the quarterback position, but Evan Johnson certainly earned a chance to start based on his performance as a freshman last year. Johnson threw for 1600-yards and nine touchdowns, and rushing for an additional 379-yards and eight touchdowns last year. But Cyle Schultz and even Freshman Nate Most will be waiting should Johnson struggle.
Johnson will have two of his top three targets back from last season, both Kevin Paulsen and Mitch Montgomery return to the receiver position, both had over 500-yards receiving last year. The test will be, how will they adjust to life without Frederick Bruno, who garnered a lot of attention from opposing defenses.
The Lopers come off a 9-2 season last year, despite that record they failed to make the playoffs.
Wayne has won the last three games in the series, and playing at home against the Lopers for the final time in a while should certainly motivate them.
Expect the Wildcats to win on Thursday night.
St. Cloud State at California (PA)
The St. Cloud State Huskies will travel east to go to California, California Pennsylvania that is, for an early season battle of Top 15 teams.
Last season was a year of overcoming for St. Cloud State, and they overcame a lot to finish the season at 10-3, two of those three losses came to Minnesota Duluth, including one in the playoffs that gave the eventual national champions quite the scare.
One of the biggest reasons for the Huskies success last season was the play of their young quarterback Phillip Klaphake, he threw for over 2900-yards and 24 touchdowns last year, while piling up another nearly 800-yards on the ground and 11-touchdowns. NSIC fans will remember former Concordia quarterback James McNear as a great dual threat at the quarterback position, well of all of the top young quarterbacks in the Northern Sun, Klaphake has to be at the top of the list.
He will have to overcome a challenge this year though, that challenge is that he will be without his top target last year, Fred Williams has moved on, and he will be missed. Look for St. Cloud State to use a variety of guys to try and replace Williams, who had 1,616-yards receiving last year. Sophomore receivers Tyler Allery and Eli Shoemaker along with a group of tight ends will be used to try and fill the void.
St. Cloud's defense is led by First team All NSIC linebacker Thomas Gruis and Tony Kubes. Kubes may himself move to play the other outside linebacker position, but the two will certainly be the leaders of the Husky defense which led the nation in turnover margin last year.
California PA will be a tough test for the Huskies. They are coming off a 10-2 season, and like St. Cloud find themselves ranked in the Top 15, in 2011. The Vulcans have some weapons, junior running back Lamont Smith and senior receiver Chedrick Cherry both can be big playmakers for the Vulcans. They will have a new quarterback once again, as Peter Lalich, a 6'6 junior will be under center. However, given their history at the position, Coach John Luckhardt has certainly found some talented quarterbacks. His last two quarterbacks, Kevin McCabe and Josh Portis have transferred to division one schools; the later now finds himself in the NFL as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
St. Cloud will win a lot of games in 2011, I just don't think this will be one of them; I am going to take California, PA to get a hard fought victory over the Huskies.
Extra Point: It will be the first meeting between the two programs.
Chadron State at Mary
Last Year: 35-3 Chadron State
The University of Mary struggled to get going in 2010, but the Marauders finished the season on a three game winning streak, that type of winning streak can build a lot of confidence for a team heading into the next season.
Craig Bagnell returns to the Marauder program after a year under his belt as the starter and Evan Gross averaged nearly four yards a carry in limited playing time last year, which certainly will help as the Marauders try to fill the hole left by the graduation of Jamal Lomax.
The Marauders return just five starters on the defensive side of the ball, linebackers DeShon Benton and Marcus Broome will lead the unit. The two combined for 164-tackles last season, and they will get a good early test.
Chadron State returns nine offensive starters, and eight on defense. I think we'll see some much improved things out of the Marauders, I just don't expect it to start this week against Chadron. I will take the Eagles.
Minnesota State at Northern Michigan
Last Year: 7-6 Minnesota State
Minnesota State opens 2011 on the road for the second straight year in Marquette, Michigan against Northern Michigan.
The Mavericks enter 2011 with more questions than answers. They return off a 5-6 season in 2010, just one year removed from one of their best seasons in program history. The drop off was hard to see coming, and in 2011 Minnesota returns just six starters on each side of the ball.
They appear ready to turn the offense over to freshman quarterback Trent Cummings. He will have some talent around him in running back Taylor Brookins who rushed for 751-yards last season, and Adam Thielen who had 686-yards receiving, and had one of his six touchdowns last season against Northern Michigan.
The tough part of this match up will be the Mavericks inexperience on offense, will be matched up with a very experienced and tough Wildcat defense in this contest. They return a good portion of their defensive unit that held the more experienced Mavericks to just six points.
Also Wildcat quarterback Carter Kopach returns to the Wildcat lineup, after missing the last half of last season, look for him and the Wildcats to go after the young Maverick defense, that lost five all conference players off their unit from last season.
I expect the Wildcats to beat the Mavericks in Marquette.
Extra Point: If the Mavericks want to improve on their record from a season ago, they will have to do better than a 52-percent (22 of 42) red zone touchdown percentage.
MSU Moorhead at Robert Morris Ill
Well there isn't a lot of history to talk about in this match up. The Dragons are looking at a complete rebuilding project. First year Coach Steve Laqua has a big task ahead of him, after the Dragons have struggled for years.
But he is bringing in a new attitude, and some new ideas to the Dragons program. He will have some experience back, including a senior at the quarterback position. Kevin Koch threw for nearly 1,800 yards and 10-touchdowns while starting 10 of 11 games last year for the Dragons.
Robert Morris University is getting ready to play just their second college football game. The Eagles lost last week in their program debut to Mayville State, 21-18, the Comets haven't exactly been competitive against a lot of Northern Sun schools recently, so I am going to take the Dragons to open the 2011 season with a victory for Coach Laqua.
Texas A&M-Commerce at Upper Iowa
Last Year: 33-10 Texas A&M Commerce
For 11 seasons now Upper Iowa University has not been able to get more than three wins in a single season. The Peacocks finished 2-9 last season, but they were very close in two other games, and one of those two wins came against Wayne State.
Upper Iowa does return a large portion of their starting defensive unit from last year. Nine of those starters are back for 2011; however that unit gave up nearly 40-points a game last year. Despite having a lot of starters back though, the Peacocks are only expected to start two Seniors on the defensive unit.
The offensive side is not a lot more experienced, as the Peacocks are expected to start three seniors. Their biggest returning playmaker back for 2011 will be receiver Jesse Hubbard, who had nearly 600 yards receiving to go with five touchdowns.
The Lions defense may one of the strongest groups of linebackers returning in the Lone Star conference. That group will give a young Peacocks offense a lot of trouble, even with the quarterback position up in the air at Commerce, I expect the Lions to open the season with a victory in Fayette.
Concordia at Minot State
In what will be a conference battle next year, Concordia hits the road and heads to Minot, North Dakota to take on Minot State.
It is the first year for Minot as a division II, and as a result they have to play one year as an independent as a probation period before joining the NSIC. The Beavers last week took on Bemidji State, and were promptly shutout 27-0 in the annual Beaver Bash, so we didn't learn too much about Minot to this point.
Ryan Williams takes over as Concordia's interim head coach, this season, after Mark Mauer resigned suddenly last spring. Williams steps into a nice position, taking over a program that finished a solid and much improved 8-4 record in 2010.
Williams will return a couple of very talented playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, Spencer Ohm is back for his Senior year as a quarterback. He threw for over 2200-yards and 22-touchdowns. While Sam Campbell who rushed for 939 yards and seven touchdowns, and Charles Gilbert who finished with 873-yards receiving and 11-touchdowns last year is back as a top receiver.
Minot last week struggled to move the ball period against Bemidji State last week, but they shouldn't struggle as much against the Golden Bears who do have some questions defensively. Senior Al Quaye leads the Golden Bear defense; he finished with 94-tackles in 2010. The unit played very well while Concordia got hot at the end of the season, the question will be can they do it again?
That said, I don't think Minot has enough to get past the Golden Bears, I will take Concordia to move to 1-0 on the season with the victory.
Extra Point: It was just two years ago, when Minot State beat Concordia 24-21 in Minot.
Minnesota Duluth at Augustana
Last Year 24-13, Minnesota Duluth (in playoffs)
It's not that I didn't think people would be waiting to see what I have to say about this game, but how about this week one match up. It could turn out to be the game of the year in the Northern Sun, and its happening in week one, Minnesota Duluth at Augustana.
The Bulldogs still have not lost a Northern Sun football game since returning to the conference in 2008. The Bulldogs are coming off another National Championship season in 2010, which I think is even more impressive than their National Championship in 2008. They did it amongst a ton of other things going on, including injuries to their two top running backs in Isaac Odim and Brad Foss.
Junior quarter Chace Vogler returns to lead the offense, he is expected to once again be the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs. Vogler threw for 1913-yards and 17-touchdowns last year, while he also rushed for 905 yards and was part of a Bulldog ground game that amassed over 4100-yards on the ground in 2010.
A lot of the faces of the Duluth rushing game have changed, but I am not sure that I would expect the results to. The Bulldogs have brought in a couple of transfers, and it will be interesting to see who emerges as the ball carrier for the Bulldogs, but I would expect them to be able to find some seems, as the entire starting offensive line from the Bulldogs championship team is back.
Defensively, there will be some changes, but look for Rob Huberty, who as an All NSIC First teamer at linebacker, and defensive back Cody Eich was an honorable mention All-America Defensive back, to be the leaders of this Bulldog defense.
However, the toughest test on their regular season schedule is right away in week one, the Bulldogs travel to Sioux Falls where they will meet up with the Augustana Vikings.
Augustana is missing a couple of key components from their high flying offense in 2010, Tyler Schulte and Joe Clark are both gone, but quarterback Josh Hanson is back, and there is still plenty of fire power around him.
Hanson as a sophomore last year threw for 2300-yards and 23-touchdowns, while rushing for 518-yards and four more. Hanson's play will be a big part of the team's success in 2011. The Vikings lost just one game, that he started last season, it was a 24-13 defeat to - you guessed it Minnesota Duluth.
Look for a big day from Vikings receiver Sam Holsen, he will be asked to step in and fill some of the void lost by Schulte. Holsen was an All-Conference wide receiver in 2009, but injuries slowed him in 2010. He is capable of making the big play to keep the Vikings in the game against the Bulldogs though on Saturday.
The Vikings and Hanson are certainly going to be looking for revenge, and I do expect this one to be a battle down in Sioux Falls. The question is do I think they can snap the Bulldog winning streak, I am not sure. Out of tradition I will take the Bulldogs, but I expect it to be a fight down to the end.
Extra Point: The Bulldogs are 5-2 against the Vikings in their previous seven meetings, the Vikings only wins in the series came during the 1995 and 1996 seasons.