NSIC Week 3
by, 09-12-2012 at 05:14 PM (2211 Views)
Caution, critical games ahead in the Northern Sun this week.
-USF is 2-0 and looking like they could be the real deal, but a familiar face could put the Cougars on upset alert.
-It's also a big week for St. Cloud, hosting Minnesota State, with the Traveling Training Kit, and quite possibly a playoff spot hanging in the balance
All of that and more in the NSIC Notebook Week 3....
Minnesota Crookston (0-2) at Augustana (1-1)
We told you last week that if Augustana wasn't on their game, they could stumble in Bismarck, I just didn't expect that to happen two years in a row to this Vikings squad.
Three missed field goals (one blocked), and three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) could cause any team in the Northern Sun, to lose to any other team, and that's exactly what happened last week to the Vikings.
Talent wise, this group should be one of the top teams in the Northern Sun. Josh Hanson is a Senior quarterback, with a strong arm, and solid mobility, Dajon Newell is one of the top backs in the conference, receiver Sam Gebhardt is quickly emerging, and yet the Vikings have been less than impressive through two weeks. Add to it, one of the top linebackers in the country in Austin Luecke leading the defense its hard to figure out how this team stumbles from time to time.
After a slow and disappointing start last season, kept them out of the playoffs, one would start to think some lessons in Augustana should be learned. In case the Vikings didn't notice, the NSIC South is pretty tough this season, Minnesota State is 2-0, so is the University of Sioux Falls (and don't think for a second that won't be a city wide war), Wayne State, Winona State, Southwest, and Concordia shouldn't be taken lightly either. Its time for the Vikings to get it figured out.
Thankfully for the Vikings they have Minnesota Crookston this week, a team they have outscored 142-7 in their three previous meetings.
Crookston has never scored more than 7 points against Augie in three meetings. Their first meeting came in 2004, when they lost 34-7. Since, the Golden Eagles lost 49-0, and 59-0 in the other two meetings, the most recent coming in 2009.
So what do those games have to do with this one, absolutely nothing. Crookston last week gave Concordia everything they could handle and then some, and Richard Haley can run the ball.
Augustana likes to win big at home, and I wouldn't expect anything less from them this week, I will take the Vikings.
Wayne State (2-0) at Bemidji State (1-1)
After a 2-0 start for Wayne State, they will get a little more of a test this week. Nothing against the Wildcats schedule to open the season, but they opened with Minnesota State Moorhead, a young team in the middle of a long rebuilding process, and Minot State, a newcomer, who is adjusting to the Northern Sun and Division II Football.
Wayne did what they had to do in those two games, they won, convincingly. They also played solid defensively, allowing just six points in both games. Last week for their efforts, Wayne State linebacker recorded a team high 11-tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on his way to being named the NSIC Defensive Player of the Week.
They will be tested more this week. Bemidji's Lance Rongstad led the Beavers back in week one against Upper Iowa to pull out a win at home. However, the Week 1 NSIC Offensive Player of the Week, didn't have his best game responding to that. Last week, fumbled the ball five times, he lost four of them, as a team the Beavers fumbled six times and lost five of them. He also completed less than 50-percent of his passes, in the wind, which made it more difficult for the Beavers to move the ball.
When they didn't fumble, they struggled on third downs last week against the Mavericks finishing 2 of 12.
I look for that stat to be key this week, because through two weeks, Wayne has kept their opponents success on third down under control. MSU Moorhead was 5 of 16 on third down in the opener, and Minot was 6 of 18 last week. That means through two games they have done a nice job of forcing their opponents into third and long, where Bemidji spent too much time last week.
I like Wayne to come out of Bemidji with a win this week.
Extra Point: Through 16-meetings this series is practically even, Wayne holds a slight 9-7 lead in the series, and is 3-3 in games played in Bemidji.
Upper Iowa (0-2) at MSU Moorhead (0-2)
Upper Iowa nearly stunned Bemidji in the opener two weeks ago, but last week, they ran into a St. Cloud team that meant business. The Huskies came into Fayette and spoiled the inagural night in the upgraded stadium.
Through two weeks, we have learned that Minnesota State Moorhead has a ways to go. The Dragons have been outscored through two games 94-16 on the season, so far.
Obviously they are't playing either of those teams this week, but Upper Iowa can be dangerous, and I like the weapons they have on offense. As long as the Peacocks avoid too many turnovers, they should be able to go into Moorhead and come wout with a fairly decisive victory.
Sioux Falls (2-0) at Minot State (0-2)
At 2-0 in the Northern Sun life is good for the Cougars. They turned heads and thumped St. Cloud State in the opener, and last week dispacted of any notions of a let down against MSU Moorhead early, with a 45-10 thrashing.
My prediction is if the Cougars have a let down, it comes this week. Last week was still a big week for them, home opener in a Division II Conference, and an opportunity to beat another Division II, new opponent.
But there's something about this matchup that just has me thinking the Cougars may be primed for an upset. Minot hasn't played that well in their two games, but they like the Cougars are looking for a chance to get a Northern Sun win. Defensively last week, though, they were able to keep control of what can be a high powered explsive Wayne State offense.
Further, these two teams know each other, well, in fact so well they played each other twice last season, despite losing both games, Minot played them tough both times. What really has hurt Minot State is the turnovers, they are a -6 through two games in the take away/give away department, that has to improve.
I don't have a lot of science behind this pick yet, and I am basically calling this on a hunch, but I think the undefeated run for the Cougars ends on Saturday.
Northern State (0-2) at Winona State (1-1)
Last week, Northern State came within seconds of beating Southwest Minnesota State. The Mustangs facing a 4th down and 15, with roughly 20-seconds left, picked an opportune time to connect on a 47 yard pass, that put SMSU on the Northern seven yard line.
The Wolves then could do nothing but watch the Mustangs make a 26-yard field goal as time expired to take the victory.
Honestly, I think the Wolves coaching staff handled the game about as well as it could be handled, the wind would not allow them to stretch their lead in the final moments with a field goal, and outside of a delay of game penalty on 4th and 4, that made it 4th and 9, there really isn't much more they could have done.
Northern's running game can be tough to stop, but the Wolves will need to be more consistent through the air to beat teams in this conference. Jared Jacobson, didn't complete a pass until the final drive of the first half, that can't happen if you want to win consistently in this league.
The Warriors are going to be hungry coming off a disappointing showing in Duluth, a 38-16, defeat, that left the Warriors beaten.
John Tiegland did throw for 375 yards in the game, the fifth most yards in a single game in school history. The Warriors though were unable to stop the rushing attack against Minnesota Duluth, and that will have to be Coach Sawyer's main focus this week. As long as they shutdown the run, Winona is going to run away with it.
Northern last week gave up over 100-yards to Gannon Moore and Southwest, so look for a big day from Rayon Simmons. I like the Warriors to bounce back.
University of Mary (2-0) at Southwest Minnesota State (1-1)
Coming into the season, Lance Schuveiller wasn't even the starting kicker for Southwest. Now, due to a season ending injury to All conference punter and kicker Mike Wenk, the Mustangs have turned to the Senior to handle both the punting and kicking duties.
I look at this game, as one that could honestly go either way, because both squads are so similar.
The number to look for this week is 200, that is the line I am going to set on the number of snaps from scrimmage in this game. Mary likes to pick up the tempo, get to the line and go, and Southwest, like Mary likes to throw the ball around the yard. I look for a fairly long game on Saturday night, with a lot of offensive snaps, if betting were legal, and I was a betting man, I would bet the over on that line.
Craig Bagnell comes in as the Northern Sun's Offensive Player of the Week, after orchestrating yet another Marauder victory over Augustana. Bagnell tossed four touchdowns in the game, but he and the Mary offense were aided by an opportunistic defense, that forced three turnovers in the game. In fact, through two contest the Marauders have forced seven turnovers. As great as Bagnell has played, that's the reason the Marauders are 2-0.
Outside of forcing the turnovers, the Marauders have been vulnerable defensively. They gave up over 400 yards through the air in the opener to Concordia, and will give up some points.
The game will basicially come down to things you can't predict, like turnovers. Southwest quarterback Tyler Peschong threw 14 INT's last season, further he threw a pick six, for Northern State last week to open the game. Those mistakes will have to be avoided if Southwest is going to win.
But at home, I will take the Mustangs on Satuday night.
Minnesota State (2-0) at St. Cloud State (1-1)
Three losses and you don't get into the playoffs in this region, with Duluth still on the schedule for St. Cloud State, the Huskies need this one on Saturday against Minnesota State.
Playoff teams don't start 1-2, and that is exactly what St. Cloud State is trying to avoid. Adding a little spice to an already critical week three game, is that the Huskies and Mavericks are playing for Division II's most unique traveling trophy, the Traveling Training Kit.
St. Cloud returned to form last week, Michael Walker ran for 109 yards, Phil Klaphake threw a couple of touchdowns, while completing 19 of 28 passes for 243-yards. As a team, the Huskies put together a balanced attack on their way to the victory.
It will also be the toughest test today for Minnesota State. The Mavericks rolled over Minot State, and then beat up on a Bemidji team that didn't play up to their ability last week. Quarterback Jon Wolf leads the Mavericks in rushing yards and touchdowns, rushing for 209 yards and four touchdowns, and while he can certainly run, but he has been inconsistent in those two games throwing the football. He has completed just 17 of 34 passes for 200 yards.
Honestly, I think the lack of balance gets the Mavericks beat this week. I will take St. Cloud State to prove they are back on the right track and to keep the Traveling Training Kit in St. Cloud for the fourth straight season.
Minnesota Duluth (2-0) at Concordia St. Paul (1-1)
If Concordia didn't think it was a lot of fun trying to stop Richard Haley in their 34-24 come from behind win in Crookston last week, they are preparing for a nightmare in St. Paul on Saturday.
Minnesota Duluth runs the ball like they invented the zone running scheme. Last week, the Bulldogs ran the ball for 282 yards against Winona State. Led by Austin Sikorski who carried it 16 times for 132 yards and two scores over Winona.
Concordia should be able to move the ball through the air, both Southwest and Winona had success attacking the Bulldogs through the air, the only problem for Concordia has been the interceptions. Golden Bear quarterback James Peterson has thrown five of them through two games, mistakes that can't be made if Concordia has any hope of beating the Wolves.
Even if the Golden Bears don't turn it over though, they will have trouble stopping the Bulldogs on the ground. Haley ran for a 186 yards last week against them, and its not getting any easier this week.
I will take Minnesota Duluth.