Matt Witwicki

NSIC - Week 9 Preview

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Thursday, October 26
Minnesota-Duluth (6-2) at Bemidji State (6-2)

The battle for the top spot in the North takes place Thursday night on Midco. Most assumed these two squads would be the best in the North Division of the NSIC, and it looks like they are. Both squads started off the season 1-2, but have recovered nicely.

BSU has one of the top offenses in the NSIC, as QB Jordan Hein leads the conference in touchdown passes, while emerging RB Andrew Lackowski has now run for over 150 yards in three straight contests. The opponents for Bemidji State during that run have 5 wins between them, but it still shows a commitment to establishing the run through Lackowski and his ability to be a strong performer.

UMD is on their third quarterback this season, but John Larson has been a steady performer for the Bulldogs during the last few games. Larson isn’t throwing a lot, but does get yards with his feet and gives UMD some offensive balance. WR Jason Balts continues to quietly have a great year, as he now leads the NSIC in receiving yards with 676 and also has 5 scores. The UMD D has pitched two straight shutouts and is one of the better defenses against the run.

This should be a very good game and while I think UMD will slow down the BSU running game a lot, I do think Jordan Hein will find a way to hurt the UMD D down the field like he did a year ago when BSU mounted a furious second half comeback against the Bulldogs. While I think the Duluth offense is playing solid, I think they’ll struggle to be explosive against a good enough Beaver defense. I like Bemidji to just have a little too much offense in this one.
BSU 30-24


Saturday, October 28
Augustana (3-5) at Sioux Falls (7-1)

The Key To The City Game takes place again this Saturday at noon, with the Cougars owning a 4-1 advantage in the series. However, the last time the Vikings traveled across town to The Bob, they escaped with the key. This time around USF looks far better than their rival per the records. The Cougars are 7-1, but they sputtered offensively, while playing top notch defense through 8 games. The Vikings only have 3 wins, but they have beaten a 6-2 BSU squad. These factors make this game look not quite as one-sided as the records might indicate.

Augustana struggled a week ago with their passing game, completing only 6 of 18 attempts in their home setback against UIU. Ryan Rubley (QB) did play and scampered for strong gains, but was in and out of the lineup in the second half of the game, presumably due to a nagging injury. The Vikings rushing game, along with Rubley’s ability to get chunk plays with his feet, appear to be the Vikings offensive strength coming into this weekend. I’d imagine USF and their rush defense (2nd in D2) will focus on bottling up the AU running game and quarterback runs, trying to force the Vikings to throw to beat them.

The Cougars will seemingly miss Max Mickey for the fourth straight week, which has been a significant loss, given his prominent role in the USF offense. Since that time USF has shown mixed results combining the run and pass. The Coo now utilize a 3 running back approach and riding out the hot hand. USF is still more a run-based offense, and not a squad that takes shots down the field often. This approach plays into the strength of the strong linebacker corps of the Vikings. QB Ian Fieber returned from injury last week and is basically a pocket passer and not a threat to tuck the ball and run, but he does have a very strong arm. If Augie puts 8 in the box, the USF wideouts will need to catch more balls than they drop to sustain drives. At times this year, drops have been an issue for the Cougar offense.

With both squads wanting to run the ball and play strong defense, and cold windy weather in the forecast, I’m expecting a conservatively played game that might be lower scoring. I’m taking USF’s defense to limit the Vikings and aid the Cougar offense with some short fields. Rubley’s ability to get loose and stride for big gains is the x-factor in this one.
USF 24-13

Concordia-St. Paul (1-7) at Wayne State (4-4)
WSC was looking good at 4-2 just a few weeks ago, but since that time QB Zach Osborn has gotten knocked around to the point in which he’s no longer in the lineup for the Wildcats after taking a helmet to helmet sack a week ago at Winona. The brutal hit could sideline the veteran signal-caller for a few weeks, we will see. The Wildcat D has struggled to slow down the opposition, as they’ve lost their last two games in one-sided fashion.

CSP has played well enough the last few weeks to be within 1 score of their opponent in the 2nd half of games against UIU, WSU, and USF. However, the offense of the Golden Bears simply hasn’t produced enough to keep them in those games late. CSP has moved back and forth with the QB spot, but simply hasn’t found answers with any options.

This one has upset written all over it, with WSC struggling and the possibility of Osborn not playing. However, I don’t have enough faith in the Concordia offense to get to 20 points and win on the road. So, I’m taking Wayne to make enough plays to win what could be lackluster contest.
WSC 23-14

Winona State (8-0) at Minnesota State-Mankato (8-0)
Seeing WSU and MSU both unbeaten after 8 weeks is mildly surprising, more so that the Warriors are 8-0. Most felt Winona would be a borderline playoff team, but they’ve taken their season to a new level with this run they’ve been on. Mankato looks to have shaken off the inconsistency of a year ago, are also looking like a top squad.

MSU has been the top offense over in the conference, a squad who can really pound the run but also throw fades to their big wideouts as needed. However, the Mavs running game might’ve taken a hit with the lower leg injury to star ball-carrier Nate Gunn. The sophomore running back gets the tough inside yards for the Mavs, which really sets up everything else to flourish in their offense. If Gunn cannot go, this will change the Mavs offensively and I’d expect them to spring the passing game on WSU, who’s likely focused on slowing down the powerful MSU rushing attack.

The WSU offense has gotten far better at running the football after the first month of games. Since that time, Winona has become one of the better rushing squads in the conference, while still having their explosive deep threat Isaiah Frandsen beating defenses in the back half. The MSU defense hasn’t been tested a lot through the air by capable throwing squads, so this game will be interesting to watch and see how they do against a team like WSU who can really mix things up between the run and pass.

Both teams have shown to have a strong defense, with the WSU D being among the top in D2 at creating turnovers. As for MSU, they are a physically imposing squad that looks beefier than other NSIC squads at first glance. The Mavs have a field goal kicker who can really boom the ball, while the Warriors are very dangerous in the return game. When comparing these squads, the matchup looks fairly even overall, with the Mavs looking more dynamic offensively. While I wouldn’t be surprised if Winona stayed hot and beat the Mavs for the third straight time, I do think MSU is better at the point of attack and will be able to have more success offensively. I have MSU winning a tightly contested game.
MSU 34-27

Northern State (3-5) at St. Cloud State (6-2)
SCSU has quietly snuck up on the top teams in the conference and is now knocking on the door of the Regional Rankings. If SCSU continues to play solid, they could finish with only 2 losses, which would put them at the doorstep of making the postseason. Dwayne Lawhorn continues to be one of the better quarterbacks in the conference, and he’s got a host of wideouts that help make this offense go. John Pass leads the pass-catchers with 7 scores and 429 receiving yards. The Husky D has continued to take care of business, with DB Carvel Graham being one of the better defenders in the conference. Graham has 4 interceptions, 2 for scores, along with helping in run support. Gary Koehring and Brady Westart are the leading tacklers for the squad, tackles for loss as well.

The Wolves now find themselves trying to close out the season with a winning record. The last two weeks have been a bit of a gut-shot to NSU, getting blown out by fellow North squads UMD and BSU. Nick Truen continues to be a stabilizing force for the Wolves offense, but when getting down NSU struggles to keep up with their passing game. A week ago Hunter Trautman was forced to throw 50 times, which just isn’t Northern football. The NSU D has been worn out by two of the better offenses in the league. SCSU isn’t as prolific as the recent offense that NSU has come up against, but they are diverse enough and solid. I see the Husky offense giving the Wolves D troubles.
SCSU 31-17

Minot State (1-7) at Minnesota-Crookston (0-8)
While there’s a lot of very intriguing games this week, I’m not entirely sure this is one of them. This matchup has the feel of a parents-only game.

If you’ve Crookston this game looks like a game that’s winnable, and the same can be said for Minot. Both squads have struggled mightily on defense, and been challenged establishing an identity offensively. Larry Overstreet has been a solid contributor in the running game, as the squad has moved back and forth between quarterbacks. UMC has Joseph Nava back, and he probably gives the Golden Eagles the best chance to make plays in their offense. Minot struggles to defend the run, but I don’t think Crookston can hurt them enough there, so I’m favoring the road squad to control the game on the ground.
Minot State 28-14

Mary (1-7) at Minnesota State-Moorhead (3-5)
True freshman Jakup Sakup stepped up for the Dragons a week ago against Crookston and promptly threw for 378 yards and was an efficient 27 of 34 in the process. While it’s hard to use a struggling UMC defense as a measuring stick for how good Sakup will be for MSUM, it’s certainly a very positive start for the young signal-caller. Moorhead produced 642 yards of total offense, while their D gave up only 108 yards on 48 snaps against the Golden Eagles. Star wideout Damon Gibson barely played, and QB Demetrius Carr sat out due to injury. In the process, WR Hunter Braaten connected well with Sakup, 15 times for 136 yards. It’ll be interesting to see how Moorhead plays their hand offensively for the remainder of the season, given the strong performance by the freshman quarterback.

The Marauders hit a 61 yard touchdown early against SCSU, but didn’t find the end zone again last weekend. Mary only attempted 3 passes in a game they were limited to 42 offensive snaps. The Marauders defense continues to have challenges slowing down the opposition.

Moorhead’s offense, no matter the quarterback, should be able to win the day.
MSUM 34-14

Southwest Minnesota State (2-6) at Upper Iowa (5-3)
Blake Gimbel had surgery a few days ago, and is looking to like he’s going to try and get a medical redshirt, allowing him to play a final season in 2018. The NSIC is better with SMSU having the high performing quarterback and a top-level offense, so let’s hope all goes well there.

As for this year, the nightmare season continues for the Mustangs as they are now on their third quarterback. Injuries have once again hit SMSU pretty hard offensively, and the season has spiralized downward from there.

UIU outlasted Augie in Sioux Falls last weekend, bringing the Peacocks to 5 wins. Brett Lammers continues to be a top dual threat in the league, and his play was key in their victory. The Upper Iowa defense rebounded nicely from the previous week in which they were torched by Mankato. With the Peacocks having more of their playmakers healthy, and a better defense, I like them at home in a fairly one-sided contest against the Mustangs.
UIU 31-13

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Updated 10-26-2017 at 03:43 PM by Matt Witwicki

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  1. laker's Avatar
    Best matchups of the year. Hopefully no games will be called off due to high winds.

    Michael Leischner‏ @KWSNMike 39m39 minutes ago

    Yankton and Douglas are postponed due to high winds. It's official - 2017 is the strangest #SDPreps football season so far.