Matt Witwicki

NSIC - Week 10 Preview

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Over the last few weeks it’s become all the more apparent that the NSIC isn’t quite as strong a league as we’ve seen in the past few seasons, top to bottom. This isn’t taking anything away from the top teams in the conference, as I feel they are strong, but a good portion of the teams in the league look much weaker offensively than in recent campaigns. Strong quarterback play was evident during the last few seasons, but not this year in the conference. If I were to ask the average NSIC fan who is a top performing quarterback in the conference, I’d bet they’d have to ponder the question and be hard pressed to come up with names. This season, the top names have been Jordan Hein, Brent Lammers (now hurt), Demetrius Carr (although he’s turned it over a lot), and Zach Osborn (hurt for fair amount of the season). None of these players have put up the type of numbers that will get All American consideration. A season ago there were seven squads that threw for over 270 yards a game in the NSIC. This season, none.

Some will say it’s because better defense is being played in the conference. Maybe, a bit. More likely the reason is the revolving door of backup quarterbacks or starters that weren’t ready to pick up where a star performer left off a season ago. Taking a look at the better teams nationally, this doesn’t seem to be the year of a runaway champion, so I’m still giving the NSIC a chance to compete come the playoffs.

Thursday, November 2
Mary (1-8) at Northern State (4-5)

Wolves got out to a 21-0 lead early, hitting big plays in the passing game, holding on for a 21-16 win over playoff hopeful SCSU. NSU’s finest moment over the past few seasons. Mary continues to struggle and games against non-lower tier squads seem like an uphill struggle at the moment. To the dismay of the Wolves supporters who’s banked on me picking against their squad, sorry, I’ve got NSU rolling in the Thursday night special.
NSU 30-13

Saturday, November 4
Sioux Falls (8-1) at Upper Iowa (6-3)

The Cougars escaped with the Key to the City in Sioux Falls, but didn’t look sharp in the process against a struggling squad on their third string quarterback. USF will likely see another backup quarterback this week in Fayette. The Coo offense got another strong performance from their small/quick back Jason Towns. The senior running back was huge for USF in their win over their rival. The Cougar defense is still tops in the league, but also hasn’t been tested by many good offenses so far. The Peacocks will likely look to continue pounding the ball with their read-option running game. Ryan Parmely carried the rock over 40 times a week ago, but it’s hard to see that type of success against a Cougar run defense that’s near tops in D2. With the Cougar offense not being explosive, I see this game being fairly close throughout, with USF pulling away late.
USF 27-16

Wayne State (5-4) at Minnesota State-Mankato (9-0)
MSU comes off a very impressive one-sided win over Winona, while Wayne forges ahead without QB Zach Osborn. The Mavs were without their star running back Nate Gunn, and will likely be without him again this week. Justin Taormina carried the mail exclusively for the Mavs, and MSU hit some nice plays in the passing game to carry the day. Six sacks, turnovers, and winning the line of scrimmage were big factors in the MSU D keeping the Warriors from the end zone. While WSC is 5-4, they have feasted on the bottom of the league so far and squads with backup quarterbacks. The Wildcat defense has looked better this year than in the recent past, which had led to more wins. With how well Mankato has played this season, I think WSC will struggle to keep things close.
MSU 45-17

Minnesota State-Moorhead (4-5) at Minot State (2-7)
Moorhead once again got a strong performance from their future signal-caller, Jakup Sinani, against Mary. I think he will be one of the quarterbacks leading the charge in 2018, given his ability to throw with touch and run for chunk yards. With the lower tier of the North being a get-right recipe, the Dragons have climbed up to 4 wins, threatening to get back to a .500 season after a very rough stretch. Minot State picked up their second win last week, but it came as a result of a shootout with Crookston. I’ll take Moorhead to keep the offense going against the Beavers.
MSUM 34-24

Concordia-St. Paul (1-8) at Augustana (3-6)
It sounds like Kyle Saddler will start again for the Vikings this week, overcoming an injury from a week ago at USF. The top offensive skill player for Augie (Ryan Bradberry-RB) did look injured as he left the game late against the Cougars. If he’s gone, that’d be a big blow to Augustana, as he’s offered them some downhill running for a squad that’s struggled to establish a reliable ground game after the departure of CJ Ham. The Vikings played with a lot of heart against USF a week ago, but still came up with under 200 yards of offense. Their defense kept them in the game. CSP has played a series of games close or competitively against South opponents, but continues to come up short. With the Vikings reeling from injuries, I’m taking the Golden Bears to finish a game and get the win.
CSP 20-17

Winona State (8-1) at Southwest Minnesota State (2-7)
The Battle for the Sledge will resume this Saturday, with one side taking home the trophy once so far in this rivalry. SMSU will look to continue the home field team winning the 7 foot sledge hammer, but will seemingly have a stiff challenge from a ranked Winona squad. WSU had a rough outing a week ago, losing to Mankato 27-6. While WSU is still a strong squad, their offense and ability to get points when needed definitely took a hit. The Warriors struggled to keep the pass rush from getting to their quarterback, as he took a beating, while they also were turned over. SMSU’s woes continued at Upper Iowa in a game that found the Mustangs playing from behind most of the way in the road loss. Nate Huot has continued to look like a top wideout in the league, despite being on his third quarterback to throw him balls. I like Winona to rebound in this one and to take the Sledge with them.
WSU 37-13

St. Cloud State (6-3) at Bemidji State (6-3)
Both squads entered last week with a chance at the playoffs, and both lost a precious game that now puts them out of the playoff hunt but possibly still in the mix for the Mineral Water Bowl. Minnesota Duluth looks to be the favorite for the MWB, but the last few weeks need to play out before any such determination. That said, SCSU and BSU will lock horns in a battle of two of the better squads in the North. At quick glance SCSU looks to have the better defense, but an offense that’s good but not great. BSU has the top QB in the league in Jordan Hein, but couldn’t find the end zone against UMD in the snow a week ago. The Beavers looked like they didn’t want to be there a week ago when playing a snow game against Duluth. In a game of such great importance, I was surprised they laid an egg. SCSU had a similar result, getting behind 21-0 to NSU and not being able to get out of that hole. This week I’m favoring BSU in normal conditions, but I’d expect SCSU to give them a very good game.
BSU 35-24

Minnesota-Crookston (0-9) at Minnesota-Duluth (7-2)
UMD has shutout their last few opponents and has been on a strong run since getting out of the gates slowly, losing 2 of their first 3 games. Steady quarterback play and a reliable running game has powered the offense, while the defense continues to get after the quarterback and plug the running game. UMC nearly found their first win of the year, but fell short in a 42-35 setback against Minot State. QB Joseph Nava was 20 of 25 through the air, with 5 scores. Nava offers the Golden Eagles great promise for the future with this ability to throw the ball and run as well. I’m not sure if UMD continues their shutout streak against a UMC squad who’s found some offense, but I think the Dogs will be motivated to finish the year with shutouts, trying to make their case for the NCAA playoffs.
UMD 52-0

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Updated 11-02-2017 at 02:34 PM by Matt Witwicki

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