Aaron Ziemer

NSIC Opener (2 of 3)

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Upper Iowa at Bemidji State

Last Year: 48-7, Bemidji State

Chet Anderson Stadium is likely to be alive and rockin on Friday night as the Bemidji State Beavers open their season at home against Upper Iowa.

For the Beavers, it stands as their only home night game, and what's more its on a Friday night, its supposed to be fairly warm, and right along the lake, I couldn't think of a better spot to watch a football game on Friday night.

Bemidji's offense is led by its rushing attack. Senior Dustin Kroeplin is back, he has rushed for 2500 yards through three seasons as the Beavers running back. Kroeplin is a powerful back, he is still the key to their offensive attack.

Lance Rongstad is taking snaps starting his senior season, Rongstad is a lot like Chace Vogler at Duluth, he is a threat with his feet and his arm. A strong, athlete, Rongstad is also a guard on the basketball team, has the ability to stop teams from keying on Kroeplin because he himself is a threat to break one on the ground at any moment.

He will have his favorite target back at Tight end, pre-season All American Brody Leonhardt expect the Beavers to be strong offensively. The only question mark Bemidji really has offensively is upfront, they lost three starters on the offensive line, and have moved around the other two, so the unit as a whole will have a new look. However, all three players they are plugging in have experience, so they should still be pretty strong.

Upper Iowa has a weapon in Chris Smith, he is a speedy, mostly straight ahead sprinter type runner, but he has the ability to break away, if he has an opening. While other guys may be more physical, they may make more people miss, or may be better all around backs, Smith may have the fastest top end speed of any back in the conference. Overall, Smith ran for over 1,200 yards and averaged nearly 7.2 yards per carry.

That may be the matchup to watch in this one, Smith's ability to run against Bemidji's run stuffing defense led by pre-season All American nose tackle, Matthew Shaver.

Smith didn't play in their meeting last year, so there isn't much to take from the game if you ask me. He will be a big part of their offensive success in 2012.

I think the Peacocks are on the right track in Fayette, it seems like they have been making some big steps, and they may surprise a team or two this year, I just don't think it will happen this week. I will take the Beavers to win their opener at home.

Mary at Concordia

I think the Northern Sun's best game this week will take place in St. Paul. At least on paper it appears that it could be that way.

Both programs are looking to take the next step in what is a very difficult conference to make that jump, as each are coming off of solid 2011 campaigns. They are in different spots though, Mary returns Craig Bagnell, who if you ask me is about to show himself as one of the Top Quarterbacks in the Northern Sun. Concordia will find out what life is like this year without Spencer Ohm, who at the end of last season, when he returned from injury was throwing the ball around like he was the Northern Sun's top qb.

James Peterson takes over at Concordia, the sophomore has already been named a team camptain, and he had some success in 2009 when he saw extended playing time due to an injury to Ohm. Peterson himself though, missed last season because of an injury, but he has the ability to put up numbers. Not only is Peterson the new signal caller, their leading rusher, Sam Campbell, and leading receiver and playmaker Charles Gilbert all have graduated and moved on. So that leaves us a lot to learn about the Golden Bears.

Receiver Tre Mason, running back Tre Spears, will be called on to play an increased roll this year for the Golden Bears.

While, Golden Bears are going to be new at the skill positions, the Marauders have a lot of experience back. We already mentioned Bagnell who threw for 2,400 yards and 19-touchdowns last season.

Tyler Steffan is back as well, all he did last year was go for over 900-yards receiving and catch 17 touchdowns.

The game will come down to whether or not Concordia will be able to get to Bagnell. Defensive end Zach Moore, is a pre-season All American for the Golden Bears, but Concordia struggled to stop opponents last year, and that might determine whether or not they come out of this week with a victory.

So I wasn't sure which way to go, but then there is this, Mary has never lost to Concordia in St. Paul, sure their series is split at 2-2, but the home team has never won, while I could see this one honestly going either way, I am going to lean towards Mary, picking up the victory.

Our final two picks will come up next week!

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