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The MIAC 3: Top games on the gridiron to watch for this weekend

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The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has a rich tradition of football excellence spanning the entire state.

From the great Gustavus days of the mid-1900s, to the legacy of John Gagliardi and St. Johns, to the emergence of Glenn Caruso and St. Thomas, the only college conference contained within Minnesota's borders has been playing football nearly 100 years, and it's about time the storied tradition is recognized.

Every week, we'll preview the top three games within the conference to get you prepped for the weekend action. Last week, Concordia took care of business in Collegeville, downing the Johnnies and heading into their bye week undefeated. Elsewhere, Augsburg and Gustavus prevailed in homecoming battles, while #8 Bethel opened their MIAC season in grand form, obliterating Carleton 58-14.

Three undefeated teams left in the MIAC, but there will only be two after this weekend. Here's this week's MIAC 3:

1. Augsburg @ Bethel, 1 p.m., Royal Stadium, ArdenHills:The Johnnie-Tommie game will be hard to top this year, but this game has the potential to come close. Augsburg hung 55 on Hamline last week to retain The Hammer, while Bethel put up three more against the Knights. These are the top two offenses in the league in both points and yards, and it's not close. Bethel QB Erik Peterson leads the MIAC in passing, Auggie QB Ayrton Scott is second. Scott is averaging 138 yards per game on the ground, Bethel running back Brandon Marquardt is averaging 134. NDSU transfer and Auggie standout Joey Sonnenfeld is 4th in the league in receiving, 2012 leader in receptions Mitch Hallstrom is 8th in the league in receiving for Bethel. Quite simply, both these offenses can go up and down the field all day. Will they? Well, defensively, both these sides are nearly as strong as they are offensively, with the edge going to the big play potential of Bethel's defensive unit. The Royals are giving up just 15 points per game, the Auggies 18, and Bethel has scored the only two defensive touchdowns in the league this year. Seth Mathis? Yes, he's doing his thing, 4th in the league in tackles per game, but the MIAC leader in the category is Auggie linebacker Michael Juberian at 12.7 per contest. The field is going to be loaded with talent on both teams, on each side of the ball. Augsburg is up to 31st in the nation in the latest AFCA Coaches Poll, while Bethel stands pat at No. 8 this week. Augsburg knows what Bethel brings to the table, with Auggie All-American tight end Adam Carl saying earlier this week "we got our hands full." This will be a game that could make the Auggies season, and if it does, it could break Bethel's.

2.St. Johns @ St. Olaf, 1 p.m., Manitou Field, Northfield:Northfield is not a city that historically drains very well, pretty much anywhere. It's expected to be cold, extremely wet, and that could lend itself to some ugly football. Who does that benefit? Well nothing has really benefited St. Olaf this year, they got the floor mopped with them last week against Gustavus 45-19. The Johnnies went down at Clemens Stadium 24-14 to a solid Concordia squad, despite 242 yards passing from Connor Bruns. If this game is to turn into a sloppy, mud-filled, in the trenches game, it honestly won't help either team, as these two squads rank dead last in the conference in rushing. St. Olaf, specifically, has absolutely zero chance of winning this game if they rely on the run, as they're averaging just 70 yards per game on the ground, 46 yards worse than the Johnnies, who rank right above them. This week will be a big test for St. Johns, simply because we're not sure which team they are; the one that upset #2 St. Thomas two weeks ago, or the one that laid an egg at home against a Concordia team that only beat St. Olaf by four the week prior. Gary Faasching needs this one if he wants his Johnnie men to sniff the top 25 again this year, as it fell out of the AFCA rankings this week.

3. Gustavus @ Hamline, 1 p.m., Klas Field, St. Paul:Gustavus is beginning to look like the most improved team in the conference this year. A mauling of St. Olaf last week, a very narrow loss to Augsburg the week before, and handling their business in the non-con has some believing this team could pull an upset or two. It would be no upset this week if they rolled in to St. Paul Saturday and laid a beat down on this Hamline bunch. We already mentioned the throttling put upon them by Augsburg last week, but an unforgivable home loss to Carleton in Week 1 of the MIAC schedule says a lot more than the Auggie loss does. The only thing the Pipers had going for them on offense was Austin Duncan, who was putting up absurd numbers on the ground going in to last week. That came to a screeching halt when the Pipers faced a real defense, Duncan only able to scrape out 58 yards on 21 carries. Their passing game continues to struggle and their defense couldn't get a stop last week. A Gustavus team that put up 45 points last week should worry Hamline and head coach Chad Rogosheke, especially considering their well balanced offensive attack featuring running back Jeffrey Dubose.

The Tommies host Carleton in the other MIAC contest this week, while the Cobbers get a well deserved week off. Here's an interview with their head coach Terry Horan from yesterday.

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