As we predicted last week, Minnesota State University Mankato has moved up the list and has become the number one team in all of NCAA Division II Football. The Mavericks moved to number one in both the d2football.com poll and the American Football Coaches Association Top 25 Poll.
That happened last week with their victory over Augustana. MSU's 6-0 start follows and unbeaten run all the way to the NCAA Division II semifinals before finally losing to Valdosta State (last week's #1).
During the season though the Mavericks toughest game, came from the team they get ready to play on Saturday.
Minnesota State (6-0) at Southwest Minnesota State (3-3)
Last year, Minnesota State survived the Mustangs to remain unbeaten beating Southwest Minnesota State 34-31 in overtime. It was a battle, as Southwest held a 24-10 lead with just over six minutes left, when Jon Wolf scored a Maverick touchdown to pull MSU within seven.
After a stop by the Maverick defense, MSU marched 70 yards in six plays and tied the game up when Wolf found Adam Thielen to even the score at 24 with just 39 seconds remaining. The Mavericks eventually won the game in overtime.
So Saturday's trip to Marshall could be a challenge for MSU. Southwest is coming off of scoring 48 and 55 points in back-to-back weeks and currently find themselves ranked fifth in all of NCAA Division II football in offense. It hasn't been a fluke the Mustangs are averaging more than 40 points a game and former Gopher quarterback Cory Sauter's uptempo offense has proven to be very difficult to stop.
If anyone in the conference can do it, its the Mavericks. MSU is giving up only about 15.3 points a game, and the Mavericks play a disciplined brand of defense, they aren't too exotic and their brand of defense may be just the plan to try to slow down the Mustangs. What's more, MSU's defense is holing opponents to a silent 2.8 yards a rush, so Southwest's Tyler Tonderum will have to go up against the conference's best rush defense this week. Tonderum comes into the game as the Northern Sun's leading rusher, averaging 195 yards a game, if he puts up the kind yards he has been, Southwest may have a Harlon Hill candidate on their hands.
The other key to this week, if MSU can run the ball, they keep the clock and Southwest's offense isn't scoring points when they are on the sideline. The Mavericks have rushed for over 1,500 yards already, and the Mustangs, have given up nearly 1,300 yards on the ground. That could be MSU's key to remaining number one .
St. Cloud State (5-1) at University of Mary (4-2)
Husky quaterback Philip Klaphake continued his march up the St. Cloud State record books. The Princeton native last week became the first SCSU quarterback to throw for over 9,000 yards and rush for over 2,000 yards in his career. Nearing in on 9,200 yards on his career Klaphake has Keith Heckendorf's school record of 9,695 yards in his sights.
As long as Klaphake stays healthy shattering that mark this season shouldn't be a problem. Probably not this week, although nothing is impossible with him.
This week the Huskies will make the journey west to Bismarck, North Dakota to face the University of Mary. The Marauders got a big road win last week in Bemidji to move to 4-2, and they are in a tie atop the NSIC North Division with Minnesota Duluth.
For whatever reason, a lot of good Northern Sun teams struggle when they travel to Bismarck. The Marauders have already won as many games this year as they did during the entire season last year. They have a vaunted passing attack led by quarterback Craig Bagnell, but the strength of the St. Cloud defense is its secondary, so that could be a matchup to watch.
Sioux Falls (3-3) at Concordia St. Paul (3-3)
Concordia allowed 266 yards on the ground last week to Upper Iowa running back Chris Smith, in the program's first loss to the Peacocks in its history. That is a concern as the University of Sioux Falls comes to town.
The Cougars have been running the ball well all season, in fact, they are second in the NSIC in rushing. Quarterback Luke Papilion and running back Nephi Garcia key a Cougar rushing game that averages 313 yards a game.
Concordia's defense is going to have to tighten up against the run after last week. The Golden Bear defense did have some moments against Upper Iowa though last week, including defensive end Zach Moore who's sack against the Peacocks put him just one sack away from the school's career record of 30.
It won't be easy for Concordia to snap their two game losing streak. The defense will be tested by a tough Cougar offense, and the Golden Bear's offense hasn't exactly been clicking yet. The Golden Bears are averaging just over 19-points a game, near the bottom of the league, and statistically they are 11th in yardage.