We have officially arrived in the middle of the college football season. Like we have done with the M.I.A.C. we will also preview three of the best games in the Northern Sun.
The NSIC includes several Minnesota schools, plus university's in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.
This week we start by looking at a big contest in the NSIC North Division
#18 St. Cloud State (4-0) at #11 Minnesota Duluth (3-1)
St. Cloud State will be looking for their third straight win against Minnesota Duluth as the two ranked teams meet in Duluth on Saturday. For the Bulldogs, its their second straight home game where they meet a ranked opponent.
Princeton native Phil Klaphake continues to lead the Huskies. This week the it was announced that Klaphake was named as a semi-finalist for one of the top scholar athlete awards in college football. He is amongst a record group of semi finalists for the National Football Foundation's Campbell Trophy. On the field, Klaphake is a special talent, if he runs for two yards on Saturday he will become the first quarterback in school history to rush for 2,000 yards in his career. He will test the Bulldog defense as he has already thrown for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns, he has rushed for five more.
Minnesota Duluth bounced back off of their first home Northern Sun loss in a long time, two weeks ago against Minnesota State-Mankato. Logan Lauters broke free for 103 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries last week in the Bulldogs 64-21 win at Wayne State. Lauters gives the Bulldogs another ground weapon to use against the Huskies on Saturday.
The Huskies can be hurt on the ground a bit. They give up 165 yards rushing a game, and don't forget they are undefeated, so they have been leading most of the time, so those numbers could be a little deceiving.
St. Cloud, has to figure out how to shutdown the Bulldogs ground game to come up with a win in Duluth on Saturday.
Upper Iowa (3-1) at Winona State (2-2)
The Warriors have won two straight since their first 0-2 start since 2002. Saturday we will find out a lot about the state of the NSIC South Division. The Peacocks have been one of the surprises of the conference to this point, their only loss came to Minnesota Duluth in the second week.
Upper Iowa has a dangerous running back by the name of Chris Smith, they are led by their all time passing leader Cole Jaeschke. The two combine to give the Pecocks a high powered offense. Add to that a Peacock defense that currently ranks at the top of the conference, only giving up 15.2 points a game.
The Peacocks will be tested though by Winona State. In their nine previous meetings, the Warriors have never lost to the Peacocks. Chichi Ojika was the NSIC's Offensive Player of the Week, last week, in Winona's win over Minot State. Ojika ran for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the game.
It is arguably the biggest game in Upper Iowa's program history though, since 2007 they have not won more than three games in a season.
If its close, turnovers could be the deciding factor. So far, through four games, Winona State has a -1 turnover ratio, while the Peacocks are a -1.5.
#2 Minnesota State (4-0) at Concordia St. Paul (3-1)
Minnesota State Mankato is the hottest team in the conference right now. The Mavericks have won 15 straight games, they head to St. Paul Saturday to take on Concordia who's only loss comes to St. Cloud State.
The Golden Bears, themselves are off to their best start since 2010, so it could be quite the game on Saturday at SeaFoam Stadium.
Minnesota State quarterback Jon Wolf will be a big key in this one. Like St. Cloud State's Phil Klaphake, Wolf is a duel threat quarterback. He was over 100 yards rushing for the first time this season in the Mavericks win last week, he also completed 9 of 11 passes for 160 yards. Wolf ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw a third.
Concordia though has the defense to slow him down. The Golden Bears have beaten the Mavericks twice in program history, and if that defense which is giving up 20.5 points a game can get pressure on Wolf and keep him out of his comfort zone, they could have a chance.
Still though it will take a lot of work from Tre Spears, the Golden Bears running back who has been over 100 yards in three games already this season.