While the Vikings are wrapping up the preseason and the Gophers are going toe-to-toe with No. 2 TCU, the best game in the country in Division II will be taking place in Mankato.
The matchup: No. 3 Minnesota Duluth against No. 1 Minnesota State-Mankato.
It's a rematch of last year's NCAA quarterfinal, when the Mavericks romped the Bulldogs by nearly four touchdowns.
“Wow, what a matchup, what hype,” Minnesota State head coach Todd Hoffner said earlier this week, according to the Duluth News Tribune. “It’s a pretty amazing venue, to have two marquee programs, going head to head, right out of the gate. Hopefully it lives up to its billing, and people get to enjoy some great Division II football.”
This rivalry has some leftover bad blood thanks to an exchange on Twitter between former Minnesota State offensive coordinator Jason Eck and former UMD wide receiver Aaron Roth late last season.
It started when Eck tweeted that Minnesota State was the "real" conference champ last season (MSU and UMD were co-conference champs because they didn't play in the regular season). Roth responded by touting UMD's national championships in 2008 and 2010.
According to the D2Football.com message board, it went like this:
Eck tweeted: "There are two 2014 NSIC football championship plaques in existence. One of them is a fake. #Real #MavGang #D2FB"
Roth responded: "@Coach_Eck there are only 2 national champions from the NSIC since 00, the Mavs aren't one of them, enjoy your "conference title" #ThatsReal"
Roth graduated while Eck is the offensive line coach at Montana State University.
Minnesota State is ranked No. 1 in both the American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II poll and the D2Football.com poll. UMD is ranked third in the Coaches poll and seventh in the D2 online poll.
Starting quarterbacks Drew Bauer of UMD and Ricky Lloyd of Minnesota State are back and both teams also return its leading rushers.
According to the Mankato Free Press, Blakeslee Stadium will be packed for the 6 p.m. kickoff.
Other NSIC games Thursday
Concordia-St. Paul at St. Cloud State (6pm)
Winona State at Minnesota State-Moorhead (6pm)
Southwest Minnesota State at Minot State (6pm)