GAME OF THE WEEK
Wisconsin-Eau Claire at St. Thomas, 1:10 p.m.: This is the third consecutive season the teams have opened the season against each other. The Tommies won 27-24 in 2012 and 52-7 last season. The Blugolds, who were 2-8 in 2013, were picked to finish seventh in the WIAC preseason poll. The Tommies, who went 8-2 last season and missed the Division III playoffs after four consecutive postseason appearances, are ranked No. 11 in the d3football.com preseason poll. The Tommies’ two losses were by two points to St. John’s and seven points to Bethel.
WEEK 1 STORY LINES
• Northwestern-St. Paul will play host to St. Olaf at 7 p.m. Saturday — the first night home game in program history. The Eagles will play one other home night game (Sept. 20 vs. Martin Luther) at the school’s renovated athletic complex this season.
• St. Scholastica begins its seventh season of football with the second coach in program history. Kurt Ramler, who was the offensive coordinator at St. John’s last season, has taken over for Greg Carlson, who retired after six seasons as the Saints coach. Ramler, who played at St. John’s from 1993 to 1996, was the head coach at Carleton from 2006 to 2011. The Saints, picked No. 1 in the UMAC preseason poll, play host to Ripon on Saturday.
• Concordia (Moorhead), coming off back-to-back 8-2 seasons, opens the season at Jamestown (N.D.) on Saturday. The Cobbers will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of their 1964 NAIA national championship all season. The 1964 Cobbers, who went 10-0-1, had 11 players that weighed at least 200 pounds. The 2014 Cobbers have 72.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Griffin Neal, QB, Concordia (Moorhead): The 6-4 senior from Fargo, a two-time All-MIAC selection, could become the first in school history to pass for more than 5,000 yards. Neal passed for a school-record 2,158 yards and led the Cobbers with 496 rushing yards last season.
Tyler Tonderum, RB, SW Minnesota State: The 5-10 senior from Armstrong, Iowa, was named to D2football.com’s first-team preseason All-America team. Last season, Tonderum rushed for a school-record 2,145 yards — including a school-record 343 yards against MSU Moorhead and a school-record 19 TDs. Tonderum set six school single-season records last season.
BY THE NUMBERS
5 Bethel players who have earned the MIAC’s MVP award since 2001 — the most of any team in the conference.
21 Consecutive winning seasons for Bethel — the longest current streak in the MIAC.
208 Total number of miles the St. Thomas football team will travel during the regular season. The Tommies play six games at home. The Tommies’ road games are at Bethel, Carleton, Hamline and St. Olaf.