GAME OF THE WEEK

SW Minnesota State at MSU Mankato, 6 p.m. Thursday: MSU Mankato (13-1, 11-0 NSIC last season), ranked No. 1 in the d2football.com preseason poll, is 16-0 against the Mustangs. SW Minnesota State has 12 starters back among 42 returning letter-winners from last season’s 2-9 team.

WEEK 1 STORYLINES

• The MIAC has led Division III conferences in attendance 12 times in the past 13 years. The MIAC averaged 3,090 fans per game last season.

• In the past, NSIC teams played their first four games of the season against teams from the opposite NSIC division. This year, those non-division games will be in Weeks 5-8, while a team’s seven divisional games will be in Weeks 1-4 and 9-11.

• The UMAC has one less team this season. Eureka, which won the UMAC title last season, has joined the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.

• Central Lakes was the favorite in the Eastern Division, and Northland was the favorite in the Western Division in the MCAC coaches preseason poll. The MCAC season opens on Saturday.

• Macalester and Carleton open their seasons at 7 p.m. Saturday in a nonconference game for the Book of Knowledge trophy. The Scots are an MIAC member but play football in the Midwest Conference.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nathan Brinker, DL, St. John’s: The senior from Holdingford, Minn., had 5½ sacks last season and is a two-time All-MIAC and All-West Region selection.

 

Shane Zylstra, WR, MSU Mankato: The senior from Spicer, Minn., is the NSIC South Offense Preseason Player of the Year. Zylstra caught 15 touchdown passes last season.

BY THE NUMBERS

21 Years since St. Thomas played a non-Division III opponent. The Tommies open the season against Trinity International (NAIA).

52 Victories for Minnesota Duluth under coach Curt Wiese since he took over in 2013. Only one other Division II coach (CSU-Pueblo’s John Wristen with 54) has won more games in that time.

100 Seasons of intercollegiate football for MSU Moorhead. The century season for the Dragons begins Thursday, when they play host to Minn.-Crookston.

Joel Rippel