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St. Thomas QB Matt O’Connell

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MIAC football preview

  • September 5, 2013 - 9:56 PM

Listed in predicted order of finish by conference coaches:

1 St. Thomas (14-1 overall, 8-0 MIAC in 2012): The Tommies, who reached the Division III championship game last season, enter this season ranked as high as No. 2 in national polls. They have 17 consecutive home victories, 33 consecutive regular-season victories and 27 consecutive MIAC victories — one shy of the league record. The Tommies return starters at 15 positions, but must replace six graduated seniors on defense. On offense, the Tommies return nine starters, led by junior QB Matt O’Connell, who passed for 2,771 yards and rushed for 819 yards last season, and RB Brenton Braddock, who rushed for 1,132 yards last season as a freshman. LB Tremayne Williams and P Garrett Maloney were named to d3football.com’s preseason All-America team.

2 Bethel (9-3, 6-2): The Royals, ranked as high as No. 6 in preseason polls, return eight offensive starters including junior QB Erik Peterson, who completed 66.8 percent of his passes and threw for 16 TDs last season. Senior LB Seth Mathis, a first-team All-America last season, is among six returning starters on defense.

3 Augsburg (7-3, 5-3): Sophomore QB Ayrton Scott returns, after he averaged 368.1 yards per game in total offense (third best in Div. III) while leading the Auggies to their best season since 1997. Scott rushed for a school-record 1,436 yards as the Auggies scored more than 40 points six times.

4 Concordia-Moorhead (8-2, 6-2): The Cobbers, coming off their best season since 2005, will have to replace their entire offensive line, including T Tom Knowlton, the MIAC’s top lineman, and FB Brett Baune, who rushed for 1,050 yards and 13 TDs last season to earn MIAC MVP honors.

5 St. John’s (5-5, 3-5): The Johnnies won three of their final four games in 2012 but finished with their fewest victories since 1986. Nick Martin, who started five games as a freshman, is expected to start at QB. The Johnnies will look to improve their run defense after allowing 170.4 yards per game last season.

6 St. Olaf (7-3, 5-3): After nine seasons as an assistant, Craig Stern takes over as head coach. WR Stephen Asp, who caught a team-high 43 passes and scored 11 TDs last season, returns for his senior season. The Oles will be going for their 10th consecutive winning season.

7 Gustavus (3-7, 2-6): Peter Haugen begins his fifth season as the Gusties coach with 41 returning lettermen — 24 on defense. For the third consecutive season, the Gusties will have a new starting QB.

8 Carleton (3-7, 1-7): Senior WR Chase Gottschalk, who led the Knights with 37 receptions last season and averaged 16.8 yards per reception, leads the returners on offense. The Knights are 5-27 in the MIAC over the past four seasons.

9 Hamline (1-9, 0-8): The Pipers, who have lost 25 consecutive MIAC games, welcomed 76 players — including 30 returnees — for the start of practice under new head coach Chad Rogosheske. Sophomore RB Austin Duncan, who rushed for 868 yards, returns.

Joel Rippel

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