GAME OF THE WEEK
Bethel at St. Thomas, 1 p.m. Saturday: St. Thomas (6-0, 4-0), the lone unbeaten in the MIAC, faces a Bethel team that is in a must-win situation. Bethel (4-2, 3-1) is one of four MIAC teams with one conference loss — St. John’s, Concordia and Gustavus are the others — but the Royals are the only one of the four with two losses overall; Bethel lost a nonconference game to Wartburg. The Royals simply can’t afford a third loss and keep postseason hopes alive. The winner is likely to be the team that can establish its rushing attack. Bethel has the MIAC’s top rushing offense (250.8 yards per game), and the St. Thomas defense is the best against the run in the league, allowing 62.2 yards a game, less than half the total allowed by the No. 2 rushing defense. The game will feature two of the MIAC’s top four runners: No. 2 Justin Roberts of St. Thomas (121.7 yards a game) and No. 4 Marshall Klitzke of Bethel (107 yards a game).
WEEK 8 Story lines
• Unbeaten Sioux Falls (7-0), tied with Minnesota State Mankato for the NSIC South Division lead, faces a strong test Saturday against visiting Augustana (5-2). Sioux Falls, ranked No. 4 nationally by d2football.com, needs to get past Augustana and Concordia (St. Paul) to set up a potential battle of unbeatens on Nov. 7 against No. 1-ranked Minnesota State Mankato.
• Top-rated Minnesota State Mankato (7-0) doesn’t have a cakewalk to that Nov. 7 game. The Mavericks host Winona State (3-4) this Saturday and are at Southwest Minnesota State (5-2) the following week. The Mavericks are in the top 10 nationally in Division II in numerous team defensive stats, including fewest points, rushing defense, total defense and sacks.
• Macalester (3-3 overall) is putting together another solid year in the Midwest Conference. If the Scots can win on the road the next two weekends — against Lawrence (1-5) and Carroll (3-3), all three are 1-1 in conference play — they would be playing for at least a share of the North Division title against St. Norbert (6-0), 2-0 in the Midwest, on Nov. 7.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
J.J. Strnad, RB, St. Olaf: The senior scored all five of his team’s touchdowns in a 34-27 victory over Carleton last Saturday. He rushed for 226 yards and TDs of 3, 26, 73 and 40 yards on 23 carries and caught five passes for 78 yards and a 16-yard TD.
Andrew Brees, K, UMD: The senior booted a school-record 57-yard field goal in last week’s 45-0 victory over the University of Mary. Brees’ previous longest field goal was 43 yards. He’s 7-for-9 on field goals this season and has made 24 extra points in a row. He is also averaging 41.1 yards per punt.
BY THE NUMBERS
4 Consecutive 100-plus-yard rushing games for St. Thomas tailback Jordan Roberts, who has nine rushing TDs in those games.
2 Augsburg players averaging at least 100 yards rushing per game: quarterback Ayrton Scott (109.5 ypg) and tailback Tyrell Martin (100.5).
22.1 Average yards per punt return by MSU Mankato’s Kyle Riggot, first nationally in Division II.