GAME OF THE WEEK
Minnesota State, Mankato at Southwest Minnesota State, 1 p.m. Saturday: A pair of upsets last Saturday — MSU, Mankato falling at Winona State and Sioux Falls losing its first game at Augustana — has opened up playoff possibilities for a number of NSIC teams. None more than Southwest Minnesota State, which has a chance to tie MSU, Mankato Saturday. SMSU quarterback Blake Gimbel passed for 454 yards and four TDs in a 34-19 victory over Upper Iowa last week. MSU, Mankato’s defense will have to contain Gimbel, who has completed 67.8 percent of his passes this season for 2,272 yards with 21 TDs and only two interceptions. The Mankato defense gave up four TD passes in last week’s 31-27 loss to Winona State. The Mavericks were ranked No. 1 nationally by d2football.com and Sioux Falls was No. 4 before last week’s losses.
WEEK 8 STORYLINES
• The NCAA released its first regional rankings this week, and five NSIC teams are bunched in the top nine in Division II Region Three. The top seven teams will earn spots in the Division II playoffs, and right now those spots belong to No. 3 Sioux Falls, No. 6 Minnesota State, Mankato and No. 7 Augustana. But No. 8 Southwest Minnesota State and No. 9 Minnesota-Duluth are very much in contention.
• The MIAC has multiple teams in the Division III playoff chase. Unbeaten St. Thomas is in the driver’s seat for the league’s automatic bid, but the Tommies have a tough stretch drive, beginning Saturday with a game at Concordia. The Cobbers, St. John’s and Gustavus each have only one loss. St. John’s has victories over Concordia and Gustavus, but the Johnnies face high-scoring Augsburg on Saturday and the next week are at Bethel, which is 3-2 in the league and 4-3 overall.
• St. Scholastica is the lone unbeaten team in the Upper Midwest Conference (UMAC), including a victory over Northwestern of St. Paul, which is the only team with one conference loss. St. Scholastica hosts third-place Westminster (Mo.) Saturday, and a victory would clinch at least a tie for the league championship. More important, a victory would clinch the league’s automatic postseason berth because of that head-to-head victory over Northwestern.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ayrton Scott, QB, Augsburg: The former Minneapolis Southwest standout had 516 total yards in last week’s 57-35 victory over St. Olaf. Scott passed for 313 yards and four TDs and ran for 202 yards. Scott is averaging 364.3 yards in total offense this season, which is second nationally in Division III to Joe Callahan of Wesley (391 total yards per game).
Collin Corcoran, LB, Winona State: The senior had a career-high 16 tackles in the Warriors’ 31-27 upset of previously unbeaten Minnesota State, Mankato. Corcoran had one tackle for a loss and a half sack in the victory. The WSU linebacker leads with NSIC with 87 tackles this season.
BY THE NUMBERS
40 The final tally of consecutive NSIC victories by Minnesota State, Mankato after last Saturday’s loss to Winona State.
5 The new longest NSIC winning streak, shared by Minnesota-Duluth and surprising Bemidji State.