MIAC and UMAC story lines

• It’s been more than a decade — 11 years to be exact — since someone other than St. John’s, St. Thomas or Bethel has won MIAC league title. Each of the three has a title apiece in the past three seasons. This year’s preseason coaches’ poll has a familiar ring: 1. St. John’s, 2. St. Thomas, 3. Bethel.

• Are the Johnnies ready to take the next step in coach Gary Fasching’s rebuilding? SJU has gone 5-3 and 7-1 — undisputed league champs — in his first two seasons, but lost to Wartburg in the second round of the playoffs last season. Hopes are high to make noise nationally this fall, with the return of league MVP running back Sam Sura and all-league linebacker Carter Hanson.

• This will be a transition year for MIAC quarterbacks, with likely contenders St. Thomas, Bethel and Concordia (Moorhead) replacing longtime starters. Bethel will be minus 2013 league MVP Erik Peterson, St. Thomas is minus Matt O’Connell, 30-4 as a starter, and Concordia must replace three-year starter Griffin Neal.

• Augsburg will cause opposing coaches sleepless nights with the return of senior QB Ayrton Scott, a three-time all-MIAC pick, and senior wide receiver Joey Sonnenfeld, another all-league selection. Scott has 7,886 career passing yards and an additional 2,952 rushing. Sonnenfeld last season had 70 catches for 1,219 yards and 14 TDs.

• St. Scholastica has won four consecutive UMAC titles, but is 0-4 in NCAA playoffs. The Saints are looking to take that next step, but must replace the league’s offensive player of the year (QB Tyler Harper) and lineman of the year (Pete Stanley). But second-year coach Kurt Ramler has his top five receivers back, plus his entire secondary and all-UMAC linebacker Alex Mangan. The University of Northwestern (Roseville) is the most likely challenger with 17 starters back, but the losses include quarterback Jacob Fletcher, who averaged more than 200 yards passing per game.

Dennis Brackin