Only three teams have won an MIAC conference football championship since 2005 — Bethel, St. John’s and St. Thomas.
If preseason polls are any indication, that trend should continue this season. Those three teams are at the top of the MIAC coaches’ preseason poll and each is ranked in the top 10 in the D3football.com preseason Top 25.
St. John’s (12-1, 8-0 MIAC last season), which won the conference title and advanced to the Division III quarterfinals last season, leads the trio. The Johnnies are the favorite in the MIAC preseason poll and ranked No. 3 nationally.
Among St. John’s 14 returning starters are All-American guard Dan Greenheck and quarterback Jackson Erdmann, who won the Gagliardi Trophy as D-III’s most outstanding player last season.
St. Thomas (8-2, 6-2), which has won six conference titles since 2010, was picked No. 2 in the conference preseason poll and is ranked No. 7.
The Tommies have a veteran lineup with 16 returning starters and 31 seniors. Among them is running back Josh Parks, a preseason All-America who has scored 39 touchdowns in 32 games.
Bethel (11-2, 7-1), which also reached the D-III quarterfinals last season and hasn’t had a losing season in 25 years, was picked third in the MIAC poll and is ranked No. 10. The Royals are led by sophomore Jaran Roste, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 20 touchdowns and passed for more than 1,000 yards last season.
Tough stretch for Oles
St. Olaf (5-5, 3-5), which was picked sixth in the preseason poll, won its first five games last season — starting a season 5-0 for the first time since 2007 — before losing to Bethel, St. John’s and St. Thomas in successive weeks. The Oles start this season with the same five opponents as last season before again facing Bethel, St. John’s and St. Thomas in succession.
Augsburg (2-8, 0-8), which was picked eighth in the preseason poll, started last season with two nonconference victories. But quarterback Quinn Frisell suffered an injury in the second game and missed the rest of the season. Frisell, who led the MIAC in touchdown passes (26) as the Auggies went 4-6 in 2017, is expected to return to the starting lineup for his senior season.
Hamline coach Chip Taylor starts his fourth season with a young squad, which includes 31 freshmen. The Pipers have just 16 juniors and seniors.
One player Taylor will have to replace is four-year starter Justice Spriggs, the school’s career passing leader. The Pipers do return three of their top four rushers from last season, including sophomore Triston Thomas, who tied for the longest run (93 yards) in the MIAC last season.