Teams listed in predicted order of finish by conference coaches:
1 MSU Mankato (13-1 overall, 11-0 NSIC in 2012): The Mavericks reached the Division II semifinals last season and are ranked No. 1 in The Sporting News' preseason poll. They return eight starters from a defense that allowed 17.9 points per game (14th-best in Div. II) last season.
2 Minnesota Duluth (10-2, 10-1): Former offensive coordinator Curt Wiese takes over as coach (for Bob Nielsen, who left for Western Illinois) and welcomes 16 returning starters. The Bulldogs, ranked as high as No. 3 in preseason polls, will have a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Drew Bauer.
3 Winona State (10-2, 9-2): The Warriors return 11 starters from a team that won the Mineral Water Bowl — their eighth postseason appearance in the past 13 seasons. Senior QB John Teigland, who passed for 2,942 yards and 24 TDs, and four starters in the offensive line are among the returners.
4 St. Cloud State (7-4, 7-4): Seniors Phillip Klaphake, a fourth-year starter at QB, and DB Jack Moro, a preseason All-America, highlight the 16 returning starters. Klaphake is the first QB in school history to pass for more than 7,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in his career.
5 Sioux Falls (9-2, 9-2): The Cougars, who enjoyed a successful first season in the NSIC, have plenty of holes to fill after graduating 25 seniors. Senior WR Carrington Hanna, who caught 69 passes, returns. True freshman Luke Papilion is expected to start at QB.
6 Bemidji State (7-4, 7-4): The Beavers went 6-1 in the NSIC North last season to share the division title with Minnesota Duluth. The Beavers return only three starters on offense, but return a solid nucleus from a defense that was 15th in total defense in Div. II.
7 Wayne State (6-5, 6-5): The Wildcats return 17 starters (nine on offense) including senior Charlie Davidson, who rushed for 880 yards and was named the NSIC Offensive Newcomer of the Year last season.
8 Northern State (6-5, 6-5): The Wolves won six of their final eight games after starting the season 0-3. Junior QB Jared Jacobson, who passed for 2,562 yards and 19 TDs, and senior DB Logan Dosch, who had 83 tackles and four interceptions, lead the returnees.
9 Augustana (5-6, 5-6): After five seasons at St. Olaf, Jerry Olszewski takes over the Vikings program. The Vikings return 14 starters — seven on each side of the ball — but must replace three-year starting QB Josh Hanson.
10 Concordia-St. Paul (2-9, 2-9): DL Zach Moore, who had 14 sacks last season, returns for his senior season. Moore is ranked as the fifth-best player in Div. II by d2football.com. Five of the Golden Bears' nine losses last season were by eight or fewer points.
11 Mary (4-7, 4-7): Coach Myron Schulz, in his 15th season as the Marauders coach, has announced he will retire after the season. Senior QB Craig Bagnell, who passed for 2,101 yards and 22 TDs in eight games, leads the offense.
12 SW Minnesota State (4-7, 4-7): Coach Cory Sauter has 15 returning starters but the Mustangs are young with only 34 upper classmen (of the 106 who reported to camp).
13 Upper Iowa (2-9, 2-9): Redshirt junior WR Keaton Hosch, who had a school-record 1,094 receiving yards, and redshirt sophomore QB Cole Jaeschke, who passed for 2,983 yards and 26 TDs, return to lead the Peacocks' potent offense.
14 Minot State (3-8, 3-8): The Beavers enter their second season in the NSIC with a veteran defense featuring eight returning starters. QB Zac Cunha, who started as a true freshman, returns to run the offense.
15 MSU Moorhead (1-10, 1-10): The Dragons return 16 starters (10 on offense), but are still young with only four seniors (and 40 freshmen) on the roster.
16 Minnesota-Crookston (2-9, 2-9): The Golden Eagles ended a 39-game losing streak in the NSIC last season. A.J. Barge, the starting QB the past two seasons, transferred.