GAME OF THE WEEK

Sioux Falls at Minn. Duluth, 6:05 p.m. Thursday: The top two teams in the NSIC last season face off in the season opener. Each team will open the season with a new QB for the first time in four years. Sioux Falls, which went 12-1 while winning its first NSIC title last season, begins its first season under coach Jon Anderson. The Bulldogs have won outright or shared nine consecutive North Division titles. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 8 in the D2Football.com preseason poll, while the Cougars were ranked No. 15.

WEEK 1 STORYLINES

• Concordia (Moorhead) opens its 100th season of intercollegiate football at Nebraska Wesleyan on Saturday. The Cobbers, who were 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the MIAC last season, were picked third (behind St. Thomas and St. John’s) in the MIAC preseason poll. The Cobbers, who have won 18 league titles, are the last team other than Bethel, St. John’s or St. Thomas to win the MIAC (in 2004).

• Hamline, coming off its best season since 1997, opens the season Saturday at Crown. The Pipers, who were 5-5 overall and 3-5 in the MIAC last season, are led by returning All-MIAC quarterback Justice Spriggs, who passed for 2,711 yards and 25 TDs last season.

• Central Lakes College, which won the MCAC title last season, is the favorite in the MCAC preseason poll and ranked No. 13 in the NJCAA preseason Top 25. Central Lakes opens its season on Saturday at Minnesota West. Central Lakes was 10-0 last season before losing to DuPage (Ill.) in the Red Grange Bowl.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Damon Gibson, WR, MSU Moorhead: The senior from Beardsley, Minn., led Div. II in receiving yards (1,459) and yards per game (140.8) last season. He had 90 receptions and scored 17 TDS to earn All-America second-team honors.

 Evan Perrizo, DE, MSU Mankato: The senior from Eden Prairie is the NSIC South Division Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Perrizo, who was first team All-NSIC last season, led the Mavericks in tackles for loss (13.5) and tied for the team lead in sacks (8.5) last season.

BY THE NUMBERS

49 Seasons of intercollegiate football at Southwest Minnesota State. The Mustangs open their 50th season Thursday, hosting St. Cloud State.

99 Victories at St. Thomas for coach Glenn Caruso. The Tommies are 99-15 under Caruso, who is beginning his 10th season.

202 Career victories for Bethel coach Steve Johnson. Johnson, who ranks No. 4 in victories among active Division III coaches, has coached the Royals to a 202-93-1 record in 28 seasons.

Joel Rippel