Hey Bemidji State sports fans. Is this thing on? Bueller? Bueller?
Football starts Friday (REJOICE!), so I thought I’d actually fire this thing back up after a sporadic summer. Once the season starts, I expect to update at least once every other day. Hopefully more. We’re still trying to figure out the perfect balance.
Anyhow, in the wake of football season, we have some real news: The NSIC released its preseason coaches’ poll Tuesday, and Bemidji State is ranked 6th out of 16 teams.
I think that’s about what’s expected So did BSU head coach Jeff Tesch.
“I think that’s pretty fair,” he said. “Duluth, St. Cloud and Mankato all went to the postseason, and they have a lot coming back, so you have to put them up there.”
Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State made playoff appearances last season and figure to be the teams to beat once again. They always are. MSU Mankato just missed the postseason – the Mavericks and Huskies had identical records, but St. Cloud got the nod on the strength of their regular season win.
Mankato did, however, make it to the Mineral Water Bowl, which the Mavs won 28-14.
Winona State and Augustana actually finished below Bemidji in the standings but both have talented returning classes and should compete for hardware. Winona’s Rayon Simmons is on pace to be the schools all-time rushing leader and was named the preseason offensive player of the year in the South Division.
As for Augustana, the Vikings finished 6-5 overall and 6-4 in the conference last year, but return eight All-NSIC players, including preseason defensive South Division player of the year Austin Luecke.
BSU has some impressive returnees of it’s own – 16 starters return. All-American TE Brian Leonhardt and DL Matthew Shaver were named “players to watch,” while QB Lance Rongstad is a dual-threat who could be a difference-maker as a senior.
So, the gist: The NSIC is really up-in-the air. BSU beat St. Cloud and nearly beat Duluth last year, but lost to U-Mary and Northern State on the road. If the Beavers can pull off a win against at least one of the two big boys and keep a clean slate the rest of the way, they have a shot at winning the division and sneaking into the playoffs.
It’s in the link, but just FYI here’s how the preseason poll looks in the division. Fist-place votes in parenthesis, followed by last season’s record:
1. Minnesota-Duluth (5), 11-3, 8-2
2. St. Cloud (3), 9-3, 8-2
3. Bemidji State, 8-3, 7-3
4. U-Mary, 5-6, 4-5
5. Northern State, 5-6, 4-6
6. Minot State, 2-8 (NAIA)
7. MSU-Moorhead, 2-9, 1-9
8. Minnesota-Crookston, 1-10, 0-10
As you can see, BSU’s division looks very top-heavy. But it’s somewhat unlucky that it includes two of the best teams in the country.
That said, the Beavers have the ability to beat either team. That’s why you don’t play football on paper (unless, of course, you’re playing fantasy Division-II football, which I don’t recommend).