If you missed my NSIC midseason report, read it here.
If you did read my NSIC midseason report, you’ll see why I’ve been saying for awhile that there isn’t much margin for error in the NSIC or Super Region 3 this year. Any one loss has the chance to be devastating, and, USF suffered a tough one last week.
A 10-9 defeat to Winona State, particularly on the road, isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but considering the Cougars still have to go to Mankato to take on a Minnesota State team that looks really, really good, there’s a chance it’ll end up being very costly. As I said earlier, when you hold the No. 1 offense (yard-wise) in the league to 10 points and don’t win….that smarts.
Not to say I told you so or anything, but I’d been pretty adamant that the Cougars weren’t playing at the same level that they did in the season opener at St. Cloud, and that it was going to eventually catch up to them against a better opponent if they didn’t find a way to get back to playing the nearly mistake-free football they did against the Huskies. But they looked like the same ‘pretty good, but not great’ team at Winona that they were for long stretches in their previous four contests.
Saturday the Cougars will face yet another middle-of-the-pack NSIC team in the Golden Bears, one they should be able to get past, but one that will push them if the Cougars are flat.
Obviously the showdown with Augustana looms next week, and while Augie is going to have trouble claiming a lot of momentum going into that one even if they win this week, the last thing USF needs is to head into one of the biggest regular season games in school history with a two-game losing streak that knocked them from the Top 25 and possibly out of the playoff picture.
In other words, USF needs to start getting their confidence and momentum back this week against Concordia. No matter what they say, they haven’t played to the level they did against St. Cloud in any of their last five games. That team was a playoff team. The one that’s gone 4-1 in the last five weeks isn’t.
Prediction: Cougars 31, Golden Bears 21
Not much more needs to be said about where the Vikings are at.
For the second year in a row, they’ve fallen far short of their own expectations. Their season is going to end on Nov. 10 in Marshall, that much is certain at this point. The question for Augie now is whether or not they can salvage a winning season. It won’t be easy.
Injuries are starting to take their toll, and their confidence is clearly rattled after following up a pair of frustrating close losses with their worst home loss since 2002 in last week’s 52-14 thrashing (in their homecoming game) at the hands of Minnesota State.
Today’s opponent, Upper Iowa, has never come close to beating the Vikings.
Going back to their first meeting in 2005, the scores have been 54-6, 40-7, 41-21, 32-0 and 38-7.
The Peacocks have, however, put a scare into several other strong NSIC teams, and pulled off a few upsets. They nearly upset Winona State two weeks ago in a 45-42 defeat, and while their record entering Saturday’s game is 2-4, they could be 4-2 with a couple breaks. Tom Shea has not yet been able to get this team over the hump in the standings, but he’s succeeded in making a team that was once a doormat into a credible opponent that can compete week in and week out.
Their offense is among the most prolific in the league, and the Viking defense — already reeling — is expected to be without senior linebacker Austin Luecke, arguably the best player on the Vikings’ team.
Upper Iowa has moved into a new stadium that Andy Rennecke of the St. Cloud Times ranked as the second-best facility in the NSIC (though I don’t believe he’s seen Bob Young Field), behind Kirkeby-Over Stadium.
For all those reasons, I spent most of the week talking myself into picking the Peacocks. I’m tired of picking the Vikings every week and being wrong. Last week when I picked Augie to beat Mankato, I don’t know if I really believed they would win. I talked myself into it. So as much as I want to pick UIU this week, the bottom line is I just don’t think they’re going to win. I think the Vikings are.
If Augie does lose, though, man. It would be finding a new low while seemingly already on the basement floor.
Prediction: Vikings 38, Peacocks 30