The Call: Augie at St. Cloud State; Minn.-Crookston at USF

I was surprised to discover that the Vikings have won five in a row against St. Cloud State, and that their last loss to the Huskies was nearly a decade ago, when both teams were still in the NCC.
Of course, the Vikings haven’t faced SCSU the last two years, and now this year it’s shaping up as a mismatch, with the Huskies looking very much like a playoff contender, and the Vikings looking like a rebuilding squad.
SCSU whipped a pretty good Concordia team last week to improve to 3-0, Augie beat a Bemidji team that offered nothing on offense, following a loss to Minot and a hot-and-cold win over MSU-Moorhead.

Augie’s defense has been pretty good so far, but in all honesty, they haven’t really faced a good offense yet. SCSU has a Harlon Hill candidate in QB Phillip Klaphake, two very good running backs in Michael Walker and Ledell White and a handful of excellent receivers.
This is obviously a big test for the Viking defense, one that observers and the Vikings themselves are looking forward to. We’re going to have a better idea of how good Augie’s defense is after this.
I don’t expect the Vikings to get rolled by the Huskies, because I think they do have a good defense. But I don’t see them shutting SCSU down.

Meanwhile, the Husky defense has allowed just 21.3 points per game and has been pretty stingy against the run (127 yards per game, 3.6 yards per carry), which doesn’t bode well for an Augie offense that has failed to reach 300 yards in consecutive games, with the running game — the supposed strength of the team — the main culprit.
With CJ Ham and Dajon Newell in the backfield, it’s hard not to assume the struggles are due to poor offensive line play. The Vikings have experience there, but those guys aren’t really getting it done. If they can get the offense going this week — even if it doesn’t result in a win — it’d be big for a team that has too much offensive talent to struggle like they have.

Prediction: Huskies 31, Vikings 14

USF has Crookston this week. That typically means an auto-win, although SMSU and Mary will tell you that’s not always the case.
While the Eagles won two NSIC games last year (against the aforementioned clubs), that basically represented a high point for them, and now this year they’re rebuilding again.
Seriously, that’s where the Golden Eagles are at as a program. They go 2-9 and it’s a good year, then they have to start over.
The Eagles have had some success assembling talent over the years, and this year is no different, with freshman QB Kyle Larson showing signs of being a pretty good player. But as always, the question is whether UMC will be able to keep their talent. Player retention has been a problem.
Keith McBride is a solid running back, and safety Tevin Kellum is probably their best overall player, one of the few guys who would play for some of the better teams in the league (it’d be interesting to sit down with Kellum or McBride sometime for an interview about their experiences playing at UMC).

USF has rushed for over 600 yards the last two weeks, and that’s good, but they really need to get the passing game going this week.
I mentioned how silly it is that Carrington Hanna isn’t touching the ball, but Jed Stugart did tell me this week that he dropped a couple balls in Mary, and had a couple big plays called back for penalties.
Fair enough.
Still, completing 30 percent of your throws and averaging three yards per pass isn’t anywhere close to good enough, so against a Crookston defense that allows over 50 points and 500 yards per game, this is Luke Papillion’s chance to show he can do more than run the read option.
Stugart also hinted that if USF takes care of business we could see a little more of Matt Young. I’d like to see that.

Prediction: Cougars 41, Golden Eagles 13