NAIA Ramblings of Jason Dannelly from 9/5/2007: Four in the KCAC and Other Great Teams in Action

It is my plan to get video and photo highlights to post to VSN. But again, it is only a matter of time before this one man show will get it all done.
Biggest Game?
Kind of depends on whose perspective you look at it from. The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference has its top four teams all locking up for games this week. Obviously two teams will put themselves in the drivers seat this week while the others will have to be nearly perfect through the rest of the season.

Then you look at the Frontier Conference who already has Montana-Northern and Montana Tech vying for the early frontrunner position to win a conference title. Tech and Northern played great non-conference teams in their opening weeks which have allowed them to fine tune things before conference play.

Then you have a great non-conference match up with Evangel facing off with Langston. Langston was a team that last season a lot of people felt made a nice run towards the postseason until slipping up late in their schedule. Evangel was defeated in week one by William Jewell, 21-10, but I would expect a better overall game from the Crusaders this week as a second loss early will put their backs against the wall as they head into their conference run.

In my opinion I am going to what looks to be the best NAIA game on paper this week in Salina, Kansas. KWU rolled through the early portion of their KCAC schedule last season starting the year 7-0 before losing in North Newton, Kansas to the Threshers 10-3. That win propelled Bethel into the postseason as they rose in the ratings above KWU the following week after the Coyotes stubbed their postseason toe on Sterling College.

KWU is a bit of an enigma this season. Head Coach Dave Dallas is always competitive in the KCAC and his teams have been competing for conference titles as of late. This team seems to have all the pieces in place for greatness this season but the KCAC is such a temperamental league that the slightest shift could upset the applecart for the entire season.

I would bet my opening week predictions for the KCAC for the last six years are close to morbid when I think about it. You can never get a decent gauge on this league early in the season.

Bethel College has one of the country’s leading rushers back in Beau Cox. The shifty back broke out of nowhere last season as he took All-American honors from VSN. Now whether or not he can repeat the performance of 2006 is yet to be seen as he will have a tough go this week against a usually stingy Coyote defense.

I think Kansas Wesleyan is the better team this week, especially at home. But that does not mean that Bethel can’t run the table the rest of the season in the KCAC. I like what Mike Moore has done with the Threshers and respect him a lot as a coach.

The other game in the KCAC this week with Friends and Sterling is a game I wish I could make it to as well. First off, I love Sterling Coach Andy Lambert and Friends Coach Monty Lewis. I think they are two of the best in small college football.

Secondly I am a “run the football” sort of guy. I’m sure if the referees came to Lewis and Lambert before the game and said “Fellas, there’s a new rule for tonight that says you cannot throw the football” both of these guys would probably smile and likely change nothing in their game plan.

So in hindsight maybe I should have headed off to this game since I love smash mouth football. You will see the teams run some option in this game, a lot of powers and some big collisions between the big uglies on the line … . man I love football.

Friends is the better squad but that does not mean I don’t think Sterling can pull the upset because they can. It just seems to me that going into the season that Friends is a little bit ahead of the rest of the KCAC.

Not Even On Chip’s List
A game I have not even mentioned is Graceland and Missouri Valley. The #3 Vikings went into three overtimes last week to defeat Benedictine in the opening game of the season. Now they have to face off with another tough opponent in the Yellow Jackets.

First year quarterback Adam Mares was adequate in his first week as a starter for Missouri Valley. Now that he has gotten the quote “butterflies out of his stomach” he will have to improve this week if the Vikings are to get past Graceland. Graceland is the team that everyone in the HAAC has seemed to forgot about and have the ability to get the upset this week.

GU starts quite a few new faces offensive including their first year starter in Garrett Graves. Last week Graves was 20-33 for 135 yards in an effective debut as signal caller for the Jackets. Jerome Messam carried the load in the backfield with 26 carried for 110 yards in the win.

MoVal and GU are a lot a like in the fact that they have key positions being occupied by inexperienced players. This week will either be about which one of those newcomers can step up and be a superstar or not do anything to lose it for their team. I still like MoVal in a close one.

Wrap Up and Take ‘Em to the Ground
There are a few games in the NAIA this week that I just feel the need to touch on. Some are great games and other I just feel need a little notoriety in this grand game of NAIA football.

Belhaven – MS @ Southern Nazarene: SNU can prove to me this week that they are a postseason contender with a win. This is a program that has been average for a long time, which is fine, but I think the Crimson Storm can achieve more. Belhaven is a quality opponent and a win over the Blazers will mean something to the raters.

Benedictine – KS @ MidAmerica Nazarene: Okay boys, who wants it? The HAAC race is on fire in the second week in the winner of this once will likely stay up in the ratings and be in the drivers seat the rest of the season. MNU has got to stop someone on defense if they are truly one of the best in the HAAC.

Carroll – MT @ Rocky Mountain: This game will be closer than you expect. Rocky is much improved this season. Carroll should get a “W” but when the score is only 14-0 could the “our offense sucks” crew stay off the message board?

Dakota Wesleyan – SD @ Northwestern (IA): I’m not saying much … all I am saying is keep an eye on this game.

Iowa Wesleyan @ Ohio Dominican: ODU hung 70 plus on Campbellsville last week. IWC better come to play or the Panthers will do it again.

Malone – OH @ Azusa Pacific: Should be a battle. Either Malone will position themselves in the Top 25 to stay or APU will start to climb out of their 0-2 start and rip through the rest of their NAIA schedule.

Montana State-Northern @ Montana Tech: Wish I could see it on TV. Second best game in the NAIA this week behind Bethel/Kansas Wesleyan.

Nebraska Wesleyan – NE @ Morningside: NWU went 0-3 vs. the best in the GPAC last season scoring zero points in those games. They lost 13-12 to Northwestern last week, can they turn the corner against the ‘Stangs?

Sioux Falls – SD @ Midland Lutheran: Midland lost big on the road last week by turning the ball over and not executing. They face the #1 team in the country this week. Check please …

South Dakota Mines @ Haskell Indian Nations: My first trip to Lawrence to see Haskell. Not often the DAC gets this far south for a football game so I figure WHY NOT! It is only gas money! Might not be a pretty game, but it will be competitive until the very end.  Heck, I even get SD Mines to visit me in Grand Island on Thursday!

Southern Oregon @ Idaho State University: IAA vs. NAIA. SOU is much improved … but a patsy on the schedule would have been a better choice. Go get ‘em Raiders! May the Appalachian State force be with you!

Southwest State University @ Jamestown: DII vs. NAIA. Jimmies look like the better team on paper, but that’s why they play the games.

St. Xavier – IL @ St. Francis (IL): Coach Mike Feminis against the school where he is in the hall of fame as a player. Former USF head coach Mike Slovick is also on staff with SXU. Fem and company should get the win.

Webber International – FL @ The Citadel: IAA vs. NAIA. If Webber could play more NAIA teams I think they would earn more national respect. Lost last week on a blocked punt, this week they can be competitive but they are just outmanned.

William Penn – IA @ Saint Francis: The last three times these teams have played has been in Oskaloosa, Iowa. USF is just happy they get it at home this year. Cougars may be rusty in week one but I still like them over the Statesmen.

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