Perhaps Minnesota State should be careful about all of these lopsided football games.
The Mavericks don’t want to end up getting St. Thomas-ed.
That’s not going to happen, but what the Mavericks have done in the last three weeks is akin to what the Tommies did for a few seasons in the MIAC. That prompted some leaders of the have-nots to conspire against one of the big boys, winning in a boardroom when they couldn’t win in an athletic arena. By voting out St. Thomas, there is now less need to inspire and improve their own programs, and they can take the easier road to potential success — or less-embarrassing losses.
Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference programs might not like Minnesota State, but it’s more likely the league would subtract from the bottom, not the top. The Northern Sun seems to have more programs that want to build their programs through hard work, rather than political shimmy-shams.
Minnesota State has advantages over some of its Northern Sun colleagues, such as size, location and facilities, but most of the gains for this program in the last decade have more to do with smart choices, hard work and a commitment to success.
This season, the Mavericks have outscored nine opponents 422-77, which breaks down to an average outcome of 46.9-8.6. The only team to stress the Mavericks was Southwest Minnesota State in the season-opener, and ironically, the Mustangs have shown little since that day, going 3-6 this season.
In the first three quarters of games, Minnesota State is outscoring opponents 366-57, and by the time the fourth quarter begins, the Minnesota State starters are on the sidelines, encouraging their younger teammates who are getting some valuable experience.
Over the last three weeks, the Mavericks have defeated Mary, Minnesota Crookston and Wayne State by a combined score of 217-24. Twice in this stretch, the Mavericks set a team record for points in a game, eventually establishing the new standard of 81 points in a shutout at Minnesota Crookston.
Obviously, it shows that Minnesota State has a very good team, but the lopsided results also speak to how wide the gap is between the football-playing programs of the Northern Sun.
In all other sports, the Northern Sun has great competitive balance, with the conference champion and maybe a couple of other teams having a chance to compete nationally.
But in football, the lower two-thirds of the league has not been able to make substantial gains against the top programs: Minnesota State, Minnesota Duluth, Sioux Falls, Winona State, Augustana and Bemidji State. This season, the hierarchy is even more distorted as the Mavericks have separated from that pack.
Somebody recently asked if the Mavericks’ second string could beat some of the Northern Sun teams, and the answer is “yes.” They couldn’t beat the teams in the top half of the league, but in the second halves of the last three games, Minnesota State’s reserves have outscored Mary, Minnesota Crookston and Wayne State 83-17.
This week’s game at Sioux Falls should be much more competitive, although it seemed like games against Augustana, Winona State and Minnesota Duluth would have provided more resistance. The Mavericks won those game by a combined score of 99-20.
And Augustana will be leaving the conference soon, reducing the number of programs capable of playing quality football.
The Mavericks would actually benefit from a tough game at Sioux Falls. A little adversity might be a boost heading into the national playoffs, and the Mavericks’ strength of schedule — and the NCAA’s new seeding system — has dimmed the chances to get the No. 1 seed in the region.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.