The top two football teams in Division 2 face off in Mankato this weekend when Sioux Falls travels to face Minnesota State-Mankato, and boy what a game it will be. Both teams are undefeated, in a three-way tie for the Northern Sun Athletic Conference lead with Minnesota-Duluth. That will be a two-way tie by Sunday.
Both Minnesota State and Sioux Falls are in the D2 top fifteen in scoring defense. Both Minnesota State and Sioux Falls are in the D2 top ten in scoring offense. Mankato leads Sioux Falls in both categories, averaging 45.5 points scored and 12.6 allowed per game. Sioux Falls has scored 43.5 and allowed 15.4 points per game. Normally this is a pretty good indication of how the two teams might fare against one another, in this case it’s even more telling. These two teams have played eight common opponents. All eight teams one has played, the other has played as well.
Every team in the NSIC plays games exclusively against other NSIC teams until playoffs. This makes it tough to compare them with teams from outside the conference, but it’s great for the teams involved. A loss wouldn’t knock either out of the playoff picture completely, since they’re both so highly ranked, but a win would just about guarantee a berth. Once they get to playoffs, they’re battle-tested.
These teams are both so complete it’s hard to even compare them. Our algorithm and the teams’ scoring margins say Mankato has the edge, but Sioux Falls hasn’t shown much in the way of weaknesses either.
The thing that is most impressive about these two teams is that neither relies on one or two players. Sioux Falls’ Nephi Garcia is third in the NSIC in rushing with 760 yards and 13 TDs, and Minnesota State’s Adam Jiskra leads the conference in receiving yards with 870 (and 6 TDs). But other than those two, neither team has a player in the top five in passing, rushing, receiving, or tackles. Both teams are just that — teams.
Whoever wins this game will take the top spot in our rankings, the conference, and likely — the number one seed in the D2 playoffs. You could say there’s a lot on the line. We’ve got Mankato as five-point favorites, but that seems unlikely. Sioux Falls hasn’t had a game finish within ten points this season. Minnesota State has won by single-digits once. One of these two teams will have that streak broken — along with their winning streak. Find out which Saturday.