Upper Iowa Football enters 2014 at number 14 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 6-5 (6-5) Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference
The Northern Sun is no joke. In addition to BR15 Upper Iowa, the conference features BR1 Minnesota State-Mankato, BR2 Minnesota-Duluth, BR3 St. Cloud State, BR9 Sioux Falls, BR10 Southwest Minnesota State, BR18 U of Mary, BR21 Winona State, and BR23 Augustana College (SD). The NSIC makes up half of our top ten, and better than half of the NSIC’s 16 schools feature in our top 25. The Peacocks played seven of these top 25 teams last season and went 2-5 in those contests.
It’s not like Minnesota-Crookston was a powerhouse in 2012, but the Peacocks made them look silly in their 47-0 opening-weekend beatdown of the Golden Eagles. The next week saw UI crash back to earth. Minnesota-Duluth scored the first 28 points of the game and won 37-19 – it was the Peacocks’ first defeat at the hands of a ranked NSIC opponent, but it was far from their last. They lost three more to Winona State, Augustana College, and Southwest Minnesota State before Minnesota State-Mankato came to town for the regular season finale. It got ugly. The Mavericks scored touchdowns on each of their first ten possessions and went up 73-0 before the Peacocks finally got a stop and scored their only touchdown of the day. Upper Iowa managed only 159 yards of offense that day (compared to the 633 they allowed) and went into the offseason dejected.
-Casey Beck OL – Second team All-NSIC South
-Derek Giesking WR – Honorable mention All-NSIC South, 65 receptions, 645 yards, 3 TDs
-Ethan Douglas LB – First team All-NSIC South, 104 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 pass defences, 1 FF
-Jordan Andera DB – Honorable mention All-NSIC South, 70 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 pass defences, 2 FFs
-Keaton Martin DB – Second team All-NSIC South, 74 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 6 pass defences, 1 BK
What to Watch For
Defensive Turnover – This wasn’t an all-world defense last year, and they lost all three All-NSIC performers from last season to graduation: team tackle-leader LB Ethan Douglas from the first team, second leading tackler DB Keaton Martin from the second team, and honorable mention (third on the team in tackles) DB Jordan Andera. Those guys won’t be easy to replace, especially for a defense which struggled to 101st in D2 in scoring last season (31.2 ppg allowed).
Chris Smith – The Peacocks’ all-time rushing yardage leader (3,230 yards) will be back for his senior season in 2014. Smith suffered an injury in the final game of the season against Minnesota State-Mankato, but it shouldn’t affect him as he prepares to follow his Peacock single-season record 1,706 yards on the ground last season. He finished second in the NSIC in rushing yards to All-American Tyler Tonderum of Southwest Minnesota State (fourth in D2 overall).
Here at HeroSports, we’re firm believers in the axiom, “to be the best, you have to play the best,” and that’s exactly what Upper Iowa will get a chance to do. They are in the same conference as eight other HeroSports top 25 teams, and BR1, BR9, BR10, and BR21 are all in their division. Better than half of their regular season games will be against ranked opponents, and four of their six ranked-matchups will be on the road. It’s a shame that Upper Iowa isn’t in another division, because they’d stand a good chance at winning a lot of them. When they eventually do climb to the top though, they’ll be grateful. Grateful and battle-tested. Just don’t expect their turn to come this season.