Cougars Slotted 5th in NSIC Preseason Poll
NSIC head football coaches don’t foresee much room for an upward move by Sioux Falls this season.
The Cougars were picked fifth in the annual Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference preseason media poll released Thursday by the conference. USF finished in a four-way tie for fifth last year (Winona State, Upper Iowa, University of Mary) in Jed Stugart’s fourth season as head coach, going 6-5 overall.
USF was also picked to finish fifth in the 2013 NSIC football race.
Minnesota Duluth is the preseason league favorite, getting first-place votes from eight of the sixteen conference head coaches and 215 total points. Minnesota State got seven first-place votes and is slotted second with 212 points. Winona State secured the last available first place vote and edged St. Cloud State for third place, the Warriors accruing 189 points in the voting to the Huskies’ 188. USF was a narrow pick for fifth, the Cougars getting 147 points in the voting to Augustana College’s 145 and seventh-place Southwest Minnesota State’s 140.
Rounding out the predictions are Bemidji State (118), University of Mary (100), Northern State (96), Upper Iowa (87), Concordia- St. Paul (81), Wayne State (74), MSU Moorhead (73), Minot State (34), Minnesota Crookston (21).
In addition, the Cougars (33 points) are picked to finish third in the NSIC South Division behind Minnesota State (48 points) and Winona State (43 points).
The Cougars open the season Sept. 6 at home against Minot State.
A good showing early could be key to USF doing better than its fifth-place forecast. Six of the Cougars’ first seven games — except for a Sept. 20 showdown versus St. Cloud State—are against teams USF beat at the ballot box.
Stugart owns a 33-12 record (.733) at USF and a career mark of 59-19 (.756). USF returns 18 of 25 starters from a year ago (7/4 O, 10/1 D, 1/2 ST).
As in the past six seasons, the NSIC football schedule will be broken into two divisions (North/South). Each team will play 11 conference games that will count towards the NSIC Overall Champion as well as seven divisional games that will count towards the NSIC North/South Division Championships. In all, three league championships will be awarded (Overall Champion, North Division Champion, South Division Champion). Ties will not be broken for overall or division champions.
2014 USF Players "To Watch" in the NSIC
Offensive Player to Watch
#3 Nephi Garcia
Palm Desert, Calif. / College of the Desert
- In 2013 Garcia logged the fifth-most single-season rushing yards in the past 10 years.
- After just nine games and eight starts he ranks in the top-20 in school history with 1,068 rushing yards.
- Has seven 100-yard rushing games and 11 career touchdowns.
Defensive Player to Watch
#26 John Tidwell
Aurora, Colo. / Rangeview HS
- Started all 11 games at field cornerback in 2013.
- First team All-NSIC
- Named to the Don Hansen Football Committee All-Super Region 3 Team (third team
- Collected 56 tackles, including 3.5 for losses and had 12 passes defended (two interceptions, ten pass break-ups), which ranked him sixth in the NSIC.
- Enters his junior campaign with 118 career tackles (89 solo), 7.5 TFL and 28 passes defended (5 interceptions, 23 pass breakups).