Matchup this Saturday presents the team’s toughest challenge
There has been a certain buzz around campus this week as the No. 3 Minnesota State University Mavericks are hosting a top-ten matchup at home for the first time in a couple of years.
It turns out it is also a rivalry game, in the inaugural Harvest bowl, against the No. 10 Winona State University Warriors.
Minnesota State comes into the game ranked number three in the nation with only one key win on their playoff resume against No. 20 Minnesota Duluth. This contest could go a long way in determining who may get a playoff bid out of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC). With a matchup against Winona State and a game on the road against No. 14 Sioux Falls in a couple of weeks, Minnesota State should secure a spot in postseason play if they finish out the season undefeated.
The Warriors from Winona State on the other hand are trying to work their way into the playoff picture as they currently sit just outside of the current playoff standings. With key wins against No. 25 Bemidji State and No. 14 Sioux Falls, Winona already has a pretty impressive resume and it would be tough to keep them out of the playoffs if they defeat the Mavericks in Mankato on Saturday. Winona State currently sits at 8-0 and is the only undefeated team left outside of the Mavericks in the NSIC Conference. This game will go a long way to determine who might capture the conference title.
The Warriors, much like the Mavericks, present tough matchups all over the field. They average a high number of points per game on offense (36) while only giving up 13 points per contest. Meanwhile, MNSU averages 45 points per game on the offensive side of the ball while giving up 12 points on defense. Something has got to give in this matchup as neither defense has seen an offense quite as good as the other.
Senior Minnesota State-Mankato student Aaron Winch has a unique situation this weekend, as his brother is the starting middle linebacker for Winona State. Sophomore Noel Winch has become a vital part of the Warriors defense and has taken advantage of a high volume of reps as an underclassman. Although he will be cheering hard for his own Mavericks on Saturday, Aaron will be cheering loud and proud for his brother on Saturday at the Blake.
“I’m particularly excited for the game because my whole family is coming to Mankato for the first time ever. Noel, my brother, will be starting in his biggest game yet,” Winch said. “I’m all for Mankato winning, but I will be cheering loud from the stands on Saturday for my brother as well.”
Prediction: This game should be a tight contest throughout, but Minnesota State will pull away in the fourth, taking the contest 31-20.
MNSU has another home game next weekend against Wayne State before traveling to Sioux Falls to take on the 14th-ranked Cougars to end the season.