The preliminaries are over for the KCAC football teams and conference play starts this week in earnest. Saint Mary and Friends actually kicked things off last week, with the Spires coming away with a 41-28 victory.
It was a rough non-con schedule for the KCAC schools, though some only played one game — including McPherson College’s opponent this week, Southwestern.
Now that we’ve had a bit of an evaluation period, here’s how I see the race.
1. Kansas Wesleyan — Even before it went 2-0 to account for most of the KCAC’s success, I picked the Coyotes back in August. Matt Drinkall has done an amazing job of turning the program around and has more athletes than any other team.
2. Tabor — The defending conference champions have had to fill a lot of holes, the most notable at quarterback. I am looking forward to seeing how the Bluejays match up this week with Ottawa, which is staring an 0-3 start in the face.
3. Sterling — The Warriors will go as far as quarterback Cedric Phillips takes them. They have put a lot of trust in their quicksilver signal caller as he's extremely durable for somebody so slight of frame. Saturday’s game with Kansas Wesleyan is going to go a long way toward shaping the conference race.
4. Ottawa — The Braves certainly didn’t back off in scheduling as they played the toughest two games of any team. Curious to see how the Braves fare now that they’re in conference play.
5. Saint Mary — The Spires throw the ball all over the lot, but now it appears they have added a big-time running back for balance. Anytime you play Saint Mary, pack a lunch. The Spires' style makes for long games.
6. Friends — What’s going on in Wichita? Friends is almost always a Top 3 team, but won just three games last year and was down 41-7 to Saint Mary at one point last week before scoring some cosmetic touchdowns.
7. Bethany — The Swedes lost starting quarterback Kyler Arter for the season in Game 1. A team with a lot of talent that could finish higher by a spot or two.
8. McPherson College — The Bulldogs were overwhelmingly picked at the bottom in the preseason, but from early returns the media and coaches may have both misfired. Keeping talented new quarterback Ed Crouch healthy is the No. 1 priority because he's proven to be a gem.
9. Bethel — The Threshers have played only one game and were blanked. Tough to get a read on them.
10. Southwestern — The Builders come to McPherson College on Saturday after playing Missouri State in their opener — yes, the same Missouri State that Kansas State plays next week. The Builders didn’t return a lot of players, so they’re in the “building” process.