Tony Adame looks at the conference in the coaches’ predicted order of finish. Outlooks do not include Saturday’s opening games.
Coach: Kent Kessinger, ninth season, 50-35 . 2011: 9-3, 9-0 KCAC
Outlook: Kessinger has always said offensive linemen are the hardest players to replace, and he gets four of five starters back on the line this year, led by preseason senior All-American Quinton Flaming (6-foot-1, 284 pounds). Big portions of the offense will feature senior Shane Gimzo, it’s just not clear which. Gimzo ranked third in the NAIA in total scoring last season (144 points), had 1,297 all-purpose yards and could be used at running back, wide receiver and quarterback. Defensive back Donald Anderson and defensive lineman Zach Van Deusen, both All-KCAC picks in 2011, return.
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|Sept. 8||at Kansas Wesleyan||7|
|Sept. 15||University of Saint Mary||6|
|Sept. 29||at Tabor||TBA|
|Oct. 20||at Sterling||1:30|
|Nov. 10||at Bethel||1:30|
Coach: Jamie Cruce, sixth season, 24-27. 2011: 8-3, 6-3.
Outlook: Cruce and the Swedes must revamp their entire approach after losing two-time All-America running back Junior Allen, who is out with personal issues. Allen led the KCAC in rushing the last two years, and won league offensive player of the year honors last season while racking up 1,880 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns. Expect Bethany to rely on the arm of senior QB Darby House (2,475 yards, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) in Allen’s absence.
|Sept. 1||at SW Assemblies||6|
|Sept. 15||at Bethel||7|
|Sept. 22||Kansas Wesleyan||7|
|Oct. 6||at Saint Mary||1:30|
|Oct. 20||at Friends||3|
|Oct. 27||at Ottawa||1:30|
Coach: Monty Lewis, ninth season, 63-28. 2011: 5-5, 5-4.
Outlook: After one of the roughest seasons in Lewis’ tenure at Friends — the Falcons had to forfeit a game for using an ineligible player and Lewis was suspended for another game as a result — the team appears to have an outside shot at winning its first KCAC title since 2008. On offense, senior QB Jayme Bristow has been wildly inconsistent in two years as a starter — he passed for just 687 yards last season — but will get another chance to lead. The Falcons could have one of the best defenses in the league with middle linebacker Marcus Carter, a second-team All-KCAC selection, and KCAC defensive player of the year Dexter Davis, a 6-3, 220-pound senior defensive end with two of the top 10 single-season sack totals in league history. All-KCAC defensive back Jeff Kontz (6-2, 200) also returns after posting five interceptions and 10 pass breakups.
|Sept. 1||at Evangel||6|
|Sept. 8||Saint Mary||7|
|Sept. 15||Southern Nazarene||7|
|Sept. 22||at McPherson||7|
|Sept. 29||at Kansas Wesleyan||6|
|Oct. 13||at Southwestern||1:30|
|Nov. 3||at Ottawa||1:30|
|Nov. 10||at Tabor||1:30|
T4. Kansas Wesleyan
Coach: Dave Dallas, 16th season, 84-67. 2011: 5-4, 3-6.
Outlook: Dallas, the longest-tenured coach in the KCAC, returns seven starters on both sides. With the departure of Allen, senior RB Brett Giesen (1,308 yards, 12 touchdowns) can take the reins as the league’s top back.
|Sept. 1||at Cumberland||Noon|
|Sept. 15||at Sterling||6|
|Sept. 22||at Bethany||7|
|Oct. 6||at Tabor||2|
|Oct. 13||Southern Nazarene||7|
|Oct. 27||at Southwestern||1:30|
|Nov. 10||at Saint Mary||1:30|
T4. Saint Mary
Coach: Lance Hinson, seventh season, 28-42. 2011 : 7-4, 7-2.
Outlook: Senior QB Mike Keese earned All-KCAC honors last season after leading the league with 3,638 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. Four of five Spires starters return on the offensive line.
|Sept. 1||at Nebraska Wesleyan||1|
|Sept. 8||at Friends||7|
|Sept. 15||at Ottawa||6|
|Sept. 29||at Sterling||6|
|Oct. 13||William Penn||1:30|
|Oct. 27||at McPherson||1:30|
|Nov. 3||at Bethel||1:30|
|Nov. 10||Kansas Wesleyan||1:30|
Coach: Andy Lambert, ninth season, 76-78. 2011: 1-10, 1-8.
Outlook: Sterling finished below .500 for the first time in seven seasons in 2011, thanks in part to having to forfeit three wins for the use of an ineligible player. Senior outside linebacker Brian Noller led the Warriors with 16 tackles for loss and 7 1/2 sacks last season and returns, but Sterling will have to break in four new starters in the defensive backfield.
|Sept. 1||at Benedictine||1|
|Sept. 8||at Tabor||7|
|Sept. 15||Kansas Wesleyan||6|
|Sept. 22||at Southwestern||6|
|Sept. 29||Saint Mary||6|
|Oct. 13||at Bethel||7|
|Oct. 27||at Friends||1:30|
|Nov. 3||at Bethany||1:30|
Coach: Mike Gardner, third season, 7-13. 2011 : 3-7, 2-7.
Outlook: Gardner and the Bluejays took a slight step back in the second season of his second tenure in Hillsboro, but redshirted a large class last season and retained most of the players. Sophomore quarterback Simon McKee, a 6-3, 180-pound Halstead native, has won the starting job.
|Aug. 25||at Bacone|
|Sept. 22||at Saint Mary||1:30|
|Oct. 6||Kansas Wesleyan, 2|
|Oct. 13||at Bethany||1:30|
|Oct. 20||at McPherson||1:30|
|Nov. 3||at Southwestern||1:30|
Coach: Pete Sterbick, first season. 2011: 4-7, 4-5.
Outlook:Sterbick, who played for Kessinger at Augustana, was the offensive coordinator at Grand View the last four seasons, helping them to the NAIA playoffs last season. Derby product Jake Snodgrass is back for his senior season – he got his first shot at being the starting quarterback last year and was solid with 2,094 yards, 19 TDs and 12 interceptions.
|Sept. 1||Missouri Valley||6|
|Sept. 8||at Bethany||7|
|Sept. 29||at Bethel||7|
|Oct. 13||at Ottawa||7|
|Oct. 27||Saint Mary||1:30|
|Nov. 3||at Kansas Wesleyan||1:30|
|Nov. 10||at Sterling||1:30|
Coach: Ken Crandall, sixth season, 15-36. 2011: 5-6, 4-5.
Outlook: Southwestern picked it up last season after a couple of the worst years in school history — matching its win total in the previous three seasons. Southwestern coach Ken Crandall said that he probably won’t know who the starting quarterback will be until a few days before their opener against Northwestern (Iowa) – the battle is between Brady May (1,260 yards, 11 touchdowns) and senior Jordan Barrett (514 yards, 5 touchdowns), who has been a starter off and on since his freshman year.
|Aug. 30||at Northwestern||6|
|Sept. 15||at McPherson||7|
|Sept. 29||at Haskell||7|
|Oct. 6||at Ottawa||7|
|Oct. 20||at of Saint Mary||1:30|
|Oct. 27||Kansas Wesleyan||1:30|
|Nov. 10||at Bethany||1:30|
Coach: Jim Dotson, first season . 2011: 2-9, 2-7.
Outlook: Bethel hasn’t gotten many breaks the last couple of years, and no bigger blow than when coach Travis Graber resigned the last week of July. Bethel named Jim Dotson as its interim coach on Aug. 3. He was an assistant in the late 1990s under Mike Moore. Buhler product Jorden Oden should be Bethel’s featured back, and fullback Ben Suchsland is one of the league’s top blocking backs.
|Sept. 1||William Penn||11:30 a.m.|
|Sept. 8||at Southwestern||7|
|Sept. 22||at Southern Nazarene||6|
|Oct. 6||at Friends||1:30|
|Oct. 13||Sterling||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 20||at Kansas Wesleyan||1:30|
|Oct. 27||at Tabor||1:30|
|Nov. 3||Saint Mary||1:30|