An odd thing happened during the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association football championship race last season. Northwest Missouri State or Pittsburg State didn’t finish first.
The defending champion is Missouri Western, which captured its first MIAA crown in 2012 and won two games in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
As a co-favorite this season with Northwest Missouri, the Griffons bring a league-wide expectation into a season for the first time.
“We’ve gotten two first-place votes in the last 15 years,” Missouri Western coach Jerry Partridge said.
For the Griffons to return to the top, an offensive line breaking in five new starters will have to come together.
Missouri Western has the advantage of a returning starting quarterback who is mobile. Travis Partridge, the coach’s son, threw for 30 touchdowns and rushed for 18.
The MIAA figures to be top heavy again this season.
“There are a lot of teams that have a legitimate shot at winning the league,” Northwest Missouri coach Adam Dorrel said.
The Bearcats are among them. So is Pittsburg State, the 2011 NCAA champion. Last season, Emporia State was a surprise contender and matched a school record with 10 victories.
In the second year of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, William Jewell looks to improve on its 2-9 overall record. The league welcomes Truman State from the MIAA this season.
Missouri Valley was picked to repeat as Heart of America Athletic Conference champion, and Tabor got a slight nod over Ottawa as the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference favorite.