The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association football season starts Thursday night and it doesn’t stop until the NCAA playoffs.
With league membership swelling to 15, nearly every will be a conference encounter, including six of the seven games Thursday.
All four of the ranked MIAA teams are in action, highlighted by defending Division II champion Pittsburg State’s trip to league newcomer Northeastern State of Tahlequah, Okla.
The Gorillas are the nation’s preseason top-ranked team, but they break in a new starting quarterback. Anthony Abenoja, a redshirt sophomore, replaces Zac Dickey, and although his playing time as been limited, Abenoja enjoys one advantage: His offensive coordinator, Steve Rampy, was also his coach at Blue Valley High.
Third-ranked Northwest Missouri State opens in the traditional way, with a non-league game. The Bearcats, who play host to East Central, return starting quarterback Trevor Adams, who threw for 21 touchdowns last season.
Central Missouri at No. 18 Missouri Western is an early showdown. Both teams made the NCAA playoffs last season. Western running back Michael Hill was the league’s leading rusher last season at 1,305 yards.
Washburn, ranked 20th, plays host to another newcomer, Nebraska-Kearney.