3 storylines to watch in 2013
1. Can any MIAA teams — other than Northwest Missouri State or Missouri Western — enter the national playoff picture?
With the MIAA now paired with the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, it is now harder for the MIAA to secure postseason berths. With that said, it could be up to Pittsburg State, Washburn or a possible darkhorse (Emporia State, Central Missouri) to snag what will likely be two national playoff berths in the league.
2. Can any other teams produce a top-shelf running back that'll compete with the league's top two tailbacks, both in the state of Oklahoma?
Michael Hill was the MIAA's best running back in 2012. He piled up 2,168 yards, which was more than 1,000 yards better than his closest competitor. But, he's gone now. Northeastern State's Joel Rockmore and Central Oklahoma's Josh Birmingham return, headlining the ball carrier class this season. Most other teams graduated their best running backs last season, so can Washburn's Hayden Groves or Central Missouri's LaVance Taylor have enough production to contend for First Team honors come November?
3. Will the league crown be decided on Nov. 16?
Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western are slated to meet in St. Joesph, Mo., in the middle of November and both could be in line to win the conference. Or, could Pittsburg State have a chance at the MIAA crown when it hosts Missouri Southern on the same day? Or is there a sleeper that will have to avoid disaster in the last week of the season.
MIAA players to watch
- John Brown (Pittsburg State, WR, 5-11, 170, Sr.) - Perhaps the best athlete in the confernce, Brown lagged behind in receptions per game and receiving yards per game in 2012. There’s a good chance that’s because he was double-covered anytime he ran a route. Doesn’t matter. Brown is the most dynamic playmaker in the league and should be around the 1,000-yard receiving mark this seaosn.
- Travis Partridge (Missouri Western, QB, 6-4, 230, Sr.) - The hometown product in St. Joseph, Mo., had it easy in 2012. Handing the ball off to running back Michael Hill — 311 times! — became a routine after a while. But when Partridge was called upon to pass, he did that quite well, too. He led the MIAA in pass efficiency, completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 2,706 yards and 30 touchdowns. This year, Hill is gone, so it’s all on Partridge to lead the Griffons’ offense.
- Joel Rockmore (Northeastern State, RB, 5-7, 185, Jr.) - The Fort Worth, Texas, native was only healthy about 75 percent of NSU’s season in 2012. But it was hard to tell, based on his 1,024 yards rushing and his 113.8 rushing yards per game average. And the bad news for the rest of the league is that Rockmore appears to be in the best shape of his life heading into the 2013 campaign.
- Josh Birmingham (Central Oklahoma, RB, 5-9, 205, Sr.) - What is amazing is that the Bronchos’ offense hinged on Birmingham in 2012, and with very little help around him, Birmingham still rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He also had 271 receiving yards and 424 kick-return yards. Defenses keyed in on Birmingham last season, and they still weren’t able to stop him. Look for that trend to continue in 2013.
- Pierre Desir (Lindenwood, CB, 6-2, 206, Sr.) - No one in the MIAA was better in pass coverage in 2012 than Desir. The St. Charles, Mo., native — and Washburn transfer — led the league in passes defended (18) and interceptions (nine). He also racked up an impressive 60 tackles as a junior. Don’t be surprised if teams try to avoid Desir’s side of the field in 2013.