Neither team has a chance of making the playoffs in this weekend's Michigan Tech football finale, but there will be plenty to play for Saturday. The Huskies are coming off "maybe as complete an all-around ball game as we've played," according to coach Tom Kearly and the opponent is none other than rival Northern Michigan -- at the Superior Dome in Marquette to defend last year's 12-0 Miner's Cup victory.
"It's a great rivalry, but it's a clean rivalry. (Former Michigan Tech) Coach (Bernie) Anderson will have his kids playing hard, and we'll play hard," Kearly said. "A lot of those kids grew up playing each other. ... Whoever plays the best football wins."
Right now, Tech is playing better football than Northern.
The Wildcats, after starting the year 3-0, have now lost six of the last seven games. Included in that stretch is a a 35-6 loss to Ferris State - which Tech just beat 41-14. Grand Valley State also beat the Wildcats 42-7, while the Huskies only lost to GVSU 24-20. So I don't paint an incomplete picture, it should be noted that Wayne State only beat NMU 30-28, while the Huskies lost 27-10 to the Warriors.
In all reality, though, none of that matters in a rivalry game. Records and statistics get thrown out the window and the U.P. rivals will play for something even bigger - bragging rights.
"Everyone will be playing their hardest. Everything gets moved up one more notch," said Tech freshman quarterback Tyler Scarlett, coming off the week in which he broke the school record for passing yards in a season with a game to go.
Scarlett has now completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,214 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Nearly a third of those yards (705) came on passes to Steve Worthy, who has caught 42 passes so far this year. He is one of 16 seniors who will wrap up their Huskies career in Marquette Saturday.
"It's definitely something I'm going to miss. ... Those other 15 seniors are friends I'll keep for life," Worthy said. "I love playing in that dome. It gets really loud in there, and we're excited to go in there and shut them up pretty early. I can't wait to get that win, too."
Confidence certainly isn't in short supply for Tech, who can finish the season no worse than 6-5. All four losses so far have come to GLIAC teams with better records.
"It's our last game, and we'd be 7-4, and we want to have the most wins we can possibly have, so we just have to take it to them," said senior defensive lineman Todd Storm.
May the best team win.
Hockey: Not really an off week
Michigan Tech was disappointed with Saturday's 6-3 loss to Minnesota State, but, heading into an off week with a 6-3-1 record, the now-No. 15 Huskies are satisfied with their body of work so far.
"It was a good 10-game segment. We talked about that we've had a lot of really good things," said Tech coach Mel Pearson, who pointed to the team's plus-26 plus-minus rating.
Only three of the 25 players who have played so far this year have negative ratings, one being Milos Gordic (minus-1), whose team-leading three power play goals don't factor into that stat.
Pearson also acknowledged an even trend with power play goals scored (nine) and goals allowed on the penalty kill (nine).
"I would say I'm really satisfied with (the 10-game segment) overall. Now the next 10 games, we'll be at home twice and on the road eight, so it's going to be a real test for us," Pearson said. "We have to get better in some of those things when we go on the road."
While the Huskies do not play this week, they will still practice every day leading up to an intrasquad scrimmage Friday before having Saturday and Sunday to recharge for the week of a road series at Alaska-Anchorage (Nov. 18-19). The Huskies will then travel to St. Lawrence (Canton, N.Y.) Nov. 25-26 before returning home against defending national champion Minnesota Duluth Dec. 2-3.
Special teams, forecheck and defensive zone coverage will be the primary points of emphasis during the off week, in hopes of correcting the turnover and self-inflicted mistakes that cost Tech Saturday.
"It's an off week, but it isn't. We're going to practice, and we have to take a little more time and get into our structure and systems," Pearson said. "We've rushed through those during the week every time during a game week, but we're going to slow things down a little bit because there's not the urgency of a game."
The Huskies will also be able to announce some recruits later this week if they sign National Letters of Intent during the early signing period. The coaching staff cannot have any any in-person contact with prospective recruits Monday through Thursday this week.
While the coaches cannot name recruits at this time, Chris Heisenberg maintains a frequently updated list of Division I verbal commitments and signings, including several for Michigan Tech. To access the list, visit http://bit.ly/lLCPnJ.
I guess it's not much of an off week after all.
Stephen Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @steander.