HOUGHTON - Every football team in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division has at least two losses, but six teams have three losses or fewer.
In that sense, this Saturday's Michigan Tech (5-3, 5-3 GLIAC) vs. Hillsdale (6-3, 6-2 GLIAC) game is just another duel of top-tier teams. But it's also the last Huskies home game of the season - and the final game at Sherman Field in the career of more than a dozen Tech seniors.
"It's big for those 17 young people. It's the last time they'll play on that field, and they have some great memories," Tech coach Tom Kearly said. "This crew was there when we beat the No. 1 team. This crew was there when we had the largest crowd in the history of Michigan Tech athletics. This crew twice sat there on a Sunday afternoon with a possibility of going to the national playoffs."
Playoffs are out of the question for the Huskies this year after two straight losses, but there's still plenty to play for as Tech hopes to finish the year 7-3 and send the seniors off on a high note.
"The next two games is just playing for pride," said senior defensive tackle Justin Blake, who is wrapping up an injury-plagued six-year Tech career. "It hasn't really hit me yet. Saturday is going to be the last time walking up to that field to play. I haven't really thought about it in that way yet, but just going to go up there like every other game and give it my all."
The Huskies will need their all against a Hillsdale team that has beat Tech three straight years.
The Chargers won the first 11 games in the series between the two teams, but the teams are 6-6 in the last 12 and five of the last six games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Both teams are coming off a loss, Tech 34-23 at Saginaw Valley State and Hillsdale 42-23 against Grand Valley State. The Chargers are on a 21-game regular season winning streak in games after a loss, while Tech looks to avoid dropping three straight.
After playing the league's best rushing offense two weeks ago (Ferris State) and the league's best passing offense last week (Saginaw Valley), Tech now faces one of the league's most balanced offenses.
"They probably throw the ball better than Ferris (with senior QB Anthony Mifsud), although Ferris threw the ball very well against us; and probably run the ball a little better than Saginaw, although Saginaw ran pretty well on us," Kearly said.
Despite that balance, there's no secret that Hillsdale uses its run to set up the pass: "They'll push you, push you, push you with the run and then when they feel they've got you set up, then they'll go after you with the home run shots," according to Kearly.
Establishing the run is a lot easier for Hillsdale when it has the league's leading rusher in Joe Glendening, who averages almost 27 carries and 137 yards per game - including 11 straight 100-yard games.
The defending GLIAC Player of the Year and Preseason All-American is just nine yards away from becoming Hillsdale's all-time leading rusher with 4,495 yards.
He already owns school records in single-season touchdowns, single-season attempts, single-season rushing yards and career touchdowns.
"We have to stop the run. They basically run three plays, but they run it out of every formation possible," said Blake, who has played a key role in helping Tech to becoming the league's second-best rushing defense (120.9 yards allowed per game).
Hillsdale's defense has been pretty stout, too. In fact, the Chargers are the second-best overall defense in the league (314.3 yards allowed per game) and third-best scoring defense (20.3 points allowed per game).
Tech's 37.5 points per game is fourth in the GLIAC, but the Huskies will need to look to different weapons besides wide receiver Matt Curtin, who is out for the season with a leg injury.
"Curtin is a great player, but we feel like we can split up the load with our wide receivers," said senior running back Cedrick Barber, who has been leading Tech's multi-pronged rushing attack.
The Huskies certainly do have their fair share of weapons, with other senior wide receivers Alex Elsenheimer, Pat Carroll and Ethan Shaver, plus senior tight end Bryan LaChapelle.
Barber leads a backfield that will have four available options Saturday with Charlie Leffingwell healthy again, Akeem Cason and Josh Hauswirth.
"Hillsdale is pretty solid in that they run pretty fast. What we really don't want to do is get in third and long situations," Barber said. "What we're focusing on this weekend is trying to work on the early downs and get a good amount of yards on early downs."
Kickoff in Tech's final home game of the year is slated for 1 p.m., just the beginning of a triple header of Tech athletics, followed by volleyball against Hillsdale at 4 and hockey against Nebraska-Omaha at 7:07 p.m.