This is the opinion of reporter Jordan Osterman.
It’s official. This year’s Tommies are making history.
For the first time in more than half a century, St. Thomas will enter the ninth week of its schedule undefeated. After grinding out a 10-6 homecoming win over Bethel last Saturday, the Tommies are 8-0 for the first time since 1956.
St. Thomas stayed at No. 4 in the national rankings and also received a No. 1 ranking this week in the NCAA’s first set of west region rankings.
With two games remaining for the Tommies in conference play, St. Thomas sits alone on top of the MIAC. Bethel lurks at 6-1, but St. Thomas now holds the tiebreaker and, barring a major upset, is poised to win the conference championship. The first team looking to spring that major upset is Gustavus, where the Tommies will travel Saturday and look to keep their undefeated season alive.
Trouble in St. Peter?
It would be easy for St. Thomas to take Gustavus lightly after last Saturday’s heavyweight battle against Bethel. After all, the Gusties are sporting a losing record in conference play. They are fresh off back-to-back 20-point losses to Bethel and St. John’s. Their leading running back is a freshman. The list could go on and on of the reasons St. Thomas can expect to roll into St. Peter and come out with a win, but if the Tommies are looking at that list they’re in trouble.
There’s only one thing St. Thomas needs to know: Gustavus is licking its chops waiting for a shot at the Tommies. For all intents and purposes, the Gusties’ season is over. They have no mathematical chance of making the playoffs. That makes them very dangerous.
There’s nothing better for a struggling team than to pull off a major upset and bring a season out of the dumps, and players get fired up at the chance to do it. Check the Cleveland Browns’ record against defending Super Bowl champions in the last three years: 3-0. Having a shot at the top dog brings out the best in players.
The mentality of having nothing to lose gives teams an added dimension that, when the better team isn’t ready for it, can spell disaster. Gustavus finds itself in that position Saturday, and you can be sure it will be pulling out all the stops and looking to spring a trap game on St. Thomas.
“Good things will happen”
Have no qualms about it, though. St. Thomas is the better team by a long shot. The Tommies have impressed in every aspect of the game, including the mental, through eight wins so far. A strong contingent of upperclassmen has anchored both sides of the ball and helped keep the team checked in through some difficult situations. That mental toughness will be key through the rest of the season, and it will be tested Saturday.
The Tommies were able to hold off the St. John’s hangover earlier this year for a win over Augsburg and that same mental discipline will be needed to carry them past the Gusties. Gustavus is going to give St. Thomas its best shot and the Tommies should be ready.
“I think if we continue to work hard and play our game, good things will happen,” senior defensive end Cyrus Allen said.
If they can fend off an upset, the next good thing to happen would be that this year’s St. Thomas team would be the first since 1923 to start 9-0.
Bring on the history.
Jordan Osterman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.