Expect a battle down to the final weeks of the season as four -- possibly five -- teams vie for the conference title. Defending champion Shakopee's last two games are likely to be pivotal as it hosts title hopefuls Chanhassen and Farmington.
Coach: Bill Rosburg
2011 record: 5-5
• The program has made big strides in each of its first three years. With 11 starters back and a future Gopher in offensive lineman Frank Ragnow, the Storm should challenge for a conference title.
Coach: Lambert Brown
2011 record: 1-8
• The Hawks lost their last seven games in 2011 by a combined 269-58. Brown is a solid coach, but the opening of neighboring Chanhassen siphoned off talent. Progress will be measured in baby steps.
Coach: Mark Froehling
2011 record: 3-6
• This season's Tigers feature speed, size and experience on both sides of the ball. That includes quarterback Darren Beenken and running back Athen Ashton, both all-conference in 2011.
Coach: Ray Betton
2011 record: 8-2
• In just two seasons, Betton has resurrected the program. Linebacker Mikias Alipate is a D-I recruit with defensive back speed. Quarterback Sam Keis will operate behind a solid offensive line.
Coach: Jim Benick
2011 record: 3-7
• Expect a much improved 2012 after a substandard season last year. Senior quarterback Kyle Stepka, who started all 10 games last year, and running back Nate Preston should give foes fits.
Coach: Bubba Sullivan
2011 record: 3-7
• Northfield should return to the conference race after a down year. Seven offensive starters back indicates they will score some points. A lack of size says they will give up some, too.
Coach: Matt Schultz
2011 record: 7-4
• After a seven-year stretch with a combined 11-54 record, the Wingers tasted success last year. A bit of a backslide is possible as they work in new quarterback Ricky Turcotte.
Coach: Jody Stone
2011 record: 8-1
• The defending conference champs had great success with their old-school Wing-T. Quarterback Nick Larson is one of only three starters back on offense. The defense will have to step up until the offense starts rolling.