It’s Friday, and the countdown to kickoff is most certainly on.
Saturday’s games have probably been on your mind since last week, so to get you in game mode, and to provide perspective on what to watch for across the nation in Week 5, Pat Coleman and I return for what’s going to become a Friday tradition: Triple-take.
Each week we’ll help speed along that countdown to the first whistle by enlisting a guest and giving you a three-way rundown of what to watch for. But we consider that just the start of the conversation, as we open up the Daily Dose for your thoughts and comments.
Continue along with us here on the blog and on the message boards on game day, especially if you can’t make it to a game yourself, and then we’ll be back on the Dose Monday with our weekly Podcast, wrapping up the previous weekend’s action.
Frank Rossi, Union football broadcaster and longtime friend of the site, lends his perspective to the final week of September, as conference play gets underway where it hasn’t already:
Game of the Week
Pat’s take: No. 3 UW-Whitewater at No. 6 UW-La Crosse. With the lower-ranked team having the home field advantage, pretty much any result would be reasonable. As bad as the scoreboard looked against St. Cloud State, Whitewater held them under four yards per play and the defense allowed just one third-down conversion in 15. It’s the offense’s responsibility to protect the ball better.
Frank’s take: No. 3 UW-Whitewater at No. 6 UW-La Crosse. There are plenty of “good games” throughout the schedule, but this is the only game between ranked opponents — and this could very well be the WIAC’s deciding-factor game. They’re two quality teams, even beyond what the rankings tell us, and both need “statement” games after a wishy-washy first few weeks.
Keith’s take: No. 3 UW-Whitewater at No. 6 UW-La Crosse. I hate to be unoriginal, but this is as big as it gets this early in the season at this level. For those of you not yet used to thinking in Division III terms, let’s say this were a game at a level that gets a bit more attention. It might be something like Florida at LSU, a face-off of the best two teams in the nation’s strongest conference, and a certain television network might be covering it five ways to Saturday. The recent history — Warhawks winning 45-10 last season but needing a fourth-quarter score to win 24-21 in the playoffs — provides plenty of subtext, and that’s before bulletin board material began appearing in Wisconsin papers. Kick back and watch the fireworks.
Surprisingly close game
Pat’s take: Washington and Lee at Randolph-Macon. It’s been a slow start for W&L this year — not in the standings but with just two games in four weeks. One of those was a home game and the other was in Salem, less than an hour away. I’d take Buena Vista at Central, but at this point, who doesn’t expect that to be close?
Frank’s take: RPI at Susquehanna. New Liberty League entrant Susquehanna nearly pulled off a bit of a shocker on the road at St. Lawrence last weekend, losing in overtime. RPI fought for their undefeated lives at Hobart, winning in the last minute. I smell a slow start for RPI, especially after a five-hour road trip to Selinsgrove, although the upset would be tough for Susquehanna to complete.
Keith’s take: Huntingdon at No. 17 Wesley. St. John’s at Carleton was close last season, as was Carthage at Elmhurst, so those wouldn’t be surprises if they were close again. But not many expect 1-3 Huntingdon to fly from Alabama to Delaware and give 3-1 Wesley a game. But with the Hawks coming off consecutive road overtime losses, they might be feeling like they can get over the hump. Wesley could be sluggish after Montclair State ruined what many Wolverines probably thought would be another undefeated regular season. I don’t expect an upset, but I expect Wesley to have to work for the win.
Most Likely Top 25 Team to Lose (to an unranked team)
Pat’s take: No. 21 Hardin-Simmons. The margin of error is gone, and Hardin-Simmons has to go on the road to face unbeaten Mississippi College. They’ll find the challenge a bit tougher than last week’s game against Louisiana College.
Frank’s take: No. 10 Baldwin-Wallace. John Carroll will not crumble after a hard loss last week to Ohio Northern. It will be tough for Baldwin-Wallace to leave University Heights with its undefeated record intact, as John Carroll players know a loss would all but eliminate them from even a shred of a chance in Pool A — and maybe even Pool C contention.
Keith’s take: No. 13 Wartburg. I don’t want to pick on the Knights, since I had them in this spot last week, but I don’t see a top 25 team not listed above playing a better unranked team than Dubuque. No. 13 is also a little high for a team that went 3-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less last season, but Wartburg has abandoned the highwire act and come out of the gate outscoring its opposition 98-15. Dubuque’s margin in three wins is 136-23, and the Spartans are at home and likely not intimidated by a program they beat last season. If I were a Spartan, I’d be out for respect, tired of being called undisciplined and hearing how last season’s 6-4 mark was a fluke. Wartburg could very well win here, but they are up against a significant challenge.
They’ll Be On Your Radar
Pat’s take: DePauw. The Tigers are 3-0 with impressive margins of victory against Anderson and Centre but face a significantly tougher test at home against Millsaps. If Majors quarterback Juan Joseph has shaken off the injury which shelved him last week against Rhodes, Millsaps should pull out the win. If not, it could be a struggle.
Frank’s take: WPI. I’m a sucker for a Cinderella story, and after a tough 2006 season, in which the team tried to go for the win late against Union to salvage its woeful season, the Engineers are 4-0 against a crop of less-than-resume-building teams. Their first real test is against Hobart at home on Saturday, although, as you’ll see below, my WPI confidence is low.
Keith’s take: Wilkes. I wonder if during the off week the Colonels summoned enough pride to begin defense of their MAC championship despite three close losses to NJAC schools to start the season. Going to Lebanon Valley could be a test, but Wilkes won’t look past anyone at this point. I’ll also be watching the NESCAC to see if Bowdoin can follow up its Williams win with another at Amherst, while Trinity (Conn.) gets Williams, the last team to score a TD against them — in the second game of last season.
Most likely playoff team — Moravian, Maryville, WPI or Case Western Reserve
Pat’s take: Case Western Reserve. It comes down to whether the Spartans can win at Carnegie Mellon. Case has beaten four NCAC teams so far (why did they leave, again?) and has Ohio Wesleyan left, so the strength of schedule numbers (opponents’ winning percentage and opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage) won’t be kind. Running the table may have to do, though a win at CMU and a home loss to Wash U. might get it done.
Frank’s take: Case Western Reserve. I asked if “None of the Above” was a choice, but I was shot down, even though the four teams’ opponents’ records are 12-46 thus far. The Spartans have the easiest remaining schedule of the four, and Pool B might be kinder to them than Pool C to the other three teams if they all finish with a loss or two.
Keith’s take: Moravian. With no seats left on the Case bandwagon, it’s a good thing I’ve been riding with Moravian since the preseason. In a different conference, Saturday’s clash with 4-0 Dickinson might be a defacto title game or at least a must-win, but the Centennial title can be had with a loss. Still, the winner here stays in the CC driver’s seat, and to take the wheel, Moravian will have to control the line of scrimmage. Dickinson is allowing opponents 96 yards rushing per game at a 2.7-per-carry clip, while the Greyhounds rush for 183 a game at 4.0-per-carry. If the Greyhounds can establish themselves at home Saturday, they might be undefeated heading into their final two games at Ursinus and at Muhlenberg.
Sleeper pick who gets a wakeup call
Pat’s take: Dubuque. While still well on track for the 7-3, 5-3 record projected in Kickoff 2007, the Spartans are unlikely to get a second upset of Wartburg in as many years. Dubuque’s Week 11 win kept Wartburg out of the playoffs in 2006, or at least out of the group of 9-1 teams disappointed on Selection Sunday.
Frank’s take: WPI. Remember that Cinderella story I was referring to a couple of questions ago? Well, even Cinderella outgrew the glass slipper after some time. Hobart, playing for their Liberty League lives, will cause the Engineers’ feet to swell, making the slipper obsolete, at least for now.
Keith’s take: DePauw. The Tigers have played well, but Millsaps has been nearly flawless since letting the opener against Mississippi College get away. The Majors have won 44-10, 43-10 and 42-0 and may have created a sense of desperation for themselves with the loss in the opener which has actually been beneficial. Meanwhile, 3-0 Mississippi might also get a wake-up call hosting 1-2 Hardin-Simmons, which needs to win the American Southwest to preserve playoff hopes.
Who needs it more, UW-La Crosse or UW-Whitewater?
Pat’s take: UW-Whitewater. It’s not just a matter of playoff eligibility/positioning, there’s a confidence factor. The Warhawks have had high followed by low followed by high and need to maintain last week’s momentum.
Frank’s take: UW-La Crosse. Whitewater already has its first WIAC win, while La Crosse begins its league season Saturday. Beginning the WIAC 0-1 would be detrimental to their confidence factor, especially with La Crosse playing at home.
Keith’s take: UW-Whitewater. The Eagles already have a non-conference win they can hang their hats on if they end up in the at-large playoff pool. But with No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor coming to Whitewater in late October, the Warhawks need to avoid putting their playoff hopes anywhere other than the WIAC’s automatic bid.