Archive for October 2008
In this case, the eighth time was the charm. Last week, all our Game of the Week picks were good ones, two of our Top 25 upset picks hit, teams properly got onto the radar and two of our surprisingly close games were both close and surprising.
Not sure if we can match that record here in Week 9, but Keith McMillan, Ryan Tipps and I will try.
Game of the Week
Ryan’s take: No. 10 Wesley at No. 16 Salisbury. In the preseason Kickoff guide, I had picked this as my most anticipated game of the year — and the stakes seem to have grown even bigger than I expected. Based on the first installment of the NCAA’s regional rankings, the loser’s chance of getting a playoff bid seems questionable. The winner, on the other hand, will almost certainly get to pass Go and have their playoff payday.
Keith’s take: No. 5 Millsaps at No. 14 Trinity (Texas). A battle of unbeaten teams. Conference title implications. An effect felt as far away as Pennsylvania regarding likely South Region playoff seeding. Yeah. That’s nothing. Subtext galore here: Millsaps, humbled on ESPN and all over the internet by last season’s 15-lateral, game-winning Riley Curry touchdown on the â€˜Miracle in Mississippi’ might never be able to return the favor, but they wouldn’t mind humbling the Tigers.
Pat’s take: No. 19 UW-Eau Claire at No. 6 UW-Whitewater. This is the non-conference matchup between two teams that played in Week 2. So these teams know each other just a little better than usual. Plus, this is already a Pool C elimination game for Eau Claire and possibly for Whitewater as well. Last time around, Whitewater settled for field goals three times and survived with a 16-14 win.
Surprisingly close game
Ryan’s take: No. 4 Muhlenberg at Dickinson. The Mules have been caught a little off-guard at times, eking out tight wins against Johns Hopkins and Franklin & Marshall in conference play. Dickinson is on par with those two squads — and has a better playmaker under center. And as far as the stat sheets are concerned, it’s rare to find two teams such as Muhlenberg and Dickinson that are so evenly matched on all major offensive and defensive fronts.
Keith’s take: Plymouth State at MIT. The Panthers took control of the NEFC Boyd race and made themselves the playoff bid favorite with a win against Curry last week, but the 5-3 Engineers will be a stout test. RB DeRon Brown, who rushes for a national-best 184 yards per game and has scored 21 touchdowns, should give MIT a chance.
Pat’s take: Marietta at No. 18 Otterbein. This game is sandwiched right in between Capital and Mount Union for Otterbein. ‘Nuff said.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset
Ryan’s take: No. 9 Washington & Jefferson. Thomas More’s Week 1 loss to John Carroll must feel like ancient history at this point in the season. Even with three games left, the Saints are riding high, getting a whiff of the playoffs and having their best season in half a decade.
Keith’s take: No. 6 UW-Whitewater. Who knows if it’s really likely, but it’s a startling prospect, that our defending champion could go from No. 2 with first place votes to out of the playoff picture in two weeks. No. 19 UW-Eau Claire lost 16-14 at home in Week 2, the game that counted in the WIAC standings, but both coaching staffs get a do-over when the teams meet for the second time, in a â€œnon-conferenceâ€ game.
Pat’s take: No. 22 RPI. With Union unveiling a revamped defensive scheme last week against St. Lawrence, which gave up some rushing yardage but just 14 points, none of them after the first quarter. RPI has averaged just 109 yards per game on the ground since the Engineers’ opening two games against Endicott and Utica, so the key for Union is containing quarterback Jimmy Robertson.
They’ll be on your radar
Ryan’s take: East Texas Baptist. The Tigers’ opponent, Mary Hardin-Baylor, can be interpreted as being out for blood or picking itself up after last week’s loss. What’s more interesting is whether ETBU can capitalize against a team that has shown its flaws.
Keith’s take: I’m curious to see if Cal Lutheran is legitimate, and hosting No. 20 Occidental is their chance to prove it. Also I’ll be keeping an eye on No. 22 RPI since I really want to be there as well as in San Antonio.
Pat’s take: Adrian. The Bulldogs should beat Alma and set up a showdown with Trine for the top spot in the MIAA next week. Adrian’s only overall loss is to the healthy Capital back in Week 1.
Which conference front-runner faces the biggest challenge from a current runner-up: Christopher Newport at N.C. Wesleyan, Northwestern against Crown, or Muhlenberg at Dickinson?
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport at N.C. Wesleyan. After needing the first couple weeks of the season to adjust to a new head coach and the loss of a good senior class, the Bishops have found ways to put points on the board. Turns out though, behind a running back that put up 225 and 254 yards in his last two outings, that’s CNU’s specialty, too. Repeat after me the key to winning: d-e-f-e-n-s-e.
Keith’s take: Christopher Newport. N.C. Wesleyan seems to have hit its stride, winning four of five and averaging 40.5 points per game in its past four.
Pat’s take: Trinity (Conn.) vs. Amherst. I’m going to go off the script here because I don’t see the UMAC outcome being different than it was when Northwestern won on the road at Crown in September. I think Amherst will provide a bigger challenge to the Bantams.
Which team impresses the most in Week 9 coming off of a lopsided loss last week: Capital, Linfield or Wheaton?
Ryan’s take: Wheaton. As the only team of this bunch playing an opponent with a winning record, the Thunder at least have the biggest opportunity to be impressive. Capital and Linfield will spend the weekend picking on their conferences’ bottom rungs. Wheaton still has a Pool C bid to think about.
Keith’s take: Wheaton. A win at 5-2 Elmhurst would be a strong bounce-back for Wheaton from a thumping at the hands of North Central. Playing a team you know can beat you if you don’t play your best is the best motivation for a week of practice.
Pat’s take: Capital. It’s three losses in a row for the Assmann-less Crusaders and they need a win pretty badly in their final home game.
How will the cluster of East Region teams with one regional loss get solved this week?
Ryan’s take: It won’t. Worcester Polytech will drop off, though, replaced by the in-region one-loss St. John Fisher. The rest of the cluster will have to wait a week for any tangible change.
Keith’s take: It won’t. Hobart and WPI meet head-to-head and that will sort things a little bit. It’s possible we’ll see upsets, but the big games (Rowan-Montclair State and Cortland State-Ithaca) are still ahead.
Pat’s take: It’ll actually get more complicated. Because of the above-mentioned Union/RPI upset, that is. At least I have to be consistent within myself, right?
The NCAA released its first 2008 regional rankings today.
Teams are listed with their regional record first, followed by their overall record. For more information about the playoff format and how participants are determined, check out our FAQ.
1. Cortland State 7-0 7-0
2. RPI 5-0 6-0
3. Ithaca 5-1 6-1
4. Montclair State 6-1 6-1
5. Rowan 6-1 6-1
6. Hartwick 5-1 5-1
7. Worcester Polytech 6-1 6-1
8. Hobart 5-1 5-1
9. Plymouth State 5-1 7-1
10. Husson 6-0 6-2
1. Mount Union 6-0 7-0
2. North Central (Ill.) 7-0 7-0
3. Otterbein 7-0 7-0
4. Wabash 6-0 7-0
5. Trine 7-0 7-0
6. Case Western Reserve 6-0 7-0
7. Wheaton (Ill.) 6-1 6-1
8. Franklin 5-1 6-1
9. Adrian 5-1 6-1
10. Rose-Hulman 7-1 7-1
1. Muhlenberg 7-0 7-0
2. Millsaps 6-0 7-0
3. Washington and Jefferson 6-0 7-0
4. Trinity (Texas) 6-0 7-0
5. Mary Hardin-Baylor 5-0 6-1
6. Hardin-Simmons 7-1 7-1
7. Huntingdon 1-0 7-0
8. Catholic 5-1 6-1
9. Salisbury 2-0 7-1
10. Thomas More 6-1 6-1
1. Willamette 7-0 8-0
2. Occidental 6-0 6-0
3. Monmouth 8-0 8-0
4. UW-Stevens Point 3-1 6-1
5. UW-Whitewater 5-1 6-1
6. Cal Lutheran 5-1 5-1
7. Redlands 5-1 5-1
8. Northwestern (Minn.) 5-1 7-1
9. Concordia-Moorhead 4-2 5-2
10. St. John’s 5-2 6-2
Hmm, yes, it’s getting late in the season and slowly but surely there are a lot fewer variables in the playoff picture.
Keith and I run through some of them, plus discuss the Top 25 distress from the past weekend, ponder the various choices for the No. 2 spot in our poll and on our ballots, consider how the NCAA might pair up West Coast and Southeast/Southwest teams that make the playoffs and the like. Plus Keith gives his take on a couple of interesting play calls, including taking points off the board.
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This is another good game day to be sitting in front of the virtual TV. I’m not entirely sure I will shell out $12 for the Linfield/Willamette game — and with our Adam Johnson on the scene in McMinnville, I know we’ll get a good perspective on the game anyway.
Tonight I’ll be watching the Wheaton/North Central game online. Still pondering what early game or games I’ll be following most closely this afternoon, but I’ll probably use one computer to surf through a bunch of games and the other to follow Otterbein/Capital or Whitewater/Stevens Point or the like.
Gordon Mann reports in from Williamsport, Pa., that the weather will have an impact on the Delaware Valley/Lycoming game. Lycoming still has grass, which is a couple years away from being in the minority. Just under half of Division III football fields have one of the various brands of infill artificial turf.
Where you’re at, I hope it’s mild and dry.
Get your minds out of the tailgate area and back on to the field. We mean be wary of coming off a loss and limping out of the blocks in the following week’s game. Capital, Wittenberg and UW-Eau Claire all need to avoid that, and Gordon Mann, Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan give you their thoughts on which team won’t be able to.
The trio also kicks in three suggestions for Week 8′s most significant matchup and let you know which conference has no ranked teams but a good shot at playoff success. And as always, once the guys are finished rambling, feel free to chime in yourselves in the comments area below.
Game of the Week
Gordon’s take: No. 16 Willamette at No. 23 Linfield The winner of this game wouldn’t officially punch their playoff ticket for at least another week, but they will have that ticket firmly in hand. Both have picked up the pace offensively, even without the lopsided wins over Lewis & Clark. Can the Bearcats (264 rushing yards per game) keep their ground game churning against Linfield (92 rushing yards per game allowed)?
Pat’s take: No. 22 Delaware Valley at Lycoming. The games get ratcheted up a level when there’s no hope for an at-large bid, and that’s what we have here. Plus, add in the traditional grind-it-out aspect of the MAC and the fact that you have the last two MAC dynasties taking the field
and it should be entertaining.
Keith’s take: No. 7 North Central at No. 4 Wheaton. You guys are drunk. I hear you, the losers of your games won’t have quite the playoff shot that the Cardinals or Thunder will retain, but still â€¦ We’ve got the Little Brass Bell rivalry, a pair of undefeated top 10 teams and what’s sure to be a raucous Wheaton crowd for the 7 p.m. CT kickoff.
Surprisingly close game
Gordon’s take: Millikin at North Park. NPU has the longest running conference losing streak at 57 games and this is the best chance to stop it. Both teams are winless in CCIW play and the Vikings host this year. Plus, they have showed some offensive spunk, scoring more points than the average opponent against No. 4 Wheaton (Ill.) and No. 7 North Central (Ill.).
Pat’s take: Catholic at No. 18 Hampden-Sydney. Because I’d like to pick this game in the next section down, but I don’t think I honestly can. So all I can say is that it might be closer than expected.
Keith’s take: Ohio Northern at John Carroll. We understood when the Polar Bears lost to North Central, Mount Union and Otterbein, teams that are a combined 18-0. But since a stunning home defeat against Muskingum, Ohio Northern outscored Heidelberg and Marietta 69-0. It might not mean they’re recovered enough to beat 5-1 John Carroll, but the Polar Bears at least have enough of their mojo back to keep it respectable.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset
Gordon’s take: No. 22 Delaware Valley. The MAC race is wide open, but home-field advantage has been a pretty good predictor of who wins. Set aside games involving King’s and the home team is 6-3 so far. This will be the first time most of the Aggies play in Williamsport and the Warriors have outgained their opponent every game this season.
Pat’s take: No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor. I think we should favor the Crusaders in this game. And I think they will struggle at NAIA Southern Oregon, with the long trip, a team less experienced in making these road trips and a running back corps decimated by injury.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Trinity (Texas). Only because I’ve booked a five-segment round-trip to San Antonio next week for the Tigers’ matchup with Millsaps. And backed out on plans to go to the way-too-early-this-year Dutchman’s Shoes Game at RPI to make it happen. So it’ll be just my luck for Sewanee to swoop in and spoil the unbeaten-on-unbeaten action. (The Majors are off this week, for what it’s worth)
They’ll be on your radar
Gordon’s take: Frank Wilczynski. The junior quarterback for Rowan (remember them?) already set the school record for quarterback rushing touchdowns in a season (eight). He’s also thrown 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions. The Profs play Buffalo State this week before starting a three-game stretch against Kean, Montclair State and New Jersey that could put Rowan back in the NCAA postseason.
Pat’s take: Plymouth State. I think there’s a chance that Curry’s long NEFC winning streak ends right here.
Keith’s take: St. Scholastica. I’ve got to boost the power source to get the radar to reach Duluth, but it’ll be worth it if Division III’s newest team can get its first win. The Saints were an overtime away from winning at Macalester two weeks ago. They’ll be hosting Trinity Bible, which is coming off a win against Minot State-Bottineau, and playing at Public Schools Stadium.
Which team has the biggest hangover from last week’s loss; Capital, Wittenberg or UW-Eau Claire?
Gordon’s take: Wittenberg. Capital has a home game against a ranked opponent and UW-Eau Claire can point to last season as evidence that there’s still a thin Blugold chance they make the NCAA playoffs by winning out. Wittenberg has neither as they head east to Carnegie Mellon with two losses after last week’s heartbreaker against Wabash.
Pat’s take: Capital. The Crusaders have struggled with their crosstown rivals even when they’ve had good years. Otterbein is a little better now and just as motivated as they always are. The Cardinals need this win because it doesn’t get any easier, with Mount Union and John Carroll yet to come.
Keith’s take: Wittenberg. The Tigers, who lost in painful fashion to a competitive rival, and had their playoff and conference title chances sink with it, have the most reason for a hangover. But there’s nothing like a televised game (at Carnegie Mellon on ESPNU) to get players to snap into it, so the hangover might not preclude Wittenberg from winning.
Which lost-its-luster game would you just as soon avoid?
Gordon’s take: St. Norbert atRipon. If we’re talking strictly in terms of postseason implications, Guilford/W&L is slightly less relevant since Hampden-Sydney needs one win and Monmouth needs two clinch their automatic bids. But, given the chance, I’d enjoy seeing Josh Vogelbach and the Guilford offense at work.
Pat’s take: Guilford at Washington and Lee. I would’ve pictured this game with an impact on the race for the ODAC crown. Instead, it’s the only conference game this week that doesn’t involve a team within one game of the lead in the loss column.
Keith’s take: St. Thomas at Carleton. It’s not so much that I’d want to avoid this one. But if I were planning to catch a Carleton game, I’d be crossing my fingers that the Knights can make it to Nov. 8 (Week 10) at Concordia-Moorhead without picking up a second MIAC loss, and hoping the Cobbers do the same. That way we can at least have a tidy conclusion to a seven-way race.
Which conference without a team ranked in this week’s poll will go deepest into the playoffs?
Gordon’s take: The MIAC. It has to be someone in the West, right? I could see the MIAC rep getting a favorable match-up with the MWC or the IIAC champ. Pencil UW-Whitewater in as the top seed and a NWC/SCIAC first round match-up. Otherwise that region looks pretty open.
Pat’s take: The NESCAC. Matchups may dictate otherwise but I can see it likely that every one of the conferences currently without a ranked team goes one-and-out. So here’s a chance for the NESCAC to tie for first.
Keith’s take: The MIAC. Gordon stole my answer and my reasoning. A low seed in the North is going to get a game at Mount Union or Wabash or Wheaton/North Central. Oooh, fun. In the South, enjoy your trip to Muhlenberg, or maybe Millsaps. You get the point. It’ll be a low-seeded team out of the East or the West, perhaps a No. 7, that springs an upset or two. And although MIAC teams have been beating up on each other, it doesn’t seem like whoever lasts longest will be worse for the wear. This is also the year for the MWC champ to make its move.