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?