It’s make or break time for a lot of teams. Players and coaches will be hunting for that last push toward the postseason and will be keeping an eye on the national landscape as teams fall in and out of contention for conference qualifiers and at-large bids.
We’ve also gotten our first look at the regional rankings that give us a good snapshot in time as to which teams could be playoff bound. Few, though, can rest on their laurels. Even one-win teams can sneak up and bite you. It’s happened before. Spoilers are lurking everywhere.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you their looks at Week 10.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 7 North Central at No. 24 Wheaton. I love the Little Brass Bell rivalry game, even though the Cardinals have dominated the matchup the last few seasons. Importantly for two-loss Wheaton, another defeat here means they will slip entirely out of playoff contention. So more than just pride is certainly on the line. North Central, on the other hand, can clinch a playoff spot because of head-to-head wins against the other top teams in the CCIW – and they still have the chance to run the table with a victory the final week against Augustana. In only one win this season has North Central failed to score at least 40 points, and that was a 37-pointer against UW-Stout. Wheaton’s defense will need to be on its toes if it doesn’t want to spend the day playing on its heels.
Pat’s take: No. 1 Mount Union at No. 23 Baldwin Wallace (maybe). At this point, it’s not even sure Baldwin Wallace can host this game. On Wednesday the playing surface was underwater and on Thursday afternoon there was still no electricity to the stadium. BW, which already has to deal with not being as talented as Mount Union (like most of Division III is), has the additional distraction of the revelation this week that Baldwin Wallace declared its athletic teams ineligible for the playoffs. Now, why I’m picking this game as my game of the week is the history that BW often gives Mount Union a tough game (last year, 25-20). And now BW has nothing left to lose and can really only play spoiler. It should be an interesting game for that standpoint alone.
Keith’s take: No. 4 St. Thomas at No. 17 Concordia-Moorhead. No game on Saturday will have as much of a domino effect on the playoffs. Fringe Pool C teams will have an interest in seeing the Tommies win in Moorhead, while MIAC boosters could push for the Cobbers to win, which would put three conference teams on the path to the postseason. It’s the most significant conference road trip, the Tommies have been playing through some injuries, and the Cobbers have been pointed towards this game ever since they were stunned on the final play at Bethel. Brett Baune rushes for 109 of the Cobbers’ 262 yards per game on the ground, while the Tommies are fifth in the nation in run defense, allowing 56.75 yards per game.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Hardin-Simmons at Texas Lutheran. The Bulldogs played the pass-heavy Louisiana College last week to overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if they can repeat the feat against Hardin-Simmons, which throws for nearly 400 yards a game.
Pat’s take: Greensboro at Christopher Newport. Only once in the 11-year history of the series has Greensboro even been within one score of CNU. This might be the best Greensboro team in the program’s brief history, however (started in 1997), and the Pride have never finished with a record of above .500. This might not be the year but a split in the final two games to go 5-5 is definitely possible.
Keith’s take: Brockport State at Montclair State. It’s been an unusually rough 3-5 season for the Redhawks. But being fortunate enough to have a game in North Jersey this week when the other local teams are all cancelled might tap into to something that the Redhawks haven’t been able to draw out this season. The 5-3 Golden Eagles have been all over the board, scoring 35 or more four times and 6 or less twice. Defensively, they’ve given up 45 to Cortland State and held Lycoming to 2. Montclair State’s Bill Roman has assumed the main ballcarrier’s role the past three games, and has rushed for 393 yards.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 21 Franklin. The Grizzlies have been nothing short of dominant in conference play this season, shutting out three of their last four opponents. But these final two weeks show Franklin running smack-dab into the second- and third-best teams in the HCAC. This week, Bluffton is the kind of team that can do a lot more damage to Franklin’s passing attack than most other opponents and could give the Griz a run for its money.
Pat’s take: No. 18 Heidelberg. John Carroll has had an interesting season, beating all the teams it has been expected to beat and losing to the teams it should lose to. This is a step up for John Carroll, but Mark Myers, the transfer quarterback from Pitt, has had a great season for the Blue Streaks. With as much talent as Heidelberg has on offense, JCU may well have the biggest offensive talent on the field.
Keith’s take: No. 16 Salisbury. The Sea Gulls, who I once had ranked as high as sixth on my ballot, have looked vulnerable the past two weeks. And as good as Alfred and Ithaca are, Utica is passing for 350 yards per game and has allowed 14 points over the past three games. Salisbury is at home, and brings its trademark option attack to the table, so a shootout could be in order.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Adrian. In our preseason Kickoff 2012 publication, the Bulldogs were the team I picked to be the surprise playoff entry. Now, they stand at 5-0 in conference play with only one more MIAA game to go. That means they’ve already clinched a share of the conference title for the first time in 15 years, but I’m sure they’ll be happier knocking off Albion this week and sweeping the conference. And a win would give them momentum heading into the final game, a nonconference tilt again Huntingdon. Adrian has almost flown under the radar all season, quietly stacking up the nation’s third best defense statistically and keeping every MIAA opponent to single digits in scoring. They can’t look past Albion, of course (the Britons did beat Wheaton early this season), but the Bulldogs should be very optimistic about their chances and looking forward to their first postseason berth since 1988.
Pat’s take: Buffalo State. Just about everyone else’s most surprising playoff entry is eliminated (except Jason Bailey, who picked Ferrum) so I’m looking at a surprise that unsurprised and could do so again. The Bengals have never been as explosive offensively as they were in Week 1, a win against Cortland State which still puzzles, and Ryan Lehotsky has been running the offense the past week and a half instead of Casey Kacz. Buff State has already outdone the Empire 8 coaches’ poll and our more optimistic preseason predictions. Now the goal is to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2000. And beat two teams that went to the Elite 8 and beyond last year.
Keith’s take: Tufts. We’ve seen a handful of major losing streaks kick the bucket over the past few weeks, and now it’s the Jumbos’ turn. Tufts has lost 21 in a row, but gets a visit from 1-5 Colby on Saturday. The Jumbos are coming off a rough stretch, having to play Amherst, Williams and Trinity consecutively, but they were competitive early in the season against Bates and Bowdoin. Before we turn our attention completely to the postseason, I’ll be looking for one more regular-season win that gives a team the first taste of victory.
A team that will clinch a share of the conference title on Saturday.
Ryan’s take: Widener. Rightly or wrongly, I got on the Widener bandwagon early in the season, before the Pride had really proven themselves. Close wins against Lebanon Valley and Lycoming helped to separate Widener from the rest of the MAC. But even though a win over FDU-Florham will give the undefeated Pride a share of the conference title, they still have to beat Delaware Valley next weekend to avoid a three-way tie at the top of the MAC and to assure themselves a trip to the playoffs. (Wait, what’s that? The Widener/Florham game is canceled? Well, shucks, that throws us into a conundrum. Widener, at worse, would be a one-loss team, but DelVal potentially could have more conference wins than the Pride. Anyone know the MAC’s championship rules off the top of their heads? Either way, I’m sure Keith and Pat have some winners to talk about here:)
Pat’s take: Salisbury. I know there is some rumbling that Utica has a shot to take down Salisbury but I don’t see it. Using last year’s game, played in Week 5 at the end of a seven and a half hour drive by Salisbury, doesn’t equate to winning in Salisbury. Now, I’ll admit, the Sea Gulls offense, even on turf, hasn’t been putting up the same type of points in recent weeks, but I don’t think there’s enough to get Utica over the top.
Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays have no easy matchup, with 6-2 Franklin & Marshall on deck. JHU has averaged nearly 500 yards of offense, with RB Jonathan Rigaud leading the way, and F&M allows 133 rushing yards per game. That’s not terrible, but it’s a sign that there might be an opening for the Blue Jays. F&M has given up 28 or more points in four games already, and it’s doubtful they’ll hold high-powered Johns Hopkins down.
Which season turnaround has been the most interesting?
Ryan’s take: Brockport State. And not in the good-turnaround sort of way. After starting the season beating Lycoming and Buffalo State (which would then go on to beat UW-Whitewater), Brockport put itself on a lot of people’s watch lists. The team even enjoyed a 17th-place spot in the poll. But the conference portion of the season has been hard on the Golden Eagles, who have eked out a .500 performance. The final two games, against Montclair State and Morrisville State, have winability written all over them. They’re not sure things, but Brockport could end the season swinging with a 7-3 record.
Pat’s take: Ohio Wesleyan. And most interesting to me has been how the Battling Bishops have threatened to make the last NCAC season without a full round-robin a tiebreaking nightmare. You know, interesting like a trainwreck. Allegheny can save the NCAC from some of this ignominy, but then again, Allegheny lost to Kenyon, so it’s not a guarantee.
Keith’s take: Lake Forest. The Foresters haven’t finished above .500 since 2004, but at 8-1, they’ve clinched that and are in line for a playoff spot. Statistically they haven’t overwhelmed, yet they’ve survived on heart, winning five games by a touchdown or less. That’s a recipe for a heck of ride, if nothing else.
Which team will rise in the regional rankings next week, and why?
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney. There no reason to think that, when Hampden-Sydney and Washington and Lee line up this weekend, it won’t be a shootout. In rushing offense, W&L is at the top of the stat sheet; in passing offense, H-SC is Top 40. While I think the Tigers are clicking more right now, that doesn’t mean the Generals won’t put up one heck of a fight. Both teams are in the regional rankings and looking to move up. More importantly, both want to secure their spot to be playing on Nov. 17.
Pat’s take: North Central (Ill.). At least, they should. The Cardinals’ strength of schedule should increase, while Concordia-Chicago’s should decrease. And if it doesn’t happen this week, it should next week. It would be better if it happened this week, so that the final public ranking reflects this change, rather than waiting for the secret ranking.
Keith’s take: Coe. One of the MIAC teams above is guaranteed to lose. The Kohawks should move to 9-0 on Saturday against Loras, but their rise up the rankings is capped because they have no games against regionally ranked opponents.