Heidelberg faces its first big challenge of the season.
Heidelberg athletics photo
We’re down to the final three weeks of the regular season, and with that, we’re about to have some regional rankings to mull over. They are our best glimpse yet into the possibilities of the playoffs.
In many ways, the postseason is something we have long talked about without trying to get ourselves too worked up. It was always, “In the future” or “A ways off” or “One game at a time.” However, it no longer is this far-off thing; we’re almost face-to-face with it, along with a slew of high-profile games.
This is November. And this is Week 9’s Triple Take, courtesy of Pat, Keith and Ryan.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 1 Mount Union at No. 9 Heidelberg. Wow, how do we even narrow down which is the Game of the Week? Four games feature clashes between Top 25 teams. I went with the OAC matchup because the Student Princes are at their peak in the D3football.com era — and if you’re willing to talk yourself into believing that Mount has a weakness this year, Heidelberg would be the team most likely to find and exploit it. Both teams have been dominating on offense (think Michael Mees, Kevin Burke, Cartel Brooks), and the Purple Raiders again are the standard-bearers of defense. This is likely the OAC’s game of the year.
Pat’s take: What Ryan said. It might not be the OAC game of the year (ask John Carroll’s opinion) but it’s important because it’s the first opponent that can even test Heidelberg. It’s like going from 0 to 60. Throwing out another storyline … Germany Woods returns to Heidelberg as a member of the Purple Raiders. He was an All-American back for the Student Princes but transferred out. After he sat out a year because of OAC transfer rules, he’s had a tough time with Mount Union, where he has just 295 rushing yards, fourth-most on the team.
Keith’s take: No. 8 UW-Platteville at No. 6 UW-Whitewater. Usually you guys take all the good choices and leave me with the scraps. This time I’m left with a smorgasbord. (I think I just like typing that word). I took the WIAC matchup over No. 4 North Central at No. 13 Illinois Wesleyan and No. 2 Linfield at No. 25 Willamette, because there are unbeaten teams, conference and playoff implications and a crowd that could surpass 10,000 at Perkins Stadium. (Platteville’s about a 2-hour drive from Whitewater, in the southern part of Wisconsin). All the other big games have multiple story lines as well, and the matchup to watch here is the high-powered UW-Platteville offense (No. 2 nationally in passing, at 362 yards/game; have scored 38 or more in all but one of seven wins) against the UW-Whitewater defense (No. 4 overall nationally, at 217.4 yards per game; nobody’s scored more than 14 on them).
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: St. Scholastica at Minnesota-Morris. Since a loss the first week against Whitworth, the Saints have rolled through much of their conference slate thanks to a good run game and a cherished ability to put points on the board. The Cougars, on the other hand, have struggled to just two wins this season. But their last three losses came by a total of 11 points. The ability is there not to let games get away from them, even if St. Scholastica is one of the better teams in the UMAC.
Pat’s take: Benedictine at Concordia-Chicago. If you didn’t write off Concordia-Chicago when you read Kickoff and realized they lost more than 50 players from last year and went from being a playoff team to preseason rank No. 155, then maybe you did when Lake Forest opened the season by beating the Cougars 45-3 … and needed three-plus games to score another 45 points. But Concordia-Chicago has started to put up some points the past two weeks. Benedictine is 5-2 but Concordia-Chicago could sneak up.
Keith’s take: Louisiana College at Texas Lutheran. Technically I’m calling an upset here, insomuch as it counts as one — LC beat TLU from 2007 through 2012 in ASC play. Because 6-0 Texas Lutheran isn’t in the top 25 — they’re actually getting three votes, same as Louisiana College — it can’t be my top 25 upset, and it didn’t fit well in any other category either. But I had to point out that the 5-2 Wildcats’ two losses are on the road at Huntingdon and No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor, two teams better than anyone the Bulldogs have faced. (TLU’s best win is at 4-4 Trinity). If the Bulldogs win, maybe the top 25 respect comes, and if not, the playoffs are still likely. But LC, behind RB Ryan Montague and WR Kyle Galyon, will up its streak against the Bulldogs, perhaps in surprising fashion.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 12 Johns Hopkins. From a national perspective, Ursinus has almost been moving ninja-like through a one-loss season, hiding in the Centennial shadows of the much more prominent Johns Hopkins team. This is essentially the de facto conference title game, so the Bears and the Blue Jays have everything to play for. In those kinds of situations, anything can happen.
Pat’s take: No. 22 St. John’s. Gustavus Adolphus has been kind to me recently in Triple Take and should not be underestimated. Even when you’re taking it one game at a time, at some point you have to look at the schedule and realize what you have left, and for Gustavus, the chance to finish with a winning record hangs here in the balance. The Gusties are 4-3, with SJU, Carleton and Concordia-Moorhead left. Gustavus will only be favored in one of those three games and must pull off an upset in one of the other two to finish with a winning mark for the first time since 2008. Working against them is the fact that St. John’s is coming off the bye.
Keith’s take: No. 23 Salisbury. Eliminating the eight teams facing each other and the two chosen above, the pickins are slim. I would have gone UW-Stevens Point at No. 10 UW-Oshkosh if not for the loss to UW-La Crosse last week. I couldn’t talk myself into Ohio Wesleyan over No. 17 Wittenberg or a No. 19 Wheaton hangover at Milikin either. I’m left with this pick of the Gulls, who have won five straight since starting 0-2, against Alfred, who is also 5-2 and has a pretty good run defense (69 yards/game). The Saxons also played the Gulls close last season (24-21) but lost 69-0 the year before. They’re at home, and it’s a significant road trip for Salisbury. That’s all I got.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Albion. Not just this week against Olivet, but also on Nov. 9 (Adrian) and 16 (Hope), as the Britons cap their season playing all three teams that currently have only one conference loss. The MIAA has been tough to figure out this season, but for the moment, Albion is in the driver’s seat.
Pat’s take: Louisiana College. If you’re a fan of a Pool B playoff contender (WesleyMillsapsFraminghamRhodesWashU) you’ll be rooting for Texas Lutheran to get taken down on Saturday and make it a little easier for you to get into the postseason. TLU’s strength of schedule is pretty low and the Bulldogs’ playoff resume might not be able to withstand one loss.
Keith’s take: Octavias McKoy. The rest of the Western Connecticut team too, I guess. But I’m figuring the back with 455- and 372-yard games this season goes for 200+ against a Mass.-Dartmouth run defense that allows 163 a game on average.
Which team with a losing record has the most left to play for?
Ryan’s take: North Park. It’s ironic – for the first time in about 15 years, the Vikings were winless in nonconference play, but then they rallied to win not just one, but two conference games, their first such victory since 2000. What lies ahead are 2-5 Elmhurst and 1-6 Millikin. Everybody plays for pride in some fashion. North Park might epitomize that concept. This team has so much to be excited about this November.
Pat’s take: Becker. There’s a couple of things they could do, although I’ll be on the record as saying they won’t do both. First, they could play spoiler to Gallaudet’s run at an unbeaten regular season. It isn’t likely on paper but Gallaudet has about a 10-hour bus ride standing between it and the 1-6 Hawks. Secondly, by winning out (vs. Gallaudet and much more reachable opponents Castleton State and Anna Maria), Becker could finish with its winningest season ever, at 4-6.
Keith’s take: Tufts. The Jumbos are playing the nation’s shortest season (even after the three-week shutdown, Merchant Marine will play as many games as a NESCAC team) and carrying its longest losing streak. The 29-game skid is well ahead of No. 2 Anderson (23) and No. 3 St. Vincent (18), and if it doesn’t end this week at Colby (3-3), it’s not going to in the finale against Middlebury (5-1). The Jumbos have played at least three close games, four if you count a 14-point loss at Willams a couple weeks ago that was a one-score game most of the second half.
Which game are you surprised means as much as it does at this point in the season?
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney at Guilford. Undefeated in conference play, the Quakers are making ODAC noise for the second year in a row – a marked change from their performances during the bulk of the 2000s. Having already beaten Randolph-Macon, Shenandoah and Washington and Lee, a win here would nearly assure Guilford the conference title. Yet, there’s Hampden-Sydney, a team likely to have a chip on its shoulder and a fire not to be left out in the cold. For both teams, this will be a mountain of a matchup.
Pat’s take: Lycoming at King’s. Who would have thought even three weeks ago, let alone at the beginning of the season, that Lyco would be just one game ahead of the Monarchs entering this game? King’s needed two overtimes just to avoid becoming the first team to ever lose to Misericordia in football, but has reeled off three more victories in a row since and are 4-2 in the MAC.
Keith’s take: Rhodes at Birmingham Southern. Originally I was going to go Olivet at Albion here, but since it got mentioned above, I’ll spread the love. I’ve been writing for D3football.com since 1999, and I’d wager (if the NCAA allowed wagering) that the Lynx are one of the 10 teams I’ve written the least about. Just hasn’t been much occasion to sing their praises, until now. They’re 6-1, a three-point victory from being unbeaten, and I didn’t see that coming. Pat and I did have Rhodes 94th of 244 in Kickoff, for whatever that’s worth.
Pick a colorful nickname.
Ryan’s take: The Golden Eagles of Brockport State. Brockport State is playing in one-half of a pair of primo New Jersey matchups this weekend that should put some space between the top and the middle of the pack. While there have been questions from both Brockport and TCNJ this fall, the Golden Eagles are in position to put this one away in time to see the final quarter of the Rowan-Cortland game and root for a Rowan loss.
Pat’s take: The Blue Streaks of John Carroll. In no way is their game vs. Wilmington going to be interesting on the national stage unless it’s to see what kind of offensive restraint Tom Arth can put his team under to keep the game from being embarrassing, but they have a colorful nickname and we’re all waiting for the Week 10 and Week 11 games.
Keith’s take: The Blueboys of Illinois College. The funky MWC quarters-led tiebreaker and the mismatched schedule that has no clash with conference co-leader St. Norbert ahead means No. 24 IC doesn’t need to just beat Monmouth, they need to lead it start to finish. Too bad their conference brethren aren’t the Purple Rams or Orange Pioneers by the way, because Cornell at Carroll could have gotten some love here, if only for being the most similarly named teams to face off until Whittier schedules Wittenberg.