Triple Take: Our guesses at the Round 2 scores

The road to Salem gets a little more rugged in Round 2.

Photo by Jamie Wilson,

Photo by Jamie Wilson,

Here are the matchups by Top 25 ranking:
No. 10 St. Johns at No. 4 St. Thomas
No. 9 Thomas More at No. 7 Wabash
No. 25 Cortland State at No. 2 Linfield
Huntingdon at No. 13 Mary Hardin-Baylor
No. 20 Albright at No. 1 Mount Union
No. 11 Wesley at No. 8 Johns Hopkins
Ohio Northern at No. 3 UW-Oshkosh
No. 5 UW-Whitewater at No. 6 Wheaton

The top 11 teams in our poll are all still alive, and eight of them play one another head-to-head in Round 2. One of the teams outside that group is traditional power Mary Hardin-Baylor, which is ranked No. 13 but would be expected to beat just about everyone outside the top 5. Likewise, Wesley is a lower-ranked road team in Round 2, but nobody who’s followed Division III for any amount of time would be surprised if we all picked the Wolverines to triumph.

Here are the matchups by where each team was likely seeded in its quadrant:
3 St. Johns at 1 St. Thomas
4 Thomas More at 2 Wabash
4 Cortland State at 1 Linfield
7 Huntingdon at 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor
4 Albright at 1 Mount Union
3 Wesley at 2 Johns Hopkins
5 Ohio Northern at 1 UW-Oshkosh
3 UW-Whitewater at 2 Wheaton

There are no official seeds released for D-III brackets, but we can determine them based on how the teams are ordered in the regional rankings and by selection criteria, and by where they are placed in the brackets. Only two lower seeds advanced, Ohio Northern in a mild upset at Franklin, and Huntingdon, only because trips longer than 500 miles are discouraged and so second seed Hardin-Simmons faced UMHB in the first round instead of Huntingdon, which was “seeded” seventh and beat No. 8 Hendrix.

Here’s how Triple Takes work during the playoffs. Around the Nation columnist Ryan Tipps, editor and publisher Pat Coleman and I each guess a score for each game without consulting with one another. This sets our national expectation. Then, it’s up to you prove us wrong. What fun would be a playoff in which we can predict all the outcomes? When the score on Saturday looks different than what we forecast below, that’s a signal that something significant is happening.

[The 2015 playoff bracket | Bracket challenge leaders | Surprises and disappointments]

Round 1 was easy picking. Around the Mid-Atlantic columnist Adam Turer and I each got 15 of 16 correct; Ryan and Pat each got 13. (We all missed Cortland State’s win, and Hendrix and Washington and Lee tripped up Tipps and Coleman). This round should be tougher. Turer made his picks in the comments section, and we invite you to do the same. You want to taunt us when we’re wrong? Put your picks on record before kickoff, below.

— Keith McMillan

Our Triple Take Crew: Keith McMillan
Keith McMillan
Ryan Tipps
Ryan Tipps
Pat Coleman
Pat Coleman

Keith’s take: St. Thomas 38, St. John’s 21
Ryan’s take: St. Thomas 34, St. John’s 24
Pat’s take: St. Thomas 31, St. John’s 23
Consensus: It was Tommies, 35-14, on the road back in Week 4. We don’t see why this outcome would be much different, other than the margin.

Keith’s take: Wabash 26, Thomas More 24
Ryan’s take: Wabash 38, Thomas More 35
Pat’s take: Wabash 30, Thomas More 21
Consensus: This will probably be one of the most entertaining games of Round 2.

Keith’s take: Linfield 52, Cortland 24
Ryan’s take: Linfield 48, Cortland 27
Pat’s take: Linfield 45, Cortland 17
Consensus: We all respect what the Red Dragons have done this season, but two-thirds of these panelists think the Wildcats are the No. 1 team in the country.

Keith’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 57, Huntingdon 19
Ryan’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 48, Huntingdon 13
Pat’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 42, Huntingdon 10
Consensus: This is what happens when a seven seed takes on a national power.

Keith’s take: Mount Union 47, Albright 10
Ryan’s take: Mount Union 48, Albright 17
Pat’s take: Mount Union 54, Albright 6
Consensus: Don’t let the 55-23 final from Round 1 fool you. The Purple Raiders led 55-7 early in the third.

Keith’s take: Wesley 30, Johns Hopkins 28
Ryan’s take: Wesley 45, Johns Hopkins 28
Pat’s take: Wesley 34, Johns Hopkins 28
Consensus: We’re pretty sure the Blue Jays are going to score 28. We just have to see them get over the Wesley hump before we pick it.

Keith’s take: UW-Oshkosh 44, Ohio Northern 17
Ryan’s take: UW-Oshkosh 38, Ohio Northern 14
Pat’s take: UW-Oshkosh 34, Ohio Northern 20
Consensus: The Polar Bears were the stars of Round 1. We don’t see the Titans starring in the ONU season highlights video.

Keith’s take: UW-Whitewater 21, Wheaton 20
Ryan’s take: UW-Whitewater 35, Wheaton 20
Pat’s take: UW-Whitewater 20, Wheaton 17
Consensus: Two of us see Whitewater prevailing, but barely. Clearly we wouldn’t be stunned by a Thunder victory, either.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below, or tweet at us at @D3Keith, @NewsTipps and @d3football. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the picks and the highlights from Round 1.


Division III playoffs: Triple Take sets the expectations for the Round of 32

Welcome to the most exciting Saturday of the postseason.

Thirty-two of the nation’s best teams meet in 16 first-round playoff games. Eight kick off at noon Eastern Time, and seven more at noon Central, meaning that for almost two hours, 15 14 of the games will be going on simultaneously. The first steps on the Road to Salem are a mad rush, and although you’ll likely be focused on just one game, you’ll care about what’s going on elsewhere.

Here’s how this works; it’s a bit different from the regular-season Triple Takes. The goal is for Ryan Tipps, Pat Coleman and I, each guessing a score for each game without consulting with one another, to set the national expectation. Then, we want you prove us wrong. What fun would be a playoff in which we can predict all the outcomes? We’ll set the expectation, and when the score on Saturday looks different than what we forecast below, that’s a signal to everyone across the country that something significant is happening.

[The 2015 playoff bracket | Our surprise teams and disappointments]

Each of us will correctly predict between 11 and 15 winning teams; that’s just the nature of the Round of 32. But we’re not trying to prove who’s the smartest, emulate gamblers or earn bragging rights. We provide the picks and the line of consensus as service, to advise you on what to expect from unfamiliar teams, so that when you’re sifting through 15 game scores on Saturday afternoon, you’ll recognize a surprising result in the making. (Like last season, when we all picked Delaware Valley, a Round 1 loser to Christopher Newport, or when Texas Lutheran kept it surprisingly close with Mary Hardin-Baylor.)

— Keith McMillan

Our Triple Take Crew: Keith McMillan
Keith McMillan
Ryan Tipps
Ryan Tipps
Pat Coleman
Pat Coleman

Keith’s take: St. Thomas 49, La Verne 10
Ryan’s take: St. Thomas 52, La Verne 9
Pat’s take: St. Thomas 56, La Verne 7
Consensus: It’s a great year for the SCIAC champ to dodge the NWC champ … or is it?

Keith’s take: St. John’s 35, Dubuque 17
Ryan’s take: St. John’s 38, Dubuque 17
Pat’s take: St. John’s 42, Dubuque 21
Consensus: It’ll be closer than the 45-9 Sept. 5 game, but not close enough.

Keith’s take: Thomas More 38, Washington and Lee 34
Ryan’s take: Washington and Lee 45, Thomas More 42
Pat’s take: Washington and Lee 51, Thomas More 49
Consensus: This matchup of 10-0 teams will be a shootout, and a toss-up.

Keith’s take: Wabash 34, Albion 21
Ryan’s take: Wabash 48, Albion 14
Pat’s take: Wabash 56, Albion 21
Consensus: The high-octane Britons haven’t seen a defense quite like the Little Giants’ unit.

Keith’s take: Linfield 55, Whitworth 13
Ryan’s take: Linfield 45, Whitworth 13
Pat’s take: Linfield 52, Whitworth 7
Consensus: Not all that different from the 52-10 game at the Catdome on Oct. 24.

Keith’s take: Salisbury 28, Cortland State 26
Ryan’s take: Salisbury 27, Cortland State 20
Pat’s take: Salisbury 48, Cortland State 45
Consensus: Salisbury spent four seasons going to upstate New York to beat Empire 8 teams. Cortland State runs out of close-game magic. But even so, all three think it will be close, so …

Keith’s take: Huntingdon 49, Hendrix 24
Ryan’s take: Hendrix 51, Huntingdon 45
Pat’s take: Hendrix 41, Huntingdon 28
Consensus: In the first Arkansas-Alabama playoff matchup in D-III history, two of the panelists like the upstart. It’s also the first matchup where our score guesses are wildly different.

Keith’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 30, Hardin-Simmons 24
Ryan’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, Hardin-Simmons 27
Pat’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, Hardin-Simmons 21
Consensus: It was a slow start and a furious fourth in HSU’s 29-26 win on Oct. 31. This time in Abilene, UMHB ekes it out.

Keith’s take: Mount Union 56, St. Lawrence 14
Ryan’s take: Mount Union 55, St. Lawrence 13
Pat’s take: Mount Union 52, St. Lawrence 7
Consensus: We’re not dissing the Saints. Mount Union’s allowed 34 points all season.

Keith’s take: Albright 37, Norwich 17
Ryan’s take: Albright 38, Norwich 7
Pat’s take: Albright 38, Norwich 13
Consensus: The Cadets have lost four games. No. 5 will be the highlight of the Lions’ season before a trip to Alliance.

Keith’s take: Wesley 40, Framingham State 27
Ryan’s take: Wesley 42, Framingham State 21
Pat’s take: Wesley 47, Framingham State 28
Consensus: Not a cakewalk for the Wolverines, but they eventually pull away.

Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins 42, Western New England 21
Ryan’s take: Johns Hopkins 45, Western New England 10
Pat’s take: Johns Hopkins 38, Western New England 10
Consensus: The Bears aren’t golden against the Blue Jays. This one is for the birds.

Keith’s take: UW-Oshkosh 63, St. Scholastica 13
Ryan’s take: UW-Oshkosh 56, St. Scholastica 3
Pat’s take: UW-Oshkosh 52, St. Scholastica 7
Consensus: UMAC champs get the MIAC or WIAC champ in Round 1, and the results haven’t been pretty.

Keith’s take: Ohio Northern 31, Franklin 30
Ryan’s take: Ohio Northern 45, Franklin 34
Pat’s take: Ohio Northern 35, Franklin 20
Consensus: Teams that have no business being in the tournament usually prove that actually, they do. Plus, it’s an OAC No. 2.

Keith’s take: UW-Whitewater 35, St. Norbert 7
Ryan’s take: UW-Whitewater 48, St. Norbert 7
Pat’s take: UW-Whitewater 35, St. Norbert 7
Consensus: So seven it is for the Green Knights, against the defending champions.

Keith’s take: Wheaton 39, Lakeland 14
Ryan’s take: Wheaton 28, Lakeland 13
Pat’s take: Wheaton 48, Lakeland 7
Consensus: You won’t even be able to tell that much of the Thunder’s offense has been banged up.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below, or tweet at us at @D3Keith, @NewsTipps and @d3football. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the picks and the highlights from Round 1.

Triple Take: Stagg Bowl XLII predictions

We can recycle last year's trophy, uniforms and helmet photo, but not last year's predictions. (City of Salem photo)

We can recycle last year’s trophy, uniforms and helmet photo, but not last year’s predictions. (City of Salem photo)

Over the past 10 years, every time Mount Union and UW-Whitewater have been in the 32-team field, they’ve met in the Stagg Bowl. For the teams’ ninth clash in Salem, we rounded up an expanded group of prognosticators for Triple Take.

Once we get past the novelty and hype, there’s a game to be played. And no two matchups are the same — casts change, strategies change, weather changes. Last year’s lucky bounces may go another way this year. To break it all down, and give you an idea of what to expect tonight, is our seven-man panel.

We predicted last season (everyone was way off) and every Stagg Bowl since 1999. Don’t like any of the picks you see here? Make your own in the comments below; your insight is welcomed.

— Keith McMillan

Pat Coleman, publisher and executive editor
I’ve heard a lot of people compare this game to last year, saying, “how can Mount Union make up 38 points?” The point is, this isn’t 2013 and these are not the 2013 teams. Mount Union just has to score more than UW-Whitewater this time around. What Friday night will show is whether Mount Union has improved enough on defense to hold UWW down. Or whether the 2014 UWW defense can keep Kevin Burke contained, or account for Taurice Scott and Roman Namdar, whom they have never had to deal with before. Because of some of those things, I don’t expect this to be a defensive battle. I expect there will be points scored. This game could come down to a special teams play, and Mount Union has the edge there. But not enough to turn the tide. I look for UW-Whitewater, which has been tested more regularly, to show that here in Salem. UW-Whitewater 34, Mount Union 31.

Keith McMillan, national columnist and managing editor emeritus
Mount Union hung 70 on an elite D-III team last week. Two-time Gagliardi Trophy winner Kevin Burke, who will go down as one of the best in D-III history, is playing like a man on a mission. Wesley coach Mike Drass, after his own team had its butt whooped, said the Stagg Bowl might feature another butt whooping.
UW-Whitewater, meantime, has a hobbled cornerback in Marcus McLin and has had up-and-down safety play. They’ve won their past two games by 4 and 6, and last year’s 52-14 Stagg Bowl win over the Purple Raiders is a distant memory. Shoot, it’s probably what’s fueled Mount Union’s ridiculous run back to Salem.
Realistically, I see three potential outcomes. 1. Burke has a game for the ages and lights up the UW-W defense, even if no passes go near Brady Grayvold. 2. Mykael Bratchett, John Flood IV and the Whitewater defensive line dominate the line of scrimmage, not letting Burke keep on read-option runs and not allowing him time to throw. 3. Tony Koepnick, Johnny Wiederholt and the UW-W offensive line dominate like they did last year (201 rushing yards at 4.9 per carry, no sacks of Matt Behrendt allowed or interceptions thrown); Whitewater keeps the ball out of Burke’s hands and in Dennis Moore’s while the Warhawks win ugly, like the 13-10 game in 2011.
All common sense says take Mount Union. But I’ve watched every one of the Purple Power Stagg Bowls, and what these teams do against everyone else often is little indication of how the game in Salem goes. Backing Burke and his team is perfectly reasonable. But Koepnick, Wiederholt, Spencer Shier, Eli Slonaker and Connor Peters make the difference for me. UW-Whitewater 31, Mount Union 28.

Ryan Tipps, Around the Nation columnist
Some things in life you just can’t unsee – and the total dominance that Mount Union dealt Wesley last Saturday is one of those things. The Purple Raiders are so fast on both sides of the ball, and their special teams are able to ruin an opponent’s drive almost before it starts. Several times on Saturday, Wesley was pinned at or inside its own 10-yard line. Cases like that, it’s possible to have a 60- or 70- yard drive and come away empty-handed. It requires more than momentum to overcome the kind of long field that Mount leaves its opponents.  And then there’s the defense. The Purple Raiders can get so much pressure up front, and they have linebackers and a secondary that flock to the ball so that it’s tough for offenses to stretch their legs in the least. That side of the team is so much improved from a year ago that it should completely change the dynamic of the Stagg Bowl. Hanging in the back of my mind, too, is the fact that UW-Whitewater has needed some extra magic toward the end of the season to win some of its games. Does that sound familiar? It should — it reads like the Mount Union of 2013, the one that ultimately got throttled in the Stagg. I give credit to Whitewater for having the will to win and the poise to regain the upper hand in these games, but this kind of thing will catch up to a team in the end. And the end is Salem: Mount Union 41, UW-Whitewater 24

Adam Turer, Around the Mid-Atlantic columnist
Last year, Mount Union’s defense gave up 140 points on its path to Salem. This year, that number is 52. The Purple Raiders defense entered this season with something to prove, and the unit has shown much improvement from a year ago. UW-Whitewater quarterback Matt Behrendt has thrown four interceptions in the past three games, after tossing just three in his previous 26 starts. This year, it was the Warhawks who eked out quarterfinal and semifinal wins which were not decided until the final minutes. As Mount Union showed in last year’s Stagg Bowl, a team can only bend so many times before it breaks. With several emotional subplots on both sides, I think Kevin Burke finally gets his first win over UW-Whitewater and sends Lance Leipold off to Division I with his first Stagg Bowl loss. Mount Union 42, UW-Whitewater 34

Josh Smith, Around the West columnist
I can’t wait to see if Mount Union continues its dominant playoff run or if UW-Whitewater’s resiliency comes through one more time. Both teams have star players on both sides of the ball and top-notch coaching, so I expect a close game. I think it’s special teams – either a big play or a crucial mistake – that swings this game. It could be as simple as controlling field position. Maybe a punt return by Tim Kennedy or Justin Howard tips the game one way or another. Or perhaps it comes down to Edward Ruhnke or Will Meyer splitting the uprights when it matters most. The Warhawks have managed to gut out close games the past two weeks. I think they find a way to do it again and send Lance Leipold off with as many championships as career losses. UW-Whitewater 31, Mount Union 28

Gary Douglas Lundberg, play-by-play for KOOL 106.5 Whitewater
Every year there seems to be a new story line.  In 2006, it was Bob Berezowitz’s final game.  In ’07 it’s a new head coach and quarterback.  The final game for Larry Kehres in 2012. And now in 2014, it’s Lance Liepold’s (and most of his staff’s) final game. I’m not sure anyone saw last year’s result coming and this year is equally intriguing. Mount looks to be much improved, especially on the defensive side. Whitewater has “bent” on defense particulary in the last half of the season. With Jake Kumerow back, the offense has found its stride again. And for the Purple Raiders, Kevin Burke is … Kevin Burke. I’ve always been an “intangible” guy and the two that I see the most are: Mount looking to payback after last year’s humbling defeat and Whitewater winning one more for their departing head coach and longtime defensive coordinator Brian Borland. It could be a wild one. UW-Whitewater 35, Mount Union 31

Frank Rossi, Stagg Bowl sideline reporter
I originally chose UW-Whitewater to win when I co-hosted the final “In the HuddLLe” show of the season, but that was before Mount Union beat Wesley by 49. So, I decided to take a different approach this year in making my prediction, as I have tended to perform badly in the six prior tries I’ve had. We know that in 2013, UW-Whitewater beat Mount Union by 38 points. I wanted to compare the teams through the first 14 games in each year to see what I could learn statistically:

Mount Union:
2014: Scoring — 844-130 (+714, avg. 51.0) — +20 TO Ratio
2013: Scoring — 686-266 (+420, avg. 30.0) — +10 TO Ratio

2014: Scoring — 558-149 (+409, avg. 29.2) — +25 TO Ratio
2013: Scoring — 501-122 (+379, avg. 27.1) — +31 TO Ratio

Both teams had a better average margin of victory, but Mount Union’s jumped by nearly 22 points. This was likely aided by the improved turnover ratio Mount Union experienced. The question becomes: is this enough to account for more than a 38-point swing Friday night? It seems like the Mount Union defense has leveled the playing field — this didn’t exist in the 2013 stomping and led to the Whitewater dominance in that game.  Add the improvement in offensive efficiency, and I believe Mount Union will win going away. Mount Union 38, UW-Whitewater 27

Listen to our annual Stagg Bowl Webcast on Friday night, beginning at 5 p.m. and featuring the first reveal of the All-America team. Download the Around the Nation podcast and keep an eye out for the final top 25 after the game, where Pat, Keith and a band of guests wrap up the season.