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Quick Hits: Name this rivalry

We all know what the big game is this week and you don’t need a poll on social media to tell you. But there are 110…109… make that 108 other games this week, at least as of Friday at midnight, and even though No. 1 is playing No. 6, some of those other games might be worth looking at. That’s what our crew does in Quick Hits.

Our regular crew is Keith McMillan, Ryan Tipps, Pat Coleman, Adam Turer and Frank Rossi. Our sixth spot goes to a guest each week, and this week’s is Kevin Niehus, former Thomas More quarterback.

— Pat Coleman; photo by Joe Fusco, d3photography.com

Other than UMHB-Linfield, what’s the game of the week?

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Keith’s take: No. 16 Illinois Wesleyan at No. 5 North Central. With the Titans’ hot start and the Carthage-Wheaton clash, we’ll get an idea how CCIW will shake out.
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Ryan’s take: No. 16 Illinois Wesleyan at No. 5 North Central. Curious how the Titans fare against their second tough foe of 2017.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Carthage at No. 4 Wheaton. While everyone is focused on a different CCIW game, I’m wondering how many points Carthage allows.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Thomas More at No. 18 Washington and Jefferson. The playoffs start now for the Saints.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 16 Illinois Wesleyan at No. 5 North Central. Some folks have doubts about the rankings of both — winner justifies ranking.

Kevin’s take: John Carroll at Baldwin Wallace. Just a hunch; Coach Hilvert will have his kids jacked up for their home opener.

Which Top 25 team is most likely to get upset?

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Keith’s take: No. 23 Concordia-Moorhead. Excluding the six teams in Question 1 (not brave enough to pick Carthage), Bethel could take advantage if Cobbers are still patting themselves on the back.
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Ryan’s take: No. 9 John Carroll. Baldwin Wallace has kept this matchup interesting in recent years.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: None. I don’t see it this week. Too many head-to-head games that don’t qualify for upset status.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 9 John Carroll. Baldwin Wallace makes a statement in Jim Hilvert’s home debut.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 18 Washington & Jefferson. vs. Thomas More — Saints will bounce back from loss; haven’t lost two straight in season since 2012.
Guest
Kevin’s take: No. 18 Washington & Jefferson. Saints leave the PAC following the season. There’s no love lost here. Both teams’ run defenses will be tested.

Who wins the UMHB-Linfield game and why?

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Keith’s take: UMHB. Neither wowed in opener, and both lost a lot from last season. Linfield might have lost more.
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Ryan’s take: UMHB. They’re back this year more loaded than the Wildcats are.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: UMHB. But for a game that’s picked unanimously, it will be competitive.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: UMHB. Championship pedigree separates two evenly matched teams.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: UMHB. In battle of new starting QBs, edge goes to the Cru.
Guest
Guest’s take: UMHB. Division III fans are the big winner with a great early-season matchup which probably determines home field in the semifinals.

Which team picks up a much-needed win after a winless start?

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Keith’s take: Augustana. I jumped the gun on St. Norbert; The Vikings have been competitive, and should win at Carroll in the third of three road games to open, and four against “C” teams.
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Ryan’s take: No. 24 Wesley. There’s no doubt the sting from two weeks ago lingers — now conference play starts.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Pacific. Oh, wait, never mind. There are no forfeits awarded for a program refusing to take the field. Thanks, Obama (‘s alma mater).
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: UW-Whitewater. The Warhawks take care of the football and avoid an 0-3 start.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Franklin vs. Defiance — rough schedule in first two games will make this game seem like a cakewalk.
Guest
Guest’s take: Gettysburg. Also Franklin. And Chicago.

Pick a winner in the NESCAC not named Amherst or Trinity.

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Keith’s take: Wesleyan. The game at Middlebury will be the NESCAC’s closest this week, and it’ll require stout defense vs. UNLV transfer QB Jared Lebowitz and the Panthers.
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Ryan’s take: Wesleyan. Though the matchup against Middlebury is pretty even.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Tufts. Although Hamilton is an improving program, I still like the Jumbos in a big way. No, that’s just the play on words talking. In a medium way.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Williams. Either Williams or Bowdoin will earn its first win since 2015. I’m picking the Ephs.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Williams vs. Bowdoin — Mark Raymond gets his first NESCAC head-coaching victory.
Guest
Guest’s take: Middlebury. My cousin Tim’s Panthers open at home.

Which two teams playing in Week 3 should have a traveling trophy for their game but don’t yet? What would you call it?

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Keith’s take: TMC and W&J. The PACto Defacto Title Game. Or Shenandoah-Hobart Yoder Bowl. The Loras-Dubuque Battle for Dubuque. Stop me anytime.
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Ryan’s take: Averett Cougars and Ferrum Panthers. Call it The Cat Scratcher.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Redlands and George Fox. Remember GFU’s surprise 2015 win? Calling this the Red-Fox Cup. This has nothing to do with red cups and everything to do with Sanford & Son, kids.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Randolph-Macon and Catholic. The Guru Bowl participants need a trophy featuring prominent alums Pat and Keith. (Ed. note, no they don’t!)
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Catholic vs. Randolph-Macon. The Around the Nation Trophy-cast.
Guest
Kevin’s take: Mount St. Joseph vs. Bluffton. The Bridge Bowl 2: there ARE bridges along I-75 in Ohio. They could use the original ceramic bowl, currently collecting dust in Crestview Hills.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the Quick Hits that were prescient, and the Quick Misses that were terribly off base.

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Quick Hits returns: Week 1

Quick Hits is back for the 2017 season, continuing the format of two six-packs — a half-dozen panelists and a half-dozen questions. (Or, if you’re already in midseason tailgating form, you can think of it as six six-packs.) Predictions, as always, should be taken in the manner in which they are intended: for your entertainment, and to show one possibility of what could happen. Want to play along? Comments welcome at the bottom of the page. Comments that are posted before kickoff are always given more credit than 20-20 hindsight comments.

Our regular crew is Keith McMillan, Ryan Tipps, Pat Coleman, Adam Turer and Frank Rossi. Our sixth spot goes to a guest each week, and this week’s is longtime CNU follower David DiPersio, whom you can find on our message board as CNU85.

— Pat Coleman
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com

Which Week 1 game is the game of the week?

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Keith’s take: No. 4 UW-Oshkosh at No. 8 John Carroll. I have to stick with my Kickoff pick.
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Ryan’s take: No. 4 UW-Oshkosh at No. 8 John Carroll. It’s not just about the semifinal rematch, but it’s also about clearing the air regarding all the voids left by graduation.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 4 UW-Oshkosh at No. 8 John Carroll. Not even close. Wish it were closer for me to get to, though.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 11 Wesley at No. 20 Delaware Valley. Last year the Aggies pulled off the upset. But the Wolverines rallied to earn a playoff berth while Del Val was left on the bubble.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 11 Wesley at No. 20 Delaware Valley. Based on 2017 expectations, it has to be.
Guest
David’s take: No. 11 Wesley at No. 20 Delaware Valley. Two top 25 teams who also have overlapping recruiting areas. This is quickly becoming a rivalry!

Which Top 25 team is most likely to get upset?

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Keith’s take: No. 23 St. John Fisher. In four games, a top-25 loss wouldn’t be an upset. I’ll go SJF, at W&J. Also watch No. 14 Hobart and No. 24 WNE.
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Ryan’s take: No. 24 Western New England. I do feel pretty good about what the Golden Bears bring to the field, but Springfield, with 17 starters back, will push the game till the end.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 23 St. John Fisher. I don’t buy the 5-5 finish predicted in Kickoff but still think SJF should be lower than 23.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 19 Thomas More. A young defense going up against a very motivated and experienced offense. Franklin QB Chase Burton should have a big day.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 21 Alfred. They’re playing at Ithaca, which is under a new staff.
Guest
David’s take: No. 23 St. John Fisher. W&J will move into the Top 25 after Week 1, where they will remain for the season.

Which matchup seems most unusual?

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Keith’s take: Augustana at Cortland. In 1985, Augustana beat Cortland rival Ithaca in the Stagg Bowl.
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Ryan’s take: Southwestern at Denison. More than 1,200 miles is a long way to go for two teams that aren’t traditional powerhouses.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Augustana at Cortland. Who would have seen this one coming? That should be interesting.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Southwestern at Denison. This Texas-Ohio matchup pits programs located near both of the future Stagg Bowl sites.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Union at Husson. It’s a 6-1/2 hour road trip to face a team with limited upside and limited alumni exposure.
Guest
David’s take: No. 4 UW-Oshkosh at No. 8 John Carroll. This matchup makes the season feel as if it’s November! A 500-plus mile trip between two of the nation’s top teams. This has a playoff feel.

Whose head coaching debut are you most interested in?

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Keith’s take: Rick Finotti, John Carroll.
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Ryan’s take: Art Link, Christopher Newport. He’s only the second coach the team has ever had, and his predecessor did a mighty fine job. There’s lots to live up to.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Casey Goff, TCNJ. I’m just quite intrigued by how late he was hired and in what poor shape the program was in.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Bryan Moore, Wilmington. The Quaker Bowl is back, and Wilmington and Earlham are desperate for a win. Wilmington’s last win came in the 2015 opener; Earlham is winless since 2013.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Dan Swanstrom, Ithaca. It’ll be interesting to see the change in style from Mike Welch’s long tenure.
Guest
David’s take: Art Link, Christopher Newport. Last year’s No. 11 defense has many returning starters as does the offense. Even though Link is a defensive guy, I expect we will see more changes on the other side of the ball.

Which conference will need its Kickoff ranking re-evaluated?

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Keith’s take: The PAC.
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Ryan’s take: The HCAC. I could see them dropping down a couple spots — even from their No. 22 ranking — after a rough opening day.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: The ASC. This was a tough league to figure out because of the two new teams. Most of the non-conference play will be in after this week.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: The PAC. It’s not just my upset pick. W&J and Westminster (Pa.) both host ranked opponents. Home losses by three of the top teams in the league would be a bad look for the PAC.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: The NWC. With uncertainty at Linfield without Riddle at QB, other NWC teams need to win early out of conference games to justify the conference’s ranking.
Guest
David’s take: The LL. So many non-conference games. Depending how the league fares in these games will determine if the No. 9 ranking is a good reflection of on-field performance.

Who is going to have a long trip home?

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Keith’s take: Rhodes, returning from Willamette.
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Ryan’s take: No. 18 Stevenson. Despite coming into the season feeling high, this opener against cross-state Frostburg will be tough to handle.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: N.C. Wesleyan. Mount Union, at home, taking the field for the first time after losing two of its last five? Yeah.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Rhodes. Over 2,000 miles for an SAA-NWC showdown at Willamette, the Lynx will have the rare Week 1 flight home if they lose.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: N.C. Wesleyan. No. 2 Mount Union looks to make early 2017 statement, first against Battling Bishops.
Guest
David’s take: N.C. Wesleyan. This matchup confuses me. NCW hasn’t won more than five games in a season this decade. The Mount has only lost six total. I’m not sure what this game will reveal to anyone.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the Quick Hits that were prescient, and the Quick Misses that were terribly off base.

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Quick Hits predicts Stagg Bowl XLIV

Six Quick Hits were not enough for this week — they never are. We always expand our panel for the Stagg Bowl and this week we’ve done so as well, with guests who cover Mary Hardin-Baylor and UW-Oshkosh, as well as our own guest analyst, Kevin Niehus, who will break down X’s and O’s for us on our broadcast on Friday.

Nobody consulted with one another. In 2015, our panel went heavily for Mount Union and in 2014, our panel split, 4-3, for UW-Whitewater. We’ve taken a stab at predicting the winner in every Stagg Bowl since 1999. Feel free to add your pick and reasoning in the comments section below. Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com.

— Pat Coleman

Pat Coleman, D3football.com publisher and executive editor
UWO logoI’ve spent a good amount of time this season with Mary Hardin-Baylor as my No. 1 team. But for one week, one game, that doesn’t mean I am automatically sticking with the Cru. One thing Keith and I have talked about consistently over the years is the idea of balanced teams succeeding deep into the playoffs and that continues here because as December goes on, the weather gets less and less hospitable to passing teams. And that’s where I think this game turns. There’s some speculation about what the weather here in December does to a team from Texas and while I don’t think the cold temperatures themselves will affect UMHB, I do wonder about the wind, if there is any (and there certainly can be at any moment out of the mountains). But also, I suspect that if the game comes down to one or two plays, I’d rather have UW-Oshkosh’s play-calling than Mary Hardin-Baylor’s. And this game should come down to one or two plays. 
UW-Oshkosh 21, Mary Hardin-Baylor 17

Keith McMillan, D3football.com national columnist and managing editor emeritus
UMHB logoFourth-ranked Wisconsin-Oshkosh has run over the No. 9, No. 3 and No. 6 teams in the country on the way to Salem, suggesting that beating No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor is well within its capabilities. But when one examines how the Titans and Crusaders match up, something stands out — UW-Oshkosh is as physical and as formation diverse a team that UMHB has faced. But it can’t match the athletic gifts of the Cru, and that where UMHB has the advantage; the pass rush from Teidrick Smith and other down linemen, the flying around and sure tackling of Baylor Mullins and his counterparts, and the speed on the flanks that T.J. Josey and company bring. Except in Round 2 against Linfield, Mary Hardin-Baylor has looked shaky for at least a portion of each playoff game. But they win when the opponent can no longer score on them; In four playoff games, Mount Union’s 6 points have been the only fourth-quarter points scored by an opposing offense. So the idea that UMHB will take an early lead, then lean on its defense to slug it out with UW-Oshkosh in a Stagg Bowl ugly to all but the most attentive defensive connoisseurs is where I come down on this.
Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, UW-Oshkosh 17

Adam Turer, D3football.com Around the Nation columnist
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We can only be sure of a few things heading into Stagg Bowl XLIV. There will definitely be a first-time national champion crowned. There will almost certainly be turnovers, plural. There will probably be at least one strange play where a fortuitous bounce shifts the game’s momentum. After that, it’s hard to predict. We expected a defensive struggle last year, then Mount Union and St. Thomas combined for 84 points. In fact, despite facing one of the nation’s top defenses, the last four Stagg Bowl champions averaged 43 points in their title game victory. I’m not expecting another defensive struggle like we saw in both semifinals. Mary Hardin-Baylor’s defensive line is going to dictate this game. If that front four can get a push up front, the back seven will be able to sort through the variety of shifts and motions that the Titans will throw at them. I expect a slow first half controlled by the defenses. A big play in the second half, likely from UMHB’s defense or special teams, will open things up. The Cru’s No. 1 fan, 6-year-old Brielle, will be in attendance. Salem Stadium is located on Texas Street. All signs point to a Crusaders victory.
Mary Hardin-Baylor 35, UW-Oshkosh 21

Ryan Tipps, D3football.com senior editor
UMHB logoThese two teams have both come through long, hard roads to get here, so there’s not an “experience” advantage either way. What I’m looking at most is balance, because it’s with balance that you’re most able to disrupt an opponent’s strategy (on either side of the ball) and get a leg up. The Cru has the edge on balance — a dynamic offense that keeps plays alive and a defense that has bested multiple Top 20 attacks. It’s easy to point to turnovers or special teams play or red-zone defense as deciding factors in a game, but we really don’t know how those elements will shake out. UMHB quarterback Blake Jackson and defensive end Teidrick Smith have anchored their respective sides of the ball and have been consistent throughout the postseason. They deliver balance, and they’ll deliver a win.
Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, UW-Oshkosh 17

Frank Rossi, D3football.com Stagg Bowl sideline reporter
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Mary Hardin-Baylor became my No. 1 team late in the season based on their consistency after their first big win against Linfield.  But since the loss against the Warhawks, UW-Oshkosh has shown a similar consistency against tremendous teams.  That makes this pick, despite my rankings, very tough.  So, I go to the advantage/disadvantage system to pick a winner…
Weather: Advantage Titans — kickoff temperature should be 28 degrees, very un-Belton-like, but warmer than the JCU game for the Titans.
Experience: Cru — the Cru’s senior class has been in the playoffs every year, including the 2013 semifinals.  This is the second playoff experience for the Titans’ senior class.
Specialists: Cru — when you look at the D3football.com All-America Teams later today, you’ll see a lot more UMHB specialists in the mix, and not nearly as many Titans.
Depth: Titans — the Titans made use of more players, spreading out their playing time moreso than UMHB in the playoffs, even in close games.

Using those key pieces, it’s a tie.  So, I’m picking an overtime game in which the Titans’ depth and slightly better kicking game gives them the narrow victory.
UW-Oshkosh 20, Mary Hardin-Baylor 17 (OT).

Josh Smith, Around the West columnist, D3football.com
UMHB logoWhen it comes to championship games, defense is king. That’s what makes this game difficult to predict – both teams are excellent on defense. Both squads have 40+ takeaways this season and have held opponents to less than 15 points per game. So rather than focusing on which team might come up with the big stop, the team that makes the big play should have the advantage. The Cru’s Blake Jackson is dynamic with 34 touchdown passes and over 700 rushing yards. On the other sideline, Brett Kasper, Dylan Hecker and company are well balanced. Mary Hardin-Baylor has averaged 32.25 points per game in the postseason while the Titans have scored an average of 31 points during their playoff run. So the offenses stack up evenly too. That leaves special teams as the difference. On the season, the Cru has six special teams touchdowns to Oshkosh’s two. If a special teams play sways the Stagg Bowl outcome, Mary Hardin-Baylor gets the edge.
Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, UW-Oshkosh 17

Eric Drennan, sports editor, Temple Daily Telegram
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With its somewhat unconventional scheme, there’s no doubt the UW-Oshkosh defense has a chance to cause problems for UMHB. Of the Titans’ 26 interceptions this season, 12 have come in the four playoff games as opposing quarterbacks struggled to read the coverages. Having a large offensive line and a backfield duo (Dylan Hecker and Devon Linzenmeyer) that has totaled almost 2,000 yards rushing certainly don’t hurt UW-Oshkosh’s chances either. But if both teams work out the jitters and settle in quickly, the more talented squad should prevail and UMHB might be one of the most athletic teams in the country. With their speed in all three phases (14 touchdowns from their defense and special teams), the Crusaders are tough to contain through all four quarters. Even on days when its offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders, UMHB can ride Teidrick Smith, Baylor Mullins and the rest of its defense to victory.
Mary Hardin-Baylor 28, UW-Oshkosh 10

Austin Walther, Oshkosh Advance-Titan reporter (and D3football.com Kickoff contributor)
UWO logo
The Crusaders currently have the second highest scoring offense in the country and that has showed throughout their tournament run. MHB hung 50 in the opening round against Redlands, 27 against Linfield and 38 vs. Wheaton in the quarterfinals. The Titans defense has really come on in the previous two weeks. The Titans have forced 12 turnovers in the playoffs, including eight against St. Thomas. The quarterfinal against the Tommies was supposed to be a defensive battle, but there were a lot of points scored despite the turnovers and the hard fought game finally came in the semifinals. The Crusaders are led by the speed and running game, as Markeith Miller has rushed for almost 1,500 yards this season and quarterback Blake Jackson has almost 800, with both players combining for 30 touchdowns. MHB also has an aerial attack with Jackson, passing over 3000 yards and T.J. Josey with just over 1,000 yards receiving. The Titans, on the other hand, have a great balanced attack on the ground. Dylan Hecker is the pounding running back who has gone over 1100 yards and scored 16 touchdowns this year while Devon Linzenmeyer is the guy who can get to the edge. What makes Brett Kasper good in this offense is that he isn’t expected to make all of the plays because of the ground game. The Crusaders gave up the yardage on the ground to the Purple Raiders and forced three interceptions. I think if Oshkosh has that kind of success on the ground, Kasper doesn’t make the mistakes which favors the Titans. Jackson is fast and the Crusaders have talent on offense, but the Titans’ defense is playing at a different level right now, and they have proven to be able to keep up with a high scoring and low scoring game.
UW-Oshkosh 17, Mary Hardin-Baylor 14

Kevin Niehus, Division III football analyst and former Thomas More quarterback
UWO logo
Well, here we are with a fresh-feeling Stagg Bowl.  These teams are not from Alliance or Whitewater, though UW-Oshkosh will seem familiar because they use the same mold as the folks two hours south of them.  Oshkosh brings that familiar pound the rock philosophy behind a physical offensive line, though with a twist; the multiple formations with Gus Malzahn-inspired Orbit and Jet motions.  Oshkosh is here because they run the ball well and stop the run.  Meanwhile, the freakish athletes for MHB have made that defense elite while giving the offense an explosive play flavor to go along with the strong running game.  Oshkosh must get great DB play like last week because Blake Jackson and his wide receiver corps are a big play waiting to happen.  I like the discipline Oshkosh has played with on defense and the fact they’re battle-tested within the WIAC.  These will be two keys to an Oshkosh win, with a late turnover sealing a classic defensive ballgame our Division hasn’t seen since 2011.
UW-Oshkosh 16, Mary Hardin-Baylor 13

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below, or tweet at us. Download the season’s final Around the Nation podcast, recorded live at Mac and Bob’s in Salem, wrapping up the season following the Stagg Bowl and announcing the players and coach of the year.