CAT | Triple Take
Photos by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com
It’s not the two teams we’re used to, but it’s still a purple party.
This is the St. Thomas football team’s first trip to Salem, and though Mount Union is a fixture there, the players on this squad have never gotten to hoist the Walnut and Bronze.
The game is Friday night and under the lights in Virginia. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps are joined by a few extra voices for the final Triple Take of the season. Last week’s TT post had a whopping 94 comments, which was awesome. Chime in in the comments area below, and be sure to use the #d3fb hashtag (as well as #stagg) if you’re posting about the game on Twitter.
The Stagg Bowl is being broadcast at 7 p.m. Friday on ESPNU. Put the TV on mute and listen to the better/more accurate/more insightful broadcast that Coleman and McMillan will provide, and be sure to catch Tipps and Frank Rossi during the pregame show, which includes the unveiling of the D3football.com All-America team. And after the Stagg Bowl, there’ll be a postgame show as well as writeups on both the winning and losing teams.
Pat and Keith also gave their pregame thoughts (kept it under 10 minutes!):
On to our picks:
Pat Coleman, D3football.com executive editor and publisher
Mount Union 35, St. Thomas 17
I don’t know how many points experience is worth in a Stagg Bowl, and I don’t know how many points playing Mount Union for the first time is worth. I know they are both generally worth something, though I know they count for something. Sometimes, though, I look at a game featuring Mount Union and can’t envision a scenario in which the Purple Raiders can lose. That’s not the case here. St. Thomas has the talent and speed on defense to limit the Mount Union running game, at least from its running backs. The question in my mind is whether they can contain Mount Union quarterback Kevin Burke when he pulls it down and runs. The other thing St. Thomas will need to do is get enough pressure up front to not give Burke time to find his receivers. The problem is, he’s got multiple top receiver options to throw to, and the odds of the Tommies back seven covering all those guys and containing the run just seem long to me. On the reverse side, St. Thomas has a lot of good receivers but no great receiver as of yet. They have a pretty good freshman running back with good field vision and an offensive line that has been successful this season but is also pretty young. They also have a quarterback who is of similar style to the one Mount Union sees every day in practice. In my mind, it adds up to a Mount Union win. Perhaps not one in which St. Thomas gets blown off the field, but a win nonetheless.
Keith McMillan, D3football.com managing editor and national columnist
Mount Union 27, St. Thomas 13
The only thing I think I think about this game, having picked a few coaches’ brains here in Salem, is that we aren’t primed for an offensive shootout. Sure it’s a short week prep-wise, and at least one of the teams was practicing this week before its game plan was finished. Mount Union and St. Thomas are each built on outstanding defenses and great O-lines, so as you watch the game, you’ll have to break your normal habit of following the ball, and watch from the lines out if you want to figure out what’s really happening. That’s my plan, and I expect to see two defenses making it hard on the other to run the ball, which means the matchups on the outside might be the only place where an offense can gain a consistent advantage. If Junior Collins, Chris Denton, Julius Moore and Shannon Stewart outplay their counterparts in the St. Thomas secondary, and Kevin Burke is his usual self, Mount Union takes home championship No. 11.
Ryan Tipps, D3football.com senior editor and former mid-Atlantic columnist
Mount Union 34, St. Thomas 17
This year is four years in the making for this group of Purple Raiders seniors. No other team has lost three Stagg Bowls in a row, and it’s not likely a team will lose four in a row any time soon. A few weeks ago, a Mount fan on the message boards (apologies, I forget who) noted that for many years, the Purple Raiders were so offense-heavy that they were able to win games despite the holes they had on defense. Now, in turn, they’re winning because of the defense. I agree. Though Mount has been at the top of my ballot all year, I saw a lingering question mark because the run game was so unclear. And national championship teams have typically been led by the iconic names like Kmic, Beaver and Coppage. Mount didn’t have that feature coming into the season — but that didn’t matter. The surprise emergence of Kevin Burke, the stellar downfield threats, and most of all, the defense have made the Purple Raiders into a championship team – even if the mold breaks tradition. To be sure, St. Thomas is not exactly the neat little packet of expectations this season either. In the first week of Triple Take, I wondered aloud how a team could graduate its starting quarterback and All-Americans at running back and wide receiver and still expect to be able to hang with the best. The Tommies showed just how to make that happen, and they’ve certainly earned their way to Salem. But they are newcomers on Mount Union’s “other” home turf. It’ll be interesting for a quarter and maybe even at the half, but the Purple Raiders will pour it on after the break.
Frank Rossi, D3football.com broadcaster
Mount Union 34, St. Thomas 21
I actually believe these teams present a great matchup under normal circumstances with balance and depth that are second-to-none in Division III. With that said, there is no way to “practice” for Stagg Bowl week in Salem. The pomp and circumstance of the Gagliardi Trophy dinner, the “Spotlight on Champions” dinner, the interviews and the travel itself can take a newcomer by surprise — including yours truly four years ago when I first partook in all of the above. The Raiders are used to these aspects of the game; the Tommies are not. When kickoff comes Friday, I foresee some flatness in St. Thomas because of this first-time encounter with such a whirlwind week — and that’s a no-no when playing against a team that plays from ahead as well as any team in the land. An attempted UST rally falls short, and the Mount wins going away, avoiding the mistakes from six days earlier.
Adam Turer, D3football.com mid-Atlantic columnist
Mount Union 38, St. Thomas 20
The Purple Raiders are on a mission and appear more focused than any team we’ve seen in recent years. More importantly, they are playing with a confidence that allowed them to rally from 14 down in the fourth quarter last week in their first true late-game test. If this team can defeat Mary Hardin-Baylor despite five turnovers, I don’t see how St. Thomas or any other team in the country can beat them. Kevin Burke is wise beyond his years and benefits from a veteran offensive line and wide receivers. The running back committee has been steadily improving and just needs to take better care of the football this week. St. Thomas has its own overachieving sophomore quarterback in Matt O’Connell. The Tommies also have a formidable defense that will be capable of slowing the Purple Raiders in the early going. I expect a low halftime score with most of the points put up in the second half, once each offensive line wears down the opposing defense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tommies defense rise to the challenge early in the game and set up an early score, giving St. Thomas the early lead. I just don’t see a defense led by seniors Charles Dieuseul and Nick Driskill allowing this opportunity to slip away. Chris Denton will be a factor on special teams for Mount Union. I don’t expect him to break a big return, but I expect his presence to force St. Thomas into short directional punts and give Mount Union the advantage in field position. Mount Union’s senior class will finally get its ring, capping off an already enjoyable season for head coach Larry Kehres. The Purple Raiders will reward their head coach for trusting in his players by bringing the Walnut & Bronze back to Alliance.
Jeffrey Zupanic, Mount Union beat writer for the Alliance Review
Mount Union 49, St. Thomas 14
The numbers suggest that picking Mount Union is the safe way to go in 2012. First, there’s the possibility of this year’s seniors being the first class since 1989 not to win a national championship ring, and they are far too talented for that to happen. Secondly, it is still mind-blowing to know that Mount Union turned the ball over five times and had two other possession end without points (bad snap on third down and unsuccessful fake punt) yet still scored 48 points in a national semifinal game against the No. 2 team in the country. The defense was as stout as it has been all year despite giving up the 35 points to UMHB (all of which came off turnovers). The Purple Raiders allowed 165 yards on those four possessions (one was a pick-six) while giving up just 110 yards to the Crusaders on their other 12 possessions. Lastly, there’s the “getting to know Mount Union” factor as I like to call it. Since 1992, the Purple Raiders are 29-2 against first-time opponents in the postseason — UW-LaCrosse in 1992 and Mary Hardin-Baylor in 2004 are the lone winners — and in that span they have scored 50+ points 12 times while giving up less than 10 points 12 times. Teams usually have not fared well against Mount Union the first time they play them with just 2 teams keeping the final margin within single digits (Trinity in 1998 and Bridgewater in 2001). This Mount Union team has been playing on a different level — even by Mount Union standards — all season long. They need just 14 points to become the most prolific offensive team in NCAA history (breaking the record set by the 2007 Purple Raiders). The Purple Raiders explosive offense will be celebrating under the exploding fireworks on Friday night.
Ross Schreck, Tommiemedia.com sports editor
Mount Union 21 St. Thomas 13
This season, St. Thomas has had to overcome numerous adversities. Whether it was the improbable 11-point come from behind victory with four minutes to go at UW-Eau Claire, or overcoming myriad injuries, this Tommie team has answered every question its been asked. The toughest question, however, is this Friday. Having covered this team since day one, St. Thomas’ success is predicated upon its defense’s ability to thwart the opposition’s running game and forcing opposing offenses out of their normal grooves. The key to Friday’s game boils down to the Tommies’ ability to slow down the prolific Mount Union offense and create turnovers. Last weekend, the Purple Raiders were uncharacteristically poor holding on to the football, giving up five turnovers to UMHB. The Tommie offense feeds off the momentum created by its defense and its special teams — just ask Elmhurst and UW-Oshkosh. Offensively, St. Thomas must stick to its solid running game and dominate time of possession. Although I do believe this game will be competitive, and after watching three Purple Raider games from different points in the year, Mount Union’s offense will likely prove too strong for the Tommie defense. Still, this is a very young Tommie team and the experience they receive from this trip to the national championship will prove immeasurable for years to come.
It’s going to take some great defense to keep Mount Union in check.
Photo by Dan Poel, d3photography.com
The winners this weekend will earn the opportunity to compete for the Walnut and Bronze in Salem.
The left side of the bracket, with UW-Oshkosh and St. Thomas, will yield a winner who has never before played on Division III’s biggest stage. On the right side, the Top 25 poll’s first- and second-place teams square off, and both Mount Union and Mary Hardin-Baylor are on familiar ground.
Saturday builds to the football finale that will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14. Pat, Keith and Ryan bring you their projections for who will play in Stagg Bowl XL – and by how big of a margin they’ll get there.
No. 5 UW-Oshkosh at No. 4 St. Thomas
Ryan’s take: UW-Oshkosh 24, St. Thomas 21 Here are two teams that were absolutely blazing beasts with their performances last week — but in very different ways. St. Thomas decimated a Hobart team that came in holding all the right cards to match up well against the Tommies. That’s a tip of the hat to the winner, who proved that games aren’t won on paper but rather on the field. Can you even remember a team that posted 200 rushing yards on Hobart? UST is the first to do it since September. And farther out west, it’s no secret that I’d hitched my wagon to Linfield since before the season started, and the fact that UW-O battled back from a 21-6 halftime deficit to push overtime and then earn the win gets tremendous respect in my book. Rushing, passing, Nate Wara-ing — the Titans we able to do it all against a great Linfield team. I realize I’m spending this whole post gushing on the teams without really saying why I’m going with Oshkosh. Fact is, I’m impressed with the foundation that both these teams have built, and it’ll be fun watching them go head to head on Saturday. But the Titans will be a little better at holding in check what the Tommies throw their way.
Keith’s take: UW-Oshkosh 28, St. Thomas 21: In all honesty, who the heck knows what’s going to happen here? Isn’t not knowing part of the fun? St. Thomas probably surges to an early double-digit lead, and UW-Oshkosh storms back, wears the Tommies down and continues its magical run towards the Stagg Bowl. That would make sense, the WIAC champ back in Salem, just with the Titans playing the role of the Warhawks. It would be rather depressing for the Tommies to have the season end in this round in back-to-back seasons, so I’m betting St. Thomas sees this as their chance to break through. The matchup to watch is when the Tommies’ defense is on the field against the UW-Oshkosh offense. What a chess match that’ll be, if you read this week’s feature about the Tommies’ success getting off the field on third downs, and how they have a thick playbook capable of giving multiple looks to an offense. The Titans’ offense is a combination of confusion, tempo and power, and all season it’s both worn teams down, and caught them at one point or another out of place for big plays. UST opened up with two WIAC teams, and is familiar with this level of competition from MIAC play and by beating a CCIW team in Round 2. I haven’t done any detailed video study of the teams’ tendencies, so don’t go getting your panties in a wad over the pick (although that’s more for the fans of the other game; I got zero complaints for picking against the Tommies last week, and zero taunts for missing the margin by 41 points). It’s an educated guess. And I don’t really care if it’s right or wrong. On Saturday, I’ll be enjoying the moment and the chance to see someone new earn a shot at a Stagg Bowl. If you’re thinking about how the D3football.com guys missed the picks instead of doing the same, you’re cheating yourself. This is the high-water mark for whichever program wins, so soak up every second of it. Even if it’s not another Titans come-from-behind victory.
Pat’s take: St. Thomas 27, UW-Oshkosh 21. Neither of these is a one-man team, so the nicks and bruises of a regular season shouldn’t have as much impact as they would on teams that were eliminated earlier in the bracket. Wara is about as indispensable a player as there is in this game, though. On the other side of the ball, probably Ryan Stefaniak, who is the heart and soul of that defense. On the St. Thomas offense, perhaps Logan Marks (and I’ll explain more in a minute) and on the defense, I like how Chinni Oji has been playing at safety. Oji first made a big impact on the Tommie defense when he replaced a classmate at corner a couple of seasons ago, and now he’s making his presence felt at safety. About Marks — sure, Matt O’Connell is the guy with the ball in his hands all the time, but Kyler Anderson has done well when given playing time, and the drop-off might not be so bad. But without Marks at tight end, you go to Matt Allen, and then the Tommies’ two-tight end sets would see a dramatic difference. If St. Thomas comes out as fast as it did last week and UW-Oshkosh as slow as it did the first two weekends of the tournament, it may not be this close.
No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 1 Mount Union
Ryan’s take: Mount Union 35, Mary Hardin-Baylor 28. Over several years of doing Triple Take, I’ve picked against Mount at times, and it’s often cost me. And this decision was not an easy one, because UMHB will be the toughest test of the season for Mount. By all accounts, this matchup could be more competitive than the Stagg Bowl itself. I’m going with the Purple Raiders because, despite all that the Cru has going for them, they haven’t always been able to protect their end zone as well as they should. Twenty points from teams like Louisiana College or Franklin easily translates to 35 (or more) from The Machine. Of course, the Crusaders’ offense has averaged more than 55 points over the past six games, and it will be interesting to see if the Sultans of Shutouts are able to stop the Texas threat. Both teams, on both sides of the ball, are packed with playmakers, but more importantly, have such great supporting casts that there is little question that either team would be an ideal representative of Division III in Salem. This is not a pick against UMHB, but rather one in favor of Mount Union. None of these players have tasted Stagg Bowl success, and there’s no doubt they’ll leave every last bit of themselves on the field.
Keith’s take: Mount Union 37, Mary Hardin-Baylor 30. I don’t think there’s anything groundbreaking to say here. People from UMHB are saying this is the best Cru team in history, and people from Mount Union are putting this team alongside the great Purple Raiders squads. While I think both sides can be right, only one team is going to Salem — a quirk that’s on those who set up the brackets. Each team is going to be the best team the other has played this season, and champions need to overcome intense challenges to solidify their greatness. Excuse the hyperbole, but think of it like this: Would Ali have been Ali without Frazier? Each of these teams is capable of going down alongside the great champions, and the signature victory would help define it. So how can it happen? Nobody can match Mount Union’s team speed, although UMHB could come close. Mount Union hasn’t faced a quarterback like LiDarral Bailey, who’s got speed with the ball in his hands and touch when he lets it go. But Kevin Burke has shown that skill set as well, so Javicz Jones and the UMHB defense has to be able to deal with a QB who can keep it on a read option, or toss it over defenders’ heads if Jasper Collins or somebody gets a step on a DB. Truthfully, this game will probably be decided along the lines, and I give Mount Union the edge there. If UMHB is able to muscle up like it did in 2004, it’d send shockwaves through the D-III world. But if you think about it, that’s the way UW-Whitewater beats the Purple Raiders too. Last week showed me that this Mount Union team is not just better than last year’s team by a lot. They sure make it look like they are ready to take their place in Purple Raiders history, but they’ll need to go through the best team the rest of D-III has to offer, one whose talent might be on their level in the way UW-Whitewater teams have been, to seal the deal. I’m going with the safe pick, and hope, no matter who wins, we see a semifinal to remember.
Pat’s take: Mount Union 38, Mary Hardin-Baylor 20. I think that Mary Hardin-Baylor has faced some pretty good offenses this year, certainly better offenses than Mount Union has seen. The UMHB defense has been tested. And sometimes it’s failed a bit. If Hardin-Simmons can score 32 on UMHB, how many can Mount Union score? I figure at least a few more. Mary Hardin-Baylor won’t be intimidated in this game, unlike most Mount Union opponents, but confidence alone will not be enough to win. UMHB had its two worst running days (by yards per carry) against Wesley and won’t find it easier to run the ball on Mount Union. Now, here’s where it might turn in UMHB’s favor: The Cru have had to play its starters well into the fourth quarter a few times this season, including this past week. If the game remains close, Mary Hardin-Baylor has the ability to wear opponents down. And as I’ve mentioned all season, the Cru has a credible passing game, perhaps even a really good passing game. Maybe not as good as Widener, but with a running game to take some of the pressure off, Bailey should have some time to work. And of course, the ability to pull the ball down and take off. That’s how UMHB could win.
LiDarral Bailey is leading the most balanced UMHB offense in the program’s short history.
Photo by Andrew Zavoina, d3photography.com
Eight of the D3football.com top nine teams have made it to the regional finals, which is the maximum number that the NCAA brackets would have allowed. And of those eight still on the field, they are a combined 94-1 this season, with the only loss coming in September by No. 6 Wesley at the hands of No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor, a pair that is matched up again this weekend.
It’s sure to prove another exciting Saturday of football, so Triple Take is expanding a bit. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps bring you more than just score predictions this week; we also give you a breakdown of each game and what we think the key factors will be.
If you’re feeling prescient, leave your final score guesses below. On game day, if you’re using Twitter, be sure to include the hashtag #d3fb in your posts so the whole of the Division III community can hear you.
No. 5 UW-Oshkosh at No. 3 Linfield
Ryan’s take: Linfield 48, UW-Oshkosh 38. It’s no secret that UW-Oshkosh’s biggest weapon is the man lining up under center. Nate Wara is an amazingly mobile quarterback who is among the best in the nation in pass efficiency. And if he’s playing up to his potential, he could be a serious threat for a Linfield team that has given up close to 300 yards or more against its tougher competition. We’ve talked before about how Linfield is the nation’s sack leader. The Wildcats will need a strong defensive line performance more than ever, to keep Wara off balance and constantly wondering what lurks just over his shoulder. And absolutely, definitely, positively the Titans can’t start slow out of the gate against this Linfield team. That’ll be a death blow. But more than that, I don’t see UW-O putting enough pressure on Mickey Inns and his receivers, and I would not be surprised to see Inns notch his fifth 300-plus-yard game of the season. After last week’s outing against North Central, Linfield’s momentum appears to be going strongest at the point in the season when it’s needed the most.
Keith’s take: UW-Oshkosh 34, Linfield 27. If I might just come totally clean here, my original pick was Linfield, 34-27. I’d just written a feature on the Wildcats and they’re tugging at my heartstrings, plus I’ve been wanting to see Linfield play Mount Union for years now. I think the winner of this game is going to Salem, and as much as I like the Wildcats at home, I switched my pick to the Titans for a couple of reasons (not that anyone looks at anything besides who we pick, right?). Both offenses are prolific, but Linfield’s is one-dimensional. The Wildcats rushed for 39 yards in the first round and 26 last week, and I’m not sure they can outscore the Titans like that. Linfield’s also been remarkably adept, or fortunate, at generating turnovers in these playoffs, but Nate Wara has thrown just four interceptions this season, although three have been during the playoffs. UW-Oshkosh has faced an offense like Linfield’s (though in fairness, not a quarterback like Mickey Inns), and held UW-Platteville to 13 points. So even though they’re susceptible to the pass (99th nationally this season), in big games they’ve held up well. Linfield, however, leads the nation in sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and may rattle Wara. Frankly, I’m sticking my neck out here — Linfield is the safe pick. This game is very much a toss-up, and the highlight of the quarterfinals — no disrespect to Cru-Wolverines IX.
Pat’s take: Linfield 31, UW-Oshkosh 30. We’ve got perhaps the best quarterback Linfield has faced this season in Nate Wara, and he’s a dual threat at that. Can Caleb Voss do for UW-O what Kyle Warner did for PLU two weeks ago (12 catches, 205 yards)? Probably not. But then again, Cole Myhra will make up for that a little bit with his ability to run the ball. Linfield might struggle to run the ball but they will be able to throw better than Bethel did against UW-Oshkosh, meaning they should still be able to score.
No. 7 Hobart at No. 4 St. Thomas
Ryan’s take: St. Thomas 21, Hobart 20. After last week, I became a little shakier on St. Thomas and grew a little more confident in Hobart. I do love a team that can run the ball and make it count. Both the Tommies and Statesmen can do that, and not surprisingly, when their defenses take the field, they both are highly skilled at stuffing their opponents’ ground game. That very well could make this a game of the trenches. But here’s where UST has the advantage: The Tommies have had success passing the ball if the situation called for it, and they have experience playing in the regional finals over the past couple of seasons. The mental endurance is there.
Keith’s take: Hobart 14, St. Thomas 13: “Oh snap, McMillan’s gone rogue. He’s feeling himself because he picked Widener last week when the other guys took Salisbury.” Actually, it’s simpler than that. Widener and Hobart might not win this week, but these aren’t your typical East patsies that run into power-conference teams and are brushed aside. Normally I’d take a MIAC champ over a Liberty League champ without a second thought. But athletically, these Statesmen should be able to hold their own. And they’re built in St. Thomas’s mold: Rugged on defense, dedicated to pounding out the rushing yards. And that might be the only place they have an edge. Stat comparisons are of limited use here because St. Thomas has won its 12 games against much better teams than Hobart’s 12, but both are stout against the run: The Tommies allow 75 yards per game, 7th nationally, and Hobart allows 88, 15th. Rushing yards will be hard to come by, but the Statesmen have the better backs in Steven Webb and Bobby Dougherty. The question is, can Hobart hang with St. Thomas along the line of scrimmage? I’m still of the opinion the Tommies were built to win it all last year, and might break through to Salem when this season’s offense, with freshman and sophomores in key spots, get a few years older. The Tommies looked vulnerable last week against Elmhurst, which makes this the East’s best opportunity to have a team break through to Salem in years. I’m sticking my neck out so much that I might have to make Wu-Tang my theme music this weekend, but it was time to make a stand. Although trends have developed over the years, teams aren’t automatically going to move on because of their name or their conference or their home region.
Pat’s take: St. Thomas 17, Hobart 16. Tempted to call this one of the great vaunted defensive battles that ends up being high scoring but I don’t have the guts to go that far against the grain. What I do believe is that St. Thomas will be facing the best defensive player it’s seen all season in Hobart’s Tyre Coleman and as the bracket has gotten smaller, the Tommies have scored fewer and fewer points. But St. Thomas has generally had a pretty good offensive line and they’ve been creative on offense to make things work even when their primary options have been taken away. In years past, the Tommies have really suffered when they’ve been banged up on offense but this year’s there’s a lot more depth and less drop-off between the starters and backups.
No. 6 Wesley at No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor
Ryan’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 35, Wesley 21. What hurts the Wolverine offense is that it is just too one dimensional, especially for this point in the postseason. Justin Sottilare is as good of a quarterback as you’ll find, but something has been missing from the Wesley team this season. And whatever that element is, it’s led the team to play games a lot tighter this season than they have in the past. Conversely, UMHB is peaking with senior skill players, notably a quarterback who can run and who throws waaaaay more touchdowns than interceptions. The Cru are stringing together something special this year.
Keith’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, Wesley 20. I’m a huge fan of the way Wesley scheduled this season, and how they’ve been playing of late, and I think their defense is underrated. The Wolverines are one of only three teams who kept UMHB under 45 points in a game this season, and they went toe-to-toe with the Cru in Delaware back in September. The story in Texas in December ends the same way though, as I just can’t think of any reason to pick against UMHB at this point. An outstanding Wesley defensive effort and a flurry of turnovers is about the only scenario I can see derailing the Cru. Even so, there’s the matter of Wesley matching UMHB offensively. Despite some big numbers lately, Wesley has been offensively modest in its games this season against top opponents. The teams know each other so well that you don’t really envision one side coaching the pants off the other. For all the talk about UMHB’s run game, QB LiDarral Bailey is the nation’s second most-efficient passer behind Mount Union’s Kevin Burke, and Bailey’s 26 TDs and three INTs compare with Burke (32/5), Wara (28/4) and Inns (29/6). He’s played so well we hardly even mention RB Darius Wilson anymore.
Pat’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Wesley 27. Mary Hardin-Baylor is just firing on all cylinders offensively right now and I don’t see Wesley being able to shut that down enough to win. Will Wesley score some points? Sure. And Wesley will be able to throw a bit on UMHB. The big X factor in my mind is the fact that Wesley has had to battle through a lot of games this year and UMHB has not — so Wesley may be more prepared to play four full quarters.
No. 9 Widener at No. 1 Mount Union
Ryan’s take: Mount Union 45, Widener 17. Widener got the right bounce in a couple of games this year that helped propel them to an undefeated regular season and convincing wins through the first two weeks of the playoffs. But nothing has prepared them for what the Purple Raiders bring to the table. Statistically, Widener doesn’t have a Top 25 pass or rush defense. Mount Union will exploit that. Widener isn’t in the top half of Division III rushing offenses. Mount will exploit that, too. This isn’t an indictment on the Pride but rather a testament to the level that Mount plays at in the postseason. The Alliance-based machine packs too many weapons in Burke, Jasper Collins, Chris Denton, Antonio Tate, Charles Dieuseul and Nick Driskill, names that only scratch the surface of the team’s keys to success. Widener will get all that it can handle and then some.
Keith’s take: Mount Union 35, Widener 21: Let me say this up front: Widener deserves to be here. Having seen them play, they’re more than just a sacrificial lamb for the Purple Raiders. They will score some points and put some pressure on Burke. This is the best team Mount Union has played all season, and the 25-point margins of victory floating around on the message boards sell the Pride a bit short. Let me also say this: Mount Union’s dominance is so commonplace we sometimes take it for granted. This season, it’s come about with a smothering defense and the nation’s most efficient quarterback playing behind an offensive line that moves as one. The Purple Raiders are not perfect — they have been challenged, and have made some mistakes this season, but they’re resilient and recover quickly. And so when Widener — whose base offensive set last week seemed to be empty backfield, quads left — finds ways to move WR Anthony Davis around and get him open against what are sure to be Mount Union double-teams, likely involving CB Isaiah Scott or Ss Alex Nicholls or Driskill, don’t be surprised if they put up some points or are competitive in the game. QB Chris Haupt controls an offense that will line up in double-tight, I-backs one play, then empty the next. Haupt is a four-year starter who knows the ins and outs of his offense and leads with emotion. He’s thrown 18 interceptions this season, more than all but one QB in the nation’s top 100 passers, yet is still 13th in passing efficiency. Mount Union, though, will make Widener one-dimensional by stopping the run, and as good as the Pride defense was against Salisbury last week, handling Burke to Collins, Denton and Julius Moore requires more top-notch cornerbacks than most teams have. In the end, expecting Widener to do slightly better than Heidelberg did against Mount Union seems completely reasonable.
Pat’s take: Mount Union 52, Widener 14: I don’t see Widener being able to slow down the Mount Union offense, which Burke has been running at a high level all season. The Purple Raiders might not run well but they won’t have to this week, I don’t think. The Haupt-to-Davis connection should be good for a couple of scores but not enough on a consistent basis to beat a team such as Mount Union.
Steven Webb scored three touchdowns in Hobart’s first-round win against Washington and Lee.
Hobart photo by Andrew Markham
The top two seeds in each bracket survived the first round, but there was certainly a lot to be excited about last Saturday from top to bottom. And, of course, we’re looking to repeat those thrills as we enter into Round 2, with 16 of the nation’s best teams still alive.
The CCIW and the MIAC can still boast two teams in the field. And every team playing this weekend is in the D3football.com Top 25 poll.
Pat, Keith and Ryan again give you the game-by-game score predictions. Remember, these postseason Triple Take predictions are not intended to be lines on the games, but rather a broad test of expectations vs. outcome.
If you’re feeling prescient, leave your final score guesses for any or all games below, and be sure to come back afterward to see how you did. Keep an eye on the scoreboard page throughout game day, and if you’re posting on Twitter, be sure to use the hashtag #d3fb.
Ryan’s take: Linfield 38, North Central 33
Keith’s take: Linfield 31, North Central 30
Pat’s take: Linfield 31, North Central 20
Ryan’s take: UW-Oshkosh 41, Bethel 17
Keith’s take: UW-Oshkosh 31, Bethel 17
Pat’s take: UW-Oshkosh 34, Bethel 21
ST. THOMAS BRACKET
Ryan’s take: St. Thomas 28, Elmhurst 10
Keith’s take: St. Thomas 21, Elmhurst 13
Pat’s take: St. Thomas 28, Elmhurst 17
Ryan’s take: Hobart 31, Wittenberg 24
Keith’s take: Hobart 27, Wittenberg 19
Pat’s take: Hobart 17, Wittenberg 10
MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR BRACKET
Ryan’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Franklin 21
Keith’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 42, Franklin 28
Pat’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 38, Franklin 13
Ryan’s take: Wesley 31, Cortland State 10
Keith’s take: Wesley 23, Cortland State 17
Pat’s take: Wesley 41, Cortland State 16
MOUNT UNION BRACKET
Ryan’s take: Mount Union 45, Johns Hopkins 14
Keith’s take: Mount Union 42, Johns Hopkins 21
Pat’s take: Mount Union 52, Johns Hopkins 7
Ryan’s take: Salisbury 38, Widener 24
Keith’s take: Widener 28, Salisbury 22
Pat’s take: Salisbury 28, Widener 27
Bethel · Cortland State · Elmhurst · Franklin · Hobart · Johns Hopkins · Linfield · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Mount Union · North Central · Salisbury · St. Thomas · UW-Oshkosh · Wesley · Widener · Wittenberg
Josh Mitchell was featured in Kickoff back in August and as we reach mid-November, he and North Central are still in the picture.
North Central photo by Steve Woltmann
Roughly 200 teams have already turned in their gear for the season, but there is still lots of exciting football left to play. For many teams, the past 10 games have been a buildup to the playoffs and the chance to prove their worth on the national stage.
D3football.com’s coverage will be going strong over the next few weeks, and that began Thursday with our 32-team capsules, one of the cornerstones of our postseason reporting. They offer insight on how to tell if a team is playing well or poorly, along with how far into the bracket we think each team can make it. We also took a long-view look at who might surprise and disappoint by the time the first three rounds are in the books.
But you’re still hungry for more, right?
From now until the second weekend in December, Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps will not only pick the winners of games in Triple Take, but we’ll also project the scores. It’s a transparent test of our perceptions week in and week out. (And we each make our picks independently.)
These postseason Triple Take predictions are not intended to be lines on the games, but rather a broad test of expectations vs. outcome.
How does this work?
• First, look at the scoring margin. If they are predicted to be a close game, we think the teams are evenly matched.
• Second, look at the winners. If it’s a three-man sweep, we think there’s a clear favorite. If it’s a split decision, it’s definitely a toss-up.
• Third, look at the total points. If most of us predict a lot of points, you can expect a shootout. Weather permitting, of course.
It’s not a competition between the three of us, so we have no stake in being right — we’d rather see you show off your smarts in the bracket challenge. Ryan, Keith and Pat aren’t keeping score, but usually the first weekend, each picks between 12 and 14 correct winners, often in the ballpark of the actual final. That means these Triple Take picks set the expectation, but we know at least a few teams will surprise us in the opening round. Will it be yours?
If you don’t feel your team is getting enough love, jump in and explain to us in the comments section below why they’re going to win. And if you’re feeling prescient, leave your final score guesses for any or all games below, and check back in afterward to see how you did. Be sure to follow the updates across the country on Twitter, using the hashtag #d3fb.
Ryan’s take: Linfield 28, Pacific Lutheran 20
Keith’s take: Linfield 27, Pacific Lutheran 24
Pat’s take: Linfield 47, Pacific Lutheran 24
Ryan’s take: Cal Lutheran 30, North Central 28
Keith’s take: North Central 35, Cal Lutheran 34
Pat’s take: North Central 35, Cal Lutheran 32
Ryan’s take: Bethel 33, Concordia-Chicago 10
Keith’s take: Bethel 35, Concordia-Chicago 21
Pat’s take: Bethel 32, Concordia-Chicago 14
Ryan’s take: UW-Oshkosh 44, St. Scholastica 13
Keith’s take: UW-Oshkosh 55, St. Scholastica 10
Pat’s take: UW-Oshkosh 56, St. Scholastica 6
ST. THOMAS BRACKET
Ryan’s take: St. Thomas 43, St. Norbert 7
Keith’s take: St. Thomas 28, St. Norbert 7
Pat’s take: St. Thomas 45, St. Norbert 0
Ryan’s take: Coe 42, Elmhurst 13
Keith’s take: Coe 31, Elmhurst 21
Pat’s take: Elmhurst 38, Coe 35
Ryan’s take: Heidelberg 33, Wittenberg 24
Keith’s take: Heidelberg 21, Wittenberg 17
Pat’s take: Heidelberg 27, Wittenberg 20
Ryan’s take: Hobart 37, Washington and Lee 14
Keith’s take: Hobart 35, Washington and Lee 31
Pat’s take: Hobart 35, Washington and Lee 14
MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR BRACKET
Ryan’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 37, Louisiana College 21
Keith’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 28, Louisiana College 14
Pat’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 35, Louisiana College 10
Ryan’s take: Adrian 21, Franklin 17
Keith’s take: Adrian 17, Franklin 14
Pat’s take: Adrian 21, Franklin 18
Ryan’s take: Cortland State 31, Framingham State 24
Keith’s take: Cortland State 29, Framingham State 15
Pat’s take: Cortland State 38, Framingham State 7
Ryan’s take: Wesley 41, Mount Ida 14
Keith’s take: Wesley 42, Mount Ida 20
Pat’s take: Wesley 62, Mount Ida 0
MOUNT UNION BRACKET
Ryan’s take: Mount Union 56, Christopher Newport 7
Keith’s take: Mount Union 49, Christopher Newport 0
Pat’s take: Mount Union 61, Christopher Newport 0
Ryan’s take: Washington and Jefferson 28, Johns Hopkins 27
Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins 28, Washington and Jefferson 17
Pat’s take: Johns Hopkins 24, Washington and Jefferson 21
Ryan’s take: Salisbury 27, Rowan 20
Keith’s take: Salisbury 21, Rowan 12
Pat’s take: Rowan 31, Salisbury 20
Ryan’s take: Widener 49, Bridgewater State 24
Keith’s take: Widener 60, Bridgewater State 20
Pat’s take: Widener 63, Bridgewater State 6
Adrian · Bethel · Bridgewater State · Cal Lutheran · Christopher Newport · Coe · concordia-chicago · Cortland State · Elmhurst · Framingham State · Franklin · Heidelberg · Hobart · Johns Hopkins · Linfield · Louisiana College · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Mount Ida · Mount Union · North Central · Pacific Lutheran · Rowan · Salisbury · St. Norbert · St. Scholastica · St. Thomas · UW-Oshkosh · Washington and Jefferson · Washington and Lee · Wesley · Widener · Wittenberg