TAG | Albion
It’s make or break time for a lot of teams. Players and coaches will be hunting for that last push toward the postseason and will be keeping an eye on the national landscape as teams fall in and out of contention for conference qualifiers and at-large bids.
We’ve also gotten our first look at the regional rankings that give us a good snapshot in time as to which teams could be playoff bound. Few, though, can rest on their laurels. Even one-win teams can sneak up and bite you. It’s happened before. Spoilers are lurking everywhere.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you their looks at Week 10.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 7 North Central at No. 24 Wheaton. I love the Little Brass Bell rivalry game, even though the Cardinals have dominated the matchup the last few seasons. Importantly for two-loss Wheaton, another defeat here means they will slip entirely out of playoff contention. So more than just pride is certainly on the line. North Central, on the other hand, can clinch a playoff spot because of head-to-head wins against the other top teams in the CCIW – and they still have the chance to run the table with a victory the final week against Augustana. In only one win this season has North Central failed to score at least 40 points, and that was a 37-pointer against UW-Stout. Wheaton’s defense will need to be on its toes if it doesn’t want to spend the day playing on its heels.
Pat’s take: No. 1 Mount Union at No. 23 Baldwin Wallace (maybe). At this point, it’s not even sure Baldwin Wallace can host this game. On Wednesday the playing surface was underwater and on Thursday afternoon there was still no electricity to the stadium. BW, which already has to deal with not being as talented as Mount Union (like most of Division III is), has the additional distraction of the revelation this week that Baldwin Wallace declared its athletic teams ineligible for the playoffs. Now, why I’m picking this game as my game of the week is the history that BW often gives Mount Union a tough game (last year, 25-20). And now BW has nothing left to lose and can really only play spoiler. It should be an interesting game for that standpoint alone.
Keith’s take: No. 4 St. Thomas at No. 17 Concordia-Moorhead. No game on Saturday will have as much of a domino effect on the playoffs. Fringe Pool C teams will have an interest in seeing the Tommies win in Moorhead, while MIAC boosters could push for the Cobbers to win, which would put three conference teams on the path to the postseason. It’s the most significant conference road trip, the Tommies have been playing through some injuries, and the Cobbers have been pointed towards this game ever since they were stunned on the final play at Bethel. Brett Baune rushes for 109 of the Cobbers’ 262 yards per game on the ground, while the Tommies are fifth in the nation in run defense, allowing 56.75 yards per game.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Hardin-Simmons at Texas Lutheran. The Bulldogs played the pass-heavy Louisiana College last week to overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if they can repeat the feat against Hardin-Simmons, which throws for nearly 400 yards a game.
Pat’s take: Greensboro at Christopher Newport. Only once in the 11-year history of the series has Greensboro even been within one score of CNU. This might be the best Greensboro team in the program’s brief history, however (started in 1997), and the Pride have never finished with a record of above .500. This might not be the year but a split in the final two games to go 5-5 is definitely possible.
Keith’s take: Brockport State at Montclair State. It’s been an unusually rough 3-5 season for the Redhawks. But being fortunate enough to have a game in North Jersey this week when the other local teams are all cancelled might tap into to something that the Redhawks haven’t been able to draw out this season. The 5-3 Golden Eagles have been all over the board, scoring 35 or more four times and 6 or less twice. Defensively, they’ve given up 45 to Cortland State and held Lycoming to 2. Montclair State’s Bill Roman has assumed the main ballcarrier’s role the past three games, and has rushed for 393 yards.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 21 Franklin. The Grizzlies have been nothing short of dominant in conference play this season, shutting out three of their last four opponents. But these final two weeks show Franklin running smack-dab into the second- and third-best teams in the HCAC. This week, Bluffton is the kind of team that can do a lot more damage to Franklin’s passing attack than most other opponents and could give the Griz a run for its money.
Pat’s take: No. 18 Heidelberg. John Carroll has had an interesting season, beating all the teams it has been expected to beat and losing to the teams it should lose to. This is a step up for John Carroll, but Mark Myers, the transfer quarterback from Pitt, has had a great season for the Blue Streaks. With as much talent as Heidelberg has on offense, JCU may well have the biggest offensive talent on the field.
Keith’s take: No. 16 Salisbury. The Sea Gulls, who I once had ranked as high as sixth on my ballot, have looked vulnerable the past two weeks. And as good as Alfred and Ithaca are, Utica is passing for 350 yards per game and has allowed 14 points over the past three games. Salisbury is at home, and brings its trademark option attack to the table, so a shootout could be in order.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Adrian. In our preseason Kickoff 2012 publication, the Bulldogs were the team I picked to be the surprise playoff entry. Now, they stand at 5-0 in conference play with only one more MIAA game to go. That means they’ve already clinched a share of the conference title for the first time in 15 years, but I’m sure they’ll be happier knocking off Albion this week and sweeping the conference. And a win would give them momentum heading into the final game, a nonconference tilt again Huntingdon. Adrian has almost flown under the radar all season, quietly stacking up the nation’s third best defense statistically and keeping every MIAA opponent to single digits in scoring. They can’t look past Albion, of course (the Britons did beat Wheaton early this season), but the Bulldogs should be very optimistic about their chances and looking forward to their first postseason berth since 1988.
Pat’s take: Buffalo State. Just about everyone else’s most surprising playoff entry is eliminated (except Jason Bailey, who picked Ferrum) so I’m looking at a surprise that unsurprised and could do so again. The Bengals have never been as explosive offensively as they were in Week 1, a win against Cortland State which still puzzles, and Ryan Lehotsky has been running the offense the past week and a half instead of Casey Kacz. Buff State has already outdone the Empire 8 coaches’ poll and our more optimistic preseason predictions. Now the goal is to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2000. And beat two teams that went to the Elite 8 and beyond last year.
Keith’s take: Tufts. We’ve seen a handful of major losing streaks kick the bucket over the past few weeks, and now it’s the Jumbos’ turn. Tufts has lost 21 in a row, but gets a visit from 1-5 Colby on Saturday. The Jumbos are coming off a rough stretch, having to play Amherst, Williams and Trinity consecutively, but they were competitive early in the season against Bates and Bowdoin. Before we turn our attention completely to the postseason, I’ll be looking for one more regular-season win that gives a team the first taste of victory.
A team that will clinch a share of the conference title on Saturday.
Ryan’s take: Widener. Rightly or wrongly, I got on the Widener bandwagon early in the season, before the Pride had really proven themselves. Close wins against Lebanon Valley and Lycoming helped to separate Widener from the rest of the MAC. But even though a win over FDU-Florham will give the undefeated Pride a share of the conference title, they still have to beat Delaware Valley next weekend to avoid a three-way tie at the top of the MAC and to assure themselves a trip to the playoffs. (Wait, what’s that? The Widener/Florham game is canceled? Well, shucks, that throws us into a conundrum. Widener, at worse, would be a one-loss team, but DelVal potentially could have more conference wins than the Pride. Anyone know the MAC’s championship rules off the top of their heads? Either way, I’m sure Keith and Pat have some winners to talk about here:)
Pat’s take: Salisbury. I know there is some rumbling that Utica has a shot to take down Salisbury but I don’t see it. Using last year’s game, played in Week 5 at the end of a seven and a half hour drive by Salisbury, doesn’t equate to winning in Salisbury. Now, I’ll admit, the Sea Gulls offense, even on turf, hasn’t been putting up the same type of points in recent weeks, but I don’t think there’s enough to get Utica over the top.
Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays have no easy matchup, with 6-2 Franklin & Marshall on deck. JHU has averaged nearly 500 yards of offense, with RB Jonathan Rigaud leading the way, and F&M allows 133 rushing yards per game. That’s not terrible, but it’s a sign that there might be an opening for the Blue Jays. F&M has given up 28 or more points in four games already, and it’s doubtful they’ll hold high-powered Johns Hopkins down.
Which season turnaround has been the most interesting?
Ryan’s take: Brockport State. And not in the good-turnaround sort of way. After starting the season beating Lycoming and Buffalo State (which would then go on to beat UW-Whitewater), Brockport put itself on a lot of people’s watch lists. The team even enjoyed a 17th-place spot in the poll. But the conference portion of the season has been hard on the Golden Eagles, who have eked out a .500 performance. The final two games, against Montclair State and Morrisville State, have winability written all over them. They’re not sure things, but Brockport could end the season swinging with a 7-3 record.
Pat’s take: Ohio Wesleyan. And most interesting to me has been how the Battling Bishops have threatened to make the last NCAC season without a full round-robin a tiebreaking nightmare. You know, interesting like a trainwreck. Allegheny can save the NCAC from some of this ignominy, but then again, Allegheny lost to Kenyon, so it’s not a guarantee.
Keith’s take: Lake Forest. The Foresters haven’t finished above .500 since 2004, but at 8-1, they’ve clinched that and are in line for a playoff spot. Statistically they haven’t overwhelmed, yet they’ve survived on heart, winning five games by a touchdown or less. That’s a recipe for a heck of ride, if nothing else.
Which team will rise in the regional rankings next week, and why?
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney. There no reason to think that, when Hampden-Sydney and Washington and Lee line up this weekend, it won’t be a shootout. In rushing offense, W&L is at the top of the stat sheet; in passing offense, H-SC is Top 40. While I think the Tigers are clicking more right now, that doesn’t mean the Generals won’t put up one heck of a fight. Both teams are in the regional rankings and looking to move up. More importantly, both want to secure their spot to be playing on Nov. 17.
Pat’s take: North Central (Ill.). At least, they should. The Cardinals’ strength of schedule should increase, while Concordia-Chicago’s should decrease. And if it doesn’t happen this week, it should next week. It would be better if it happened this week, so that the final public ranking reflects this change, rather than waiting for the secret ranking.
Keith’s take: Coe. One of the MIAC teams above is guaranteed to lose. The Kohawks should move to 9-0 on Saturday against Loras, but their rise up the rankings is capped because they have no games against regionally ranked opponents.
Adrian · Albion · Allegheny · Baldwin-Wallace · Brockport State · Coe · concordia-chicago · Concordia-Moorhead · FDU-Florham · Franklin · Hardin-Simmons · Heidelberg · John Carroll · Johns Hopkins · Lake Forest · Montclair State · Mount Union · North Central · North Central (Ill.) · Ohio Wesleyan · Salisbury · St. Thomas · Texas Lutheran · Tufts · Utica · Wheaton · Widener
Kevin Burke and Mount Union are going strong, despite Heidelberg actually scoring this week.
Mount Union athletics photo by JT Higgins
Now at least we know we will have no more than one Purple Power in Salem for the Stagg Bowl, after the elimination of UW-Whitewater from any reasonable playoff hopes with its third overall loss and second regional loss this week. If Mount were to advance, who might join them? And what do the potential No. 1 seeds need to avoid? Keith and Pat talk about it in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast, sponsored by the City of Salem, hosts of Stagg Bowl XL. Tickets on sale now!
As the season winds down, there are just 22 conferences left to have teams clinch automatic bids, so there’s still a long way to go. Not all of them can clinch this week either, but some can, and some teams on byes can actually clinch from home. Plus, as at-large bids go, some teams played themselves out of consideration this week by picking up a second loss, while some two-loss teams actually have strong resumes for consideration.
Pat and Keith talk about a lot of teams this week, including both teams in the Mount Union-Heidelberg game. Check the tags at the bottom of this page to find out who is on the topics list.
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Here’s this week’s D3football.com reports and highlight packages.
And this week’s photo gallery from our friends at d3photography.com:
Adrian · Albion · Amherst · Baldwin-Wallace · Bethel · Coe · concordia-chicago · Concordia-Moorhead · Heidelberg · Hobart · Huntingdon · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Kenyon · Lake Forest · Linfield · Mount Union · North Central (Ill.) · Ohio Wesleyan · Pacific Lutheran · Salisbury · St. Norbert · St. Thomas · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Utica · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington and Jefferson · Waynesburg · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Willamette · Wittenberg
Josh Dean leads Willamette, which has gone from the Fly to being the top passing team in Division III.
Willamette athletics photo
Can you believe we’ve already reached the midpoint of the regular season?
We’re entering Week 6 in the 11-game season. Most teams already have their bye week behind them, which means lots and lots of football will be played down the stretch.
At the moment, 29 teams that play nonconference games are still undefeated, and amazingly, the same number of teams are currently winless.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you some nuggets of insight to chew on in this week’s Triple Take. And if you’ve got something to say, don’t hesitate to voice your comments below.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 7 Salisbury at No. 9 St. John Fisher. This is the kind of matchup I anticipated most when Salisbury joined the Empire 8 last season. Though the Gulls won the conference, Fisher got an at-large bid to the 2011 postseason – both went on to overcome two opponents and make it to regional finals. As usual, SU has one of the best rushing attacks in the country (whether dynamic quarterback Dan Griffin will be back in the lineup after Saturday’s injury is unclear). They will be tested against Fisher’s defense and sacking capabilities. Both teams are Top 10. I like the Gulls for the win, but I also expect this one to be tight.
Pat’s take: Washington and Jefferson at Thomas More. I can’t imagine what the four and a half hour bus ride from W&J to suburban Cincinnati will be like for a team that has to be reeling emotionally after the loss of its senior captain and running back. But on the field, I am sure the memory of Tim McNerney will be an inspiration to the Presidents. Conventional wisdom might expect W&J to come out flat but in my opinion they will be anything but.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Birmingham-Southern at No. 6 Wesley. There’s at least as much on the line in No. 8 Cal Lutheran at Redlands and No. 16 Wabash at Wittenberg, but with only one Pool B bid guaranteed, the round robin between B-SC, Wesley and Huntingdon looms large. The Wolverines play both Alabama teams this month, and the Panthers have already scored a 45-38 win over the Hawks that wasn’t as close as the final would have you believe. If the Wolverines keep winning, they’ll earn the Pool B bid. But with a loss to No. 2 UMHB in the books, another would be pushing it. B-SC is rushing for 250 yards per game, scoring 42 points per and has the nation’s third-best pass efficiency defense. The Wolverines are unlike any team B-SC has faced so far, talent-wise. If Wesley’s defensive line can control the line of scrimmage, B-SC is going to struggle.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Louisiana College at East Texas Baptist. ETBU comes in as the underdog, no question about that. But both have experience against some good teams, and the Tigers have the benefit of practicing against a strong passing game, an element that will translate well when they host the No. 21 ranked Wildcats.
Pat’s take: No. 16 Wabash at Wittenberg. Wittenberg has had a great deal of success at home in recent years, and the Tigers haven’t lost a home game since Wabash came to town in 2008. That’s the one thing which gives me pause about this game. It’s also one of those games where the AFCA poll and our poll disagree. Our poll suggests Wabash should win at Wittenberg. While the AFCA poll does rank Wabash higher, it’s only by one spot and I wouldn’t think that’s enough to overcome home-field advantage. On a neutral field, I’d take Wabash for sure. At Wittenberg, however, I think it will be close.
Keith’s take: Northwestern (Minn.) at St. Scholastica. The surprising part is only if you’re far from UMAC country but are familiar with the Saints from last season’s playoff bracket. The Eagles won nine games in 2008 and one in 2010, and are back in the mix for a conference title, at 4-1, with only a loss to St. John’s. Since allowing 28 in a season-opening loss to Whitworth, St. Scholastica has given up 26 points total in four wins. So it’s the UMAC’s best defense, any way you slice it, against the conference’s best scoring offense and most efficient passing attack, led by QB Josh Balzer. One of these teams will likely end up in the playoffs.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 North Central. Yes, I know one of my colleagues picked on North Central last week, too, but when you play in a conference as good as the CCIW, every week will be treacherous. A 3-1 opponent like Millikin that played Illinois Wesleyan to the bone will be no exception.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Bethel. Yes, I know I picked Bethel to play surprisingly close last week, but that came through, actually. This is the middle of three big games for Bethel, as the Royals host Concordia-Moorhead this week, which is receiving votes in the D3football.com Top 25, then travel to St. Thomas next week. Concordia-Moorhead doesn’t have the dynamic playmaker that Augsburg has on offense, but is undefeated and also coming off a bye week.
Keith’s take: No. 9 St. John Fisher. I wasted a bunch of time looking at the numbers on Concordia-Moorhead and Bethel before I noticed that Pat took that game. With so many top 25 teams playing their best opponents of the season, I could pick games that are technically upsets but not surprises. And that’s what I ended up doing. Having seen it before, the Cardinals will defend the Salisbury option better — the Sea Gulls might not hit their average of 319 yards per game. Yet Fisher has let inferior opponents hang close, so there’s a good chance Salisbury runs away with it (pun acknowledged, but not intended). With practically the whole top 25 playing tough opponents, there just weren’t any limbs I felt comfortable going out on. So you get a not-shock as the pick.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Gallaudet. With a rushing offense that averages 230 yards a game, and solid division of special teams players, has anyone else noticed that the Bison are creeping their way through a one-loss season, with that lone loss coming against undefeated Otterbein? Sure Mount Ida and Norwich and a couple of other ECFC teams could upend Gallaudet, but the team is on its way to a remarkable season after only a couple of years into restarting its varsity program. The checklist for the next three weeks involves Husson, Norwich and Becker.
Pat’s take: Willamette. The Bearcats are 4-0, with two wins against the American Southwest Conference, one against the Southern Athletic Association and one against fellow NWC member Pacific. No offense to Pacific, but this will be the first serious NWC challenge the new-look Bearcats have faced this season. And while Whitworth is 5-0 itself, the Pirates haven’t played anyone on the level of either Hardin-Simmons or East Texas Baptist. The top passing team might be slowed, but not enough to stop the unbeaten run.
Keith’s take: Millsaps. Off to their best start since the Mike DuBose years, the Majors have a major challenge in a visit from No. 24 Huntingdon. The Hawks are averaging 452 yards and 43 points a game, slightly more than Millsaps’ 442.5 and 41. So basically first team to play defense, or get a few turnovers, wins. The radar-worthy interest is so that I can figure out whether to start taking the Majors seriously as a playoff threat again. And if so, what an awful year for the SAA to give up its automatic bid.
Which team will continue to defy preseason expectations?
Ryan’s take: Albion. Albion is a 3-1 team with a win (albeit a close one) over Wheaton. They’re on my ballot for the Top 25 poll, but clearly many people are still skeptical of how good this Britons squad is. It’s hard to think they can be this good the year after Chris Greenwood graduated and went to the NFL. Well, Albion lining up against Trine this weekend should help do some convincing by coming away with a win.
Pat’s take: Rowan. The Profs have definitely outplayed the expectations, with their only loss coming to Merrimack, a Division II program that is 2-2 against fellow D-II schools in a not-so-great conference. Montclair State has definitely underplayed even the modest preseason expectations for a team that lost a large senior class.
Keith’s take: Redlands. By this I mean I don’t think a playoff team last season expects to be 1-3 after the first week of October, but the Bulldogs are staring at the very real possibility of this, at home against No. 8 Cal Lutheran. Redlands is 213th nationally in passing yardage allowed, at 258 yards per game, and the Kingsmen are passing for 295.
Which team is going to soar?
Ryan’s take: The Owls, of Westfield State. After a 1-4 start to the season, there doesn’t appear to be a lot working in favor of Westfield State. Rusher Kevin Parnell, who does good work on special teams, too, is the team’s bright spot. But this week, their NEFC Bogan pride is on the line as they go up against winless Maine Maritime. Both teams are riding a four-game skid, and someone’s got to break it. Despite the losses, the Owls, compared with the Mariners, have simply been playing better, more competitive games as of late.
Pat’s take: The Bombers, of Ithaca. It will be interesting as Ithaca’s schedule gets a little harder here. For a team that has had such upheaval at the quarterback position, the offensive numbers are impressive, but the defense will have its hands full dealing with an Alfred team that dropped 40 on Buffalo State two weeks ago.
Keith’s take: The Eagles, of UW-La Crosse. Turnover generation has been key for UW-La Crosse, which is hosting UW-Platteville, which was without its top two QBs in much of last week’s game. In other words, backup QBs vs. a team that has forced six more turnovers than it has allowed, against good competition, is a recipe for trouble. It’s also the first home game for the Eagles after four on the road in their 2-2 start.
Which team needs a win for morale purposes?
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney. For the past several years, the Tigers have rightfully seen themselves as strong contenders for the ODAC title. But last week, Catholic had other things in mind. The conference, though, isn’t too far removed from the 2008 season, when four teams shared the conference title with 4-2 ODAC records. All is certainly not lost for H-SC, and a win this weekend against undefeated Bridgewater will again put the team back on its intended track. But this will be one. tough. fight.
Pat’s take: St. John’s. But whether the Johnnies will get it, with a trip to Augsburg on the docket, is another matter.
Keith’s take: Knox. I was going to go with Wilkes here, after losing by 90 to Widener, but the Colonels already bounced back and won, 37-27, against FDU-Florham. Wilkes plays first-year Misericordia, while Knox, which had a quarterback pass for 736 yards in Week 1 and hasn’t won since, gets a visit from 0-5 Beloit. The Buccaneers are averaging less than 10 points per game, good for 233rd in the nation in scoring offense, giving Knox a rare advantage. They average more than 22, factoring in the 55 they scored in the Week 1 loss to Eureka. And, making my answer four times as long as Pat’s, St. Vincent (0-4) could use a morale-boosting win when it gets a visit from Thiel (1-4.)
Albion · Alfred · Augsburg · Bethel · Concordia-Moorhead · East Texas Baptist · Gallaudet · Hampden-Sydney · Ithaca · Louisiana Collage · Montclair State · North Central · Rowan · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · St. John's · Thomas More · Wabash · Washington and Jefferson · Westfield State · Whitworth · Willamette · Wittenberg
Mike Benderski made the D3football.com Team of the Week for his performance on special teams against Rochester. Will St. John Fisher need similar heroics this week?
St. John Fisher athletics photo
By the end of Saturday, every one of the 239 teams in Division III will have lined up to take a snap this season.
This weekend marks the debut of the NESCAC teams, which don’t play any teams outside the conference, either in the regular season or the postseason. The teams in the NESCAC should have some familiarity across the football landscape, though. Few folks haven’t heard of the storied Amherst-Williams rivalry, dubbed the “Biggest Little Game in America.” Or of the “other Trinity,” the Connecticut-based team that regularly notches 7-1 or 8-0 seasons.
And the, of course for us, there’s the other 200-plus teams worth talking about, from the ones who are still hunting for their first win here in Week 4 to the ones who are hanging onto undefeated seasons – and hope to keep it that way!
Pat Coleman (@d3football), Keith McMillan (@D3Keith) and Ryan Tipps (@D3MidAtlantic) give you a taste of the NESCAC and a full helping from the other 28 conferences in Division III in this week’s Triple Take.
Don’t hesitate to comment below or join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #3take.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Hartwick at No. 10 St. John Fisher. I know we hit on this two weeks ago, but the Empire 8 is truly one wickedly scary conference to play in. Hartwick and SJF are the only 3-0 teams currently in the pack, which makes this the first of many conference matchups where teams will be able to separate themselves from the ravenous bunch. (Sidebar: Don’t be surprised to see next week’s Salisbury/Buffalo State E8 clash as a Game of the Week pick, too.) Fisher has lined up against quality opponents, dealing its first three opponents their only losses of the season. The Hawks, on the other hand, have blown out most of their competition by a margin of 144-62. But those opponents were much weaker than the fare Fisher has lined up against, and that makes me wonder if Hartwick is really prepared for what’s going to come at it on Saturday. Come to think of it, this situation is a good argument for playing tough nonconference games.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Thomas More at Waynesburg. Thomas More was ranked No. 8 last time these teams met, and has gone 2-3 since. The Saints come in at a more realistic ranking this time and have undefeated Waynesburg waiting for them. Both teams have been slow starters so far this season on offense, so look for at least one of these teams to make a bold move early.
Keith’s take: No. 6 Wesley at Louisiana College. It’s almost a defacto playoff game, in Week 4. That alone makes it worth of G.O.T.W. status — Wesley’s loss to No. 2 UMHB means it can’t afford to lose again and expect its usual spot in the playoffs. LC, meanwhile, has to go through UMHB to win its conference, and if it loses, one loss to a team like Wesley is all it can afford. The Wolverines have already played two road games, and two of the top 10 teams in the country, so their stats are skewed toward unimpressive. But if ever Justin Sotillare, Askia Jahad and the offense needs to guide an inspired effort, it’s on a trip to unfamiliar territory, coming off a loss. The Wildcats are known for their passing offense, but it’s actually their pass defense, and overall prowess on that side of the ball — just 400 yards allowed in a 2-0 start — that’s been key so far.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: St. Scholastica at Martin Luther. The Saints are best when they’re able to move the ball with ease via their run game, particularly in last week’s lopsided win over Greenville. But Martin Luther, after three games, has limited opponents to an average of 73 yards a game. If the Knights can neutralize the Saints’ best attack, they might be able to keep this one close.
Pat’s take: No. 6 Wesley at Louisiana College. Every game from here on out, Wesley is fighting for its playoff life, as the NCAA doesn’t take our poll into account when selecting or seeding playoff teams. While Wesley is the superior team on paper, the trip might take a few points out of them. What the Wolverines need is to find their running game and when Louisiana College allows just 100.5 yards per game on the ground, it might not be easy. But neither Webber International nor Belhaven is on the level of a highly ranked Division III team.
Keith’s take: Kalamazoo at Centre. With its first foray into the playoffs last season, Centre has become a nationally known name. Kalamazoo is anything but, but they’ve pulled out three close wins this September, with one in four overtimes. The Hornets’ running game, behind Dimeko Price (105.33 yards per game) and Aaron McGuire (86.67) is humming and confidence is as high as its been. The Colonels have given up 559 rushing yards in the past two games, including 338 in a 34-16 loss at Washington & Lee. Centre definitely needs to get back on track, but if they allow the Hornets to get the run game going, it could be quite the tussle.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 4 UW-Whitewater. I’m not going to lie, I feel like I’m stirring the pot with this one, even though that’s not my intent. Any team lining up against UW-Stevens Point would have its hands full this week — Whitewater just happened to draw that short straw. The Pointers are 1-1, coming off a week of drubbing Dubuque. Their only loss is an eight-point decision to St. Francis, one of the nation’s best NAIA programs. UW-SP has put up some wild numbers on offense, but the key to beating Whitewater will be defense, as Buffalo State showed. The Warhawk throne has been rattled. I’m sure most of you are like me and eager to see how the defending national champions respond tomorrow and through the rest of the season.
Pat’s take: No. 24 Johns Hopkins. Muhlenberg has been quietly dominant in going 3-0, and has outscored opponents 81-7 in the process. The Centennial so rarely has a team run the table the way it did last year. One of these two is likely to win the conference anyway, and I think the Mules are the ones.
Keith’s take: No. 17 Brockport State. Three weeks ago Kean was a top 25 team and Brockport wasn’t yet on the top 25 radar. But the Golden Eagles have started 3-0, and the Cougars 0-2, and here we are. Kean is ranked 210th in the country in total offense, with Brockport 10th, but defensively the Golden Eagles should be more generous than UMHB, which Kean lost to, 34-7, in its last game, two weeks ago. The Cougars have had that time to stew, and to heal up, from their visit to Texas. They led Albright 26-7 in their opener before allowing the Lions to score the final 22 points of the game. Brockport State’s offense might continue to hum, but Kean has far too much talent to sputter as it has for the past six quarters. Plus, as a playoff team last season, the Cougars are at a point where their pride is being tested. Win now, in front of the home crowd, or there’s a miserable season ahead.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Central. The Dutch have to be wondering what to make of this Albion squad, which knocked off Wheaton only to fall to the NATHC’s Benedictine. Central’s been interesting so far this year, having not scored even one first-half touchdown but then having posted 35 points in fourth quarters alone. And we have yet to see any breakout performances — though punter Blaine Forsythe has been doing quite well with ample opportunity. Maybe Central is on my radar for the wrong reasons, but maybe that’s just the nature of the buildup to this year’s IIAC matchups.
Pat’s take: Carnegie Mellon. Or Waynesburg or Muhlenberg, whom I’ve mentioned in previous categories. But Carnegie Mellon is facing DePauw, and while I might pick the Tigers to rally around their new coach and win, I’m not sure I’ll do so against an unbeaten team on a long road trip.
Keith’s take: Huntingdon. I’m curious about how Buffalo State handles success and how St. John’s bounces back from defeat. Endicott, Muhlenberg and Otterbein all interested me this week. But the Hawks bring a 545-yard and 49-point-per-game offense to Hampden-Sydney, which is off to a slow start by its offensive standards, which are similar to Huntingdon’s. But the Hawks have played almost no defense to date (450 yards and 32 points per game allowed) while the Tigers seem to have figured out that being one-dimensional isn’t too productive. The Tigers have a solid pass rush and a decent defense overall. Against Huntingdon, we’ll find out if they’re “good.” Quarterbacks Neal Posey (Huntingdon) and Nash Nance could get to slinging it around the field on Saturday.
From which “direction” do you see bigger things?
Ryan’s take: North Park. OK, we all know that the Vikings don’t fare well against their CCIW brethren. But it’s been several seasons since North Park has started the year 0-2. And last year, they even swept their nonconference slate. This week, they line up against another winless team, Olivet. North Park may not be great, but they’re better than the 0-2 record they bring to the table. Of course, when you give up six turnovers in one game as they did last week, there’s not a lot of wiggle room to succeed.
Pat’s take: Uhh … Birmingham-Southern. But this shouldn’t be a surprise and I’m probably not enlightening too many people with this pick. The most interesting thing here is that this will be the first time that the Panthers have had to leave the state this season.
Keith’s take: Western New England. The Golden Bears lost their opener at Norwich, then responded by outscoring its next two oppoents, 85-24. Nichols is up next, and they’re 0-3 with each loss by at least 23 points. There’s a bad statistical mismatch ahead too. WNEU is the nation’s second-best team in turnover margin, averaging 3.67 more per game than they give to their opponents. The Bison are 229th, turning it over 3.67 times a game more than they generate.
Which team could get caught looking ahead?
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve. Opponent Ohio Wesleyan hasn’t put together a highly commendable season since a 7-3 outing in 2005. But this year, the team has a new coach and, with him, a new offense and new excitement surrounding the program. The last two times these teams played, Case held OWU to just 7 points each outing while piling on 55 and 35 points of their own. That won’t happen this time. OWU is 2-0 so far, and if Case gets too focused on next week’s game against Wittenberg, they just might see themselves with another game in the loss column.
Pat’s take: Lebanon Valley, perhaps. Stevenson might have enough firepower to take the Dutchmen down a peg or two a week before Leb Val hosts Widener. However, after Leb Val’s loss to Lyco last week they might be better focused than to fall into a trap game.
Keith’s take: Wittenberg. Wooster tends not to be an easy win, but the Tigers have two of those so far, and know their season can be defined by games against Case Western Reserve and Wabash the next two weeks. Wooster is good enough to force the Tigers to snap into focus. Wittenberg has been lighting up the skies, passing for 342 yards per game of its 492 offensively. Meanwhile, the Scots have seven sacks in their 1-1 start, and have been solid defensively (36th, at 259 yards allowed per game).
Which NESCAC game are you most looking forward to?
Ryan’s take: Bates at Trinity (Conn.). It’s hard being in someone’s shadow. And while Trinity running back Evan Bunker hasn’t exactly floundered, it will be good for him to have a season all to himself without older brother Eric (from Amherst) competing for accolades. The pair were the conference’s two first-team rushers, tying with 853 yards each last season, and Eric earned the NESCAC’s Offensive Player of the Year honor. You can be sure Evan will want that nod this season, and it all starts in the battle against Bates this weekend.
Pat’s take: Bowdoin at Middlebury. Middlebury should be putting some points on the board this year and I’m interested to see how they start out. McCallum Foote won’t surprise opponents this year but he should be no less effective in his second year, with an extra year of experience reading defenses and understanding the playbook.
Keith’s take: Wesleyan at Tufts. Hear me out here. We already know Amherst, which hosts Hamilton, and Williams, which hosts Colby, are going to be pretty good, as usual. But you never know which NESCAC team is suddenly going to go 6-2. Wesleyan, 4-4 last season, might be a candidate, but has only 11 starters back. Tufts (1-7) has 15. This is the NESCAC game with the most drama potential in the outcome, though conference championship potential is low.
Albion · Bates · Birmingham-Southern · Bowdoin · Carnegie Mellon · Case Western Reserve · Central · Hartwick · Johns Hopkins · Lebanon Valley · Louisiana College · Martin Luther · Middlebury · Muhlenberg · North Park · Ohio Wesleyan · St. John Fisher · St. Scholastica · Trinity (Conn.) · UW-Platteville · Waynesburg · Wesley
Adam Hurd and Briane Greene celebrate after Buffalo State’s win against UW-Whitewater.
If you’re looking for the last time a team ranked No. 1 in the D3football.com Top 25 lost in the regular season, you can stop checking. There just isn’t one to speak of. This is a truly rare event in Division III football, and Keith McMillan and Pat Coleman run through the history of regular-season losses, talk about the game, the direction of the UW-Whitewater program and Buffalo State and much more. (Plus, there’s even more on the game story page, with highlights and longer postgame interviews.)
It was a huge game but it wasn’t the only one. Pat and Keith dig into the UMHB-Wesley game, the Linfield-Cal Lutheran game, the Tommie-Johnie game and more. We say so long to the Courage Bowl we knew and loved, talk about the NATHC-MIAA challenge, Sul Ross State’s big victory, plus opportunities seized by Baldwin Wallace, Heidelberg, Hobart, Thiel, Rockford, Rowan and more.
Plus: Why you might or might not want Pat Coleman at your game, some teams who seized the day (and some who just missed), and if you want to more know about who we talked about, check the tags at the bottom of this post.
You can also get this and any of our future Around the Nation podcasts automatically by subscribing to this RSS feed: http://www.d3blogs.com/d3football/?feed=podcast
Plus, here’s this week’s D3football.com reports.
Albion · Baldwin-Wallace · Benedictine · Brockport State · Buffalo State · Cal Lutheran · Centre · Hobart · John Carroll · Linfield · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Mount Union · Muskingum · Rochester · Rowan · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · St. John's · St. Thomas · Sul Ross State · Trinity (Texas) · Utica · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington and Lee · Wesley · William Paterson