Triple Take: Predictions for a rowdy Week 2 in Division III

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Baldwin Wallace rolls out for the 2014 season this week.

Some of my Washington Post coworkers who love college football have spent the week lamenting what a lame slate Division I FBS has got going on this weekend. No such issues here in Division III, which makes it a good week to get out from in front of the TV and go to a game.

There’s one clash of ranked teams, and ten — count ‘em, ten — ranked teams taking on pretty good challenges, be they against teams on the fringe of the rankings, teams with recent playoff pedigree or teams expected to push for a conference title and finish with a winning record.

To help make sense of the 200-plus teams in action are Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan (that’s me) and Ryan Tipps:

Game of the week
Keith’s take: No. 5 Wesley at Salisbury:
I’m going to burn up my quota of Wesley picks pretty soon, but with just five games against D-III teams, and any loss putting a Pool B playoff spot in jeopardy, this game has wide-ranging implications. Plus it’s top 25-caliber rivals under the lights (6 p.m. kick). The Wolverines had two defensive starters ejected last week, but safety Sean Hopkins’s suspension for targeting was overturned on appeal, and all-American linebacker Sosthene Kapepula starts this week because getting tossed for two personal fouls doesn’t come with a suspension for the following game.
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport at No. 24 Hampden-Sydney. I’ve been filling in my answers from bottom to top and already used up (beware of spoilers) the Wesley and Rowan games, so I’m looking at other matchups. But I’m also not going to be shy highlighting Hampden-Sydney’s matchup twice in two weeks. The Tigers and Captains are both coming off losses to very physical teams, and the “healing” factor might be the key to who comes away victorious this weekend. Last season, CNU surprised H-SC early and put up the points needed to win. This year, I think both teams are genuinely better than their 2013 incarnations, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a matchup between the future winners of the ODAC and USAC.
Pat’s take: No. 7 Bethel at No. 15 Wartburg. I feel like the Midwest guy saying this but I do feel like this is one of the best games of the week and for me, at least, worth the six-hour round trip. After seeing how Wartburg manhandled Augsburg last week, a middle-of-the-pack team in Bethel’s conference, I’m interested to see how they stack up here. Wartburg has that advantage from this being its second game of the season and that’s big. Also, Bethel graduated a ton of receiving prowess, and that helped the program make a jump into the next tier, at least in my opinion. They have been more multi-dimensional the past couple of years. Erik Peterson’s season ended early last year as well because of injury and in his return, he will be facing a defensive front that knows how to get to the quarterback. Primed for an upset, although I don’t generally include games between ranked teams as upset picks or teams most likely to lose.

Surprisingly close game
Keith No. 5 Linfield at Chapman:
I went way out on a limb with this pick in Kickoff, and there’s some logic behind it. The Wildcats have scuffled with good SCIAC teams on the road in the past, and the Panthers are pretty good. Chapman has nine back on offense to Linfield’s three on D. It’s no short trip. And even if the Panthers don’t pull what would be a major upset, for the people across the country who know Linfield as an elite program and don’t really know Chapman, don’t be surprised if it’s close.
Ryan: Methodist at Guilford. So a close game here isn’t going to be a huge surprise aside from the fact that Guilford cleaned up a lot more heartily than Methodist did in Week 1. But there wasn’t any other category that this game fit under – and I wanted to make sure it was highlighted in Triple Take. If I picked the likely conference winners in my Game of the week, listed here are the best-bet runners-up. Scoring should be high in this one, and it very well could be a turnover or two that makes the difference.
Pat: Illinois College at Rose-Hulman. This is a game that I don’t know how to analyze and would love to just see it happen. RHIT is on a bit of an upswing of late and could compete for another (share of a) HCAC title. For IC, this is the only test on the schedule outside of the Midwest Conference opponents.

Most likely top 25 team to lose
Keith No. 24 Hampden-Sydney:
No. 15 Wartburg is more likely to lose, facing No. 7 Bethel, but in the spirit of the category, I’ll pick a ranked team to lose to a non-ranked team. On one hand, H-SC should bounce back from its loss last weekend out at Wabash, especially with what should be a pretty high-powered offense. On the other, Christopher Newport came 47 seconds from shutting the Tigers out in a 17-7 win last season, so this isn’t too much of a stretch.
Ryan: No. 11 St. Thomas. UW-La Crosse is but a shadow of the conference-contending team it fielded a decade or so ago, but the Eagles are also good for an upset here and there, and they maintain themselves as competitive in many of their major outings.
(Editor’s reminder: We don’t consult with each other while making our picks)
Pat: No. 11 St. Thomas. I’ll probably get a phone call or a text or get pulled aside after a game to be asked about this but in the first game so far, St. Thomas had to hold on at the end to beat UW-Eau Claire, and we think UW-La Crosse is another step up the WIAC ladder. Meanwhile, UW-L had a nice first week. UST is a defensive-oriented team at the moment, at least until the offense catches up, and a low-scoring game keeps UW-L in it longer.

Team inactive in Week 1 that’s most impressive in Week 2
Keith: No. 6 North Central.
The Cardinals, with just eight starters back, were built for last season, and nearly made the Stagg Bowl. They have a huge clash with No. 8 UW-Platteville coming up next week, so opening with St. Norbert should be a decent test. They’ll pass with flying colors.
Ryan: No. 6 North Central. Opponent St. Norbert is always good for an above-.500 season (read: SOS bump), which makes a playoff hopeful like North Central happy come seeding time. And the Cardinals likely won’t be feeling behind despite the Green Knights already having a game under their belt. North Central should glide comfortably to a win. (As an aside, St. Norbert is one of those teams that impresses me by scheduling tough in nonconference play year after year, with Wartburg, St. Thomas and John Carroll as some recent opponents. It will likely be another loss for the Green Knights, but at least they’re putting themselves out there.)
Pat: Baldwin Wallace. The Yellow Jackets are one of the three OAC teams that have a Week 1 bye and play non-conference in Week 2 before moving into the conference schedule. Even though Bluffton played last week, an upper-division OAC team should not be fazed by that extra week of preparation.

Team that lost in Week 1 that’s most impressive in Week 2
Keith: No. 22 Thomas More.
The Saints play at Hanover, the second road game of a five-in-six stretch to open the season. The Panthers aren’t bad, but they aren’t Wesley either. I was impressed with Thomas More’s sure tackling and fiesty effort last week, and against normal-for-D-III team speed, the offense should look more like that 40-point-a-game group it was last season.
Ryan: Dickinson. The Red Devils found their fire in the fourth quarter last week against 12th-ranked Hobart. If that can carry over to Week 2 against a Juniata team that has surged from the Centennial depths, then Dickinson will have a lot to look forward to this season.
Pat: No. 24 Hampden-Sydney. The Tigers will be extra motivated not to start 0-2 and also exorcise the demons of last year’s meeting with Christopher Newport. I mean, I assume there are some demons associated with throwing five interceptions and not scoring in the first 59 minutes of the game. That’s a nice first couple of weeks on the schedule for H-SC and CNU and now the Tigers are going to want to make sure they are the team that comes out of it 1-1 and the Captains go 0-2.

Rivalry game that turns out most exciting
Keith: The Secretaries’ Cup.
The Chowder Bowl, won by SUNY-Maritime by one over Mass. Maritime with a late score on Thursday night, got the weekend off to a good start. And not far from Throggs Neck, N.Y., in New London, Conn., Merchant Marine and Coast Guard play in one of the most idyllic settings in college football. The Secretaries’ Cup is full of so much atmosphere (I wrote about it a few years ago) that the game being good is practically a bonus.
Ryan: No. 5 Wesley at Salisbury. Three points, 10 points, nine points, three points … You have to go back more than half a decade to find a matchup between Wesley and Salisbury that wasn’t tense and tightly fought. These two teams annually bring their best when they line up, and the fact that Salisbury moved to the E8 a couple of years ago has done nothing to lessen the intensity that patrols Route 13. Despite the close scores, the Wolverines have owned the Gulls year in and year out for the past decade, which may be the only strike against this matchup from a neutral fan’s perspective.
Pat: The Chowder Bowl. Already played by the time this gets posted (but not yet as of this writing), the two maritime schools getting together just upriver from Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 has to take precedence over everything else.

Best New England performance against a big-conference team
Keith: Bridgewater State.
First off, kudos props to Endicott for stepping up their game and scheduling Hobart, following Framingham State’s date with Rowan and Salve Regina’s with Montclair State. More respect for football in a particular region is earned by winning. And it helps to win on the weeks when folks across the nation are paying attention. I think all three New England teams mentioned have a chance to win, but the best chance is the Bears, at the NJAC’s William Paterson.
Ryan: Rowan at Framingham State. I still have Rowan on my Top 25 ballot, though squeaked in just under the wire. I also picked Framingham State as a near-miss Pool B candidate in Kickoff. Whether it’s the best or not, it’s certainly the one I’m most interested in and the one that will be the most telling in the long run.
Pat: Endicott. Nearly picked for a category before I saw the rest of the questions, I like the Gulls’ chances of keeping it close. You know, in a Western New England-Union kind of way, but probably without the upset. I think Salve has the best chance of a win, but that Endicott might give the best performance.

They’ll be on your radar
Keith: Puget Sound.
The Loggers have one win the past three seasons (2011-13). But after an opening-week home victory over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, they can make it two wins this season Saturday at Occidental. The Tigers didn’t play last week, but have 17 starters back from a 5-4 team, so it might be a lot to ask.
Ryan: Augsburg. I don’t believe that the 40-3 loss that they were dealt in Week 1 represents the kind of team Augsburg really is. I expect the Auggies to bounce back this week against Concordia (Wis.). And if they don’t, well, the MIAC is right around the corner and it isn’t a forgiving place.
Pat: Central. A win vs. Monmouth would virtually assure Central of a 3-0 start heading into the Week 5 game vs. Wartburg (the intervening weeks are a home game vs. Maranatha and a bye). Also, kudos to Monmouth for going out and playing its non-conference games against actual non-Midwest Conference teams (looking at you, Grinnell, Beloit, Cornell).

A new podcast for the new season

Thomas More gets credit for scheduling up, as go a handful of other teams, even though they lost.(Wesley athletics photo)

Thomas More gets credit for scheduling up, as go a handful of other teams, even though they lost.
(Wesley athletics photo)

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Triple Take: Full accountability


Bryan Bradshaw and the rest of the Dubuque Spartans face a ranked team for the second time this season.
Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com

If you aren’t listening to the ATN Podcast, you’re missing out. Not only do Pat and Keith offer up a thorough breakdown of the week gone by, they also recap how we did in our Triple Take picks — assuming you make it to the tail end of the podcast.

What we write here isn’t done in a vacuum and isn’t necessarily forgotten about by Saturday afternoon. We welcome your comments both here and via Twitter. We want to make this an open forum for discussion. There are so many exciting things happening every weekend and we know you read, so why wouldn’t you want to talk about it? And talk. And talk. And talk … Put your own predictions in the comments below.

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 9 St. Thomas at No. 5 Bethel.
I don’t think there’s much debate here about which game will have the biggest impact nationally this week. Lining up two Top 10 teams against each other earns them that recognition. Since I’m not sure if one of my colleagues picking after me for Triple Take will share some first-hand insights into this game, I’ll stick to sharing the stat sheet with you: Bethel is 19th in total offense, with a pretty balanced delivery; 66th in defense, again balanced on that front; and is 17th and fourth at third-down conversions and turnover margin, respectively. St. Thomas is 39th in total offense, with a solid balance; fourth in defense, particularly stifling against the run; and 19th in third-down conversions.
Pat’s take: Dubuque at No. 21 Coe. This is kind of a sleeper game. But I think whoever wins the Iowa Conference will not emerge unscathed from the conference schedule. Between Coe, Dubuque, Simpson, Wartburg and Central, I expect there to be a game or two that don’t go as expected. Dubuque is 3-2 but one is to a ranked team and the other is to another WIAC opponent, both of whom are probably better than anyone Coe has beaten so far.
Keith’s take: No. 9 St. Thomas at No. 5 Bethel. I agree with Ryan, from the impact standpoint. There are a bunch of other intriguing games, but nothing that matches this meetup in Minnesota. The Tommies, a Stagg Bowl team last year, could be in two-loss, playoff-spot jeopardy by sunset on Saturday. A St. Thomas win sets up a furious race to the MIAC finish, as Bethel, UST, St. John’s and Concordia-Moorhead would each have a conference loss with four or fewer games to play. Which sets up the delicious scenario of a bunch of fans who really dislike the Tommies having to pull for them on Saturday. Key games down the stretch, should UST win, would be the Cobbers at the Tommies on Nov. 9 and the Royals at the Johnnies Nov. 16.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Northwestern at Greenville.
When we talk about undefeated teams that fly under the radar, Greenville is just such a team. Though, there’s nothing quiet about how they got to where they are, often flirting with 50 points a game, shouldered by a run game that has averaged 349 yards an outing. But Greenville’s strength might well be muted by Northwestern’s key asset: the ability to shut down the run. Three times this season, the Eagles have held opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. We’ll see how far these teams have to stray from their comfort zones to earn the win.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Willamette at Lewis and Clark. Lewis and Clark has been putting some points on the board lately behind quarterback Keith Welch, scoring 34 vs. UW-Platteville and 21 vs. Pacific Lutheran, both teams we believe to be better than Willamette. It’s not a stretch to see the Pioneers scoring enough points to make the game surprisingly close.
Keith’s take: Sewanee at Centre. The Colonels are 4-1 and the Tigers just 2-4, but Sewanee’s slate has included competitive losses from coast to coast (at Willamette and Washington & Lee), and a win against Birmingham-Southern. The Tigers’ past five opponents are 20-6. Centre is racking up 440 yards a game, most of it passing, and 31.6 points per. Sewanee rushes for 243 yards a game and takes care of the ball, but defensively is 201st nationally on stopping third downs and tied for 230th in the red zone. That gives Centre the opening they need to get by while it’s close and then break it open.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 7 UW-Platteville.
In a stacked WIAC, Stevens Point (with only one Top 25 vote) has been overshadowed by Platteville, Oshkosh and Whitewater this fall. And we’ll see this weekend if an injustice has been done there. The 4-1 Pointers’ only loss came last month at the hands of No. 4 North Central, but an overtime win against UW-Eau Claire last week hasn’t done a lot to instill confidence. Platteville should win, but Stevens Point could rattle the cage.
Pat’s take: No. 19 St. John Fisher. Man, this is a tough one. I do think there’s a 10% to 15% chance that Platteville loses to Stevens Point. Salisbury has quietly put together a couple of good games since losing to Wesley. Where I’m hanging my hat on this is St. John Fisher barely beat Frostburg State and Salisbury is a much tougher opponent. Obviously that’s a pretty simplistic “analysis,” because St. John Fisher will never take Salisbury lightly.
Keith’s take: No. 21 Coe. Finally a top 25 slate where we don’t have to scramble to find three where the ranked team could lose. I count eight, although the best two already got picked, and No. 5 Bethel losing to St. Thomas would hardly be an upset. So I lean toward the Kohawks, who have played outstanding defense since a 23-22 nail-biter over Monmouth in Week 1. But they also haven’t faced anyone the quality of the Spartans, while Dubuque played three WIAC teams and Central already. Coe has beaten Monmouth, Cornell, Wash. U., Buena Vista and Loras. They’ll get their respect if they start winning in the tougher part of their schedule, but Dubuque QB Bryan Bradshaw (1,333 yards, 14 TDs) won’t make their first big game an easy one.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: The ODAC.
Every week brings surprises in this conference, which has been referenced before as arguably having the most parity of any in the nation. This week, with Guilford at Bridgewater and Washington and Lee at Randolph-Macon, we get two see two teams at the top in conference play go up against two other above-.500 squads. As usual, expect these teams to continue beating themselves up ahead of the playoffs.
Pat’s take: Trinity (Conn.). The Bantams are one win short of their 50th consecutive home victory and host Bowdoin on Saturday. The last time Trinity lost a home game was to Williams on Sept. 29, 2001 and the Bantams have never lost a game played on artificial turf.
Keith’s take: Wesleyan. We’re so NESCAC-y today! Good teams from that conference tend to find themselves high on the national defensive rankings, and Bill Belichick’s alma mater is no differnt. Wesleyan is 4-0, facing 4-0 Amherst and their speedy offense on Saturday. The Cardinals have given up 22 points this season, no more than nine to any team. But the best part is, since they miss Middlebury in the 10-team conference’s eight-game schedule, a win points them toward a showdown with Connecticut rival Trinity for the conference title in November. Amherst allows 71 rushing yards a game and the Cardinals pound it for 266 per, so it should be a fun one along the line of scrimmage.

Which team will turn the biggest 180 from last week?
Ryan’s take: Augsburg.
Two straight losses to two of the toughest teams in the MIAC. Still, the Auggies impressively hung 28 points each time on those opponents. But I have to believe what they want most is a win. And it’s a floundering St. Olaf that stands in the way.
Pat’s take: Pacific. This is a 180 in the opposite direction. Pacific is riding a great unbeaten streak and blew out Puget Sound but has to go to No. 17 Pacific Lutheran this week.
Keith’s take: Rowan. The Profs, who lost by 20 to Morrisville State last week, on Saturday face national power Wesley, ranked 11th. I don’t know that the Profs will win, but they’ll give a performance more befitting their reputation. Rowan has played good defense, particularly against the run, and kept games low scoring prior to the 502-yard mess at Morrisville. Wesley is going to throw playmakers at the Profs like they haven’t seen before, and it will require a 180 from last week just to hang close.

Which team with two or more losses is worth watching this weekend?
Ryan’s take: Gettysburg, against another two-loss team, Muhlenberg.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve never heard of the Old Tin Cup rivalry. Most people haven’t. The trophy dates to the 1950s and early ’60s and is just one of many awards linked to intra-Centennial play during the fall. This one, though, highlights an annually competitive matchup that has proven to be either fun shootouts or defensive battles, depending on the year. Both the Bullets and the Mules have been neck and neck for the past few seasons, their games separated by only a couple of points each meeting. I’d expect nothing less here.
Pat’s take: Bethany. Their PAC game at Waynesburg features two of the most prolific quarterbacks in Division III this year. Bethany’s Matt Grimard and Waynesburg’s Carter Hill rank 1-2 in passing yards per game in the PAC and 1-3 in total offense per game. Hill’s 302.7 passing yards per game is No. 11 in Division III, while Grimard is No. 3 at 336.4. Bethany is 2-3, but beat Washington and Jefferson its last time out and has had two weeks to prepare for this game.
Keith’s take: LaGrange. Originally I spotlighted 3-2 Alfred, which is hosting 4-1 Hartwick, here, but the 2-3 Panthers have the No. 1 passing attack in the country (390 yards/game) behind quarterback Graham Craig. Their fellow deep South independent-turned-USAC-member Huntingdon brings the No. 13 pass attack and No. 6 overall offense — they have a 313-yard rush game and a 462-yard passing game this season — to Callaway Stadium, where there should be fireworks Saturday.

Which team would you have liked to see play this Saturday?
Ryan’s take: Merchant Marine.

Pat’s take: Merchant Marine. (But also Swarthmore. Can I still be upset about that? More below.)
Keith’s take: Merchant Marine. Although two days to get the team reassembled and ready to play is probably a lot to ask.

Pat: Earlier this week I stumbled upon the interesting story of mid-1980s Swarthmore football. The school eventually dropped football after the 2000 season, but back in the mid-1980s, the school forced out extremely successful coach Tom Lapinski after a four-year stretch in which Swarthmore went 30-6. The below video aired on CBS during the middle of that great run by the Garnet.