TAG | Carthage
St. John Fisher ended last season on a roll to the Elite 8. The Cardinals start with a Top 25 opponent in Thomas More.
Are you ready to take in more than 1,200 college football games this season? We sure are!
The Division III community is embarking on a fall during which 239 teams will take the field, most playing nine or 10 games in the regular season. D-III is the largest division in college, and D3football.com will give you insight across the board into the good, the bad, and the potential breakouts.
That all started with Kickoff 2012, our preseason publication, which has a slew of feature stories as well as rankings and interviews with coaches from every team in the nation. (There’s still lots of valuable info there if you haven’t purchased yet.)
D3football.com also brings you regional and national columns throughout the season, and every Friday morning, you’ll be able to dive into the column you’re reading right now, called Triple Take.
In Triple Take, Executive Editor and Publisher Pat Coleman, Managing Editor and National Columnist Keith McMillan and Senior Editor and longtime Mid-Atlantic Columnist Ryan Tipps break down some of the week’s biggest games, sleeper teams and those who we’re keeping an especially close eye on. From now until the Stagg Bowl, we’ll take you well beyond the Top 25.
We open up Triple Take to comments in the section below, or feel free to take the conversation to Twitter using the hashtag #3take. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: Pat (@d3football), Keith (@D3Keith) and Ryan (@D3MidAtlantic).
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Thomas More at No. 11 St. John Fisher. Fisher blasted through the first two rounds of the 2011 playoffs, proving to the selection committee and the D-III community that 8-2 teams deserve at-large bids. Their Empire 8 conference is one of the absolute toughest in the land, and getting the ball rolling against the PAC’s standard-bearer will be an exciting test. Both teams return the bulk of their starters and match up amazingly well on the field. A win for momentum’s sake could be crucial, too, as each team faces its top conference opponent the first week of October.
Pat’s take: St. Norbert vs. John Carroll. It’s in Ireland, for goodness sakes. I’m not sure I need to write anything else.
Keith’s take: No. 20 Thomas More at No. 11 St. John Fisher. Usually we try not to duplicate picks, but this was my standout game before I saw Ryan’s, and I’m sticking with it. There’s some other intrigue, like Willamette at Hardin-Simmons and Monmouth at Coe, but this is the biggest toss-up involving at least one top 25 team. Luke Magness became Thomas More’s starting quarterback right at the end of the season last year; We’ll be watching to see how much better he is with an offseason to prepare for the job. Likewise, St. John Fisher’s Ryan Kramer was a running back-turned-QB in a pinch last season; He’s had a full go-round to train as a signal-caller.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve at Marietta. Case has ushered in some teams with top-notch records recently, not losing more than two games a season over the past five years. But the Spartans are rarely dynamic out of the gate. Chalk that up to reasons we may never know. But with some changes happening up front for Case, an OAC team (even a lower-tier one) isn’t how I’d prefer to start my season.
Pat’s take: No. 9 Delaware Valley at Rowan. The Profs look to be coming into this season undermanned when compared to their cross-river rivals. And even though Rowan is far removed from the program which beat Delaware Valley in back-to-back years for the East Region title in 2004 and 2005, there’s still a little pride in Glassboro. Enough to give them a fighting chance.
Keith’s take: Augustana at Dubuque. On the surface, it’s a 2-8 team vs. a playoff team. Beneath it, though, the Vikings have usually been good for about seven wins a season, and come from the always-tough CCIW. Last season, the Spartans won, 18-13, on the road. They’re a more confident team now, coming off an IIAC championship, but they’re also without Gagliardi Trophy winner Michael Zweifel, who accounted for an enormous amount of their offense last season. Even if Dubuque wins again, it’ll be by a not-pretty score like last season.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 8 St. Thomas. Can a team really lose its best players at its three prime skill positions — the quarterback and All-Americans at running back and wide receiver — and still deserve a spot in the Top 10? Not unless your name is Mount Union or UW-Whitewater. The Tommies’ opening opponent, UW-Eau Claire, is a solid mid-pack WIAC team, which stands for a lot coming from that conference. St. Thomas might make the playoffs again (they might even go 10-0), but there’s a lot more trepidation about the team’s potency now than there was at this time in 2011.
Pat’s take: No. 20 Thomas More. St. John Fisher performed better in the playoffs last season without Ryan Kramer than it did with him. But it’s good to remember that Kramer was not expected to be the quarterback in 2011 when the season started, and worked out in the offseason and preseason as a running back before the presumed starter got hurt. With a full offseason to prepare, Kramer should be much more polished under center.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Kean. I don’t think any of the ranked teams are really likely to be upset; If I thought so, I wouldn’t have put these teams in the preseason top 25. And I mean actual upsets (*glares at Pat*). Kean though, is replacing nearly its entire offense (four starters back; 13 overall) while its opponent, Albright, brings back the group almost intact (nine offensive starters, 16 overall). The game is under the lights in Union, N.J. though, which means this is about as weak an upset pick as I could possibly make. Other viable choices were No. 6 North Central, hosting UW-LaCrosse or No. 7 Salisbury, at Christopher Newport.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 24. Birmingham-Southern. Any team that has a rusher like Shawn Morris has one less position it needs to worry about come Saturday. As the No. 2 rusher in country last fall, Morris was instrumental in helping B-SC reach further for its gold ring than ever before. The Panthers have turned things around in recent years, and barring any major stumbles, they should be on everyone’s radar for the next several weeks, starting with their game against LaGrange.
Pat’s take: Buffalo State. The Empire 8 coaches’ poll snubbed the Bengals and despite my best efforts, I think Kickoff did too. I agree with what Ryan said above, about the Empire 8 being among the toughest conferences in Division III football, but Buffalo State will be able to hold its own. Whether that translates into a win against Cortland State remains to be seen but the Bengals should be on your radar, for sure.
Keith’s take: William Paterson and Wisconsin Lutheran. Yeah I’m not sure I understood Pat’s obssession with Buffalo State during our Kickoff meetings, but then he could probably say the same about my Wisconsin Lutheran pick in the Beyond the Top 25 piece. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, buy Kickoff. … It won’t affect the Northern Athletics Conference race, but Wisconsin Lutheran’s opener at Ripon is a chance for them to take a step toward the postseason. Meanwhile, the real intrigue is in the NJAC, a race that could be up for grabs, especially if my upset pick is correct. That means William Paterson needs to start the season with an attention-grabbing victory against King’s. Other potential picks here included North Park at Hope and Illinois College, hosting Hanover.
Which 2011 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays have said more than once in recent seasons that quarterback Hewitt Tomlin was the face of the franchise, the player on whom success and defeat often rested. Tomlin has graduated, and with him the more than 2,600 yards he threw for last year. That doesn’t leave a settling thought for a team that has to go up against Randolph-Macon, with its penchant for replacing top-notch running backs with even more top-notch backs. Macon is stingy with points, too. A team might be able to air the ball out and make some big plays to put up points, but most opponents won’t win the war in the trenches with Macon. JHU won’t have the leverage going into Saturday to outlift R-MC.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. It isn’t a rebuilding season for the Saints, to be sure, but they won’t be 10-0 dominant like they were last year. And you can consult the Kickoff rankings to see the difference between last year’s non-conference opener (Lawrence) and this year’s (Whitworth).
Keith’s take: Franklin. Look, we salute the Grizzlies for playing Mount Union. It’ll be a meeting of some of D-III’s best fans, at least in the pre-game tailgate. For years we’ve seen teams take this Week 1 game to get a taste of the Purple Raiders, and they end up with a mouthful. Franklin, which has designs on being a perennial contender, took a game with UW-Whitewater last season and lost 45-0. The playoff rematch was 41-14. I know Franklin doesn’t really wish it had a bye, because they’re playing these games to figure out what it takes to get to the purple powers’ level, but the final score may leave a bit to be desired. Mount Union has been vulnerable in recent seasons, but we’re talking December vulnerable, not beginning of September. Other candidates: Bendictine at No. 15 Wheaton, Monmouth at Coe.
Which conference will have the most impressive non-conference win?
Ryan’s take: The MIAA. It’s not every day that a team from Michigan can get a leg up on the CCIW, but that’s exactly what could happen when Adrian hosts Carthage. The Bulldogs are a team on the rise, and they’re certainly hoping to bite into a piece of the playoff pie. Should they lose a conference game, wins against teams like Carthage could factor in nicely for at-large consideration.
Pat’s take: The MAC. There are a couple of possible matchups here that could give me that result, but the one I’m thinking of is Lebanon Valley at Montclair State. Montclair State just lost too much on offense and defense … and special teams … and while Lebanon Valley doesn’t exactly return intact either, it should have the upper hand.
Keith’s take: The ECFC. A few teams scheduled aggressively, opening up opportunities for upsets. Gallaudet at Otterbein, Norwich against Western New England and Husson at Hartwick are the three games that would catch my attention, should the ECFC team prevail.
Which long losing streak is likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Greensboro, at Guilford. If you’re going to end a losing streak, nothing’s sweeter than doing it against a cross-town rival. The Pride has a new coach, one who is familiar with the inner workings of the team. That means there’s new perspectives but without the learning curve. To most teams, Guilford wouldn’t be a chest-thumping win, but Greensboro has won just one game since September 2010. And last year’s matchup against Guilford was a lopsided affair. A win by Greensboro isn’t going to be a sign of a great resurgence afoot, but it will be a step in the right direction for a program looking to rebuild.
Pat’s take: Knox, vs. Eureka. The Prairie Fire have been put out 14 consecutive times, but it’s better to open against Eureka than against Wash U. Knox is playing at home and should have 18 starters back. Eureka has some pretty good talent as well, but if the win doesn’t come here for Knox, in the inaugural Lincoln Bowl, it will be more than a month before there’s another similar opportunity.
Keith’s take: Thiel, vs. Juniata. The Tomcats won 11 games in 2005, but now are coming off consecutive 0-10 seasons and 22 consecutive losses. Juniata, meanwhile, is 6-54 since that 2005 season, so if there was ever an opportunity for Theil to break the streak, now is the time. Hamline (16 consecutive losses) at Minnesota-Morris is another candidate.
Adrian · Albright · Augustana · Birmingham-Southern · Buffalo State · Carthage · Case Western Reserve · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Dubuque · Eureka · Gallaudet · Greensboro · Guilford · Hamline · Hanover · Hartwick · Hope · Husson · Illinois College · John Carroll · Johns Hopkins · Juniata · Kean · Knox · Lebanon Valley · Marietta · Minnesota-Morris · Montclair State · North Park · Norwich · Otterbein · Randolph-Macon · Rowan · St. John Fisher · St. Norbert · St. Scholastica · St. Thomas · Thiel · Thomas More · UW-Eau Claire · Western New England · Whitworth · William Paterson · Wisconsin Lutheran
Alex Tanney is the third Tanney to play football at Monmouth, but will be known as the best in the family
Monmouth athletics photo
Records fell, as did snowflakes and the chances of anyone else winning any of eight conference titles. The Centennial, PAC, MIAA, MWC, MIAC, WIAC, UMAC and SCIAC each got the ultimate clarity on Saturday: automatic bids.
We talk about those, the records set by Mike Zweifel and Alex Tanney, the interesting things the purple powers did and really, much more. Check the list of tags at the bottom of this page to see who’s discussed.
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 the first look at this week’s D3reports, as well as Division III football highlight reels. These will also appear on the front page on Monday afternoon.
Adrian · Albion · Alex Tanney · Amherst · Baldwin-Wallace · Bridgwater State · Cal Lutheran · Carthage · Central · Centre · Christopher Newport · Coe · Dubuque · Endicott · Ferrum · Framingham State · Frostburg State · Guilford · Gustavus Adolphus · Hampden-Sydney · Hardin-Simmons · Ithaca · Johns Hopkins · Josh Vogelbach · Lewis and Clark · Linfield · Louisiana College · Luther · Maine Maritime · McMurry · Mike Zweifel · Monmouth · Mount Union · North Park · Norwich · Otterbein · Pacific Lutheran · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · St. Scholastica · St. Thomas · SUNY-Maritime · Thomas More · Trinity (Conn.) · Trinity (Texas) · UW-La Crosse · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Stevens Point · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Wartburg · Washington and Lee · Wesley · Western New England · Wittenberg
Manny Sicre got nearly half of his rushing yards in Case’s season opener. The Spartans need to win out to have a shot at the playoffs.
Case Western Reserve athletics photo
The season is getting down to the wire, and conference matchups will be decided with each week that goes by. But individual achievements are on the watchlist as well for Saturday. Career records set at Westminster (Mo.) are threatened by players from Dubuque (wide receiver Michael Zweifel) and Monmouth (quarterback Alex Tanney).
Will they fall? Will the weather wreak havoc? Snow? And what races will get clarity? Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps offer up their thoughts.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 Salisbury at No. 7 Wesley. In their first year in the Empire 8, the Gulls have certainly approached things with a take-no-prisoners attitude. How else would you describe posting 65, 69 and 70 points on some of the conference’s best teams? Better than ever, quarterback Dan Griffin is getting the job done both through the air and on the ground, totaling 22 touchdowns this season. And the team is plus-11 in turnovers. But Salisbury hasn’t won the annual matchup against Wesley, the Route 13 Rivalry, since 2004. For all the good that Wesley brings to the table year in and year out, they feel somewhat vulnerable this year. Maybe it’s just hard to get a handle on them since three of their seven games have been against non-D-III schools. Nonetheless, if there’s ever been a time for Salisbury to break its losing streak against Wesley, this year is it.
Keith’s take: Birmingham-Southern at No. 23 Trinity (Texas). Aside from Ryan’s pick, the only meeting of top 25 teams this week, the Panthers-Tigers matchup probably has the furthest-reaching consequences. Not only are both teams in the mix for the SCAC title and automatic bid, but their location and previous results give other teams in the playoff hunt a rooting interest in how they do.
Pat’s take: Rowan at No. 18 Kean. The loss by Montclair State on the scoreboard and the other one under center have opened the NJAC race up even further. It’s going to get nuts from here. So far, it’s hard to say whether Kean’s football program has gotten distracted by the winds swirling around other Kean athletic teams, but even if not, it’s a key game. Both teams need this.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Widener at Albright. With a lot to gain and the potential to still win the conference, Widener could pour it on and run away with this game. But if the Pride get caught thinking too much about the conference showdown against Delaware Valley, Albright may be able to catch them sleeping. Aside from one game this season, Albright plays its opponents competitively, so a one-score game isn’t out of the question.
Keith’s take: Wooster at Hiram. Traditionally a pretty good NCAC program, Wooster might seem from an outsider’s view as the team with a chance to get right against the 1-6 Terriers. But look for a tight finish, mostly because both teams struggle mightily at putting points on the board. Hiram is the 229th-ranked scoring offense in the country at a shade more than 10 points per game and No. 225 Wooster isn’t much better at a little more than 12.
Pat’s take: Carthage at North Park. There’s nothing to be gained by picking North Park to win a CCIW game when it hasn’t since time immemorial (actually 2000). But the Vikings have been competitive more often than not, including a 27-24 loss at Augustana last week. Keith keeps talking about the North Park-at-Carthage game from last year where North Park was competitive. A loss would make it 80 consecutive conference games, by my count.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Kean. It seems a little like Kean’s opponent, Rowan, has flown under the radar this season. Remember last year they were a one-loss team that got snubbed from the postseason while conference-mates Cortland State and Montclair State got to keep playing? This year’s Profs have a lot to be motivated about, and they’re just balanced enough in all facets of the game to keep the opposition guessing. And Kean hasn’t exactly been steamrolling teams this season.
Keith’s take: No. 24 Illinois Wesleyan. This might a week without an upset in the top 25, and this could be a little bit of a reach. But the Titans have to be careful to avoid the hangover that comes from gearing up for a game as big as last week’s clash with North Central, and then the deflating feeling that goes with getting shutout. Millkin hasn’t won since Oct. 1, and if it begins to sniff a chance at victory, IWU’s job is going to get tougher. The Big Blue scores more than 30 points a game, but the Titans are a powerhouse defensively, allowing less than 10.
Pat’s take: No. 7 Wesley. I don’t usually pick ranked games for this, even the home team when higher ranked, but Salisbury is in a good position here to reclaim U.S. 13 for its own and put Wesley deep on the playoff bubble. Salisbury hasn’t been tested in a while but one of the side benefits to the recent blowouts is that they came on the road, where the Sea Gulls couldn’t completely empty the bench because it was left at home. The key players on the two-deep still had a fair amount of playing time. Plus, Salisbury is throwing the ball better than in previous years and that has appeared to be where Wesley struggles defensively.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve. The Spartans line up against their stiffest UAA competition, Chicago, this weekend. For my part, Case hasn’t really been on my radar yet. Their games have been close, and Pool B entry to the postseason is scarcer than ever. But, as noted above, Wesley could pick up loss No. 2 this weekend, which means Case should be determined to finish out 9-1 if they hope to make the playoffs. With the selection committee now able to factor in previous playoff performance, Case is in trouble with its few one-and-dones under their belt. So the Spartans shouldn’t simply be looking to win but rather to win convincingly.
Keith’s take: Wartburg. The up-and-down IIAC needs the annual Knights-Dutch clash to help sort the conference title race out. Central has been hot offensively, scoring 119 points in its past two games, and the Wartburg defense — traditionally a strength — has given up 39 and 38. I don’t know quite what to make of this Wartburg team, even this deep into the season, but I hope Saturday provides the most definitive clue yet.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. The Saints can’t clinch the automatic bid this weekend at the Metrodome unless they win and Eureka also loses to Northwestern, but they are going to be all but assured of winning the automatic bid from the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference with a win against first-year program Presentation.
Which team with a losing record has the most left to play for?
Ryan’s take: DePauw. Any season — no matter humbling or below expectations it is — can be salvaged with a win against a bitter rival, in this case Wabash. That’s three weeks away, which means two more games for DPU to fix what may be broke. The Tigers have not been impressive on offense this year, but last week against Ohio Wesleyan, Drew Seaman strung together a 166-yard, three-touchdown performance. That, folks, amounts to a glimmer of hope for a team that’s 2-4 only one season removed from a SCAC title and a playoff run. A chance to find itself, as well as battle for the Monon Bell trophy, gives DePauw plenty to fight for.
Keith’s take: Pacific. Still looking for the first win since reviving the program, the Boxers are 0-7 and coming off of demoralizing losses of 49-6, 49-7 and 48-6, at Willamette, against Linfield, and at Whitworth. Pacific’s best chance to get over that is by beating another potentially demoralized team, in 0-7 conference foe Puget Sound. The Loggers, whose two wins last season were against Pacific, have given up 450 points and 43 points per game. That’s an opportunity for the Boxers offense to get on track.
Pat’s take: Ithaca. At 3-4, and with Frostburg State, Alfred and Cortland State still to come, the Bombers are in danger of seeing their streak of consecutive winning seasons end at 40. It’s not the longest such streak, obviously, but Ithaca is among the historic Division III football programs for a reason. They need to win all three to keep that streak alive. Central’s streak, formerly the second-longest, ended with a 5-5 season in 2003.
If there were no obstacles, and excluding your game of the week pick, where would you like to be this Saturday?
Ryan’s take: Ursinus at No. 14 Johns Hopkins. I feel like I’m talking about one or the other of these teams almost every week, but if I want to answer honestly, this is the game I want to see. I want to see if JHU is for real this year — as in 2009 playoff-run real. I think they are. JHU can clinch a playoff berth with a win, so there’s plenty at stake for them. Ursinus isn’t the kind of Bears you play dead with though or they’ll eat your team up.
Keith’s take: At Castleton State or Middlebury. I have no qualms going to see the Route 13 rivalry, but if I could be anywhere, Vermont during fall foliage season sounds nice. The Spartans and Panthers are just a 45-minute drive from one another, and the start times are staggered. Castleton plays Gallaudet, and Middlebury faces off with Trinity (Conn.).
Pat’s take: Actually, the game I’ll be at. I feel good about having a chance to be there for history when Dubuque hosts Luther. But more about that in a second.
Do one, both or neither of the Westminster (Mo.) records fall this weekend?
Ryan’s take: One. I think Monmouth’s Alex Tanney will get the two touchdown passes he needs to break the career mark in that category. His team should be able to make short work of Carroll. However, I don’t think Dubuque’s Michael Zweifel gets the 12 catches he needs to set the career catches record. He’ll probably fall three or four catches short of that mark. But look for him to break it in the Spartans’ last game of the regular season on Nov. 5.
Keith’s take: Both. With 123 career TD passes and five in each of the past two games, Tanney seems a sure bet to break through. The Pioneers have the best defense in the MWC though. Meanwhile, Zwiefel has had 17 or more catches for more than 200 yards twice in his past three games, so whopping numbers are normal for him.
Pat’s take: Both. There’s no way Michael Zweifel doesn’t get those receptions this weekend, in the team’s final home game. Remember who the offensive coordinator reports to. He caught 17 passes last week. Twelve catches is merely right at his average.
Albright · Alex Tanney · Alfred · Birmingham-Southern · Carroll · Carthage · Case Western Reserve · Castleton State · Central · Cortland State · DePauw · Dubuque · Eureka · Frostburg State · Gallaudet · Hiram · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Johns Hopkins · Kean · Luther · Middlebury · Mike Zweifel · Millikin · Monmouth · North Park · Northwestern (Minn.) · Presentation · Puget Sound · Rowan · Salisbury · St. Scholastica · Trinity (Conn.) · Trinity (Texas) · Ursinus · Wartburg · Wesley · Widener · Wooster
UW-Whitewater cornerback Matt McCulloch knocks a pass away from UW-Stevens Point receiver Jared Jenkins.
Photo by Darryl Tessman, d3photography.com
So, yes, the East’s last best chance at a No. 1 seed went by the wayside this weekend when Cortland rallied to beat Montclair State. And yes, Mount Union wasn’t ranked No. 1 in the North in the last poll, but that doesn’t mean the Purple Raiders can’t still make the move.
Pool B got a shakeup Saturday when Case Western Reserve took its first loss after 38 consecutive regular-season victories. How far does this open the door for other Pool B contenders?
Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan discuss the possibilities in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast. But there’s more — Keith visited UW-Whitewater on Saturday for the first time since 2005 and came away impressed by all that has changed at Perkins Stadium in the past five years. Plus, there’s a bunch of big games coming up next week as teams try to wrap up automatic bids.
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Around the Nation · automatic bid · Carthage · Case Western Reserve · Chicago · Cortland State · Greenville · Hampden-Sydney · Linfield · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Montclair State · Mount Union · playoffs · Pool B · Salisbury · St. Thomas · SUNY-Maritime · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington U. · Wesley · Wittenberg
After last week, the Top 25 got an overhaul as a handful of undefeated teams fell. To top it off, there’s been a lot of shuffling in some of the conferences across the country. The Iowa Conference, Empire 8, the USA South, the Old Dominion — all have featured significant changes in just a week’s time.
The playoff picture in those areas may have gotten a little foggier, if not defied expectations all together.
That’s much of what we do with Triple Take, try to spot the unexpected — a seemingly impossible paradox in and of itself. But there’s a nuance to predictions: finding the statistical mismatch, the key injury, the motivation that could make or break a team. In Week 7, much happened to defy expectations and create a new way to approach a team.
That’s part of the fun of playing the game every Saturday, isn’t it?
Will the eighth week of the season hold as much drama as the seventh did? Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps weigh in.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Lycoming at No. 9 Delaware Valley. Both teams sit as one-loss teams overall yet are undefeated in conference play. And each of their losses comes against quality opponents, the Aggies especially being just 3:29 from beating Wesley. We all expected DelVal to have a prime year, but Lycoming is somewhat of a surprise. Going now into Week 8, no one takes any team for granted, and Lycoming has rolled through the past six games, sometimes winning by 20-, 30- or even 50-point margins. Both teams have been impressive all year, and the winner on Saturday has the inside track to a game on Nov. 20.
Pat’s take: No. 19 St. John Fisher at Alfred. No longer a battle of unbeatens, but it is a battle of Empire 8 unbeatens. The winner stays on the shortest path to the Empire 8 title, but only St. John Fisher can have aspirations of getting a No. 1 seed and keeping Mount Union away until the national semifinals.
Keith’s take: No. 12 Linfield at No. 22 Pacific Lutheran. So rarely do you go third and get the two best choices. Between No. 20 Bethel at No. 4 St. Thomas and Linfield-PLU, I can’t go wrong. I took the NWC clash because there, the lower-ranked team at least has home-field advantage, and because Linfield has a loss and needs to win to stay on track for the automatic bid, or become a team that went from last year’s final four to probably out of this year’s 32. The Wildcats feature the nation’s fifth most prolific offense, but it’s the defense that’s begun to stand out. Since giving up 47 to Cal Lutheran, the team’s given up 38 in four games, and not all of that has come against the first team. Senior Eric Hedin has 10 sacks in five games, and will get after Jordan Rassmussen and the PLU offense.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Salisbury at Union. Chalk this up more to a feeling than anything else, but Union’s schedule has not been an easy one and yet they’re still able to get a couple scores on the board each week. If the Dutchmen want to stay in this game, it will have to be because of the offense. Union hasn’t done particularly well this season against running teams — and Salisbury is just about the mother of all run teams. If Union finds its groove on offense, this could be a high-scoring affair.
Pat’s take: Carthage at No. 17 Wheaton. Carthage has lost two games, both to CCIW opponents, by the score of 43-8 and 43-16. Counting on a little better performance and some learning curve for the Red Men.
Keith’s take: Rochester at WPI. The nation’s top 15 defenses read like a who’s who of the top 25, with 10th-best defense William Paterson (4-2), No. 13 WPI (3-3) and No. 14 Aurora (4-2) not fitting the group. Rochester, while strangely giving up nearly the same number of points (48) to Merchant Marine as it did to St. John Fisher (49), allowed an average of 15.6 to Case Western Reserve, Union and RPI. And that’s good because the Yellowjackets are 216th in scoring at 12.8 points per game. Against WPI’s defense, that number might not improve, but the Engineers’ offense (185th nationally at 281.5 yards per game) isn’t a juggernaut either. Short story long, this could be surprisingly close by being unsurprisingly low scoring.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 6 North Central. The Cardinals have a ton of offensive weapons at their disposal, so a win here for Illinois Wesleyan wouldn’t be easy. But the Titans are coming off a victory against a solid Elmhurst team and should be carrying some momentum into this game. IWU will need to ask for more from its defense — more from Ryan Gresko and the rest of the linebackers and more from the secondary to stop any big plays from happening. With just one in-conference loss, IWU is still in the playoff hunt. But North Central has plenty on its mind, too: A No. 1 seed in the postseason isn’t out of the question.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Thomas More. Alright, it seems unlikely on the face of it, no doubt. Bethany has scored 40 points in each of the past two games and is playing at home. Who knows, perhaps freshman quarterback Matt Grimard won’t know enough to be intimidated, or will simply play the game of his life.
Keith’s take: No. 7 Wittenberg. I don’t know that any of the big clashes, in the CCIW, MAC, MIAC or NWC, will end in upsets. Carnegie Mellon (4-2) is an interesting opponent for the the 7-0 Tigers, though, because it’s had two weeks to prepare, when it’s really Wittenberg that could use the extra week to work on stopping the Wing-T. The Tartans (261 yards/game) are the nation’s No. 12 rush offense, but the Tigers are the No. 8 rush defense (59 yards/game). The UAA-NCAC scheduling agreement gives these two teams as many common opponents as conference rivals would have, and while the comparative scores are inconclusive, it could mean the CMU coaching staff is able to glean some insight from one of them.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: DePauw. The undefeated Tigers are a team I’ve been watching closely all season. But this week, they merit special mention in this category because, with a win against Trinity, DePauw would become the first team in the country to clinch an automatic bid to the playoffs. DPU is the only SCAC team undefeated in conference play. And after the Trinity game, the only conference opponent left that counts toward the AQ is Austin, which already has two losses. Until last season, DPU had never beaten Trinity. Raising the stakes on Saturday is that DPU will have to play their SCAC rival on the road.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Pacific Lutheran. And that’s because win or lose, the Lutes are playoff contenders. Win, of course, and Pacific Lutheran puts Linfield out of control of its own destiny, having to hope for a three-way tie in the NWC (wherein Willamette beats Pacific Lutheran in Week 11) or an upset.
Keith’s take: No. 20 Bethel. If you aren’t in MIAC country, chances are you can’t name two Royals players, because St. Thomas and St. John’s have absorbed all the spotlight. Bethel’s got a suffocating defense that is No. 1 in the nation against the run (33.5 yards per game) and No. 9 overall, and hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game. The Royals, behind the one player you would have heard of if you’ve been following for long enough, in Logan Flannery (125.8 yards/game), has a potent rushing attack. St. Thomas is similarly dominating, and that’s been well documented. If Bethel performs on Saturday, they’ll be able to sign their names to the nationally recognized register as well.
Which unlikely conference leader is most likely to pick up a loss?
Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. The Mules have been an impressive surprise this year despite starting with a loss to Delaware Valley. Sophomore Terrence Dandridge has really stepped into the spotlight and made the Mules one of the best rushing teams in the Centennial. But this week, they face a potent passing attack from John Harrison and Franklin and Marshall. Muhlenberg did reasonably well earlier in the season against the strong passing game Johns Hopkins offered, but F&M’s attach can really sizzle when it gets going. Perhaps the question is whether we’ll see the solid F&M offense that showed up against Dickinson or the one that showed up last week against Moravian, where balance was lacking.
Pat’s take: Plymouth State. The Plymouth State game is the first of two games in a row that Western New England will have to win to clinch itself a bid in the NEFC title game. Western New England lost its opening game to Norwich but has been on a roll since, while Plymouth State has been winning with defense.
Keith’s take: Shenandoah. The trip to Ferrum is nothing easy for the Hornets, and trips to the end zone have not been either. At No. 213 in total offense and 190th in scoring offense (16.5 points per game), Shenandoah — like the other 2-4 teams tied with Averett and N.C. Wesleyan atop the USAC — doesn’t fit the profile of a conference co-leader. (Speaking of leaders, as far as unlikely ones, there aren’t many; St. Lawrence [vs. RPI], maybe Benedictine [vs. Maranatha Baptist], but nationally it’s mostly the usual suspects at the top of conferences)
Which team this week will least resemble last week’s performance?
Ryan’s take: RPI. RPI had the best quarter of its year last week, racking up 24 points against Alfred in the first 15 minutes of play. The other 45 minutes resembled the RPI most probably expected to play in that game. I think that’s where they will pick up against Liberty League leader St. Lawrence this week.
Pat’s take: Westminster (Pa.). The Titans will be hosting their first-ever on-campus night game on Saturday, and are playing Thiel to do so. Now, Thiel’s president this week curiously threw down the gantlet and said the following in an e-mail to the student body: “Many of you don’t know this, but Westminster had the nerve to schedule Thiel College for their first ever night game under the new lights at their home football stadium. As you know I am a very competitive person. I don’t want teams scheduling us for their first competitions under new lights, on a new field or court, or anything else like that. Those games are supposed to be scheduled against teams you can beat.” In calling out his school’s PAC rival, he cast a very interesting spotlight on his team, which hasn’t scored more than seven points in a game all year, while allowing an average of just under 30. Westminster lost at Waynesburg last week, 24-23. This will not resemble that. This is a team Westminster can beat.
Keith’s take: Randolph-Macon. It’s back to the life of unranked and off the radar for the Yellow Jackets after a flirtation with the top 20. They’ve got a get-right game against 0-6 Guilford, which has allowed 55.5 points per ODAC game so far, but R-MC also won’t resemble the team that started 6-0 if quarterback Austin Faulkner isn’t back at full strength.
What team with two or more losses is worth watching?
Ryan’s take: Carnegie Mellon. The Tartans have a chance to break out of the .500 streak they’ve been trapped in each of the past two seasons. And this week they’ll line up against Wittenberg, which will test the CMU run game unlike any game to date. The Tartans have a lot of rushers at their disposal, so being able to rotate carries could keep the players fresh against that stout Tigers defense.
Pat’s take: Lewis and Clark. Worth watching in the first place because the team has been putting up points like crazy the past two seasons. On Saturday the Pioneers have a good chance to win a second Northwest Conference game for the first time since 1997. And lest you say that the only reason L&C is in this position is because Pacific added football, I would point out that L&C also beat Menlo in Week 6, and that would have counted last year.
Keith’s take: McMurry. Hal Mumme is working his magic, and the 5-2 _______s (7-letter mascot, not starting with I- or ending with -ndians) are the nation’s most prolific passing offense, behind Jake Mullin and his 34-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. With at least four TD passes and at least 31 points all but once, “worth watching” does not seem to be a problem.
Alfred · Bethany · Carnegie Mellon · Carthage · Delaware Valley · DePauw · Lewis and Clark · Lycoming · Muhlenberg · North Central · Plymouth State · Puget Sound · RPI · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · Thiel · Thomas More · Union · Western New England · Westminster (Pa.) · Wheaton (Ill.)