TAG | Denison
With an extra week to wait and prepare, Chris Haupt and Widener need a win against Delaware Valley to secure a playoff bid.
Widener athletics file photo
For all the games played in the regular season, those that live as part of storied rivalries are among the greatest.
It’s special for the players, alumni and parents who get to be a part of those traditions. For no matter how bad a season has been, rivalry week offers a chance at a bit of redemption, a chance to play with heart and end the school year – or even a college career – with a smile. From Monon and Cortaca to Bowls and Games, the edge-of-your-seat excitement happens all across the country.
Pat, Keith and Ryan take you into Week 11, with Selection Sunday looming just beyond.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Delaware Valley at No. 9 Widener. There has been no shortage of questions about the Pride’s strength throughout the season. They’ve beaten their three best opponents by only a combined 13 points. And their lesser opponents? Well, those teams have been absolutely pummeled. The Aggies are the last hurdle to Widener’s ride into the postseason, but oh what a hurdle. After a fall from grace with two opening losses, DelVal regained its form and has been more convincing than Widener down the stretch. Both teams are statistically sound, but Widener will want to win this one to avoid an ugly three-way tie for the top of the MAC. Of course, DelVal will want to win to force just such a situation. This will be a conference people could be talking a lot about come Sunday.
Pat’s take: St. John’s at No. 22 Bethel. Once upon a time, St. John’s had beaten Bethel 20 consecutive meetings. But these days, the Royals have the upper hand. Bethel’s playoff hopes are already flagging thanks to the loss to St. Olaf and it can’t afford to lose this game. Meanwhile, St. John’s needs the win to finish with a winning record … and who knows, it might take some extra motivation from the possibility that John Gagliardi might be coaching his last game.
Keith’s take: Adrian at No. 17 Huntingdon. Since I wrote the Around the Nation column largely on the implications of this game, there’s no need to rehash that if you’ve been following along. But I didn’t get into player matchups or X’s and O’s, and there’s something big to focus on here: Adrian is second in the country in scoring defense (10.67 points per game to No. 1 Mount Union’s 3.11) and held five consecutive MIAA opponents in the single digits before Albion scored 19 in an overtime loss last week. Huntingdon scores 39.25 points per game and puts up 417.75 yards (numbers that are just 16th and 54th nationally), with multitalented RB Trevor Manuel guiding the way. Adrian LBs Deonte Bridgman and Hunter Juntunen lead the Bulldogs’ defense, which is adept at stopping the run (1oth nationally) and the pass (fifth). Huntingdon DL D.J. Chappell and Courtney Moss have been spending time in opponents’ backfields. This game is a curiosity because of the mismatch of styles, as well as D-III regions. The MIAA isn’t exactly known as one of D-IIIs top conferences, and Huntingdon, if it wins big by scoring a bunch, will be making a statement for playoff inclusion and for the quality of D-III ball in the deep south.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Maryville at Ferrum. Both teams have a lot to play for here, and it’s rare in recent years for this game to be separated by more than one score. The Scots are trying to secure their first winning season since 2007, and this under the leadership of a first-year coach. Ferrum, on the other hand, could be propelled into the postseason if Christopher Newport suffers an upset loss. Expect this matchup to go down to the bone.
Pat’s take: Denison at Kenyon. Denison has a huge chance to play spoiler here. And who thought we would ever be talking about someone spoiling Kenyon’s playoff chances? Denison’s 3-6 is just as misleading as Kenyon’s 6-3. For two members of the same conference, they have fairly few common opponents.
Keith’s take: Buena Vista at Dubuque. The Beavers, in hindsight, played perhaps the nation’s toughest opening five games (a distinction that previously belonged to Buffalo State). They went 0-5 against four teams that have playoff aspirations (UW-Platteville, Concordia-Moorhead, Bethel and Coe) and Wartburg, allowing 48.6 points per game and losing each contest by between 21 and 51 points. Since, however, they’ve reeled off four wins in varying fashions, and can get to .500 on the season by beating last season’s IIAC champ, who also comes in at 4-5. The Spartans can still wing it, as Sean Anderson averages seven catches a game and Austin Morgan (6.89) is just a shade behind, and you’d expect them — by reputation and name recognition — to run up some high totals against BVU. The Beavers allowed 369 yards and four passing touchdowns against Simpson last week, but they won, 29-27, and are playing to end the season on a high note, while Dubuque is undoubtedly disappointed with its encore.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Waynesburg. One- and two-point wins against teams that are 2-7 don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence, especially when this week’s opponent is veteran power Washington and Jefferson. Top 25 voters (myself included) held off a long time pulling the trigger on the Yellow Jackets because the strength of schedule and margins of victory just didn’t stack up well compared with the rest of the teams being considered. With a loss, Waynesburg could very well be sitting nervously as a 9-1 at-large team on Selection Sunday.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Cortland State. The Cortaca Jug is motivation enough for either team, and Ithaca has had a pretty good season. The Bombers lost each of the past two meetings, including being dominated last year in a 27-3 loss. There seems to be some gamesmanship going on with the status of Ithaca quarterback Phil Neumann as well, but I wouldn’t expect Ithaca to come with anything better than its best possible performance.
Keith’s take: No. 24 Pacific Lutheran. In trying to find a team that isn’t mentioned elsewhere in Triple Take, my options were limited; even more so when look for one that might actually lose. In a game at Menlo, in California’s bay area, the Seattle-area Lutes travel to face a team that’s lost four in a row. The Oaks, a former NWC and D-III member, have faced No. 3 Linfield, No. 6 Wesley and NAIA No. 1 Marian this season, so they’re ready for the kind of athletes they’ll see from PLU. The Lutes are tested as well, and need to win for playoff inclusion (even though Menlo is non-D-III, the at-large bids are so competitive, each team needs everything it can get), so perhaps this is a terrible pick. But what’d you want me to do, suggest Mississippi College would win at No. UMHB? Suggest 0-9 McDaniel would pick off No. 21 Johns Hopkins? I guess I could have picked No. 11 Salisbury to loaf, with playoff spot now in hand, against Regents Cup rival Frostburg State. My bad.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Pomona-Pitzer/Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Both of these teams can’t end the season winless. *Somebody* has to go home happy on Saturday. The Sagehens are riding an unflattering 18-game skid, so I could venture a guess as to which team will come out on top. But if ever there were a time to break the streak, this is it.
Pat’s take: St. Norbert. After a couple of years on the sidelines, St. Norbert is again playing a part in the Midwest Conference race. They could take Lake Forest down on Saturday, but if not, they were here in the end, which is something that would have been difficult to imagine after the opener against John Carroll.
Keith’s take: Louisiana College. Here’s a team I consider in the nation’s top 15, whose playoff hopes are on life support because Pool C is loaded with teams which grade out slightly better on the criteria than the Wildcats. As my eighth team in for seven spots when I ran a quick projection earlier in the week, LC’s hopes are very much alive. I know for a fact the selection committee members are curious about the game against Hardin-Simmons, which brings the nation’s No. 2 total offense (556.56 yards/game) and No. 234 defense (493 yards/game) to Pineville. Here’s the deal: The pressure is on, as it will be in the playoffs, so LC’s start a week early. A win with spotlight on, against this offense, is worth a win over a regionally ranked opponent, plus an SoS boost, which could help the Wildcats get in. They need just one thing to break right — a loss by one of the CCIW leaders, or a result in the NCAC that gives Wittenberg or Ohio Wesleyan the AQ, an Adrian win at Huntingdon — but more than anything, they need to beat the Cowboys, or there’ll be no one to blame but themselves.
Rivalry game you’re most interested in (alma maters excluded).
Ryan’s take: Mount St. Joseph at Thomas More. Remember the last time these two Bridge Bowl opponents met without one of them prepping for the postseason? Me neither. This is where the rivalry lives on the best, in the games in which each team is laying it all out on the field and playing with absolutely nothing to lose. MSJ is 4-5; TMC is 6-3. This is just such a game – the final hurrah for the seniors on both sidelines.
Pat’s take: Union at RPI. This snuck up on me because I wasn’t aware that the Dutchman Shoes game had been moved back to Week 11, which is where it belongs. A rivalry game just isn’t the same in Week 9, where it had been stuck for a while, or Week 6, where it was played a decade ago. For me, this rivalry game is most interesting because I want to see if RPI can continue the success it has had this season. And that success is surprising to me, considering the amount of turmoil the program has been through, including a four-head-coaches-in-15-months span. By the way, of this group, I’m the only one that doesn’t have an alma mater/rivalry game to worry about anymore. ::shakes fist:: Curse you, Georgetown!
Keith’s take: Hanover at Franklin. I had a similar thought about Union-RPI, and I’m glad it, the Bronze Turkey and the NESCAC rivalry games all fall on Week 11. Mostly though, the rivalry games this year are a bit out of the national spotlight. Trinity (Conn.) going for a perfect season against a better-than-usual Wesleyan (5-2) is a big deal, but the Victory Bell game is this year’s biggest. Despite Hanover’s 35-34 loss to Manchester (five straight wins) last week, the Panthers still have a chance to beat their rivals on their home field, win the HCAC and take the conference’s automatic playoff bid. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have been on a tear since an 0-2 start, and have allowed just 23 points over the past five games. Hanover won 15 of 16 from 1989 to 2004, but Franklin — coached by Mike Leonard, a 1984 Hanover grad — has won seven in a row.
Who will have the least momentum going into the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: The NCAC’s tiebreaker champ. While so many other teams out there have clarity on how to get their conference’s automatic qualifier, Wittenberg, Ohio Wesleyan and Kenyon (all with one conference loss) have been bogged down by conference criteria that has been interpreted a dozen different ways by those outside of the NCAC brass. It appears that either Witt or Kenyon would get the AQ, but how grueling it must be to not know over these final two weeks whether you control your own fate. (UPDATE: The NCAC office has made public what would happen in the various scenarios)
Pat’s take: Castleton State. If the Spartans make it to the playoffs, and they very well can beat Mount Ida, they’ll get there without their star quarterback, Shane Brozowski, who broke his leg in last week’s win against Husson.
Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins. Great idea for a question, but my issue with it is every answer that makes sense now — North Central, for example — wouldn’t make as much sense after a win on Saturday puts that team into the playoffs. But I can say that the Blue Jays were once a ball rolling down hill, undefeated, in line for a playoff home game and a second consecutive 10-0 regular season before Franklin & Marshall spoiled it last week. Rebounding to beat McDaniel will clinch the Centennial Conference, and it’s plenty to pump up the players to push hard in Week 10. But it’s also going to be light years away from the type of challenge the Blue Jays get in the first round — against a Salisbury, maybe, or at home against Washington & Lee, as in Pat’s most recent projection. I think I’d rather be going into the playoffs having played my best game against my conference’s best team rather than this.
Which team can alter its fortunes the most?
Ryan’s take: No. 13 Heidelberg. For a team that played Mount Union better than any other this year, Heidelberg could give itself a lot of drive (and maybe a good seeding) heading into postseason if they are able to knock off formerly ranked Baldwin Wallace.
Pat’s take: Adrian. With a win at Huntingdon on Saturday, the Bulldogs, already in as the MIAA champ, could potentially play themselves as high as a possible home game, or at least a winnable road game in the first round of the playoffs. With a loss, the Bulldogs could well find themselves on the short road to Alliance, Ohio, and a date with Mount Union. They will need to be at their most motivated, too, to go down to Alabama and beat a team that is playing for its playoff life. Huntingdon needs this win to get in, but I’d say Adrian needs the win in order to extend its reasonable playoff life.
Keith’s take: St. Olaf. Mostly an afterthought in this week’s playoff chatter, the Oles, with a win at 9-0 St. Thomas, would have closed the season with consecutive victories against regionally ranked opponents, be 8-2 and have an SoS that would get them in the discussion (.515 but bound to rise). So why is nobody talking about the Oles? Well, they allow 211 rushing yards per game, and the Tommies rush for 239 per, for starters. Upsetting the No. 4 Tommies would probably take a combination of great Oles play and lackluster effort from St. Thomas, which makes sense if you think the Tommies are content with just being in the postseason, but not if you believe they’d rather play in December in Minnesota instead of Oregon, Ohio or Texas.
Adrian · Bethel · Buena Vista · Castleton State · Claremont-Mudd-Scripps · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Denison · Dubuque · Ferrum · Franklin · Hanover · Hardin-Simmons · Heidelberg · Huntingdon · Johns Hopkins · Kenyon · Louisiana College · Maryville · Mount St. Joseph · Pacific Lutheran · Pomona-Pitzer · RPI · Salisbury · St. John's · St. Olaf · Thomas More · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Wayneburg · Widener
If healthy, Nate Wara can hurt teams with his arm and legs.
By Larry Radloff, d3photography.com
Three crucial games between Top 25 teams take place this weekend. Each and every Saturday, players line up to help sort out conference races and hopefully take down rivals, but these national games have an even broader audience because of their implications toward the NCAA postseason. Many eyes should be watching.
Giving you insight into some of the Top 25 as well as pieces of the rest of the 214 teams out there are Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 6 North Central at No. 15 Illinois Wesleyan. Truth be told, both of these teams are in the Top 10 on my ballot and are separated by just two spots. Both teams are coming off of games against mid-pack CCIW squads, so be ready to see them hit the ground running. If the Titans hope to pull the upset, they need to be mistake-free through the air and able to create some big plays. Take too long in the pocket? North Central will get you. Hiccup into too many third-down situations? North Central will force the punt. But Illinois Wesleyan should be able to stop the Cardinals’ multi-pronged run game better than any team so far this season, so weight will be on North Central not to let momentum falter amid a few stuffed plays.
Keith’s take: No. 1 UW-Whitewater at No. 20 UW-Oshkosh. That CCIW game might end up being the GOTW, but if Titans QB Nate Wara and Warhawks LB Greg Arnold both play, the WIAC could hog the spotlight. It’s rare that the Warhawks get a challenge, but UW-Oshkosh is loose — coach Pat Cerroni told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the pressure is on Whitewater — and has legitimate credentials. The Warhawks and Titans are 1-2 in the WIAC in total offense and defense. In four wins against WIAC teams (though only three count in the conference standings), UW-Oshkosh has outscored the opposition, 145-36. That’s less than 10 points allowed per game, and while they’re unlikely to match that against Whitewater, they might not have to stay in the playoff hunt. Aside from a one-point loss to UW-Stevens Point in 2008, Whitewater hasn’t lost a WIAC game since 2004. They’re 44-1, and even if Oshkosh can’t make it a 2, a good showing would keep them in the mix, in my opinion. Playing both Whitewater and Mount Union makes the Titans an exception to any rule.
Pat’s take: No. 3 St. Thomas at No. 10 Bethel. I’m not sure I need to say anything more here so I won’t, except to say that St. Thomas players and coaches have talked about enjoying playing Bethel because they just line up and bring it with hard-nosed smash-mouth football.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Mount Ida at SUNY-Maritime. Maritime is at the top of the ECFC, is undefeated in conference play and is the reigning conference champion. But what 3-3 Mount Ida has is a competitive team that can move the ball — a lot. To the tune of nearly 500 yards a game in conference play, in fact. The Privateers will be in trouble if they can’t slow running back Johrone Bunch or can’t keep their penalties in check.
Keith’s take: Mount Ida at SUNY-Maritime. Usually we aim not to repeat games, but I went through my usual routine without seeing Ryan’s pick, and this game stood out. Here’s why: Of the top 22 defenses in the country by yardage, 13 belong to undefeated teams and five more are one-loss squads. Then there’s Mount Ida. It allows just 233 yards per game, and 106 rushing. Although the Mustangs have faced some teams that struggle to move the ball, they’ve also taken teams out of what they do well. That’s what it takes against the triple-option attack of the Privateers. The Mustangs might fall to 3-4, but they should make Maritime work to make it happen.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Salisbury at Hartwick. How close does it have to be to surprise? Closer than 42 points? Closer than 69? At some point the back-to-back trips to upstate New York will slow the Sea Gulls down, just not enough to put this game in serious doubt.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 17 Redlands. Though Occidental is certainly having a down year, the Tigers match up fairly well against the Bulldogs. Occidental is almost an all-pass offense, and Redlands’ strength isn’t stopping the pass, it’s stopping the run. So if Oxy can find a way to move the ball and stay on the plus side of turnovers as they have over the whole of the season, then they may be able to make some noise in this game.
Keith’s take: No. 24 St. Olaf. Ninth-ranked Montclair State could be in trouble without quarterback Tom Fischer against TCNJ, but the Oles’ game at Augsburg is worth focusing on. St. Olaf might feel the pressure of being ranked for the first time this season, although it’s deserved. A road win against the Auggies (4-2) would go a long way toward proving the comeback against Bethel was not a fluke. Last week’s win against Carleton was the first time the Oles held a team below 22 points, and Augsburg is averaging 26 a game even after a shutout against St. Thomas two weeks ago. The Auggies have lost two in a row and should play with a season-saving sense of urgency.
Pat’s take: No. 6 North Central. Illinois Wesleyan plays the top CCIW teams better at home, there’s no two ways about it. In 2008 and 2010, having to travel to North Central and Wheaton, IWU finished a combined 7-7 in the league. In 2009 and so far in 2011, the Titans are 9-1, having already beaten Wheaton.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 Wabash. How’s my 11th-ranked alma mater just now on my radar, you ask? Well, I’ve certainly kept the Little Giants close at heart all season, but this week, they may be defined by how well they respond after seeing some weaknesses in their armor after last Saturday’s Oberlin game. The Yeomen were down 30-3 at one point and battled back against a nationally ranked team to within one score. Wabash needs to make sure it has confidence down the stretch and, possibly, into the postseason. Right now, the Little Giants’ opponents are just 12-24, a record that hasn’t given the team much chance to really prove themselves. This week’s Denison is 3-4, and the next two teams, Allegheny and Wittenberg, are both above .500. Wabash will need to sign, stamp and seal its show of force in these next three matchups.
Keith’s take: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. My radar. I love this category because it’s the only pick I can’t get wrong. And what would be wrong about wanting to see how the Stags bounce back from being on the wrong end of the D3football.com play of the week, a hail mary that kept Redlands from having to play overtime? The 2-3 Stags are at Whittier this week, then play Cal Lutheran the following Saturday. In Kyle Sweeney’s first season at the helm, CMS seems like it’s on the path to someday being a legitimate SCIAC contender, but first I want to see how it performs after last week’s devastation. If so, perhaps it plays spoiler.
Pat’s take: The College of New Jersey. With Montclair State facing an immediate future without starting quarterback Tom Fischer, TCNJ has a chance to throw a monkey wrench into the NJAC and open the door wider for Mount Union to be the “East” bracket’s top seed. The oldest college football rivalry in New Jersey isn’t the biggest rivalry for either of these two schools, but surely someone in the Trenton area will mention it. If they’re not too busy talking about it being homecoming.
Which unlikely conference leader is most likely to pick up a loss?
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport, to N.C. Wesleyan. As a regular visitor to the playoffs, CNU isn’t in the unlikeliest of spots, but in the preseason, I had expected N.C. Wesleyan and Ferrum to be the two teams atop the USA South, so CNU’s positioning is a little surprising. However, they will certainly be put to the test when they face off against NCWC this weekend. The Bishops are a good team year in and year out, and the Captains have had so many games this fall that were decided by the narrowest of margins. Two of the close ones ended in losses, while two others were wins. I’m not sure CNU will succeed against NCWC if they can’t establish a good-size lead early on.
Keith’s take: Lewis & Clark, to Puget Sound. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see the Pioneers’ program revived. And the Loggers are struggling at 0-6. But there aren’t many candidates for this category (technically Linfield, at 3-0 in the NWC, outpaces L&C at 2-0). I’m just playing the odds. (Can the Pios really be that much improved? Beating Whitworth last week seemed to suggest so.) Last season these two teams played an instant classic, 68-64 game that the Pioneers won on a TD pass with one second left. If UPS can’t muster an upset to get revenge for that, I don’t know what would inspire them.
Pat’s take: Lakeland, to Concordia (Ill.). I’m not sure how many unlikely conference leaders there actually are. UW-Oshkosh is an easy choice as WIAC co-leader to lose to UW-Whitewater but that seems like cheating and there are a couple of other unlikely leaders that I don’t see losing this week. Although Concordia lost a lot of seniors from last year’s squad, they’ve still performed admirably so far and could knock Lakeland out of its first-place tie with Benedictine.
Which team with two or more losses is worth watching?
Ryan’s take: Emory & Henry. Having seen the Wasps play in their opener this season, I’m confident in saying they are a much better team than their 4-3 record would indicate. One of their losses came against a non-Division III institution, while the other two losses came against 6-1 squads, Hampden-Sydney and Washington and Lee. What’s more, no loss this year was by more than three points. I can’t imagine the frustration this team is feeling. There’s no shortage of talent: Sophomore quarterback Kyle Boden broke an ODAC record en route to a 390-yard passing performance last week, while players like Daniel Preston, Devan Sproles and Tyler Houk have revived the defense. The level of the talent will be on display against Catholic this week.
Keith’s take: Gettysburg. Its 525-yard-per-game offense outpaces Mount Union (No. 3 nationally, a spot behind the Bullets) and UW-Whitewater (No. 9), and it does it with almost perfect balance (254 rushing, 271 passing per game). Plus they host 6-0 Johns Hopkins (No. 6 offense in the nation) Saturday; I’m sure they’re going to be jacked up. This could’ve been my upset pick, but the Bullets seem to run out of them when the defense takes the field. They’re 174th in total defense (389 yards/game and 212th in scoring D, and not just because they’ve given up 56 and 57 in losses. A 14-10 win last week against Muhleberg was the defense’s first step in the right direction.
Pat’s take: McDaniel. The Green Terror made their displeasure known with a preseason conference poll that had McDaniel picked to tie for eighth, but at 1-5, they haven’t put that possibility behind them at all. Trying to muster another couple of wins to salvage some pride starts at Dickinson on Friday night.
What team will turn the biggest 180 from last week?
Ryan’s take: Mount St. Joseph. Because after a three-week skid, the Lions have nowhere to go but up. They will again be above .500 after lining up against Earlham, which hasn’t won since the 2009 season. MSJ might not be able to compete for a playoff spot anymore this season, but like all teams with great rivalries, they have something to keep them going till the end. Look for them to begin to work out their kinks ahead of the Bridge Bowl Trophy game against Thomas More on Nov. 12.
Keith’s take: Heidelberg. It’s cherry-picking, sure, but playing Mount Union midseason is like a one-week suspension of reality. Before the 56-7 loss to the Purple Raiders, the Student Princes had won four of five and were averaging 451 yards per game of total 0ffense. Throw out last week’s 195 yards of offense, and expect the Germany Woods-led ground attack to pick up where it was two weeks ago in a trip to Marietta. The Pioneers’ two wins are against 0-6 teams, Thiel and Wilmington.
Pat’s take: Anna Maria. The annual other game between third-year programs Anna Maria and Castleton State is this weekend, with Castleton having won the first, 56-52. Anna Maria is 0-25 in its football career and could get off the schneid this weekend.
Anna Maria · Augsburg · Bethel · Castleton State · Catholic · Christopher Newport · Claremont-Mudd-Scripps · Concordia (Ill.) · Denison · Emory and Henry · Gettysburg · Hartwick · Heidelberg · Illinois Wesleyan · Lakeland · Lewis and Clark · McDaniel · Montclair State · Mount Ida · Mount St. Joseph · New Jersey · North Carolina Wesleyan · North Central (Ill.) · Occidental · Puget Sound · Redlands · Salisbury · St. Olaf · St. Thomas · SUNY-Maritime · TCNJ · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wabash
Louisiana College is looking for a chance to gain some national respectability.
Louisiana College athletics photo
For the first time all season, teams from every conference around the country will be competing. That’s because, on Saturday, we get to welcome teams from the NESCAC to the field. Those 10 schools play only an in-conference schedule.
We’ll take a look at some of them as well as other teams from coast to coast. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you the breakdown.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 21 Hardin-Simmons. There’s no question that, on a national scale, this is one of the most anticipated in-conference games each and every season. And HSU is coming off a surprising lopsided loss to Mississippi College last week. If the Cowboys are looking for a game to renew their spirits, this one won’t be it. HSU probably doesn’t have the run defense to stop UMHB’s 271-yard-a-game ground attack. The Cowboys will need a few big plays through the air to win Saturday’s shootout and will need to learn how to better stop its opponents in the red zone.
Keith’s take: No. 8 Thomas More at Washington & Jefferson. There are games matching more exciting teams perhaps, but nothing with more on the line this week. For all intents and purposes, the winner of this game wins the PAC and goes on to the playoffs. That’s how it’s been nearly every year since the Saints joined the Presidents’ conference. The games were 29-21 last year and 14-7 the year before, both in favor of Thomas More but close enough to irk W&J. The Saints bring a 42.5-point-per-game offense powered by RB Kendall Owens into the game, while the Presidents counter with QB Matt Bliss and a defense that’s played well for three games.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Mississippi College at Louisiana College. The Choctaws have to avoid a letdown after their big win last weekend at home against Hardin-Simmons. Meanwhile, Louisiana College is looking for a little respect after a triple-overtime win against NAIA Belhaven and a shellacking of Millsaps last week. The Wildcats offense certainly came alive last week in its second game since the graduation of quarterback Ben McLaughlin and if they can take care of the ball better than Hardin-Simmons last week, they should have a chance to be successful.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Randolph-Macon at Frostburg State. It’s been four years since Frostburg won this matchup, and while the Bobcats have given up a lot of points so far this season, they may be able to zero in on how to stop Macon. That’s because R-MC has been surprisingly one-dimensional this year. Past years showed them to have the most balanced offense in the Old Dominion, but this year, they’ve struggled in the pass game (only 57 such yards last week). Over the past two weeks, R-MC hasn’t been able to really get out in front of its opponents, something that will need to happen to ward off a strong effort by Frostburg late in the game.
Keith’s take: Hobart at St. John Fisher. Hard to know what to make of these upstate New York teams from different conferences. Each is unbeaten, though Fisher’s wins are by 5 and 49 against seemingly the same level of competition. Hobart started out with a 33-9 win at Dickinson. Here’s the deal though: Where they once were near equals, the Empire 8′s reputation has gone through the roof the past five years, while the Liberty League just sent a 5-5 conference champion to the postseason. So you’d expect the top-flight E8 team to put a hurting on the LL team, especially at home, but I see a strong effort from Hobart and a tight finish.
Pat’s take: Coe at No. 10 Wartburg. This game has certainly lost its luster since the season began and now Wartburg has to be considered a favorite, but Coe and senior quarterback Brad Boyle have to sense the opportunity to give their conference title hopes a big boost. The Kohawks also need a win or a surprisingly close performance to remain the No. 2 team in the conference, rather than slipping behind Central and even Dubuque in the IIAC pecking order.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 24 Cortland State. If the Red Dragons hope to rebound after last week’s loss to Kean, now’s the time to do. Though I’m really still waiting to see what Cortland State opponent Rowan is capable of this season. The Profs certainly haven’t yet hit their stride (where’s the offense?), so this game means as much to them as it does to Cortland State staying alive in the playoff hunt.
Keith’s take: No. 17 Wabash. Less a Little Giant dis than it is finally recognizing Dee Brizzolara and the Chicago Maroons. Every few years the UAA pushes out a team that’s playoff-worthy and good enough to beat top 25 teams, and this year’ Maroons have that feel.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Montclair State. I might be guilty of underanalyzing this game, but coming off of last week’s respective games, Buffalo State and Montclair State seem to have differing levels of momentum. I remember a particular Montclair State-Buffalo State we broadcast in 2000 that went to two overtimes — in addition, this was the last season Buff State had a national profile. If the Bengals win this one, they’ll be back on the scene for more than just blowing out Western Connecticut a couple times.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Allegheny. Why? Because I’m impressed the Gators are standing at 2-1 and have found a solid balance of both rushing and passing on offense. They’ve proven in the past two games that they can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but the biggest test by far comes this weekend when they go up against conference kingpin Wittenberg. A good showing here will go a long way, and Witt is not invincible.
Keith’s take: Hampden-Sydney. The Tigers have looked dominant in a 3-0 start, but there are questions about the defense and the level of competition. A trip to Alabama to face Huntingdon (2-1, 37.3 points per game) should give us some answers.
Pat’s take: Dubuque. It’s been a long time since the Spartans beat Central (1987) but this is a good opportunity for Dubuque and the Zweifels. Other than last year, games recently have been close, including the three-overtime classic in 2007.
Which NESCAC game are you most looking forward to?
Ryan’s take: Trinity (Conn.) at Colby. The Bantams are always a part of the NESCAC discussion, and this year, they should be able to harness their offensive strengths to again make a run at the conference title. The NESCAC is a pass-heavy conference, so seeing whether Trinity’s young defensive backfield can slow Colby (and ultimately other opponents this season) will be interesting.
Keith’s take: Williams at Bowdoin. I’ve got the Ephs in the top 25, but I need to see an indication that they deserve it. Just beating the Polar Bears might not be enough, and that’s a shame because any team can look shaky in its opener, and Bowdoin looked improved last season.
Pat’s take: Middlebury at Wesleyan. Having taken a step forward under Mike Whalen, the Cardinals have a change to get this season off on the right foot and perhaps break out of the middle of the nESCAC pack, where they have been the past two years.
Which team could get caught looking ahead?
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve. Next week, Case faces Allegheny (who I discussed a couple of questions ago), but this week is Denison, which has proven itself to be a competitor above and beyond years past. The Big Red haven’t played the toughest teams, but they’ve won the past two games by wide margins and played another to within a field goal. The Spartans can’t look past this one, otherwise they’ll find themselves looking back on it next week and shaking their heads.
Keith’s take: No. 16 Alfred. Next week’s clash with St. John Fisher will help determine if the Saxons are headed back to the playoffs, or at least will have a shot at winning the Empire 8. But they have to deal with 2-0 Springfield and the nation’s No. 1-ranked rushing offense (491 yards/game) first.
Pat’s take: No. 3 St. Thomas. The Tommies host St. John’s net week and while I’d like to give Glenn Caruso’s team the fullest benefit of the doubt, they do have to go to Concordia-Moorhead, and it’s not a great trip. The Cobbers are the best team St. Thomas has played so far this season. They might not get completely caught but another slow start like the ones against St. Norbert or UW-River Falls could have greater consequences. In considering this I looked at a whole bunch of teams who couldn’t get caught looking ahead — Mount Union playing Wilmington this week with Ohio Northern next week.
Game most likely to be decided by a 2-point conversion.
Ryan’s take: Puget Sound at Whittier. Both teams pass waaaaaay better than they run the ball. Note to defensive backs: Stay on your heels for the whole 60 minutes. Both teams enter this contest winless, and aside from it likely ending up a close-scoring game, look at it, too, as the last nonconference hurrah for them. Who’s bringing some momentum into conference play?
Keith’s take: Salve Regina at Endicott. Both teams are off to good starts, with the only blemish being Salve’s loss to top-25 Montclair State. When the Seahawks play, points could be scarce, and plus it took a 20-point fourth quarter Gulls rally for a 29-28 victory last year. The only way to top that is to have this year’s game in Newport, R.I. come down to a conversion attempt.
Pat’s take: McDaniel at Ursinus. I suggest this game because it’s likely to be a back-and-forth kind of game, one that could lead a coach to go for two. And the way McDaniel has given up fourth-quarter points, Tim Keating might want to stop the bleeding with a two-pointer.
Allegheny · Buffalo State · Case Western Reserve · Central · Coe · Colby · Concordia-Moorhead · Cortland State · Denison · Dubuque · Frostburg State · Hardin-Simmons · Louisiana College · Mary Hardin-Baylor · McDaniel · Middlebury · Mississippi College · Montclair State · Randolph-Macon · Rowan · St. Thomas · Trinity (Conn.) · Ursinus · Wartburg · Wesleyan · Wittenberg