TAG | East Texas Baptist
The Division III football season starts in August and wraps up nicely by the end of December. While the intensity is scaled back during the offseason months, there are always things happening. Here’s an attempt to chronicle, and start a centralized conversation (there’s always activity on D3boards.com, of course) about some of them.
Mount Union wide receiver Jasper Collins played in the East-West Shrine Game, the only D-III player to do so. Although he didn’t come out of the regular season with the biggest buzz as the next pro from D-III, at the moment he’s looking like the player most likely to be drafted.
In Josh Buchanan’s Jan. 24 Top 100 small-school prospects, Texas Lutheran kicker Allen Cain is the highest-ranked D-III player at No. 35, and is a name D3football.com had been hearing as someone with an NFL future since his junior season. But kickers tend not to get drafted. Collins is at No. 41, and on Jan. 25, Buchanan tweeted that Collins was the highest-rated small-school player on his board yet to be invited to the NFL combine. (Here’s his list of players who have been invited)
RPI QB Mike Hermann (No. 59) and Cal Lutheran WR Eric Rogers (No. 79) are the other D-III players on Buchanan’s list, which is consistent with what we’d heard when we’d done our own reporting on it. During the playoffs, we featured Collins, and in Kickoff ’12, we spoke with Cain, Hermann and Rogers.
HIRING: The coaching carousel keeps spinning, although I guess at this point it’s slowed down some. Even D-III die-hards are often unfamiliar with the names of rising assistant coaches. When Isaac Collins left national quarterfinalist Widener for the job at D-II Seton Hill (Pa.), he left behind a team that’s playoff-ready if it can find a quarterback to replace Chris Haupt.
TCNJ offensive coordinator Bobby Acosta got the job. I know next to nothing about him and don’t have an opinion on the hire. But what was interesting were two names tweeted out by Widener broadcaster @b34curran as finalists for the job: Case Western Reserve coach Greg Debeljak and UW-Whitewater defensive coordinator Brian Borland.
Borland was a holdover at UW-W from the Bob Berezowitz era and masterminded the defenses of all four Warhawks national champions. I’d never realized he was looking for head coaching jobs, but it tends to be a natural progression for successful coaches. Sometimes particular jobs open up that are appealing, or life circumstances or behind-the-scenes conditions at work make a job switch appealing to a coach the same way it would to those of us in regular employment. Passing on a man who played a large role in winning four D-III titles and seven straight Stagg Bowl trips puts a lot of pressure on Acosta and Widener.
Debeljak, the head coach at CWRU, went 48-6 with the Spartans from 2007-11 before going 6-4 this season and has had a successful nine-season run in Cleveland. Also a pretty accomplished coach for Widener to pass on.
I understand as well as anyone that D-III ADs hire leaders of men first, and winners second. Acosta must be an impressive guy, moreso than just having ties to the region and having had some success at TCNJ. I’ll be interested to see how quickly Widener starts next season. Several of their stud players return, and if they adapt to the new coach quickly, they could again be a force.
Elmhurst also made a coaching switch when Tim Lester, who lifted the program from mediocre to the playoffs, left to become quarterbacks coach at Syracuse. There are Western Michigan ties there, and it made sense for him to go. It also made sense for Elmhurst to stay in-house and hire Joe Adam. Players almost always want the new coach to come from within, so that move I imagine is well received. It’ll also keep the Elmhurst recruiting pipeline going — Adam ran both the defense and coordinated recruiting. One interesting player is already in the Elmhurst program though — Josh Williams, Gagliardi Trophy winner Scottie Williams’s younger brother, started out at UW-Whitewater before joining his brother in the backfield. Scottie is graduating, so Joe Adam will have to move the program forward without with the 2,000-yard rusher.
QUICK HITS: According to the East Texas Baptist website, wide receiver Kwame Spikes played in three D-III-friendly all-star games: The National Bowl, all-American Bowl and the Dream Bowl. That might not be unprecedented — and who’s to say he didn’t play in the D-III Senior Classic as well — but it’s the first time I’ve heard of a player participating in that many. I always thought two was the limit. …
St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso picked up his third Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award back at the beginning of the month (Here’s his acceptance speech). Perhaps since the Tommies made the Stagg Bowl this was his best work, but he’s been a coach on the rise for several years now. It would be nice if the award acknowledged the next coach on the rise, or someone who did a lot with less talent this year. The other finalists, UW-Oshkosh’s Pat Cerroni, Lake Forest’s Jim Catanzaro, Concordia-Chicago’s Lonnie Pries and Coe’s Steve Staker, each had strong resumes as well. I’m a voter for the award, and I enjoy Coach Caruso. But I would also like the award to show the full spectrum of coaching excellence in D-III. …
It can be tough to keep track of the D-III postseason events, with limited publicity and history. But the inaugural Dream Bowl took place in Salem this year, giving D-III players at least five postseason opportunities now (including Tazon de Estrellas, D3 Senior Classic and the others mentioned above). I don’t know much about how it went, but here’s SUNY-Maritime cornerback Jeremy Garcia’s take on the experience.
YOUR FEEDBACK: What else has attracted your attention so far this offseason? Leave in the comments, or shoot me an e-mail for the next blog post.
Josh Dean leads Willamette, which has gone from the Fly to being the top passing team in Division III.
Willamette athletics photo
Can you believe we’ve already reached the midpoint of the regular season?
We’re entering Week 6 in the 11-game season. Most teams already have their bye week behind them, which means lots and lots of football will be played down the stretch.
At the moment, 29 teams that play nonconference games are still undefeated, and amazingly, the same number of teams are currently winless.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you some nuggets of insight to chew on in this week’s Triple Take. And if you’ve got something to say, don’t hesitate to voice your comments below.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 7 Salisbury at No. 9 St. John Fisher. This is the kind of matchup I anticipated most when Salisbury joined the Empire 8 last season. Though the Gulls won the conference, Fisher got an at-large bid to the 2011 postseason – both went on to overcome two opponents and make it to regional finals. As usual, SU has one of the best rushing attacks in the country (whether dynamic quarterback Dan Griffin will be back in the lineup after Saturday’s injury is unclear). They will be tested against Fisher’s defense and sacking capabilities. Both teams are Top 10. I like the Gulls for the win, but I also expect this one to be tight.
Pat’s take: Washington and Jefferson at Thomas More. I can’t imagine what the four and a half hour bus ride from W&J to suburban Cincinnati will be like for a team that has to be reeling emotionally after the loss of its senior captain and running back. But on the field, I am sure the memory of Tim McNerney will be an inspiration to the Presidents. Conventional wisdom might expect W&J to come out flat but in my opinion they will be anything but.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Birmingham-Southern at No. 6 Wesley. There’s at least as much on the line in No. 8 Cal Lutheran at Redlands and No. 16 Wabash at Wittenberg, but with only one Pool B bid guaranteed, the round robin between B-SC, Wesley and Huntingdon looms large. The Wolverines play both Alabama teams this month, and the Panthers have already scored a 45-38 win over the Hawks that wasn’t as close as the final would have you believe. If the Wolverines keep winning, they’ll earn the Pool B bid. But with a loss to No. 2 UMHB in the books, another would be pushing it. B-SC is rushing for 250 yards per game, scoring 42 points per and has the nation’s third-best pass efficiency defense. The Wolverines are unlike any team B-SC has faced so far, talent-wise. If Wesley’s defensive line can control the line of scrimmage, B-SC is going to struggle.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Louisiana College at East Texas Baptist. ETBU comes in as the underdog, no question about that. But both have experience against some good teams, and the Tigers have the benefit of practicing against a strong passing game, an element that will translate well when they host the No. 21 ranked Wildcats.
Pat’s take: No. 16 Wabash at Wittenberg. Wittenberg has had a great deal of success at home in recent years, and the Tigers haven’t lost a home game since Wabash came to town in 2008. That’s the one thing which gives me pause about this game. It’s also one of those games where the AFCA poll and our poll disagree. Our poll suggests Wabash should win at Wittenberg. While the AFCA poll does rank Wabash higher, it’s only by one spot and I wouldn’t think that’s enough to overcome home-field advantage. On a neutral field, I’d take Wabash for sure. At Wittenberg, however, I think it will be close.
Keith’s take: Northwestern (Minn.) at St. Scholastica. The surprising part is only if you’re far from UMAC country but are familiar with the Saints from last season’s playoff bracket. The Eagles won nine games in 2008 and one in 2010, and are back in the mix for a conference title, at 4-1, with only a loss to St. John’s. Since allowing 28 in a season-opening loss to Whitworth, St. Scholastica has given up 26 points total in four wins. So it’s the UMAC’s best defense, any way you slice it, against the conference’s best scoring offense and most efficient passing attack, led by QB Josh Balzer. One of these teams will likely end up in the playoffs.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 North Central. Yes, I know one of my colleagues picked on North Central last week, too, but when you play in a conference as good as the CCIW, every week will be treacherous. A 3-1 opponent like Millikin that played Illinois Wesleyan to the bone will be no exception.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Bethel. Yes, I know I picked Bethel to play surprisingly close last week, but that came through, actually. This is the middle of three big games for Bethel, as the Royals host Concordia-Moorhead this week, which is receiving votes in the D3football.com Top 25, then travel to St. Thomas next week. Concordia-Moorhead doesn’t have the dynamic playmaker that Augsburg has on offense, but is undefeated and also coming off a bye week.
Keith’s take: No. 9 St. John Fisher. I wasted a bunch of time looking at the numbers on Concordia-Moorhead and Bethel before I noticed that Pat took that game. With so many top 25 teams playing their best opponents of the season, I could pick games that are technically upsets but not surprises. And that’s what I ended up doing. Having seen it before, the Cardinals will defend the Salisbury option better — the Sea Gulls might not hit their average of 319 yards per game. Yet Fisher has let inferior opponents hang close, so there’s a good chance Salisbury runs away with it (pun acknowledged, but not intended). With practically the whole top 25 playing tough opponents, there just weren’t any limbs I felt comfortable going out on. So you get a not-shock as the pick.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Gallaudet. With a rushing offense that averages 230 yards a game, and solid division of special teams players, has anyone else noticed that the Bison are creeping their way through a one-loss season, with that lone loss coming against undefeated Otterbein? Sure Mount Ida and Norwich and a couple of other ECFC teams could upend Gallaudet, but the team is on its way to a remarkable season after only a couple of years into restarting its varsity program. The checklist for the next three weeks involves Husson, Norwich and Becker.
Pat’s take: Willamette. The Bearcats are 4-0, with two wins against the American Southwest Conference, one against the Southern Athletic Association and one against fellow NWC member Pacific. No offense to Pacific, but this will be the first serious NWC challenge the new-look Bearcats have faced this season. And while Whitworth is 5-0 itself, the Pirates haven’t played anyone on the level of either Hardin-Simmons or East Texas Baptist. The top passing team might be slowed, but not enough to stop the unbeaten run.
Keith’s take: Millsaps. Off to their best start since the Mike DuBose years, the Majors have a major challenge in a visit from No. 24 Huntingdon. The Hawks are averaging 452 yards and 43 points a game, slightly more than Millsaps’ 442.5 and 41. So basically first team to play defense, or get a few turnovers, wins. The radar-worthy interest is so that I can figure out whether to start taking the Majors seriously as a playoff threat again. And if so, what an awful year for the SAA to give up its automatic bid.
Which team will continue to defy preseason expectations?
Ryan’s take: Albion. Albion is a 3-1 team with a win (albeit a close one) over Wheaton. They’re on my ballot for the Top 25 poll, but clearly many people are still skeptical of how good this Britons squad is. It’s hard to think they can be this good the year after Chris Greenwood graduated and went to the NFL. Well, Albion lining up against Trine this weekend should help do some convincing by coming away with a win.
Pat’s take: Rowan. The Profs have definitely outplayed the expectations, with their only loss coming to Merrimack, a Division II program that is 2-2 against fellow D-II schools in a not-so-great conference. Montclair State has definitely underplayed even the modest preseason expectations for a team that lost a large senior class.
Keith’s take: Redlands. By this I mean I don’t think a playoff team last season expects to be 1-3 after the first week of October, but the Bulldogs are staring at the very real possibility of this, at home against No. 8 Cal Lutheran. Redlands is 213th nationally in passing yardage allowed, at 258 yards per game, and the Kingsmen are passing for 295.
Which team is going to soar?
Ryan’s take: The Owls, of Westfield State. After a 1-4 start to the season, there doesn’t appear to be a lot working in favor of Westfield State. Rusher Kevin Parnell, who does good work on special teams, too, is the team’s bright spot. But this week, their NEFC Bogan pride is on the line as they go up against winless Maine Maritime. Both teams are riding a four-game skid, and someone’s got to break it. Despite the losses, the Owls, compared with the Mariners, have simply been playing better, more competitive games as of late.
Pat’s take: The Bombers, of Ithaca. It will be interesting as Ithaca’s schedule gets a little harder here. For a team that has had such upheaval at the quarterback position, the offensive numbers are impressive, but the defense will have its hands full dealing with an Alfred team that dropped 40 on Buffalo State two weeks ago.
Keith’s take: The Eagles, of UW-La Crosse. Turnover generation has been key for UW-La Crosse, which is hosting UW-Platteville, which was without its top two QBs in much of last week’s game. In other words, backup QBs vs. a team that has forced six more turnovers than it has allowed, against good competition, is a recipe for trouble. It’s also the first home game for the Eagles after four on the road in their 2-2 start.
Which team needs a win for morale purposes?
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney. For the past several years, the Tigers have rightfully seen themselves as strong contenders for the ODAC title. But last week, Catholic had other things in mind. The conference, though, isn’t too far removed from the 2008 season, when four teams shared the conference title with 4-2 ODAC records. All is certainly not lost for H-SC, and a win this weekend against undefeated Bridgewater will again put the team back on its intended track. But this will be one. tough. fight.
Pat’s take: St. John’s. But whether the Johnnies will get it, with a trip to Augsburg on the docket, is another matter.
Keith’s take: Knox. I was going to go with Wilkes here, after losing by 90 to Widener, but the Colonels already bounced back and won, 37-27, against FDU-Florham. Wilkes plays first-year Misericordia, while Knox, which had a quarterback pass for 736 yards in Week 1 and hasn’t won since, gets a visit from 0-5 Beloit. The Buccaneers are averaging less than 10 points per game, good for 233rd in the nation in scoring offense, giving Knox a rare advantage. They average more than 22, factoring in the 55 they scored in the Week 1 loss to Eureka. And, making my answer four times as long as Pat’s, St. Vincent (0-4) could use a morale-boosting win when it gets a visit from Thiel (1-4.)
Albion · Alfred · Augsburg · Bethel · Concordia-Moorhead · East Texas Baptist · Gallaudet · Hampden-Sydney · Ithaca · Louisiana Collage · Montclair State · North Central · Rowan · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · St. John's · Thomas More · Wabash · Washington and Jefferson · Westfield State · Whitworth · Willamette · Wittenberg
Three clashes between ranked teams take place this weekend, and a handful of other games involve undefeated schools. That gives us a lot to talk about and to look forward to on game day.
Conference races will be clarified, and, harder for some teams to swallow, playoff hopes will erode.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps bring you a rundown of some of these make-’em or break-’em matchups. And, as always, we welcome comments from readers. Give us your perspective on games we missed or predictions you think we have backwards. We want to hear from you.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 7 Wheaton at Illinois Wesleyan. What I love about the CCIW is how it’s more than just an impressively strong conference, it’s also an unpredictable one. Three different teams have been in the playoffs the past two seasons, and two of those teams are currently undefeated Wheaton and Illinois Wesleyan. Both come into Saturday playing a so-so nonconference slate that leaves many questions to be sorted out. Is IWU as strong against the pass as they seem? Will Wheaton bring more to the table than just offense? It’s a game worth watching — and watching closely.
Keith’s take: No. 13 Redlands at No. 20 Cal Lutheran: Based on their non-conference results against North Central, Linfield and Pacific Lutheran, I’m bullish on the SCIAC powers. If the Kingsmen defend the brand new turf at William Rolland Stadium, it could be a boon for the conference. Two playoff bids could be in the offing. Wins at East Texas Baptist and against Whitworth weren’t enough for Redlands to overcome a 24-22 loss to CLU last season. But an 8-1 finish this year with a win against North Central, assuming the Cardinals finish strong, should get the Bulldogs in. If they win in Thousand Oaks, of course, they’ll be the front-runner for the automatic bid and not chasing an at-large. More on this game in ATN.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Louisiana College at No. 4 Mary-Hardin Baylor. I think these teams are much closer together than their 15 spots’ distance in the rankings suggests. I would favor Louisiana College at home, would think about it on a neutral field, and would not be at all surprised if the Wildcats pulled off the road win. The tests have been getting better for Louisiana College in the past week but the issue in my mind is whether they can protect the ball.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Guilford at Washington and Lee. The Quakers are standing with just a 1-2 record, but that’s not because teams have been able to run all over them. And that’s what W&L does: Run. A lot. And then some more. Best of all for Guilford is that they should be able to respond and put some points on the board, keeping this matchup against the defending ODAC champion within reach.
Keith’s take: Mount St. Joseph at Franklin. The Grizzlies have become the face of the HCAC, and get the national attention. They’re even one of the best at filing D3Reports. The Lions’ 3-0 start, however, has barely been mentioned. So allow me to rectify that. Beating Wilmington, Anderson and Bluffton isn’t overwhelming, but they’ve done it by rushing for 246 yards a game, leading the nation in kick returns and generating turnovers. Franklin has scored 49, 49 and 52 aside from being shut out by No. 1 UW-Whitewater, so MSJ’s defense has its hands full. The Griz would seem to be a big favorite, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they won by seven or 10.
Pat’s take: St. John’s at St. Thomas. You have to figure the Johnnies come in fired up for this game. If not for two plays at the end of the game … or St. John’s inexplicable failure to go for two on its touchdown in the final minute … the Johnnies’ season would have a different look about it. The last three games in this series have come down to the final play, and even in a 3-7 season in 2003, the Tommies nearly derailed the Johnnies’ dream season, one which ended in an unbeaten run and Stagg Bowl near-rout of Mount Union. This game won’t disappoint, at least not neutral fans.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: Trine. Adrian and Trine each enter Saturday’s game with an undefeated record. The difference, though, is that a Thunder victory isn’t as much of a foregone conclusion as it’s been in the past. In fact, I’d say the 20-game winning streak comes to an end. Trine’s not bad this year, but they’re also short of the greatness they’ve gotten used to. That shortcoming is going to prevent them from breaking through the defense that has gotten Adrian so far already this season. The Bulldogs are top in the conference in sacks and will put pressure on Trine quarterback Ryan Hargraves, essentially nullifying his impressive accuracy. The conference race will be decided Saturday.
Keith’s take: No. 7 Wheaton. The choices are cruddy. Toss out the six teams playing other top 25 teams; those are hardly upsets (although No. 24 Ohio Northern beating No. 2 Mount Union would be a shock). Then you’ve got teams playing Thiel, Kenyon, Oberlin, Morrisville State, Cornell, Juniata. No disrespect, but not exactly a murderer’s row to top 25 teams. So I’m left with really the only unranked team I think has a good chance at an upset: IWU, which has given up points in just 1 of 12 quarters so far (1st nationally in scoring defense). The Titans will have to figure out how to slow down the Thunder (484 yards a game so far; 437 in a 29-19 Wheaton win last season.)
Pat’s take: No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor. I gave my reasons above and I don’t usually repeat games like this but it’s my best bet.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Muskingum. How can they not be a team to talk about after toppling Ohio Northern last Saturday? The question is: Did the Muskies (highlighted in this week’s Around the Great Lakes) just get the better of ONU that day or is this the start of something bigger and better for the team out of New Concord? They are off to a 3-0 start, and it’s likely to continue through this week’s game with Wilmington. But the back end of the conference schedule will be their toughest.
Keith’s take: Centre. I’d like to see UW-Platteville be competitive against Whitewater, but I’m more curious about the Colonels. They’ve scored nearly 42 points per game in a 3-0 start, rushing for 201 yards per game and passing for 177. DePauw, meanwhile, is down after a 1-2 start, able to score less than 16 points per game. Centre can continue building its case for national recognition by putting a hurting on a team that was often atop the SCAC.
Pat’s take: Albright. Or at least, they could be. They definitely have the opportunity, coming into a game at Lycoming at 4-0. Even a close loss qualifies them for the radar because it might bode well for the following games against Lebanon Valley and Delaware Valley.
Team most likely to salvage a bad season.
Ryan’s take: Hardin-Simmons. We all had our eye on HSU after their opening-week win over Coe. Even without graduated quarterback Justin Feaster and his go-to guy ZaVious Robbins, the Cowboys galloped past their first two opponents convincingly. What followed were two big losses and with them, gone was any hope of a trip to the playoffs. HSU has four games (including this week against East Texas Baptist) to rebuild their confidence and their focus before finishing with the McMurry rivalry and with ranked Louisiana College. The salvaging starts Saturday.
Keith’s take: St. John’s. No need for a long explanation here. No. 3 St. Thomas is no easy W. But I never dreamed of the day the Johnnies could have three losses on Oct. 1, and I’m sure no one recruited to play in Collegeville did either. If there’s any soul, any Johnnie pride left, they’ve got to somehow go into a more talented team’s home and win. Would add a chapter to the storied rivalry.
Pat’s take: Wesley. I mean, a Division I FCS opponent isn’t supposed to have an impact on a team’s playoff hopes, but with just one Pool B bid available and a loss already on the books, Wesley doesn’t have any margin for error. Charleston Southern is 0-4, including a loss to D-I non-scholarship Jacksonville. Wesley can take these guys.
Conference race most likely to get some clarity.
Ryan’s take: SCIAC. Because of the conference’s shorter-than-usual schedule, we haven’t seen as much from either Redlands or Cal Lutheran as we’d like. But there have been some solid glimmers of excitement, not least of which was Redlands’ win over North Central. It’s unlikely that any SCIAC opponent can challenge these two teams, making this matchup a big one in terms of foreshadowing the conference’s playoff representative.
Keith’s take: CCIW. Conference play begins with four teams at 3-0 and three more at 2-1. Beyond Wheaton-IWU, North Central goes to Carthage in a matchup of a team that’s scored 156 points in its past two wins (that’s not a typo; 70 and 86) against a team that’s allowed three in its past two.
Pat’s take: IIAC. The Coe-Central game is an intriguing one, with two programs with playoff experience who have their back against the wall. Central has beaten an ordinary team handily, lost to two Top 40 teams and beaten Augustana by eight (a last-minute touchdown made that closer). Coe’s resume is pretty well known. One of a handful of games that is needed to get this conference race figured out, but a Coe win will essentially end Central’s chances of winning the league.
Quarterback most likely to pass for 400 yards.
Ryan’s take: Wittenberg’s Ben Zoeller. The senior signal-caller hasn’t topped 400 yards since his team’s win over Capital in Week 1. But up strides Oberlin, a team that’s improved this year but not enough to slow Zoeller and his favorite receiving pair of Michael Cooper and Josh McKee. Wittenberg is famously dangerous at home, and that’s right where they’ll be Saturday.
Keith’s take: Illinois College’s Michael Bates. There’s a shootout brewin’ in Appleton. Bates, a freshman, has passed for 1,257 yards in four starts. His per-game average of 314 puts him two spots behind MWC conference cohort Alex Tanney (Monmouth), and two in front of Lawrence sophomore Luke Barthelmess. He’s Bates’ opponent Saturday, and although he’s got a shot at hitting 400 himself (IC is 3-1 despite being 214th nationally in pass efficiency defense, 219th in total defense and 229th against the pass, at 306 yards per game), his defense probably won’t help much. Lawrence could actually be more porous, at 221st in pass efficiency defense and 236th in total defense.
Pat’s take: Travis Lane, Hampden-Sydney. Unless Catholic’s defense got completely revamped over the bye week, the Cardinals will be in trouble. There won’t be a fourth-quarter comeback this time, but Catholic and Greg Cordivari will score enough points to keep the Tigers in a passing mode, where Lane will have his share of success.
Adrian · Cal Lutheran · Catholic · CCIW · Central · Centre · Coe · DePauw · East Texas Baptist · Franklin · Guilford · Hampden-Sydney · Hardin-Simmons · IIAC · Illinois College · Illinois Wesleyan · Lawrence · Louisiana College · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Mount St. Joseph · Muskingum · Oberlin · Redlands · SCIAC · St. John's · St. Thomas · Trine · UW-Platteville · Washington and Lee · Wesley · Wheaton · Wittenberg
Ohio Northern survived an upset bid by Otterbein, setting up an interesting conundrum for the people who like to play comparative scores.
Ohio Northern athletics photo
If you like playing the comparative scores game, you know, where X beat Y by 3 and Y beat Z by 3, therefore X would beat Z. But just try to wrap your mind around the direct correlation between Ohio Northern and Gallaudet, each of whom played Otterbein at home and went to overtime. Or figure out what to make of Hardin-Simmons … beating Willamette … which lost a close game to UW-Stevens Point … which got shut down by UW-Platteville … etc.
It gets even more complicated. Thankfully Keith McMillan and Pat Coleman can make at least some sense of it in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast.
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, thanks for helping grow our D3reports. These will also appear on the front page on Monday afternoon.
Bethel · Buffalo State · Catholic · Centre · Christopher Newport · Coe · East Texas Baptist · Gallaudet · Hardin-Simmons · Kean · Lycoming · McDaniel · Mount Union · Muhlenberg · Ohio Northern · Otterbein · Salisbury · Stevenson · UW-Whitewater · Washington and Lee · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Widener
“Long” as in a long season is ahead of us, and we’re just getting started.
And we’re willing to bet that most of you have been looking forward to this moment for eight months or more. We hope that our publication, Kickoff 2011, gave you your “football fix” over the past several days. (If not, there’s still time to buy it and get an insider’s look at all 239 teams.)
From now until the Stagg Bowl, Triple Take will be a weekly forecast for the Saturday ahead. Three members of the D3football.com staff — Executive Editor Pat Coleman, Managing Editor and National Columnist Keith McMillan and Senior Editor and Mid-Atlantic Columnist Ryan Tipps — will go through a series of questions to help readers gauge what to expect on game day. We’re thinking aloud, of sorts. And in many cases, we’ll take you beyond the Top 25 teams and perhaps highlight some sleepers that weren’t otherwise on your radar.
For Week 1, here are some of the most interesting matchups nationwide:
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 10 Coe at No. 16 Hardin-Simmons. Two of the best teams from two of the best conferences in the country. That should say a lot right there. But truth be told, Coe should be near unstoppable most of this season. Any team in the country would be envious to have the kind of returning players that the Kohawks have, and with some gaps for HSU to fill (superstars at quarterback and wideout are gone), this is Coe’s game to lose.
Pat’s take: Trinity Bible at Presentation. It’s not going to be a particularly pretty game, this we know, but it will be the first Division III home game in South Dakota and Presentation might well start its football life off 1-0.
Keith’s take: No. 4 North Central at Redlands. Remember that the Bulldogs were 8-1 last year, a record that almost always gets a team in the playoffs. There are 18 starters back from that squad, though longtime quarterback Dan Selway is not one of them. Likewise, the heart of North Central’s third-best-in-the-nation defense from last year, linebacker Matt Wenger, is gone. But 15 Cardinals starters return. So we’ve got two loaded teams, and the favorite has to travel 1,750 miles from the Chicago area to the L.A. area – flights are rare for D-III teams – for a 7 p.m. PDT kickoff under the lights at Ted Runner Stadium. Heck yeah it’s a game of the week!
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: N.C. Wesleyan at No. 14 Ohio Northern. In their short history, the Bishops have been known for taking on some of the best teams they can get their hands on in non-conference play: Wesley, Hampden-Sydney, Salisbury. The list goes on, and in an era when every loss can become a compounded postseason strike against a playoff-worthy team, the Bishops are putting risk ahead of caution. Even after losing some key starters, it’s rare when they don’t come out swinging. ONU, on its end, has long been a top-tier OAC team, but they have to replace an All-Conference quarterback, rusher and receiver. That’s a hard feat to overcome.
Pat’s take: East Texas Baptist at No. 3 Wesley. I’d like to put this in the next category down but Wesley has too many weapons and is too good defensively. The Wolverines faced a dual-threat quarterback from the ASC last season in LiDarral Bailey and bottled him up (86 yards of total offense). Sed Harris seems to be a similar threat. The only question is if Shane McSweeny, who is returning from injury, can’t connect with a new receiving corps. Justin Sottilare, who led the Wesley offense to the national semifinals last year, disappeared from the Wolverines’ roster sometime this week.
Keith’s take: No. 23 UW-Stevens Point at Willamette. The Bearcats scored 33 unanswered in last season’s 33-14 season-opening win in Wisconsin, partially because the Pointers had no answer for Willamette’s Fly offense. UW-SP lost star wide receivers Jared Jenkins and Anthony Aker, and they travel to Oregon. They’re the ranked team, but I’m not sure they should be expected to win. And yet, I doubt there’s another blowout here, because defenses tend to perform much better after players and coaches have had a look at a specialty offense.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Wittenberg. Most of the Tigers’ recent games against Capital were just plain ugly. That’s not to say such a result will happen again this time, but there are some definite kinks to be worked out before they can find success. It’s been more than a decade since Witt beat an OAC team — and working against the Tigers is that they are not the same team that ended 2010.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Rowan. My gut wants me to aim a little higher, such as the No. 14 spot or even the No. 3 spot, but I can’t pull the trigger. This was a close game last year at Rowan and although Rowan certainly got better over the course of the season, Lycoming peaked earlier. But in this battle of two proud programs, I take the team that won the 1998 semifinals in this rematch. One other note: Rowan played just one game on grass all of last year, beating 2-8 Brockport State. And yeah, Ryan, I’ve been to a Capital-Wittenberg game and it wasn’t pretty. But that was a long time ago.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Wartburg. There’s every reason to like the Knights, who were 10-1 last season with a scoring defense and takeaway margin in the top 10 nationally. They beat their Week 1 opponent, Monmouth, 27-7 last year, and the Scots’ star quarterback, Alex Tanney, played the whole game. So as both teams return 18 starters, it doesn’t seem logical to use Tanney’s return as a reason to think the Knights are in danger. And yet I’m going to do it. Tanney got hurt after throwing one pass in Game 2 against Grinnell, and there’s something that burns inside a player to excel when the game is taken away unexpectedly. All five offensive linemen from last year are back to give Tanney time to throw, and he’s as dangerous as any quarterback in Division III. Wartburg lost to St. Norbert in the 2009 opener, so an upset defeat against a top-shelf MWC team is totally foreseeable. If the Knights aren’t on their game Saturday, it’s likely.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Centre. You can bet that the Colonels want to avenge their 1-point loss to Hanover last year. And in a season where they might be the favorites to win the SCAC, it’ll be interesting whether they can start and stay strong through their nine-game schedule.
Pat’s take: UW-La Crosse. My only question is, will it be enough? The Eagles have the pieces to perform admirably against UW-Whitewater in the season opener but must play the Warhawks twice this season and Mary Hardin-Baylor. Throw in UW-Stevens Point and they could be the best 6-4 or 7-3 team in Division III.
Keith’s take: Salve Regina. If you read Kickoff, you might have noticed my unhealthy obsession with the NEFC’s Seahawks. Union comes to Rhode Island for the opener trying to erase memories of a rare bad season (2-7). There’s a bigger NEFC game in Week 1 too (Framingham State at Endicott), but I’m eager to see if in Year 2, the defensive-minded Bob Chesney begins to field a team that can score as well as it can slow others from scoring.
Which Thursday or Friday night game would you like to attend?
Ryan’s take: Baldwin-Wallace at Wooster. I’m sure that the Yellow Jackets would just like to forget that the last two games of 2010 even happened. And here’s their chance. I’ve pegged B-W to be the No. 2 team in the OAC this year, but I also think that Woo has an upset or two in them this fall. It probably won’t happen in Week 1, but down the line, they will sneak up on somebody.
Pat’s take: Dubuque at Augustana. This should be a nice shootout of passing offenses, with the Spartans and Mike Zweifel leading the way. The schools are not that far apart and it’s a Thursday night game, under the lights. If it weren’t a six-hour drive from here I’d go myself, but I’ll settle for live video.
Keith’s take: Adrian at Husson. I’m curious about McMurry, which is transitioning out of D-III, playing at Stephen F. Austin, but I still think I’d rather go see a Michigan-based D-III team play in Maine. There’s something unique when teams who move in different D-III circles get together. I’d appreciate both the travel opportunity and the chance for us D-III nerds to evaluate conferences against one another.
Which 2010 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. Few things might be more intimidating than starting a season against the big dog of the MAC, Delaware Valley. It’s not an impossible game (the Mules do have players such as All-American linebacker Pat McDonough to prop them up), but most people would probably hitch their wagon to Del Val in this situation.
Pat’s take: St. Lawrence. The Saints open with Utica after they lost every non-conference game they played last year, including a 31-13 decision to Utica later in the season, when youth is less of an excuse.
Keith’s take: St. Norbert. I guess this is a cop-out, because of course it isn’t easy to play the No. 5 team in the country out of the gate. I actually applaud the Green Knights for scheduling tough openers, and this isn’t the first time. They’ve won the non-conference game, gone 9-1 and missed the playoffs, then gone 7-3, won the MWC and gotten in. But still, if they lose the opener, they have to hope it prepared them to win the conference, because two-loss teams are always on shaky playoff ground.
Whose long losing streak is likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Guilford’s, against Greensboro. I mentioned this in my Around the Mid-Atlantic column this week, too, but I think that because the Quakers have a new coach, they also have a new reason to be excited. This week’s opponent is crosstown rival Greensboro, and Guilford’s new coach, Chris Rusiewicz, is bringing a fresh, defensive approach to a team that has lost 11 games in a row. Rusiewicz has made several changes on defense and already understands his players’ strengths and weaknesses. He’ll do a good job of playing to the strengths.
Pat’s take: Thiel’s, against Marietta. The Tomcats finally showed some signs of putting things together down the stretch after a dismal beginning to the season that also had an emotional component following the September death of freshman defensive lineman Louis Giuntini. And to those at Frostburg State and who knew and loved Derek Sheely, our condolences.
Keith’s take: Olivet’s, against Cornell. Or maybe I have that backwards. Okay, fine, someone’s long losing streak is ending here; the Comets’ 27-game streak or the Rams’s 11-game streak. Both teams have second-year coaches and most of their starters back, which isn’t always a good thing if you lost all 10 games. It’s impossible to have a read on a team before they’ve played a game. But Olivet’s at home, so I’ll give them the edge.
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Augustana · Baldwin-Wallace · Capital · Centre · Coe · Dubuque · East Texas Baptist · Guilford · Hardin-Simmons · Lycoming · Marietta · Muhlenberg · N.C. Wesleyan · Ohio Northern · Presentation · Rowan · Thiel · UW-La Crosse · UW-Whitewater · Wesley · Wittenberg · Wooster