Triple Take, Week 5: Let the conference rumbles begin

Linfield has lined up against Chapman and Redlands so far, and now PLU will get its crack at Linfield. (Photo by Dan Harris, d3photography.com)

Linfield has lined up against Chapman and Redlands so far, and now PLU will get its crack at the Wildcats. (Photo by Dan Harris, d3photography.com)

If it hasn’t already where you’re from, conference play begins in Week 5. From the ASC to the WIAC (and places in between — the CCIW, ECFC, IIAC, MIAA, ODAC and SCIAC get underway, while all but one game has yet to be played in NJAC and NWC), the games against familiar rivals are on deck. Twenty-four of the 28  conferences come with an automatic bid, so even though it’s too early to talk postseason, it’s never too early to consider playoff implications. Saturday’s games mean something long term.

In short, though, we have a doozy upon us this weekend. Pat, Ryan and I sift through which of the 244 teams are most worth keeping an eye on, via seven categories.

 — Keith McMillan

Game of the week
Keith’s take: No. 22 Concordia-Moorhead at No. 12 Bethel. The game in Washington, Pa. is more likely to be a defacto conference title game, but the one in Arden Hills, Minn. has even more on the line, and could feature the best-played football in the country on Saturday. The Cobbers and Royals each practice the lost art of playing defense, ranking in the national top 20 in total (averaging 263 and 241 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (a shade under 13 points per game each). Although Bethel is already on thin ice because of its season-opening loss to Wartburg, the MIAC has sent two teams to the playoffs nine times since the expansion in 1999, and this might end up a preview of this year’s duo. On top of all that, this insane thing happened last time these teams met at Bethel, and the specter of that game hangs over this one.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 Linfield at No. 14 Pacific Lutheran. I’m filing my take early, so I don’t get to see what Pat and Keith have written, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they chose this game, too. Never mind the fact that it’s a matchup between top-25 teams, but it has also grown into a marquee conference clash over the past few seasons. And it’s almost becoming a tradition for these two squads to meet twice in the fall, once in the regular season and then again in the first round of the playoffs. Not surprisingly, both are undefeated, and both have stout defenses. And because Linfield is excelling offensively with the pass while PLU is doing so with the run, these two teams would be candidates for the “contrasting styles” question farther down in Triple Take, if they weren’t so highly ranked, that is.
Pat’s take: No. 20 Thomas More at Washington and Jefferson. While all of those conferences listed above are getting started, the PAC is deep into its conference schedule, which started in Week 1 because of the conference’s expansion to include Carnegie Mellon and Case. With Thomas More already having taken a loss and the committee having passed over 1-loss PAC teams in the past because of strength of schedule, there may only be room for one PAC team in this year’s playoffs. Barring a later upset, the winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat to get that spot.

Surprisingly close game
Keith’s take: Gallaudet at Anna Maria. The Bison won nine games, made the playoffs and had an NFL prospect last season. The AmCats are in their sixth football season, and have six wins total. But you can expect this one to be surprisingly close, if only because neither side can really score. Anna Maria has seven touchdowns in three games this season, but that’s seven more than Gallaudet, who have been outscored 50-2 so far. They’re part of the reason why, in contrast with conferences like the ASC, OAC and ODAC, where teams average more than 33 points per game, the ECFC is the nation’s lowest-scoring conference, at 15.41 points per team per game. There will probably be some success for both offenses on Saturday, but the casts have changed since last season, so don’t expect a playoff team vs. doormat blowout.
Ryan’s take: Millsaps at Hendrix. I’m looking forward to seeing this showdown happen. After the Majors got blasted by East Texas Baptist last week, there are a lot of questions hanging around for a team that was 9-1 last year but starts 2014 at 1-2. Tackling needs to improve; turnovers need to stop. ETBU’s 715 yards of total offense is a scary thing, and Millsaps should be scared if the team can’t keep those kinds of numbers in check going forward. But while Millsaps is a team on the slide, Hendrix appears to be one on the rise. A 3-0 start is something for the Warriors to be very happy about, and the fact that they were able to have their offense step up in games, as well as the defense to shine, shows how versatile this second-year program can be.
Pat’s take: Washington U. at Berry. One could play the comparative scores game because already this year, Rhodes has played both Berry and Wash U. But I just expect this to be close because it’s a bit of a trip for the Bears and Berry is getting better. They only lost to Rhodes 12-0 and lost 28-27 at LaGrange.

Most likely top-25 team to be upset
Keith’s take: No. 18 UW-Platteville. I ruled out the top-25 clashes as picks here, and the luster is off games like Salisbury at No. 7 St. John Fisher and No. 8 Wartburg at Central. Even Louisiana College at No. 4 Wesley isn’t as exciting as it first appeared. So to truly go out on a limb, I’ll take 0-3 UW-Eau Claire, playing at Carson Park in the WIAC opener. The Blugolds have only scored 24 points this season, which makes this an even more risky pick, but they’ve played three perennial midwest powers  St. Thomas, St. John’s and Wheaton. UW-Platteville makes four current top 25 teams in four weeks for UW-EC, and if the Blugolds are not demoralized, they could catch the Pioneers sleeping. Last year, Eau Claire led at halftime and after a 98-yard third-quarter kick return before Platteville scored the final four TDs. UW-P this year has been a bit of an enigma, winning by 60 in Week 1 and squeezing past Dubuque in Week 2, and it’s had two weeks to stew over a 28-7 loss to North Central. So the upset is no small task.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Thomas More. While this qualifies for this category because the Saints are in the Top 25, it barely counts as an upset when the opponent is undefeated conference rival Washington and Jefferson. Not to mention that both are statistically in the top 10 in total offense in the nation.
Pat’s take: No. 25 Lycoming, I suppose. The MAC unbeaten teams will start to knock each other off this week. In order to believe Stevenson can beat Lycoming, however, one has to think that Stevenson is ready to make a big leap forward. The Mustangs were fairly dominant in Week 1 vs. North Carolina Wesleyan but have won the next three games by a touchdown apiece, so they’re barely hanging onto this 4-0. They won’t be able to get away with 4-for-18 passing this week.

Pick a team that will open conference play in dramatic fashion
Keith’s take: Willamette, vs. George Fox. The dramatics for the Bearcats might be of the record-setting variety as opposed to the last-second type. Willamette rushes for 285 yards a game, has had two weeks since a 42-28 win at Cal Lutheran, and faces first-year George Fox, which has allowed 1,028 yards in its two losses. The real curiosity might be finding out just how many NWC contenders there are, which means you’ll have to pay attention to Linfield-PLU and Whitworth-Pacific as well this weekend.
Ryan’s take: Redlands, at Pomona-Pitzer. An 0-2 record doesn’t tell us much if those two games came against No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor and No. 5 Linfield. The Bulldogs were expected to lose both of them (maximum chalk). But this week is Redlands’ chance to show what they learned from those experiences and put the lessons into action. Opponent Pomona-Pitzer should be a great way to make sure everything is clicking, to earn a win – and be set for the following week against Cal Lutheran and later against the rest of the SCIAC.
Pat’s take: Augustana, vs. Elmhurst. The CCIW opens this weekend with the potential for three blowouts, while this game, between teams expected to be in the middle of the conference, has the potential for some heroics. It matched a couple of players who have already had standout individual performances this year: Augustana defensive back Tim Maroder (four interceptions vs. Loras) and Elmhurst running back Josh Williams (306 rushing yards at Olivet).

Which team lost badly last week, but will bounce back?
Keith’s take: Southern Virginia, at Kean. Since these teams lost 47-7 to No. 4 Wesley and 73-7 to No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor last Saturday, facing each other should be a relief. Both teams are 0-3. The Knights have a significant road trip to North Jersey ahead, but they’ve faced three high-powered offenses in Methodist, Guilford and Wesley. Kean has managed just 49 points total this season. (Millsaps, facing Hendrix after a 68-15 loss to ETBU, is a candidate here as well.)
Ryan’s take: Williams, at Bates. Sure, it’s tough to come off of a 38-0 loss to Trinity (Conn.), but if Williams can channel some of the success it found two weeks ago in its opener from quarterback Austin Lommen and running back Alex Scyocurka, then there’s a good chance that the Ephs can look sharp this weekend against Bates.
Pat’s take: UW-Oshkosh, vs. UW-Stout. The Titans had a bye this past week, but they are 0-3 coming into this game, having not played a single Division III school. Getting to play UW-Stout will be better than playing South Dakota State, that’s for sure.

Pick a winner in a matchup of contrasting styles
Keith’s take: LaGrange, at Maryville. The Panthers contrast with themselves, much less the other team. LaGrange, behind QB Graham Craig, has the nation’s fifth-most-prolific passing offense and the 227th-best passing defense. They keep it interesting though, scoring between 28 and 35 each time out, allowing between 27 and 37, and having a two-point loss, a one-point win and two overtime wins. Across the way, Maryville brings a 286-yard-per-game rushing attack (11th-best nationally) and a scoring average of  get this  28.8 points per game.
Ryan’s take: Guilford, vs. Washington and Lee. Well, it’s almost unfair when I look at the contrast between the Quakers and Generals. Guilford has one of the best passing games in the nation, and, just as importantly, it is third statistically in turnover margin. Washington and Lee, on the other hand, slots in at No. 168 in turnover margin, being negative-2 on the season. And they have almost no pass game to speak of, relying on their ground attack  which isn’t close to where it’s been in recent seasons. Sure enough, these two teams contrast each other, just not in a flattering way.
Pat’s take: Illinois College, vs. Ripon. After two losses in a row, the Blueboys need to get well, and fast. The good thing is that neither of those games counted against IC’s conference record in the Midwest Conference South Division, and this week’s game vs. Ripon won’t, either. The run-heavy Red Hawks are also 1-2, but with the only win vs. Rockford. Meanwhile, most people should know Illinois College likes to throw the ball.

They’ll be on your radar
Keith’s take: Bethany. Taking it on the chin from Mount Union in Week 1 perhaps was a wise strategy. The Bison have three wins since, including two on the road, and a 33-27 victory against Waynesburg last week. After 35 carries for just 75 yards in a 58-7 loss to the Purple Raiders, Bethany’s ground game has been stout. They’re running the ball an average of 46 times per game for almost 200 yards a week, with a three-headed attack: Running backs Jalen Holmes and Brandon Hill, and quarterback Brian Vales. Case Western Reserve has only allowed 83 yards per game rushing, so this clash will be worth watching.
Ryan’s take: Kalamazoo. I’m owning up to my mistake from last week, when I wrote about this game a week before it was to happen. So a cut-and-paste from that, which still applies today: I picked Benedictine in Kickoff to perform better this season than it is, and because the squad has stumbled each week, we’re now staring down a game between two winless teams. K-zoo has faced decent opposition as a whole, and the Hornets have shown that they are more able to hang with the team on the other sidelines. The Eagles’ competition has been good (their opponents are a combined 8-1), but nothing says trial by fire like K-zoo’s game against Wheaton. I think the Hornets will be better prepared for this one.
Pat’s take: The Rhodes-Chicago winner. This is a key Pool B game on Saturday, a matchup of unbeatens. Rhodes put up 41 on Chicago in Memphis in 2013, winning 41-34, but expect a lower-scoring game.

Triple Take: First onto the field

It’s easy to feel a little envious of Division I schools – they got their season underway last weekend, and we’ve had to bide our time an extra week.

But now, the wait is over.

Division III football is up to 244 teams this fall, which means we will get to enjoy hundreds of games over the next 11 weeks, with dozens going on each Saturday.

If you haven’t signed up for Kickoff 2013 already, please do so. It’s D3football.com’s preseason publication and is a great way to get introduced to the many things happening this year in Division III football. It has a slew of feature stories as well as rankings and interviews with coaches from every team in the nation.

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 former 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 (@NewsTipps).

Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Widener at No. 5 Wesley.
In Kickoff 2013, I foreshadowed a dropoff from Widener coming off an 11-win season. Here’s the chance for the Pride to prove me wrong. Their challenges stem from some rebuilding spots on offense (quarterback and offensive line), and a new head coach who has yet to get his feet wet leading this team on game day. Wesley is not without its own question marks, but the Wolverines are a team that reloads more often than it rebuilds –- and is prime position to start moving hard into the season.
Keith’s take: No. 20 Widener at No. 5 Wesley would have been my pick, but Ryan generously starts the blog post each week and gets first dibs. So even though there’s plenty of intrigue about what kind of team Widener will be, we can stay within a 75-mile radius of Philadelphia and pull in another monster matchup with top 25 implications. Rowan at Delaware Valley pits a pair of three-loss teams last season (although the Profs picked up their third in the playoffs) with the majority of their outstanding defenses back. The Aggies have seven starters from the No. 9 unit in the country and the Profs eight from No. 42. Rowan turns to Paul Hammersma at quarterback and would seem to have the greater struggle to score points, but if the Profs’ D slows QB Aaron Wilmer and Del Val, we’ll have a great game that could be the springboard to someone’s big season.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Franklin at No. 1 Mount Union. It’s the head coaching debut of Vince Kehres and we’re going to learn a lot. A couple of key pieces return on offense,  but after his arrest this week in an off-campus incident, Roman Namdar might not be making his debut at wide receiver. But I’d have to think that Kevin Burke at quarterback and Germany Woods at running back should have enough firepower on offense to make this an entertaining game, regardless of the experience of the offensive line.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Washington and Jefferson at Wooster.
The Scots tend to play up, and on paper, W&J is on a level above Wooster. If the Scots can establish a run game and make the Presidents give up some yards, there’s certainly a good opportunity to keep this game within seven to 10 points.
Keith’s take: UW-Eau Claire at No. 2 St. Thomas. Springfield and Western New England are surprisingly close geographically, as the Empire 8 and NEFC teams are in the same Massachusetts city. And that could be a good game. But I went Blugolds and Tommies because there’s a reason Glenn Caruso schedules that game for his MIAC powerhouse. He knows the middle-of-the-WIAC Blugolds will take on anyone and give his team a good Week 1 test, regardless of the final score.
Pat’s take (filed before Thursday’s game): Loras at No. 22 Elmhurst. This isn’t your older brother’s Bluejays team, nor is it Josh Williams’ older brother’s Bluejays team. We might not see all the effects of Elmhurst losing a great senior class and a head coach, but I’m not sure they’ll dominate Loras the way they should.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 16 Salisbury.
It’s been a few years since Christopher Newport played “spoiler” to the Top 25, but these recent seasons have also seen the Captains beset by a ridiculous amount of injury, which has ended any season momentum before it even starts. There’s a lot to be excited about with this CNU team, starting with the return of quarterback Lyndon Gardner, who was hurt for a good chunk of 2012. In turn, Salisbury is missing a few key pieces that will take some time to sort out, so the Captains could get the kind of win they haven’t seen since the turn of the decade.
Keith’s take: No. 24 St. John Fisher. This Cardinal-on-Cardinal action probably should have been my pick below for where a bird team is going to bite it, since I’d be guaranteed to be right. But SJFC’s trip to Otterbein — 16 starters back from last year’s 8-2 team — could mean a short stay in the top 25 for the Cardinals. Yes, those Cardinals.
Pat’s take: No. 17 Johns Hopkins. I mean, I don’t think Wittenberg losing to Butler would be an upset, although I certainly hope the Tigers can come away with a win against non-scholarship Butler. It’s hard to know what to make of Randolph-Macon or anyone in the ODAC this year, but I give the Yellow Jackets a shot.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve.
Even their losses last fall were tight because of how well the defense was able to keep the Spartans in their games. Well, consider most of that asset gone. Now, Case has to rely on its offense to provide a cushion when it can and to follow through and win games. The team is not going to do that until it can anoint a single quarterback that the team can rally around. There’s some dicey matchups midway through the schedule for this to remain a question mark for too long.
Keith’s take: Hardin-Simmons. Well it’s Week 1. Darn near everybody is on “Hmm, I’m curious about them” status. Fresh programs Southwestern, Hendrix and Berry all play their first games at home. But forced to choose, HSU and No. 11 UW-Platteville are two non-playoff teams that could go a long way this year. Since the Cowboys have their opener in Oregon, against sometimes-pretty-good Willamette, they’re the most intriguing watch of the week.
Pat’s take: Lewis and Clark. And if for no other reason than the fact that the Pioneers are off the west coast and into a part of the country where those of you who don’t stay up for the late games might learn something about them. It will be a Pioneering winner, for sure, whether that’s L&C or Utica.

Which 2012 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: St. Scholastica.
Sure the Saints should be able to stand up to the competition in the UMAC and claim another conference championship, but Whitworth’s defense will again be there to snuff out any spark early on in the opener.
Keith’s take: Framingham State. I don’t think they’ll wish they had a bye, necessarily, but they might lose at Endicott. The Gulls won this game 34-7 last season, but the Rams played Salve Regina in the NEFC title game and advanced to the playoffs. I think Framingham State would be eager for another crack at Endicott, so maybe they don’t fit perfectly in this category, but if I couldn’t squeeze them in here, I wouldn’t have mentioned the game at all. Melikke van Alstyne has made a name for himself in the Rams’ backfield, and he’s got four of his offensive line starters back.
Pat’s take: Concordia-Chicago. An extra week of practice would probably suit this program just fine — they lost more than 50 players and the head coach from last year and came into training camp with a depth chart in extreme flux. Lake Forest and the Cougars had a great showdown last year but it won’t be repeated.

Which bird will get bested?
Ryan’s take: The Falcons of Concordia (Wis.).
Concordia has a lot of things going well for it, including a solid group of returning players, to put the team in a prime position to compete for the top spot in the NACC. Hopes are high, and the expectations are not unreasonable. However, opponent Augsburg is a tough one right out of the gate. The Auggies, by their own right, are a team that’s been steadily improving its stock year to year – and they play in a conference against the toughest schools in Minnesota. This game will be good — better than the one last year –- but the Falcons are going to have to have to wait till next week to put one in the win column.
Keith’s take: The Seahawks of Salve Regina. I’ll have you know I put 14 games on my “to watch” list, and there were Golden Bears and Beavers and Boxers and Bulldogs and Engineers and Cowboys and Saints and Soup Bowls and Backyard Brawls. But darned if I didn’t have to get to the last game to get a bird team. By the way, Bridgewater State, our pick in Kickoff to win the MASCAC, has eight starters back on offense. Salve has all-American Phil Terio on defense, but lost five key starters and defensive-minded coach Bob Chesney.
Pat’s take: The Eagles of Northwestern (Minn.). Not sure how good a year to expect out of St. Olaf but Northwestern is breaking in a new quarterback for the first time in a few years while the Oles are breaking in a new head coach.

Which long losing streak is likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Hartwick.
Certainly not the longest of down streaks to be riding, but the seven-game skid after opening 2012 with three wins had to have been disappointing for the Hawks. But that’s not terribly far removed from the results of the past few seasons, since Jason Boltus quarterbacked the team back in 2008. Last fall, Hartwick crushed Husson in the season opener 55-14. There’s no reason to think they aren’t motivated to repeat the feat on Saturday.
Keith’s take: McDaniel. Catholic and Western Maryland used to be one of the games of the year back in the days when I wrote the Around the Mid-Atlantic column. Now it’s the game where I pick the Green Terror, which has lost 12 in a row but outdid Stevenson in a scrimmage and has star running back Joe Rollins prepped for a big final season, to break a losing streak. Go figure. Simple Daddy, don’t you know that things move in cycles?
Pat’s take: Maine Maritime. Thirteen losses in a row is a huge comedown for a team that was competitive in a 2009 playoff game at Montclair State. The Mariners losing to Anna Maria to start last season was a bit of a shocker and surely Maine Maritime is eager to not let that happen again.

Offseason huddle up: What’s happened in January

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.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Around the Nation’s Year in Review went up earlier this month. What did you see that you like, or that I missed? Comment here.

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.