Triple Take: Some we haven’t seen yet

Jared Morris
In Jared Morris’ first game as a defensive back, he picked off four passes.
Wesley athletics photo

Who would have thought that we’d see the record books being rewritten right out of the gate? But that’s why the game is played, isn’t it, to see the greatness of individual players and of teams emerge? Some rise up and conquer their opponents against the odds, and sometimes it’s not just the record books that are rewritten — but our perspectives as well.

Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps lay out their evolving perspectives, building off the week gone by and forecasting the Saturday ahead. We don’t live in a bubble, so please comment below or light it up on Twitter using the hashtag #3take.

Lots of teams that took Week 1 off are joining the fray this weekend:

Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 3 Wesley at No. 6 Salisbury.
Two of the top teams in the country, led by two of the highest-outputting quarterbacks at this level, and playing in the storied Route 13 Rivalry. This is the kind of matchup worth salivating over.
Pat’s take: Christopher Newport at Hampden-Sydney. It’s high time these two teams played each other. They have scrimmaged each other fairly frequently, but have not met in a regular season or postseason game. But with a combined record of 139-53 over the past decade, these two Virginia schools should be on the field together, and it should be an entertaining game.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Redlands at No. 13 North Central. When the Bulldogs beat the Cardinals in California, it echoed throughout the top 25 for much of last season. This year, North Central is hosting, coming off a Week 1 loss to a WIAC team and looking to return the favor. North Central, long considered one of the D-III programs most likely to break through to Salem in place of the purple powers, is now fighting to avoid an 0-2 start. Meanwhile, it’s the opener for Redlands and quarterback Chad Hurst, and an opportunity to score another one for the SCIAC while national observers are paying attention. 

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Washington U. at Rhodes.
I typed and deleted this answer probably six times before settling on this game. Because, when it comes down to it, almost every game at this point in the season has a surprise element of some sort that affects the outcome, even if it’s just how a new player is going to perform under center or how well an offensive line will mesh. Me, I can see Washington being pretty beat up after taking on the defending national champs. That opens a door, even if just a crack, for Rhodes to be competitive.
Pat’s take: Eureka at St. Scholastica. The teams couldn’t have been further apart in their first-week opponents. There are a couple of other UMAC teams stepping up to play strong non-conference opponents (Northwestern playing St. John’s, MacMurray playing Wartburg) but Eureka beating Knox and St. Scholastica losing to Whitworth doesn’t show the relative strength of the teams. But Eureka, our pick to finish tied for sixth in the league, and St. Scholastica our pick to win it, should play an entertaining and relatively high scoring game. The question is whether the front six can get enough pressure on Eureka quarterback Sam Durley to force him to get rid of the ball. Otherwise he will pick apart just about any secondary in the UMAC.
Keith’s take: Montclair State at Salve Regina. The teams met last season, and the Seahawks were game but not able to win in New Jersey, losing 18-7. This time around, the game is in Rhode Island, the Red Hawks are fielding a much younger lineup and coming off a Week 1 loss. Salve, on the other hand, beat Union despite just 246 yards of total offense. That might not be enough to beat Montclair State, but Salve should against give them a scare, at least.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 15 Bethel.
Bethel travels to Wartburg, but don’t think for a moment that the Knights’ 73-0 stomping of a lower-tier UMAC team did them many favors in terms of preparation. Complacency can’t set in. The Royals are a whole different beast. Wartburg at least has a game under its belt, which Bethel can’t claim.
Pat’s take: No. 21 UW-Platteville. Dubuque still has enough offensive talent to cause trouble. They won’t be intimidated by a WIAC team, especially not the ones across the river. I look at Dubuque and picture them thinking Platteville has the notoriety and the ranking Dubuque earned with its play last season.
Keith’s take: No. 9 St. John Fisher. Boy, one week we love you and the next … well, it’s not really that the Cardinals are ripe for upset. It’s that there’s playing at Washington & Jefferson, often the equal to fellow PAC power Thomas More. The Saints pushed the Cardinals into overtime in Week 1.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 Linfield.
In Kickoff, I made an unusual prediction about the Wildcats, but to have a good run this fall, they need to make sure that they shore up their fresh-faced secondary. Hardin-Simmons has the ability to spread the ball around and get some yards, but turnovers for the Cowboys were a killer in Week 1. If Linfield can replicate that kind of containment of the HSU passing game, then the future in McMinnville will look even brighter.
Pat’s take: Huntingdon. If the experienced front four can bottle up or at least slow down Birmingham-Southern running back Shawn Morris, it will give the Hawks a little room to work with. Only the winner is likely to stay in contention for a playoff bid, and even then they really have to beat Wesley.
Keith’s take: Buffalo State and Brockport State. Okay, you got our attention in Week 1. The Bengals put up 49 points and 706 yards on Cortland State. The Golden Eagles limited Lycoming to 31 yards rushing, three third-down conversions and just 23:17 of possession and 60 snaps. Something’s got to give in this week’s clash of the SUNYs, and we’ll be watching the game at Brockport to see what.

Which team will bounce back from a Week 1 loss?
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport.
Don’t be fooled by the Captains’ 40-16 loss last week. With 3:30 left in the third quarter, the score was 20-16, and CNU was notably keeping pace with the sixth-best team in the nation. CNU showed it had offense thanks to a strong passing attack, but the defense was simply worn down in the trenches. Hampden-Sydney doesn’t play such a hard-nosed style — they’re more of a finesse team. CNU should be ready to handle that well.
Pat’s take: No. 16 Franklin. Butler is beatable, even though it’s apparently “Band Day” at the D-I non-scholarship school. Butler’s better than Valparaiso is, a team which Franklin beat last year, but even being competitive is better than last week’s loss to Mount Union.
Keith’s take: Adrian, St. Norbert and Monmouth. This was covered in my Around the Nation column this week, so I have three teams at the ready. Defiance, Knox and Beloit are this week’s opponents for the Bulldogs, Green Knights and Scots, and if they all don’t win by double digits, I’d be stunned. 

Opener you’re most curious about.
Ryan’s take: DePauw.
I’m not sure that lining up against St. Olaf is going to tell me much about how well the Tigers will play against their new North Coast conference mates. DePauw’s lone year as an independent in 2011 told us a lot about the considerable rebuilding the team was going through (first losing season since 1995). The Oles are good at breaking through the bricks and mortar of a team, but DePauw can’t let Saturday’s likely setback cripple the next nine weeks.
Pat’s take: Bethel. I know the passing game has not been a big part of the Royals’ offense so I’m more interested in new quarterback’s Erik Peterson’s running ability. They’ll get a big test right out of the gate. Normally I would give Wartburg a bit of a bonus for having played a game already but MacMurray didn’t put up much of a fight and the starters were out early.
Keith’s take: Cal Lutheran. There are six teams who have yet to open up in the top 25, including Wabash, Redlands, Bethel, Baldwin Wallace and Mary-Hardin Baylor. I’m intrigued by all of them, but none more than the Kingsmen, who were a hair away from winning a playoff opener at Linfield last year, and earning the SCIAC unprecedented respect. I wanted to ride that wave and rank them higher, but with only 13 starters back, including six on offense and five on defense, I was wary. Seeing how the Kingsmen play in the opener against Pacific Lutheran will help define how voters feel about them, not to mention how they feel about themselves. Plus we’re all curious to see 6-4 star wide receiver Eric Rogers back in action.

Which long road trip will turn out the best?
Ryan’s take: Washington and Lee at Sewanee.
In Week 1, the Generals fell to Franklin and Marshall, in a matchup that’s opened the season for several years now. But even in those years in which W&L has lost, the Generals have shown themselves adept at bouncing back, righting their ship ahead of conference play. Making this all the more exciting is Sewanee, coming off its best season in nearly a decade and starting 2012 with a win. This should be a good matchup, with W&L ultimately landing its first win of the season.
Pat’s take: St. Olaf at DePauw. I think DePauw has more work to do before it can begin to bounce back from last year. The long trip is not all that unusual for the Oles, who played at Pacific Lutheran in 2009, so the only issue is that St. Olaf needs to play better than it did at Luther last week.
Keith’s take: Rowan at Merrimack. It’s basically NWC-SCIAC challenge week out West, but the matchups are surprisingly even. There are a ton of short non-conference trips this week, like Methodist to Guilford and Case Western Reserve to Hiram, leaving me to take a out-of-division game here. But if the Profs, like the Rowan teams of old, beats a team from a scholarship division, it sends a message to the NJAC that perhaps the program is back. Nevermind that Merrimack, from the D-II Northeast-10, is probably recruiting players who compare to those recruited into the NJAC, with Rowan’s public-school tuition and dearth of in-state competition for players. This is a winnable game for Rowan, riding high after the Week 1 upset. Merrimack, which lost, 45-18, to New Haven in its opener could be demoralized by an early Profs score or two.

ATN Podcast: Welcome back!

Chris Denton
Chris Denton was the Purple Raiders’ top receiver and returned two punts for touchdowns.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com

It was a long, strange trip. But when you see four games, you are bound to see a good one, and that’s what happened when Pat Coleman (and his 10-year-old son) drove into Galesburg, Ill., where Eureka quarterback Sam Durley was about to have the game of his life.

You see, you never know what you’re going to get when you roll into town for a game in Division III. There are so many schools and rivalries and storylines that you could end up seeing something truly memorable, like a last-second win, a surprise upset or a great individual performance.

Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan discuss in this week’s Around the Nation podcast.

Plus, they talk about the teams who got their 2012 off to a good start by ending long losing streaks, look at UW-Whitewater’s opening game, as well as Mount Union’s, and the surprises put up by North Carolina Wesleyan, Buffalo State, Rowan, Norwich, Willamette … as was said, a very interesting week.

Press play below to listen or follow the download links included.

You should also be able to get this and any of our future Around the Nation podcasts automatically by subscribing to this RSS feed: http://www.d3blogs.com/d3football/?feed=podcast

Plus, here’s this week’s D3football.com reports.

Triple Take: And here’s the kick!


St. John Fisher ended last season on a roll to the Elite 8. The Cardinals start with a Top 25 opponent in Thomas More.

Are you ready to take in more than 1,200 college football games this season? We sure are!

The Division III community is embarking on a fall during which 239 teams will take the field, most playing nine or 10 games in the regular season. D-III is the largest division in college, and D3football.com will give you insight across the board into the good, the bad, and the potential breakouts.

That all started with Kickoff 2012, our preseason publication, which has a slew of feature stories as well as rankings and interviews with coaches from every team in the nation. (There’s still lots of valuable info there if you haven’t purchased yet.)

D3football.com also brings you regional and national columns throughout the season, and every Friday morning, you’ll be able to dive into the column you’re reading right now, called Triple Take.

In Triple Take, Executive Editor and Publisher Pat Coleman, Managing Editor and National Columnist Keith McMillan and Senior Editor and longtime Mid-Atlantic Columnist Ryan Tipps break down some of the week’s biggest games, sleeper teams and those who we’re keeping an especially close eye on. From now until the Stagg Bowl, we’ll take you well beyond the Top 25.

We open up Triple Take to comments in the section below, or feel free to take the conversation to Twitter using the hashtag #3take. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: Pat (@d3football), Keith (@D3Keith) and Ryan (@D3MidAtlantic).

Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Thomas More at No. 11 St. John Fisher.
Fisher blasted through the first two rounds of the 2011 playoffs, proving to the selection committee and the D-III community that 8-2 teams deserve at-large bids. Their Empire 8 conference is one of the absolute toughest in the land, and getting the ball rolling against the PAC’s standard-bearer will be an exciting test. Both teams return the bulk of their starters and match up amazingly well on the field. A win for momentum’s sake could be crucial, too, as each team faces its top conference opponent the first week of October.
Pat’s take: St. Norbert vs. John Carroll. It’s in Ireland, for goodness sakes. I’m not sure I need to write anything else.
Keith’s take: No. 20 Thomas More at No. 11 St. John Fisher. Usually we try not to duplicate picks, but this was my standout game before I saw Ryan’s, and I’m sticking with it. There’s some other intrigue, like Willamette at Hardin-Simmons and Monmouth at Coe, but this is the biggest toss-up involving at least one top 25 team. Luke Magness became Thomas More’s starting quarterback right at the end of the season last year; We’ll be watching to see how much better he is with an offseason to prepare for the job. Likewise, St. John Fisher’s Ryan Kramer was a running back-turned-QB in a pinch last season; He’s had a full go-round to train as a signal-caller.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve at Marietta.
Case has ushered in some teams with top-notch records recently, not losing more than two games a season over the past five years. But the Spartans are rarely dynamic out of the gate. Chalk that up to reasons we may never know. But with some changes happening up front for Case, an OAC team (even a lower-tier one) isn’t how I’d prefer to start my season.
Pat’s take: No. 9 Delaware Valley at Rowan. The Profs look to be coming into this season undermanned when compared to their cross-river rivals. And even though Rowan is far removed from the program which beat Delaware Valley in back-to-back years for the East Region title in 2004 and 2005, there’s still a little pride in Glassboro. Enough to give them a fighting chance.
Keith’s take: Augustana at Dubuque. On the surface, it’s a 2-8 team vs. a playoff team. Beneath it, though, the Vikings have usually been good for about seven wins a season, and come from the always-tough CCIW. Last season, the Spartans won, 18-13, on the road. They’re a more confident team now, coming off an IIAC championship, but they’re also without Gagliardi Trophy winner Michael Zweifel, who accounted for an enormous amount of their offense last season. Even if Dubuque wins again, it’ll be by a not-pretty score like last season.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 8 St. Thomas.
Can a team really lose its best players at its three prime skill positions — the quarterback and All-Americans at running back and wide receiver — and still deserve a spot in the Top 10? Not unless your name is Mount Union or UW-Whitewater. The Tommies’ opening opponent, UW-Eau Claire, is a solid mid-pack WIAC team, which stands for a lot coming from that conference. St. Thomas might make the playoffs again (they might even go 10-0), but there’s a lot more trepidation about the team’s potency now than there was at this time in 2011.
Pat’s take: No. 20 Thomas More. St. John Fisher performed better in the playoffs last season without Ryan Kramer than it did with him. But it’s good to remember that Kramer was not expected to be the quarterback in 2011 when the season started, and worked out in the offseason and preseason as a running back before the presumed starter got hurt. With a full offseason to prepare, Kramer should be much more polished under center.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Kean. I don’t think any of the ranked teams are really likely to be upset; If I thought so, I wouldn’t have put these teams in the preseason top 25.  And I mean actual upsets (*glares at Pat*). Kean though, is replacing nearly its entire offense (four starters back; 13 overall) while its opponent, Albright, brings back the group almost intact (nine offensive starters, 16 overall). The game is under the lights in Union, N.J. though, which means this is about as weak an upset pick as I could possibly make. Other viable choices were No. 6 North Central, hosting UW-LaCrosse or No. 7 Salisbury, at Christopher Newport.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 24. Birmingham-Southern.
Any team that has a rusher like Shawn Morris has one less position it needs to worry about come Saturday. As the No. 2 rusher in country last fall, Morris was instrumental in helping B-SC reach further for its gold ring than ever before. The Panthers have turned things around in recent years, and barring any major stumbles, they should be on everyone’s radar for the next several weeks, starting with their game against LaGrange.
Pat’s take: Buffalo State. The Empire 8 coaches’ poll snubbed the Bengals and despite my best efforts, I think Kickoff did too. I agree with what Ryan said above, about the Empire 8 being among the toughest conferences in Division III football, but Buffalo State will be able to hold its own. Whether that translates into a win against Cortland State remains to be seen but the Bengals should be on your radar, for sure.
Keith’s take: William Paterson and Wisconsin Lutheran.
Yeah I’m not sure I understood Pat’s obssession with Buffalo State during our Kickoff meetings, but then he could probably say the same about my Wisconsin Lutheran pick in the Beyond the Top 25 piece. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, buy Kickoff. … It won’t affect the Northern Athletics Conference race, but Wisconsin Lutheran’s opener at Ripon is a chance for them to take a step toward the postseason. Meanwhile, the real intrigue is in the NJAC, a race that could be up for grabs, especially if my upset pick is correct. That means William Paterson needs to start the season with an attention-grabbing victory against King’s. Other potential picks here included North Park at Hope and Illinois College, hosting Hanover.

Which 2011 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: Johns Hopkins.
The Blue Jays have said more than once in recent seasons that quarterback Hewitt Tomlin was the face of the franchise, the player on whom success and defeat often rested. Tomlin has graduated, and with him the more than 2,600 yards he threw for last year. That doesn’t leave a settling thought for a team that has to go up against Randolph-Macon, with its penchant for replacing top-notch running backs with even more top-notch backs. Macon is stingy with points, too. A team might be able to air the ball out and make some big plays to put up points, but most opponents won’t win the war in the trenches with Macon. JHU won’t have the leverage going into Saturday to outlift R-MC.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. It isn’t a rebuilding season for the Saints, to be sure, but they won’t be 10-0 dominant like they were last year. And you can consult the Kickoff rankings to see the difference between last year’s non-conference opener (Lawrence) and this year’s (Whitworth).
Keith’s take: Franklin. Look, we salute the Grizzlies for playing Mount Union. It’ll be a meeting of some of D-III’s best fans, at least in the pre-game tailgate. For years we’ve seen teams take this Week 1 game to get a taste of the Purple Raiders, and they end up with a mouthful. Franklin, which has designs on being a perennial contender, took a game with UW-Whitewater last season and lost 45-0. The playoff rematch was 41-14. I know Franklin doesn’t really wish it had a bye, because they’re playing these games to figure out what it takes to get to the purple powers’ level, but the final score may leave a bit to be desired. Mount Union has been vulnerable in recent seasons, but we’re talking December vulnerable, not beginning of September. Other candidates: Bendictine at No. 15 Wheaton, Monmouth at Coe.

Which conference will have the most impressive non-conference win?
Ryan’s take: The MIAA.
It’s not every day that a team from Michigan can get a leg up on the CCIW, but that’s exactly what could happen when Adrian hosts Carthage. The Bulldogs are a team on the rise, and they’re certainly hoping to bite into a piece of the playoff pie. Should they lose a conference game, wins against teams like Carthage could factor in nicely for at-large consideration.
Pat’s take: The MAC. There are a couple of possible matchups here that could give me that result, but the one I’m thinking of is Lebanon Valley at Montclair State. Montclair State just lost too much on offense and defense … and special teams … and while Lebanon Valley doesn’t exactly return intact either, it should have the upper hand.
Keith’s take: The ECFC.
A few teams scheduled aggressively, opening up opportunities for upsets. Gallaudet at Otterbein, Norwich against Western New England and Husson at Hartwick are the three games that would catch my attention, should the ECFC team prevail.

Which long losing streak is likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Greensboro, at Guilford.
If you’re going to end a losing streak, nothing’s sweeter than doing it against a cross-town rival. The Pride has a new coach, one who is familiar with the inner workings of the team. That means there’s new perspectives but without the learning curve. To most teams, Guilford wouldn’t be a chest-thumping win, but Greensboro has won just one game since September 2010. And last year’s matchup against Guilford was a lopsided affair. A win by Greensboro isn’t going to be a sign of a great resurgence afoot, but it will be a step in the right direction for a program looking to rebuild.
Pat’s take: Knox, vs. Eureka. The Prairie Fire have been put out 14 consecutive times, but it’s better to open against Eureka than against Wash U. Knox is playing at home and should have 18 starters back. Eureka has some pretty good talent as well, but if the win doesn’t come here for Knox, in the inaugural Lincoln Bowl, it will be more than a month before there’s another similar opportunity.
Keith’s take: Thiel, vs. Juniata.
The Tomcats won 11 games in 2005, but now are coming off consecutive 0-10 seasons and 22 consecutive losses. Juniata, meanwhile, is 6-54 since that 2005 season, so if there was ever an opportunity for Theil to break the streak, now is the time. Hamline (16 consecutive losses) at Minnesota-Morris is another candidate.