Podcast: Strange, and happy endings

This is what it looked like -- Dennis Dunn got pretty far out onto the field. (Texas Lutheran athletics video)

This is what it looked like — Dennis Dunn got pretty far out onto the field.
(Texas Lutheran athletics video)

What’s the sound of a team snapping a 31-game losing streak? Or of a team’s dreams vanishing in a last-second mistake?

You’ll hear both of those, and get Keith and Pat’s take on it in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast.

I mean, really, the head coach runs all the way out to the 10-yard line to try to stop his quarterback from spiking it? Definitely kept him from doing so. That was the talker of Saturday night, along with Tufts snapping its long losing streak. And UW-Whitewater’s long bus ride. And other things said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, game balls were handed out, and more. It’s Week 3 of the retooled Around the Nation Podcast, so listen in.

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Plus, the D3football.com Postgame Show is back: Check out highlights and reports from games across Division III. Are we missing your highlights? Post in the comments below.

Triple Take: Going down the rabbit hole

From a huge rivalry game to a couple of stellar Top 25 matchups, there’s no shortage of things to keep an eye on this week among Division III’s elite.

But if you read our Around the Region columns and listen to the ATN Podcast, you already know how deep the rabbit hole goes with all the stories, teams and players that make up small-college football. There so much more going on than what will fit in this Triple Take space, but Pat Coleman (@d3football), Keith McMillan (@D3Keith) and Ryan Tipps (@NewsTipps) break down the week ahead and some of the games that are on our radars.

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 Wesley at No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Two Top 5 teams. Perennial deep playoff runs. History of great clashes. New UMHB stadium. New Crusader starting quarterback. Wolverines coming off hail mary win. Saturday under the lights. Pick your reason why this game will be exciting. There’s no wrong answer.
Keith’s take: No. 5 Wesley at No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor. Given that I already wrote about that here though, perhaps some fresh thoughts on No. 22 Cal Lutheran at No. 3 Linfield will suffice? Pacific Lutheran rushed for 234 yards against CLU last week, and Linfield ran for nearly 300 against Hardin-Simmons, including more than 150 from quarterbacks. The Kingsmen, tied at 24, couldn’t get off the field during PLU’s game-winning drive. Linfield might keep it on the ground at key times and eke out yet another win over its class-of-the-West-Coast rival.
Pat’s take: No. 5 Wesley at No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor. Normally we try not to repeat games but let’s be honest, this is it. Once upon a time the Tommie-Johnnie game could have measured up or Linfield-Cal Lutheran, but not this year.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Sul Ross State at Trinity.
It’s a bit hard to get a handle on the Lobos since they have yet to take the field against a D-III opponent. Their ability to get a rushing game going against the Tigers’ mid-range run defense will be the key to Sul Ross getting points on the board and staying in this one.
Keith’s take: Louisiana College at Huntingdon. If it was billed as top-level ASC team against team picked to finish middle of USAC, it might sound like it won’t be close, but this will be. The Wildcats and Hawks are each off to very good starts (Huntingdon won 35-7 at ASC member Mississippi College on Sept. 14, and LC has two wins over NAIA teams). The Wildcats dominated Webber International statistically last week, but needed to cap a 16-play drive with the game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds left, partially because 12 penalties for 171 yards set them back. Huntingdon had eight penalties of its own, and completed just 15 passes last week, so unless both teams clean up their acts, the game could stay close because both sides’ miscues keep the other in it.
Pat’s take: Redlands at No. 11 Pacific Lutheran. This game will not be as far apart as a game between a near-Top 10 team and a team not quite receiving votes would expect to be. Both teams have been tested early, and Redlands could well be up to the task.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 23 Baldwin Wallace.
I could see the Yellow Jackets’ game against John Carroll coming down to which offense has the ball last. Both teams put up some wild offensive stats in their first games, and Baldwin Wallace has the most to lose as the team surely has its eyes on a conference prize if Mount Union shows any bit of vulnerability in the next few weeks.
Keith’s take: No major upsets. Wesley and Cal Lutheran won’t count as upsets if they lose to higher-ranked top-25 teams. I’m intrigued by Redlands at No. 11 Pacific Lutheran, Albright hosting No. 21 Delaware Valley and the two top-25 games involving OAC teams, but I wouldn’t pick them in writing.
Pat’s take: No. 21 Delaware Valley. You’d have to believe that Albright is gong to come out more than a little fired up and focused after losing to Stevenson last week and putting the Mustangs … say, on the radar. Albright might not win the MAC this season, but they’re talented enough to knock off a contender, especially one coming to Reading.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Stevenson.
The Mustangs are carrying a solid opening set into this Friday night matchup against FDU-Florham. I’ll be interested to see how well they can hang onto the ball after Florham showed last week that it likes to pressure teams into making turnovers. The Devils edged out TCNJ in a low-scoring game thanks primarily to forcing five of them. Stevenson, in only its third year, could prove this week and in the next couple that it is a team ready to contend.
Keith’s take: Ohio Wesleyan. Two of last year’s surprise teams, not just in the NCAC but nationally, meet this week when Kenyon hosts the Battling Bishops. OWU would seem to have the edge, with a week off since its season-opening win over Bluffton and the Lords coming off a 25-15 loss at Earlham in which they gained only 221 yards. With both teams playing Wabash and Wittenberg this season, I’m looking for something to indicate whether QB Mason Espinosa and OWU will be a contender for a conference title. Hey, let’s keep it in the NCAC …
Pat’s take: Hiram. No, seriously. Readers of Kickoff know why I say so — they have a transfer quarterback who played at Notre Dame … even if it is the Division II school in Ohio. Rob Partridge is listed as a freshman in the Terriers’ stats, but don’t let that fool you: He’s actually a senior. And with that experience, he’s going to have Hiram in a lot more games than it would have been in last year. If he plays, that is, since he didn’t finish last week’s game at Denison.

Which 0-2 team will earn its first win?
Ryan’s take: Kean.
While the final score last week appears to have been a thorough beating at the hands of Mary Hardin-Baylor, it belies the closeness of the matchup at halftime, when UMHB had just a 3-0 lead. The Crusaders, of course, made adjustments under center and elsewhere, and took off from there, but the fact that Kean was able to hang with such a good team for such a long time and force a couple of turnovers has to give them confidence going up against Endicott this week.
Keith’s take: Salisbury. The Gulls might take the frustration of losing to two top-25 teams by a total of 10 points out on N.C. Wesleyan. It’s a new season and all, and a fresh coaching staff for the (other) Battling Bishops, but Salisbury won 69-6 at home last year.
Pat’s take: Susqhenanna. In a matchup of 0-2 teams, I take Susquehanna over Dickinson. It’s puzzling how poorly Dickinson has been playing so far this season, while Susquehanna has at least looked decent in one game, at Merchant Marine in the season opener.

Which team is far topping your expectations?
Ryan’s take: Juniata.
You have to go back at least a decade to find a season in which the Eagles have started 2-0. And while coach and Juniata grad Tim Launtz showed last season, in his sophomore year at the helm, that he is serious about turning the team around, he’s following through with that goal splendidly this fall. The next couple weeks could be bumpy for Juniata, with Gettysburg this week then Franklin and Marshall and Johns Hopkins, but there’s a lot for these players to be happy about. Junior quarterback Ward Udinski has 634 passing yards in just two games, with more than 100 yards rushing. This is a team that could sneak up on some of the top teams in the conference if they let their guard down.
Keith’s take: Olivet. I listed a handful of mildly surprising 2-0 teams in Off the Beaten Path, and the Comets get more acknowledgement here not just for winning at Wilmington and then beating Wisconsin Lutheran so far. It’s that there’s no reason it should stop. This week’s opponent, Rockford, is 0-2 and 2-30 since the start of the 2010 season, and 0-2 North Park and 0-2 Alma follow.
Pat’s take: Emory and Henry. So far, at least. Not just beating Ferrum, but crushing them, and then beating Maryville as well. Even though the ODAC has generally owned the USA South in recent years, that’s a convincing butt-kicking of the Panthers. And even though E&H generally beats Ferrum soundly in Emory, it’s still a bit of a surprise to me because I was thinking E&H was on a bit of a downslide.

Color me red.
Ryan’s take: Olivet.
This is another one of those teams that could fall under “far topping my expectations,” but since their uniforms are Scarlet, I get an opportunity to talk about them in this category instead. The Comets have already notched their best season in years. And with Rockford and North Park over the next two weeks before MIAA play begins, it’s no stretch to think Olivet could be 4-0 and looking to rattle some conference cages behind Braden Black at quarterback and his go-to receiver, Dan Hugan. The weakness in their armor, though, is the pass defense (statistically 211th in Division III), which will need to improve if Olivet hopes to take this success to the next level.
Keith’s take: Bates. Hey Ryan, my bad for using Olivet, didn’t know you’d be shooting stars down here when I wrote that. (See what I did there?) Maybe I should have given 2-0 Hope some love instead. The good folks in Michigan will appreciate the Olivet nods, but anyway, Bates … So yeah, the NESCAC gets underway this week, and the Bobcats get conference favorite Trinity right off the bat. I’m responsible for a portion of the Bantams’ also receiving votes in the top 25, so I’m not picking Bates so much as I’m watching to see signs that last year’s 5-3 season was no fluke. Jeff Hetzel and Damon Hatheway were high on Bates in Kickoff, and assuming that quarterback battle is settled, we’ll get an indication of whether that 6-2 prediction could be on the money.
Pat’s take: UW-River Falls. After a close loss to St. John’s and a non-embarrassing loss to No. 2 St. Thomas, it’s time for UW-River Falls to hit the road. While that involves something different than the first two games at home did, I think River Falls will be just a bit on the rise this season.

Triple Take: The penultimate week

It’s make or break time for a lot of teams. Players and coaches will be hunting for that last push toward the postseason and will be keeping an eye on the national landscape as teams fall in and out of contention for conference qualifiers and at-large bids.

We’ve also gotten our first look at the regional rankings that give us a good snapshot in time as to which teams could be playoff bound. Few, though, can rest on their laurels. Even one-win teams can sneak up and bite you. It’s happened before. Spoilers are lurking everywhere.

Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you their looks at Week 10.

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 7 North Central at No. 24 Wheaton.
I love the Little Brass Bell rivalry game, even though the Cardinals have dominated the matchup the last few seasons. Importantly for two-loss Wheaton, another defeat here means they will slip entirely out of playoff contention. So more than just pride is certainly on the line. North Central, on the other hand, can clinch a playoff spot because of head-to-head wins against the other top teams in the CCIW – and they still have the chance to run the table with a victory the final week against Augustana. In only one win this season has North Central failed to score at least 40 points, and that was a 37-pointer against UW-Stout. Wheaton’s defense will need to be on its toes if it doesn’t want to spend the day playing on its heels.
Pat’s take: No. 1 Mount Union at No. 23 Baldwin Wallace (maybe). At this point, it’s not even sure Baldwin Wallace can host this game. On Wednesday the playing surface was underwater and on Thursday afternoon there was still no electricity to the stadium. BW, which already has to deal with not being as talented as Mount Union (like most of Division III is), has the additional distraction of the revelation this week that Baldwin Wallace declared its athletic teams ineligible for the playoffs. Now, why I’m picking this game as my game of the week is the history that BW often gives Mount Union a tough game (last year, 25-20). And now BW has nothing left to lose and can really only play spoiler. It should be an interesting game for that standpoint alone.
Keith’s take: No. 4 St. Thomas at No. 17 Concordia-Moorhead. No game on Saturday will have as much of a domino effect on the playoffs. Fringe Pool C teams will have an interest in seeing the Tommies win in Moorhead, while MIAC boosters could push for the Cobbers to win, which would put three conference teams on the path to the postseason. It’s the most significant conference road trip, the Tommies have been playing through some injuries, and the Cobbers have been pointed towards this game ever since they were stunned on the final play at Bethel. Brett Baune rushes for 109 of the Cobbers’ 262 yards per game on the ground, while the Tommies are fifth in the nation in run defense, allowing 56.75 yards per game.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Hardin-Simmons at Texas Lutheran.
The Bulldogs played the pass-heavy Louisiana College last week to overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if they can repeat the feat against Hardin-Simmons, which throws for nearly 400 yards a game.
Pat’s take: Greensboro at Christopher Newport. Only once in the 11-year history of the series has Greensboro even been within one score of CNU. This might be the best Greensboro team in the program’s brief history, however (started in 1997), and the Pride have never finished with a record of above .500. This might not be the year but a split in the final two games to go 5-5 is definitely possible.
Keith’s take: Brockport State at Montclair State. It’s been an unusually rough 3-5 season for the Redhawks. But being fortunate enough to have a game in North Jersey this week when the other local teams are all cancelled might tap into to something that the Redhawks haven’t been able to draw out this season. The 5-3 Golden Eagles have been all over the board, scoring 35 or more four times and 6 or less twice. Defensively, they’ve given up 45 to Cortland State and held Lycoming to 2. Montclair State’s Bill Roman has assumed the main ballcarrier’s role the past three games, and has rushed for 393 yards.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 21 Franklin.
The Grizzlies have been nothing short of dominant in conference play this season, shutting out three of their last four opponents. But these final two weeks show Franklin running smack-dab into the second- and third-best teams in the HCAC. This week, Bluffton is the kind of team that can do a lot more damage to Franklin’s passing attack than most other opponents and could give the Griz a run for its money.
Pat’s take: No. 18 Heidelberg. John Carroll has had an interesting season, beating all the teams it has been expected to beat and losing to the teams it should lose to. This is a step up for John Carroll, but Mark Myers, the transfer quarterback from Pitt, has had a great season for the Blue Streaks. With as much talent as Heidelberg has on offense, JCU may well have the biggest offensive talent on the field.
Keith’s take: No. 16 Salisbury. The Sea Gulls, who I once had ranked as high as sixth on my ballot, have looked vulnerable the past two weeks. And as good as Alfred and Ithaca are, Utica is passing for 350 yards per game and has allowed 14 points over the past three games. Salisbury is at home, and brings its trademark option attack to the table, so a shootout could be in order.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Adrian.
In our preseason Kickoff 2012 publication, the Bulldogs were the team I picked to be the surprise playoff entry. Now, they stand at 5-0 in conference play with only one more MIAA game to go. That means they’ve already clinched a share of the conference title for the first time in 15 years, but I’m sure they’ll be happier knocking off Albion this week and sweeping the conference. And a win would give them momentum heading into the final game, a nonconference tilt again Huntingdon. Adrian has almost flown under the radar all season, quietly stacking up the nation’s third best defense statistically and keeping every MIAA opponent to single digits in scoring. They can’t look past Albion, of course (the Britons did beat Wheaton early this season), but the Bulldogs should be very optimistic about their chances and looking forward to their first postseason berth since 1988.
Pat’s take: Buffalo State. Just about everyone else’s most surprising playoff entry is eliminated (except Jason Bailey, who picked Ferrum) so I’m looking at a surprise that unsurprised and could do so again. The Bengals have never been as explosive offensively as they were in Week 1, a win against Cortland State which still puzzles, and Ryan Lehotsky has been running the offense the past week and a half instead of Casey Kacz. Buff State has already outdone the Empire 8 coaches’ poll and our more optimistic preseason predictions. Now the goal is to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2000. And beat two teams that went to the Elite 8 and beyond last year.
Keith’s take: Tufts. We’ve seen a handful of major losing streaks kick the bucket over the past few weeks, and now it’s the Jumbos’ turn. Tufts has lost 21 in a row, but gets a visit from 1-5 Colby on Saturday. The Jumbos are coming off a rough stretch, having to play Amherst, Williams and Trinity consecutively, but they were competitive early in the season against Bates and Bowdoin. Before we turn our attention completely to the postseason, I’ll be looking for one more regular-season win that gives a team the first taste of victory.

A team that will clinch a share of the conference title on Saturday.
Ryan’s take: Widener.
Rightly or wrongly, I got on the Widener bandwagon early in the season, before the Pride had really proven themselves. Close wins against Lebanon Valley and Lycoming helped to separate Widener from the rest of the MAC. But even though a win over FDU-Florham will give the undefeated Pride a share of the conference title, they still have to beat Delaware Valley next weekend to avoid a three-way tie at the top of the MAC and to assure themselves a trip to the playoffs. (Wait, what’s that? The Widener/Florham game is canceled? Well, shucks, that throws us into a conundrum. Widener, at worse, would be a one-loss team, but DelVal potentially could have more conference wins than the Pride. Anyone know the MAC’s championship rules off the top of their heads? Either way, I’m sure Keith and Pat have some winners to talk about here:)
Pat’s take: Salisbury. I know there is some rumbling that Utica has a shot to take down Salisbury but I don’t see it. Using last year’s game, played in Week 5 at the end of a seven and a half hour drive by Salisbury, doesn’t equate to winning in Salisbury. Now, I’ll admit, the Sea Gulls offense, even on turf, hasn’t been putting up the same type of points in recent weeks, but I don’t think there’s enough to get Utica over the top.
Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays have no easy matchup, with 6-2 Franklin & Marshall on deck. JHU has averaged nearly 500 yards of offense, with RB Jonathan Rigaud leading the way, and F&M allows 133 rushing yards per game. That’s not terrible, but it’s a sign that there might be an opening for the Blue Jays. F&M has given up 28 or more points in four games already, and it’s doubtful they’ll hold high-powered Johns Hopkins down.

Which season turnaround has been the most interesting?
Ryan’s take: Brockport State.
And not in the good-turnaround sort of way. After starting the season beating Lycoming and Buffalo State (which would then go on to beat UW-Whitewater), Brockport put itself on a lot of people’s watch lists. The team even enjoyed a 17th-place spot in the poll. But the conference portion of the season has been hard on the Golden Eagles, who have eked out a .500 performance. The final two games, against Montclair State and Morrisville State, have winability written all over them. They’re not sure things, but Brockport could end the season swinging with a 7-3 record.
Pat’s take: Ohio Wesleyan. And most interesting to me has been how the Battling Bishops have threatened to make the last NCAC season without a full round-robin a tiebreaking nightmare. You know, interesting like a trainwreck. Allegheny can save the NCAC from some of this ignominy, but then again, Allegheny lost to Kenyon, so it’s not a guarantee.
Keith’s take: Lake Forest. The Foresters haven’t finished above .500 since 2004, but at 8-1, they’ve clinched that and are in line for a playoff spot. Statistically they haven’t overwhelmed, yet they’ve survived on heart, winning five games by a touchdown or less. That’s a recipe for a heck of ride, if nothing else.

Which team will rise in the regional rankings next week, and why?
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney.
There no reason to think that, when Hampden-Sydney and Washington and Lee line up this weekend, it won’t be a shootout. In rushing offense, W&L is at the top of the stat sheet; in passing offense, H-SC is Top 40. While I think the Tigers are clicking more right now, that doesn’t mean the Generals won’t put up one heck of a fight. Both teams are in the regional rankings and looking to move up. More importantly, both want to secure their spot to be playing on Nov. 17.
Pat’s take: North Central (Ill.). At least, they should. The Cardinals’ strength of schedule should increase, while Concordia-Chicago’s should decrease. And if it doesn’t happen this week, it should next week. It would be better if it happened this week, so that the final public ranking reflects this change, rather than waiting for the secret ranking.
Keith’s take: Coe. One of the MIAC teams above is guaranteed to lose. The Kohawks should move to 9-0 on Saturday against Loras, but their rise up the rankings is capped because they have no games against regionally ranked opponents.