Triple Take: Penultimate picks

Either Wabash or Wittenberg will clinch the NCAC automatic bid Saturday.
Wabash athletics photo by Howard Hewitt

The long-awaited regional rankings are here, and we can expect to see at least a couple of teams clinch their conferences and their paths to the playoffs. All that on top of another week in which we see four games between Top 25 teams — dramatically narrowing the choices of Pat, Keith and Ryan for “Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.”

But there are plenty of other categories for them to spread their wings (bird reference; we’ll circle back to that later) here in the Week 10 Triple Take predictions:

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 16 Wittenberg at No. 13 Wabash.
Playing the homer card here, because as expected, this matchup is poised to determine which red-and-white-clad “W” team gets to go to the playoffs. The Little Giants have been rolling week after week, logging three shutouts this season already. But have they been tested? Not significantly. That has made their No. 3 statistical ranking in total defense and their top spot in turnover margin seem exaggerated. But, to be sure, there has to be talent and depth to get to these numbers against any collegiate competition, so while the schedule has been favorable, Wabash’s place in the poll isn’t necessarily unjustified. Wittenberg is a bit in the same boat, though the Tigers can boast having faced at least one very solid team in Butler, a nonscholarship Division I-FCS squad that beat the Tigers badly. Witt is ninth nationally in total offense, and 19th in defense. For more than a decade, this has been a marquee NCAC matchup. That doesn’t change on Saturday.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Heidelberg at No. 14 John Carroll. I’m going to say this out loud right now, and this is rare for me — this is a matchup I think the AFCA poll has right and we don’t. They have John Carroll ranked higher than Heidelberg. Although this requires a leap of faith to do so, I agree with them.
Keith’s take: No. 4 North Central at No. 19 Wheaton. Guess that leaves me this game. Honestly, I’d have taken the ‘Berg at John Carroll, but it’s Week 10 and I wrote down 25 games of interest in my pre-Triple Take exercise. There’s GOTW candidates everywhere. The weird thing about this one is, in light of North Central’s 46-17 win over Illinois Wesleyan, and the Titans’ 30-19 win over Wheaton, the Thunder are 40 points down in the three-way tiebreaker formula. But with a win, they can stay in the Pool C picture — which in my opinion is currently Heidelberg/John Carroll winner, UW-Platteville/UW-Oshkosh winner, Wittenberg/Wabash loser, Pacific Lutheran, Concordia-Moorhead (which faces St. Thomas this week), Illinois Wesleyan and the fourth Pool B team. For five spots. Wheaton would need to slow down NCC QB Spencer Stanek and the nation’s fifth-best offense (527.8 yards/game). The Cardinals’ balance (NCC rushes for 251 and passes for 276.8/game) will make it next to impossible.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve at Washington University.
Both teams have had moments of epic floundering this fall, while both have also showed signs of brilliance. As a few prominent Pool B teams picked up extra losses recently, Washington could be on the bubble of a playoff spot, especially if their only two losses remain those to undefeated UW-Whitewater and to two-loss Coe. The Bears have a lot to play for, and previous seasons have consistently shown their game against the Spartans to be a defensive struggle.
Pat’s take: Randolph-Macon at Bridgewater. The Eagles snapped a four-game losing streak, one that was pretty ugly, last week. With archrival Hampden-Sydney looming next week, perhaps Randolph-Macon is vulnerable here, and perhaps Bridgewater is going to play like the conference favorite we somehow thought they would be. (Although the conference coaches’ poll had them just three points out of first as well.)
Keith’s take: Franklin & Marshall at Johns Hopkins. This will be surprisingly close on the national scene, but those who closely follow the Centennial Conference remember that the Diplomats won this game in a similar situation last season, and Johns Hopkins still went on to win a first-round playoff game, 42-10. The Blue Jays are 8-0 and dominant offensively — No. 4 nationally at 529 yards a game, including 271 rushing. They’re also a top 25 defensive outfit in several categories, and they’re home at Homewood. So why F&M? It’s scored 35 or more four out of five weeks, it allows less than 50% of third downs to convert and knowing they’ve beaten the Blue Jays recently, they won’t be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the game.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 24 Ithaca.
Prior to last week, the Bombers had been the only Empire 8 team to have beaten Salisbury since the Gulls entered the conference. Both teams have a playoff spot that they are struggling for — meaning everything is on the line here.
Pat’s take: No. 18 St. Thomas. This is just a bookkeeping upset, really. I think there are some voters who have St. Thomas still ranked highly anticipating this game and thinking the Tommies can beat the Cobbers and justify where they’re listed. As down as the Tommies have appeared this season, though, they are still just a missed kick from being 9-1 and shoot, they were in the game at Bethel a heck of a lot longer than I would have thought. I went right picking St. John’s in this spot last week and now I’m giving the other side of that rivalry the business as well, I suppose.
Keith’s take: No. 23 Millsaps. The unbeaten Majors are at home against 6-2 Centre, a team that has had wild swings of effectiveness this season. When the Colonels are on, they can put up numbers; they average 462 yards of offense a game, including 190 on the ground. RB Harry Meisner will have quite a task in upstaging Millsaps RB Mike Barthelmy. An upset, however, would set off a race between the Colonels team bus or flight back to Kentucky, and all the thank-you letters coming in from Framingham, Mass., Dover, Del. and other hometowns of teams on the Pool B fringe.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Moravian.
In case you missed Around the Mid-Atlantic this week, Moravian has sloughed off a 12-game slide and now has won two in a row, with Juniata (also the subject of an ATMA column earlier this season) on tap. A win here for the Greyhounds could breathe new life and momentum into their Week 11 rivalry game at Muhlenberg.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. That’s if they can deal with the 10-hour bus ride to Greenville, that is. This is a winner-take-all game for the UMAC and while it would be further off most people’s radar to take Greenville, I like the Saints here.
Keith’s take: Texas Lutheran. The Bulldogs, on the heels of their win over Lousiana College, are a lock for a Pool B playoff spot if they finish the season with wins over Hardin-Simmons and Howard Payne. Saturday’s game against the Cowboys is a lock for 900 yards and 90 points between the teams. QB Brent Peavy going against the HSU defense (235th-best in scoring, allowing 45.5 points/game) could mean those are distributed 60-30, and 600 yards to 300. But I’ll have it on my radar in case it gets in 47-43, 470-yards to 430 territory. The Cowboys average 445 yards and 39 points themselves, but could be demoralized after a 63-7 loss to No. 3 UMHB was followed by a loss to previously winless Sul Ross State.

Which team will clinch a playoff spot this weekend?
Ryan’s take: Gallaudet.
The 8-0 team has already beaten the second- and third-best teams in the ECFC. For a school that dropped its team to club in the ’90s and slowly returned it to collegiate form, history will be made when the Bison clinch Saturday afternoon.
Pat’s take: Franklin. Such are the days of the Grizzlies’ lives. It’s only because Rose-Hulman hasn’t lost any other conference games since losing to Franklin. The Grizzlies are an immovable force, at least within the HCAC.
Keith’s take: UW-Whitewater. Too bad Ryan mentions St. Lawrence-Hobart below, I wanted to make reference to the ‘bart stars here. I’ll go with the sixth-ranked Warhawks, who will be able to pound the rock against a game UW-Stevens Point team that has already faced No. 4 North Central, No. 8 UW-Oshkosh and No. 11 UW-Platteville, which it only lost to by one point. The UW-W title was no forgone conclusion as the season kicked off, but as it stands, the WIAC title might not be the last it wins.

Which regionally ranked team will see its fortunes change?
Ryan’s take: St. Lawrence, No. 10 in the East.
Only because the Saints will be getting bounced out of the regional rankings after this week’s game against Hobart. A close game won’t help them. A loss, and they’re gone.
Pat’s take: Washington U., No. 8 in the South. The Bears have been banged up at running back and have been just squeaking by. Nearly losing to Macalester makes it difficult for me to like their chances vs. Case.
Keith’s take: Hope, No. 10 in the North. There’s more than regional rankings to worry about in Holland, Mich., but Flying Dutchmen can gain a lot of ground during their Week 10 bye. For starters, MIAA leader Albion (4-0, 6-2) travels to Adrian (3-2, 6-3), and a not-that-unlikely-upset won’t change the status of the Week 11 Hope-Albion clash — but it could soften the Britons up before the Flying Dutchmen get their crack. Also, in the North, regionally ranked teams face off in the NCAC, OAC and CCIW, so a slide up the NCAA’s rankings by next Wednesday is possible as well.

This one’s for the birds.
Ryan’s take: The Hawks of Huntingdon.
The Hawks finish out their season with two of their toughest conference matchups — Methodist and Maryville. Win out, and Huntingdon will be in the playoffs in just its first year in the USA South. But I’m not sure Huntingdon can pull it off. A win this weekend is a sound bet; a win in Week 11 isn’t something I’d put my money on.
Pat’s take: The Blue Jays of Johns Hopkins. That’s where they’ll be clinching the Centennial Conference automatic bid to the playoffs for the fourth time in five season.
Keith’s take: The Cardinals of Wesleyan. Amherst-Williams is known as the littlest big game in America, but it’s not even the biggest in the NESCAC this week. The Cardinals, a one-win team as recently as 2008, aim to finish off their first 8-0 season since 1969. Wesleyan is already Little Three champs, having beaten Amherst and Williams, but their rival a half-hour down I-91 (or the Connecticut River, for those inclined) is the thing that stands in the way of perfection. And to make it better, Trinity has been the NESCAC power for a decade. It hasn’t lost more than two games in a season since 2001, but after a 5-0 start lost close ones to Middlebury and Amherst. The game is in Hartford, and Wesleyan allows 239 yards a game, with nobody scoring more than 14 on them this season. The chance is there to cap perfection by smothering a geographic rival and conference powerhouse on its own field.

Triple Take: Conference clashes underway

In 2005, Kyle Gearman shocked Concordia-Moorhead with a 74-yard touchdown catch with under 30 seconds left. SJU hosts the Cobbers this weekend.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

Almost every team in an automatic-qualifying conference will have a conference game under its belt by the end of the weekend.

For those teams off to a rough start in nonconference action, now is the time to refocus and use what was learned in previous weeks to try to make a mark in conference play and reach for the AQ. For many, it is, or was, a new beginning to the season.

So which teams can turn things around, and which ones are out to prove that they’re more than just their nonconference record? Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps walk you through some of the best this weekend has to offer.

Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Hope at Illinois Wesleyan.
I’m veering off the Top 25 pack a bit this week, but both teams are undefeated, with the Titans getting a fair number of votes in the poll. More significantly, though, is that each of these teams have been putting up some wild numbers against the competition, with neither team scoring fewer than 37 points in their five combined victories. And no opponent has been within 20 points at the end of four quarters. What does this mean? Well, each team is facing its stiffest test of the season, and this could be a breakout moment for one of them.
Keith’s take: No. 11 Wesley at Birmingham Southern. This is the first time in the history of Triple Take I’ve filled out all the below categories first, while skipping over Game of the Week to come back to it. It’s that kind of week. I nearly went with Cortland State at St. John Fisher or Pat’s game below in this slot, but it’s been a long time since the Wolverines were beaten so thoroughly in a regular season game, and the fate of the top 25 and Pool B rests on how they respond. B-SC is 3-0 and along with Huntingdon and Louisiana College is a deep south team that’s had its shot to beat the Wolverines but hasn’t been able to close the deal. All three of those teams are in the ‘can win 7-8 games and occasionally make the playoffs’ tier, and B-SC is the latest to get a chance at national recognition. The host Panthers have a shot because they can score — 143 points in three wins — but they’ve only been able to outscore in 2013 — they’ve allowed at least 32 points in each game, and Wesley brings a caliber of athlete B-SC hasn’t faced since a 26-17 loss in Delaware last season.

Hope has started off 3-0, but faces a more significant test this week in Illinois Wesleyan.
Hope College photo by Tom Renner

Pat’s take: Concordia-Moorhead at No. 21 St. John’s. This series has had a recent history of tight games and dramatic finishes. And St. John’s has had a particularly recent history of both, having won its three games this year by a TOTAL of eight points. All the signs point to a great game. Will it be a letdown for the Johnnies after the big win last week?

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Washington at Centre.
The Colonels are riding a three-game win streak, while the Bears are just 1-2. However, WashU hasn’t let opponents get out of reach (and that includes UW-Whitewater), and that striking distance could work out to their benefit. Centre has a defense that can be taken advantage of at times, and WashU can be in the game if they spot those times.
Keith’s take: Olivet at North Park. The more I looked at the slate, the more I found games I want to be tight but I think are going to be surprisingly not close (like Illinois College at Ripon, Montclair State at Rowan, or Williams at Trinity, Conn.). The Comets are 3-0, the Vikings 0-2. But Olivet is new money — at 1-39 the previous four seasons, they aren’t used to going on the road and winning. North Park (7-31 from 2009 to 2012) earned its only win last season, 46-21 in Michigan. This time around Olivet is making the three-hour bus ride to Chicago, and North Park is coming off a bye week.
Pat’s take: Stevenson at No. 22 Delaware Valley. Pretty sure Stevenson has never started a season 4-0. Stevenson had only won four games in the entire history of the program before the season started. I could consider picking this game in the next category down, as well. If you haven’t paid that close attention the first couple of weeks this year, you might get caught unaware of where the Mustangs have come, and there are enough questions about the Aggies to give one pause, that’s all.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: None.
On paper, this appears to be an easy week for the Top 25, as long as one of the teams at the top doesn’t get caught sleeping….
Keith’s take: No. 16 Johns Hopkins. Since it wouldn’t be much of an upset if Concordia-Moorhead beat No. 21 St. John’s or Lycoming beat No. 24 Widener, I’ll ride the Mules. The Blue Jays are still favorites, and for the upset to happen, Muhlenberg would have to figure out how to score on Johns Hopkins, which has given up no more than 14 points in each of its three games. The Mules have hung a 59 and a 58 on the score board this season, but against its only quality opponent, they scored 21 (in a loss to Franklin & Marshall).
Pat’s take: No. 11 Wesley. This probably comes from seeing the Wolverines dismantled by Mary Hardin-Baylor last week, but I’m a little concerned about Wesley in this key Pool B clash. Without the diversity on offense … or even a lot of success last week, Wesley looked a little ordinary and could be in trouble this week.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: East Texas Baptist.
If you read this week’s Around the South column, you know that ETBU has been lighting things up through the air, with a nation-leading 435.5 yards per game passing. However, the opponents from the Tigers’ first two games are currently winless. Not so with Saturday’s opponent, Willamette. The Bearcats gave up a lot of points in their wins, so ETBU (which posted 50-plus in its two outings) might be able to run away with this one. Let’s just see which quarterback they use most.
Keith’s take: The Cleveland area. My friends Lacy and Kipp are heading to Cleveland for other sporting events this weekend, and asked me a few weeks ago how good the Otterbein at John Carroll game would be, since they were going to go. That, plus a tweet that noted that No. 1 Mount Union and No. 2 Linfield will be playing on miles apart on Saturday, got me intrigued. Someone interested in seeing a bunch of competitive D-III teams on one day — a WesleyDad of the Midwest, as it were — could catch six without leaving the Cleveland area. Linfield is at Case Western Reserve at noon, Muskingum is at Baldwin-Wallace at 2 p.m., and then the aforementioned Cardinals face the Blue Streaks at 7 p.m., which leaves just enough time for dinner in between Games 2 and 3.
Pat’s take: Huntingdon. Yeah. I’m a week late to this party. Keith was all over this last week. Struggling Ferrum makes the trip to Alabama for the first time to see the Hawks and I don’t expect the southern hospitality to extend between the lines.

Which team could get caught looking ahead?
Ryan’s take: Wooster.
Hiram is coming off its first shutout win in nearly two decades, and Wooster has Wabash on the horizon in Week 5. The Scots would do themselves a favor to make sure they focus on the task at hand rather than the beast that lies beyond.
Keith’s take: No. 10 Pacific Lutheran. The Lutes’ game at Linfield is by far the most compelling matchup of Week 5, and of the other teams that have big games next week, most don’t have games they could possibly lose this week. There’s Wesley, which plays Birmingham Southern and then Huntingdon, but after being humbled more or less in consecutive weeks, there’s no way they look ahead. I don’t expect PLU to lose, but it’s all I got.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Pacific Lutheran. The Lutes travel to UW-Eau Claire, a team St. Thomas beat 52-7. Pacific Lutheran has Linfield next week. That, plus the trip a little over halfway across the continent could spell trouble for Pacific Lutheran if not handled well.

Which undefeated team is going to pick up its first loss?
Ryan’s take: Merchant Marine.
While the Mariners are an impressive 3-0, they’ve hardly been getting in the victory column in convincing fashion. And that bodes poorly when lining up against a Top 10 team like Hobart.
Keith’s take: Juniata. So far the Eagles are one of my favorite stories of the season, so if they win at Franklin & Marshall, I will eat crow for all the long-suffering Juniata fans. The Diplomats — I couldn’t decide if they were historical peoples, a joke you’ll understand in a few paragraphs — are 1-2, but nearly won the opener at defending ODAC champion Washington & Lee, and beat Muhlenberg before losing at Ursinus. So the slate is a little tougher than what Juniata has faced so far — Thiel, Dickinson and Gettysburg are 2-7, and the records coming in could be misleading. It’s about to get real for Ward Udinski and the Eagles anyway; If they win at F&M, they should enjoy it. Johns Hopkins, Ursinus and Muhlenberg are the next three opponents.
Pat’s take: UW-Stevens Point. A trip to North Central isn’t really a good sign the way things are clicking for the Cardinals right now. North Central has run through the middle-to-bottom of the WIAC the past couple of weeks and there isn’t much reason to think this will be different.

Which historical peoples is most intriguing?
Ryan’s take: The Pioneers of Grinnell.
Grinnell is hunting for its first win and is clearly not the same kind of team offensively in the wake of injured quarterback Sam Poulos. Last week, especially, the defense was tasked with keeping the team in its game against MWC leader Lake Forest, and the unit was largely successful – evidence of how senior-laden the team is on that side of the ball. If the Pioneers can manage a game when both sides are clicking, they can log wins this weekend against Beloit and onward through the season.
Keith’s take: The Saints of Thomas More. One of my favorite parts of Triple Take each week is scrolling down to see what Ryan has picked as the last question. Waynesburg’s visit to Kentucky is intriguing because the Yellow Jackets, 3-0 this season, have won 14 of their past 15 games. But during that stretch, they haven’t had to win a big game on the road. Muskingum, Bethany, Geneva and Thiel were all three-win teams last season, St. Vincent was 0-10 and the Yellow Jackets’ road win this year was at 1-2 Frostburg State. Thomas More is 2-0, back in the top 25 and hasn’t surrendered a point. So for both sides it’s the first test of how legitimate a contender each will be, and the winner gets a leg up in the PAC title race.
Pat’s take: The Colonials of Western Connecticut. I’m very interested to see how the Colonials do against Framingham State. Western Connecticut has started the season 2-0, but has done so against teams that were a combined 3-17 last season. Here they’ll take on the MASCAC favorite and we’ll find out how close Western is to actually contending for the MASCAC title. We already knew they would be competitive in the new league, where they were not competitive in the NJAC. But while Rowan held Melikke Van Alstyne to 63 yards, Western Connecticut may not be so lucky.

Your handy guide to Pool C

Lycoming is on our list, but will the Warriors ever get on the board?
Lycoming athletics photo

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By Keith McMillan

For the purposes of discussing Pool C on Monday’s podcast, Pat Coleman and I ran a loose projection of what regional rankings would look like after Saturday’s games (new ones come out Wednesday afternoon). Then we took a look at the teams who have the best chances at securing the seven at-large playoff bids.

Given last week’s regional rankings and last Saturday’s upsets, some changed, but not much. In the East, we move St. John Fisher out and Delaware Valley in. In the South, Franklin & Marshall takes the place of Hampden-Sydney. In the North, Wabash tumbles from fourth out of the ten regionally ranked teams, while Wheaton joins, and slots no lower than sixth. In the West, losses by Bethel and Concordia-Moorhead weren’t enough to push them out, which meant teams like Illinois College, St. Olaf and Willamette, which might be ranked in less competitive regions, are still on the outside looking in.

With that part of the exercise complete, Pat and I were able to project automatic qualifiers in the 11 conferences with bids up for grabs. The main ones that affect Pool C are the CCIW and NCAC, with the MAC not far behind. For this, we projected North Central (by virtue of a win against 5-4 Augustana and an Elmhurst win over 6-3 Illinois Wesleyan) and Widener in. At the time of recording, we didn’t feel comfortable with how we were interpreting the NCAC tiebreaker, but as I read it then and read it now, I think Kenyon would win a three-way tiebreaker with Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan. The Lords have the worst overall record, but their only conference loss is to OWU, because it doesn’t play Wabash or Wittenberg. The Tigers and Battling Bishops losses are to Wabash, which is lower in the standings than OWU.

Kenyon in is bad news for other Pool C hopefuls, who’ll be rooting for potential Pool C teams to take any Pool A bid possible.

What we came up with is the below chart. This is both what the board would look like after the AQ teams are put into the field, and the way these teams fell in our mock regional ranking, excluding teams we project to win the AQ. Included with each team is its current strength of schedule figure and its record against regionally ranked opponents. Asterisks denote a Week 11 clash with an RRO.

Most likely Pool C candidates:

West North South East
Pacific Lutheran, .625, 0-2 Elmhurst, .530, 1-1 Huntingdon, .603, 1-1* Rowan, .508, 1-1
Bethel, .585, 1-1 Heidelberg, .450, 0-1 Louisiana College, .505, 0-2* Lycoming, .536, 0-1
Concordia-Moorhead, .604, 0-2 Wheaton, .558, 1-1 Muhlenberg, .548, 1-1 Bridgewater State, .511, 0-1
UW-Platteville, .530, 0-1 North Coast runners up Franklin & Marshall, .537, 2-1 Delaware Valley, .471, 0-2*

If you want to simulate the way the national selection committee will approach at-large selections on Saturday night, take the top four teams in each regional and compare them on the criteria. Instead of evaluating a pool of 16 or 18 teams at once, they’ll just look at four. Each time you put a team in — say Elmhurst finishes 9-1 and is your first — then you just bump the next team up on to the board (in this case Heidelberg) and compare the four. In theory, all seven at large teams could come from the same region.

The purpose of this post is not to pick the seven for you — I’ll leave that for you — but to give you insight on what the facts are, and what the committee is looking at, prior to Saturday’s final week of games. Some points of analysis:

Few one-loss teams: Though we always say its about who you beat not who you lose to, number of losses clearly matters, as winning percentage is primary criteria. Loosely translated, that means 9-1 and 8-1 teams are usually Pool C locks, provided there are enough bids to accommodate them. But this year, there are seven bids and just a handful of teams who could finish 9-1 and not earn an AQ: Elmhurst, Heidelberg, Ohio Wesleyan, Wittenberg, Bridgewater State, Illinois College. That’s it. Rowan, which could finish 8-2, but 8-1 against Division III opponents, makes a seventh “one-loss team” for playoff purposes.

Strength of schedule: If only wins mattered, we’d slot those seven in and call it a day. But we know all schedules are not created equal. So the NCAA adds two-thirds opponents winning percentage (who you played) and one-third opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage (reflects strong conference, strong non-conference scheduling) to get the SoS figures linked to above. And that means Pacific Lutheran, with its monster figure, could be in better shape than half of the one-loss teams. It also means if, say, Huntingdon were on the board alongside Delaware Valley, which beats Widener but not by the 16 points required to secure the AQ, then the Aggies are at a serious disadvantage. One note about how to interpret SoS figures. Slightly higher is not a big deal to the committee, but a very noticeable difference could tilt the scales among otherwise tied teams. Below .500 is not very good.

Once ranked, always ranked: Wabash might have dropped out of our mock regional rankings, but they were ranked at one point, therefore their results still counts as games played vs. RRO.

Week 11 RRO clashes: Adrian at Huntingdon, Delaware Valley at Widener, Hardin-Simmons at Louisiana College.

Watch for falling AQs (first loss): Widener (.450, 1-0*) and Waynesburg (.402, 0-0) could poach a Pool C spot from somebody if they fail to win on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets host Washington & Jefferson for the PAC title. They’re already 9-0 and could get in on record alone, but they also have one of the worst SoS figures and no games against RROs. They might be out with a loss, or they might boot your team from the field. You need them to clinch AQs.

Watch for falling AQs (second loss): Cal Lutheran (.515, 1-1) and Franklin (.471, 0-1) could fall into Pool C by picking up another D-III loss (the Grizzlies have one against I-AA Butler). Lake Forest and Elmhurst could join the group, and will have SoS figures above .530 and results vs. RROs, but would be better off just winning. Illinois College (vs. 7-2 Carroll) has an outside shot at its AQ, but would be in trouble with a defeat, due to a very low SoS and a h2h loss to Lake Forest.

Explaining the North Coast: If Kenyon steals the automatic bad, that’s bad news for everyone. Bumps all three NCAC runners up into Pool C. Ohio Wesleyan, (.511, 0-1); Wittenberg, ( .420, 0-1) and Wabash (.561, 2-0). Right now we have them in this order. But Wabash beat both teams head to head, so you’d want them to get to the board first. But those pesky two losses, to a potential 9-1 for OWU and Wittenberg. So maybe they get to the board first, separated by OWU’s SoS.

Explaining the CCIW: North Central takes the AQ if they, Elmhurst and Wheaton each win. In this case, Elmhurst is a strong Pool C. if North Central loses, Elmhurst can win. If Elmhurst loses, Wheaton wins.

On Bridgewater State: As the NEFC’s third-best team, they miss the conference title game, but are protected from picking up another loss. So while 9-1 is good, it might not be better than 9-2. Framingham State, if it loses the title game and automatic qualifier, has a head to head victory over the Bears. So they would get in first. And maybe Salve Regina would too; having played in the championship game, adding one RRO and also coming in under the ‘conference postseason contests’ criteria, giving it something Bridgewater State can’t match.

Too far out: There are a handful of teams who could finish with only two losses, but not be seriously considered for the field. St. Olaf (0-2, .515) might actually deserve consideration, but they would have to win at St. Thomas (9-0) this week to stay in the discussion. The group also includes Carroll (low SoS), Endicott (losses to Salve Regina, Bridgewater), Ferrum (low SoS), Gallaudet (low SoS), Greenville (no RROs), Millsaps (low SoS), Northwestern (no RROs), Otterbein (stuck behind Mount Union and Heidelberg) and Wisconsin Lutheran (low SoS), among others.

Guide to teams to root for (or against): Teams in need want the other teams with good resumes to pick up an additional loss. Root for Adrian to beat Huntingdon, and for Widener and Waynesburg to finish unbeaten. You sho should pull for the NCAC to shake out in Ohio Wesleyan’s favor. Or Wabash’s somehow. Root for Cal Lutheran to handle business against Chapman; Every AQ in Pool A is one fewer candidate to worry about in Pool C.

Okay fine, just this one: So this is the fun of it.

PLU, Elmhurst, Huntingdon and Rowan come the board first. The Bluejays go based on overall record and decent-enough SoS.

PLU, Heidelberg, Huntingdon, Rowan: The Berg can’t lose to Baldwin-Wallace. Their SoS isn’t good enough, even with the expected bump, to make up for the second loss. Here though, Rowan gets in, then Heidelberg.

PLU, Wheaton, Huntingdon, Lycoming. I take the Hawks, with the high SoS and the win over an RRO (Hampden-Sydney). Would need another win over an RRO to survive, so we’re projecting. After that, it’s Pacific Lutheran. Lost to two top-10 teams but beat three with at least five wins.

That’s five.

Bethel, Wheaton, Louisiana College, Lycoming.  Two more to choose. By virtue of high SoS and a win over RRO each, the Royals and Thunder round out my field.

My seven: Elmhurst, Rowan, Heidelberg, Huntingdon, Pacific Lutheran, Bethel, Wheaton.

Left on the board: Concordia-Moorhead, NCAC team, LC and Lycoming. So that last-second Royals TD would have decided a playoff bid. And Wheaton would have played its way in. Louisiana College sees two-loss teams get added, but it and UW-Platteville watch others with higher SoS and wins over RROs go.

Leave yours in the comments.

Sorry for not posting this on Tuesday, everybody. It will be reprised for Thursday’s Around the Nation, using the actual regional rankings.