Triple Take, Week 2: Welcoming the fashionably late

As noted in this space last week, 195 of the 247 Division III teams kicked off in Week 1. Among those who did not were quite a few prominent teams, including third-ranked Linfield and 22nd-ranked Chapman, who open up against one another this week, plus No. 1 UW-Whitewater, No. 5 Wesley and No. 13 North Central.

Of the 195 seasons that got underway, 97 started with a loss, which makes Week 2 a chance to wipe away the disappointment of Week 1. There are some top-25 clashes, intriguing non-conference matchups and more, and we’ll get you prepared for it all.

With so many games each week, Around the Nation columnist Ryan Tipps, editor and publisher Pat Coleman and I boil it down, independently providing our seven-point primers for games to focus on, where to watch for upsets, and other assorted predictions. Then in Monday’s podcast, we run back where we were right and where we were way off. If you’d like to play along, leave your picks in the comments below.

— Keith McMillan

Game of the week

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No. 22 Chapman at No. 3 Linfield. It’s a toss up between this and Wartburg-Bethel. And the last game of the weekend, Pacific Lutheran at Cal Lutheran, is an equally intriguing NWC-SCIAC clash. But there’s just so much at stake when the Panthers visit the Wildcats. D-III’s West Coast and Deep South “island” teams are pretty much guaranteed to match up with one another in the first round of the playoffs, unless an odd number of them make the field of 32. (This map is out of date, but will help you visualize how concentrated D-III schools are). So Chapman and Linfield, even if one goes undefeated and the other ends up with only Saturday’s loss, are basically playing for the chance to host in the first round of the playoffs. In their opener. Which is absurd, but reality. Last season, Chapman hosted and led in the second half of a 21-14 loss to Linfield, won every other game and in Round 1 road game, lost to the emotionally charged Wildcats, 55-24.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: No. 22 Chapman at No. 3 Linfield. It’s opening day for both of these teams. Linfield lost a lot from last year, but the Wildcats are a team that perennially reloads rather than rebuilds. With All-American Alex Hoff on the defensive line and dual-threat quarterback Sam Riddle driving the offense, McMinnville will be a hard place to win. Chapman graduated its quarterback but is replacing him with a player who is already 3-0 as a starter — dating from a stint in the middle of 2012. The Panthers, like Linfield, lost a lot, but they don’t likely have the same depth to overcome such a hit.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 6 Wartburg at No. 19 Bethel. They’re probably expecting me to take this game anyway, and since it’s practically in my backyard, that’s even better for me. But neither team looked invincible in Week 1. Wartburg needed a huge defensive effort in the fourth quarter to beat Augsburg, a team which is further down the MIAC ladder than Bethel is (last year’s Week 11 result notwithstanding), while Bethel showed some weaknesses on defense at UW-Stout that, if nothing else, last year’s Wartburg team would just destroy them for. Bethel had three buses of students at Stout so you know they’ll show up at home. Should be interesting.

Surprisingly close game

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Ursinus at Gettysburg. At first glance, this seems like a team always knocking on the door at the top of the Centennial against one usually in the middle of the pack. After Week 1, when the Bullets put up 678 yards and 49 points on Bridgewater (a team it lost to last season), and Ursinus couldn’t score until overtime, this becomes a more intriguing matchup. The Bears beat D-II Millersville in the opener, though, and handled Gettysburg, 31-14, last season. I see it more like a one-score game this time around.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Whitworth at Whittier. Should we Fear the Poet, as Whittier hopes? The SCIAC doesn’t always match up well against the NWC, but Whittier is returning most of its defense and has a lot of players competing for the right to start in key positions on offense.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Susquehanna at No. 11 Johns Hopkins. Sure, I’ll bite on the possibility that Susquehanna, which defeated Lycoming last week, has a shot to make this a good game vs. the Blue Jays, who have won 39 of their past 40 Centennial Conference games. If nothing else, just impressed with Tom Perkovich’s debut as Crusaders head coach and hoping to get more info on Susquehanna.

Most likely Top 25 team to be upset

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No. 23 Muhlenberg. No. 18 Texas Lutheran has a tough challenge, but the Mules are most vulnerable, against Franklin and Marshall, which returned 17 starters and put up 501 yards and 42 points in Week 1 (while allowing 540 and 37 to Lebanon Valley). The Mules had no such problems, allowing fast-paced Wilkes to convert just 6 of 26 third and fourth downs in their 35-7 Week 1 win, but I’ve got to pick someone. The rest of the top 25 looks liable to cruise to victory, or is in a situation where a loss would hardly be an upset, so I guess I’ve earned a spot on Muhlenberg’s bulletin board/dartboard.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: No. 23 Muhlenberg. The Mules dropped this one at Franklin and Marshall in 2013, and the question is whether lightning will strike twice in that span. Both teams had good Week 1 wins, so this will be an exciting matchup to take in.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 18 Texas Lutheran vs. Hardin-Simmons. I actually feel pretty similarly to last week, where I expect a lot of chalk in the Top 25, but Hardin-Simmons intrigues me. (Although I got an e-mail this summer asking me, “how Hardin-Simmons continues to get mention in preseason polls despite the fact they haven’t finished in the top two in the ASC in so many years and haven’t made the playoffs since 2008?”) Bottom line on that is that we still think the ASC is capable of having more than one or two good teams. One thing in TLU’s favor is that HSU will have to go from playing a bottom-25 team to playing a top-25 team in consecutive weeks and that’s not an easy transition. Nor is stopping Marquis Barrolle.

Which team that did not play in Week 1 turns in the most impressive Week 2 win?

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No. 13 North Central. The sense of urgency should be there for the Cardinals, who open up this week against 1-0 Trine and play No. 25 UW-Platteville and No. 5 Wesley the next two weeks. Trine, under new head coach Troy Abbs, was a 38-14 winner in Week 1, rushing for 403 yards against Manchester. It will be Jeff Thorne’s first game as NCC head coach, and although he has a ranked team and 16 starters back to work with, holding the Thunder under 100 rushing yards in a win would be impressive.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Ohio Northern. Any time you can take down an Empire 8 team that finished 7-3 last season, it’s a quality win. The Polar Bears play Utica, and this will give us a good barometer for what heights ONU might be able to ultimately reach in the conference standings.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 3 Linfield. Cats roll. They’re on an even playing field since No. 22 Chapman didn’t play last week either. No big fancy analysis for me here — I just think Linfield is helmet and shoulder pads above Chapman, if not perhaps the best team in all of D-III football.

Which non-conference clash will have the biggest ripple effect?

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Hardin-Simmons at No. 18 Texas Lutheran. In 2013, the Bulldogs’ only loss was a Week 10 73-44 shocker at Hardin-Simmons. TLU returned to the site of that beating in Week 2 of last year and won, 37-14. Finally, they get the Cowboys in Seguin. After a Week 1 win in which they were tied with Sul Ross State at 27 to start the fourth, the Bulldogs have every reason to be amped. HSU hung 77 on Southwestern in Week 1, but if they can’t hang a loss on TLU (which plays Louisiana College and No. 4 UMHB, among others, before finishing with their three SCAC opponents), it could have wide-ranging effects. ASC and SCAC are both angling for the one Pool B bid guaranteed to non-automatic bid conferences, so anyone else in Pool B is going to want to see those teams beat up on one another.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Trine at No. 13 North Central. In Kickoff 2015, I pegged Trine to surge this year, and cutting their teeth this early in the season against a power like North Central will be telling. And these two teams aren’t annual foes, so there could be surprises on both sides of the ball.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Albion at Augustana. Here we have two teams who had impressive Week 1 performances. Albion put up 65 points in a win vs. UW-Stevens Point and reminds us that the Britons are one of the big dogs in the MIAA despite all the buzz about everything Olivet has returning. Augustana rolled out its new offense after taking more than a decade to painfully back away from the Wing-T that helped define the program during its heyday and beat a Mount St. Joseph team that would like to think it can win the HCAC this season. I’ll be interested to see how these two end up after Saturday.

Which matchup of in-state opponents intrigues you most, and who wins?

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Delaware Valley at Wilkes. There are lots of better games that are mentioned elsewhere or are a state border away from fitting here (Cortland State-Framingham State; Lycoming-Stevenson; Rose-Hulman-Illinois College). I’m intrigued by this one following Del Val’s 27-24 season-opening win against Montclair State. Duke Greco led the Aggies to a win despite just two starters back on offense and nine overall, and I’m interested to see more of the new Del Val. Meantime, Wilkes can get a lot of plays off (they ran a record 113 against the Aggies last year), but it hasn’t translated into many points. I’ll pick Del Val.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: LaGrange at Berry. We’re only in Week 2, and already a state title is about to be decided. What’s not to like? While Berry is on the road upward as its fledgling team gets older and gains more experience, I’ll give the nod to LaGrange in this matchup.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Cornell at Coe. It’s hard to tell just from last week’s blowout at the hands of Wheaton exactly how good or bad Coe is in 2015. But one thing we do know, in addition to the 52-14 loss, is that Coe started camp with just 85 players, which is a low number for them. (I know, Cornell started with even fewer, but that’s their status quo.) Cornell last beat Coe in 1999, and that’s a long time to lose to your rival. Readers of Kickoff got Coe’s take on this rivalry game. It will be interesting to see if these teams, which were 79 spots apart in our preseason ranking, are any closer than that.

They’ll be on your radar

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Christopher Newport. Facing what seems like a weaker-than-usual Hampden-Sydney team might not tell us much about what the Captains will look like against NJAC competition, but I’ll be watching anyway. CNU dominated the first half of a 31-21 Week 1 win at TCNJ, while H-SC played a top-10 team in Wabash. I’ll also be watching the Secretaries’ Cup and Coe-Cornell for rivalry purposes, as well as Albion-Augustana and Rose-Hulman vs. Illinois College. Those last two combined for 142 points in last year’s clash, reminding us that epic D-III games can come from anywhere, and was the subject of a Kickoff ’15 prediction question about how many they’ll combine for this time. I’ve got 67.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Cal Lutheran. In reading Kickoff 2015, there was something about Cal Lutheran that intrigued me, something that made me feel they’ll improve significantly over last season. Maybe it’s just that their young team is older and wiser, or that there isn’t a clear front-runner in the SCIAC, or that their first opponent (Pacific Lutheran) is going through a rebuilding year. If the Kingsmen can end the day Saturday (which will be Sunday on the East Coast) with a win, be prepared to see a team making noise once again.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Coast Guard at Merchant Marine. Not sure I need to say much more — this is a great rivalry between two of our maritime academies and I’m looking forward to a couple of years from now when these teams are both in the NEWMAC and this rivalry game can be pushed back to Week 11 where it belongs. A decade ago, when Coast Guard abandoned ship on the Liberty League and set sail for the smoother waters of the NEFC, this game was sandwiched into non-conference play, which hurts the exposure of this great matchup.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the picks that were prescient, and those that were terribly off base.


Around the Nation Podcast: New beginnings

Actual games. Actual results. The 2015 Division III football season went from virtual to literal this week. What were the big surprises? What interesting games flew under the radar? Who are the teams on the rise after one week? Pat and Keith answer those questions, plus hand out their game balls, on this week’s Around the Nation Podcast.

The Around the Nation Podcast is a weekly conversation between Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan covering the wide range of Division III football. It drops on Monday morning weekly throughout the season.

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Triple Take: Full accountability

Bryan Bradshaw and the rest of the Dubuque Spartans face a ranked team for the second time this season.
Photo by Larry Radloff,

If you aren’t listening to the ATN Podcast, you’re missing out. Not only do Pat and Keith offer up a thorough breakdown of the week gone by, they also recap how we did in our Triple Take picks — assuming you make it to the tail end of the podcast.

What we write here isn’t done in a vacuum and isn’t necessarily forgotten about by Saturday afternoon. We welcome your comments both here and via Twitter. We want to make this an open forum for discussion. There are so many exciting things happening every weekend and we know you read, so why wouldn’t you want to talk about it? And talk. And talk. And talk … Put your own predictions in the comments below.

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 9 St. Thomas at No. 5 Bethel.
I don’t think there’s much debate here about which game will have the biggest impact nationally this week. Lining up two Top 10 teams against each other earns them that recognition. Since I’m not sure if one of my colleagues picking after me for Triple Take will share some first-hand insights into this game, I’ll stick to sharing the stat sheet with you: Bethel is 19th in total offense, with a pretty balanced delivery; 66th in defense, again balanced on that front; and is 17th and fourth at third-down conversions and turnover margin, respectively. St. Thomas is 39th in total offense, with a solid balance; fourth in defense, particularly stifling against the run; and 19th in third-down conversions.
Pat’s take: Dubuque at No. 21 Coe. This is kind of a sleeper game. But I think whoever wins the Iowa Conference will not emerge unscathed from the conference schedule. Between Coe, Dubuque, Simpson, Wartburg and Central, I expect there to be a game or two that don’t go as expected. Dubuque is 3-2 but one is to a ranked team and the other is to another WIAC opponent, both of whom are probably better than anyone Coe has beaten so far.
Keith’s take: No. 9 St. Thomas at No. 5 Bethel. I agree with Ryan, from the impact standpoint. There are a bunch of other intriguing games, but nothing that matches this meetup in Minnesota. The Tommies, a Stagg Bowl team last year, could be in two-loss, playoff-spot jeopardy by sunset on Saturday. A St. Thomas win sets up a furious race to the MIAC finish, as Bethel, UST, St. John’s and Concordia-Moorhead would each have a conference loss with four or fewer games to play. Which sets up the delicious scenario of a bunch of fans who really dislike the Tommies having to pull for them on Saturday. Key games down the stretch, should UST win, would be the Cobbers at the Tommies on Nov. 9 and the Royals at the Johnnies Nov. 16.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Northwestern at Greenville.
When we talk about undefeated teams that fly under the radar, Greenville is just such a team. Though, there’s nothing quiet about how they got to where they are, often flirting with 50 points a game, shouldered by a run game that has averaged 349 yards an outing. But Greenville’s strength might well be muted by Northwestern’s key asset: the ability to shut down the run. Three times this season, the Eagles have held opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. We’ll see how far these teams have to stray from their comfort zones to earn the win.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Willamette at Lewis and Clark. Lewis and Clark has been putting some points on the board lately behind quarterback Keith Welch, scoring 34 vs. UW-Platteville and 21 vs. Pacific Lutheran, both teams we believe to be better than Willamette. It’s not a stretch to see the Pioneers scoring enough points to make the game surprisingly close.
Keith’s take: Sewanee at Centre. The Colonels are 4-1 and the Tigers just 2-4, but Sewanee’s slate has included competitive losses from coast to coast (at Willamette and Washington & Lee), and a win against Birmingham-Southern. The Tigers’ past five opponents are 20-6. Centre is racking up 440 yards a game, most of it passing, and 31.6 points per. Sewanee rushes for 243 yards a game and takes care of the ball, but defensively is 201st nationally on stopping third downs and tied for 230th in the red zone. That gives Centre the opening they need to get by while it’s close and then break it open.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 7 UW-Platteville.
In a stacked WIAC, Stevens Point (with only one Top 25 vote) has been overshadowed by Platteville, Oshkosh and Whitewater this fall. And we’ll see this weekend if an injustice has been done there. The 4-1 Pointers’ only loss came last month at the hands of No. 4 North Central, but an overtime win against UW-Eau Claire last week hasn’t done a lot to instill confidence. Platteville should win, but Stevens Point could rattle the cage.
Pat’s take: No. 19 St. John Fisher. Man, this is a tough one. I do think there’s a 10% to 15% chance that Platteville loses to Stevens Point. Salisbury has quietly put together a couple of good games since losing to Wesley. Where I’m hanging my hat on this is St. John Fisher barely beat Frostburg State and Salisbury is a much tougher opponent. Obviously that’s a pretty simplistic “analysis,” because St. John Fisher will never take Salisbury lightly.
Keith’s take: No. 21 Coe. Finally a top 25 slate where we don’t have to scramble to find three where the ranked team could lose. I count eight, although the best two already got picked, and No. 5 Bethel losing to St. Thomas would hardly be an upset. So I lean toward the Kohawks, who have played outstanding defense since a 23-22 nail-biter over Monmouth in Week 1. But they also haven’t faced anyone the quality of the Spartans, while Dubuque played three WIAC teams and Central already. Coe has beaten Monmouth, Cornell, Wash. U., Buena Vista and Loras. They’ll get their respect if they start winning in the tougher part of their schedule, but Dubuque QB Bryan Bradshaw (1,333 yards, 14 TDs) won’t make their first big game an easy one.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: The ODAC.
Every week brings surprises in this conference, which has been referenced before as arguably having the most parity of any in the nation. This week, with Guilford at Bridgewater and Washington and Lee at Randolph-Macon, we get two see two teams at the top in conference play go up against two other above-.500 squads. As usual, expect these teams to continue beating themselves up ahead of the playoffs.
Pat’s take: Trinity (Conn.). The Bantams are one win short of their 50th consecutive home victory and host Bowdoin on Saturday. The last time Trinity lost a home game was to Williams on Sept. 29, 2001 and the Bantams have never lost a game played on artificial turf.
Keith’s take: Wesleyan. We’re so NESCAC-y today! Good teams from that conference tend to find themselves high on the national defensive rankings, and Bill Belichick’s alma mater is no differnt. Wesleyan is 4-0, facing 4-0 Amherst and their speedy offense on Saturday. The Cardinals have given up 22 points this season, no more than nine to any team. But the best part is, since they miss Middlebury in the 10-team conference’s eight-game schedule, a win points them toward a showdown with Connecticut rival Trinity for the conference title in November. Amherst allows 71 rushing yards a game and the Cardinals pound it for 266 per, so it should be a fun one along the line of scrimmage.

Which team will turn the biggest 180 from last week?
Ryan’s take: Augsburg.
Two straight losses to two of the toughest teams in the MIAC. Still, the Auggies impressively hung 28 points each time on those opponents. But I have to believe what they want most is a win. And it’s a floundering St. Olaf that stands in the way.
Pat’s take: Pacific. This is a 180 in the opposite direction. Pacific is riding a great unbeaten streak and blew out Puget Sound but has to go to No. 17 Pacific Lutheran this week.
Keith’s take: Rowan. The Profs, who lost by 20 to Morrisville State last week, on Saturday face national power Wesley, ranked 11th. I don’t know that the Profs will win, but they’ll give a performance more befitting their reputation. Rowan has played good defense, particularly against the run, and kept games low scoring prior to the 502-yard mess at Morrisville. Wesley is going to throw playmakers at the Profs like they haven’t seen before, and it will require a 180 from last week just to hang close.

Which team with two or more losses is worth watching this weekend?
Ryan’s take: Gettysburg, against another two-loss team, Muhlenberg.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve never heard of the Old Tin Cup rivalry. Most people haven’t. The trophy dates to the 1950s and early ’60s and is just one of many awards linked to intra-Centennial play during the fall. This one, though, highlights an annually competitive matchup that has proven to be either fun shootouts or defensive battles, depending on the year. Both the Bullets and the Mules have been neck and neck for the past few seasons, their games separated by only a couple of points each meeting. I’d expect nothing less here.
Pat’s take: Bethany. Their PAC game at Waynesburg features two of the most prolific quarterbacks in Division III this year. Bethany’s Matt Grimard and Waynesburg’s Carter Hill rank 1-2 in passing yards per game in the PAC and 1-3 in total offense per game. Hill’s 302.7 passing yards per game is No. 11 in Division III, while Grimard is No. 3 at 336.4. Bethany is 2-3, but beat Washington and Jefferson its last time out and has had two weeks to prepare for this game.
Keith’s take: LaGrange. Originally I spotlighted 3-2 Alfred, which is hosting 4-1 Hartwick, here, but the 2-3 Panthers have the No. 1 passing attack in the country (390 yards/game) behind quarterback Graham Craig. Their fellow deep South independent-turned-USAC-member Huntingdon brings the No. 13 pass attack and No. 6 overall offense — they have a 313-yard rush game and a 462-yard passing game this season — to Callaway Stadium, where there should be fireworks Saturday.

Which team would you have liked to see play this Saturday?
Ryan’s take: Merchant Marine.

Pat’s take: Merchant Marine. (But also Swarthmore. Can I still be upset about that? More below.)
Keith’s take: Merchant Marine. Although two days to get the team reassembled and ready to play is probably a lot to ask.

Pat: Earlier this week I stumbled upon the interesting story of mid-1980s Swarthmore football. The school eventually dropped football after the 2000 season, but back in the mid-1980s, the school forced out extremely successful coach Tom Lapinski after a four-year stretch in which Swarthmore went 30-6. The below video aired on CBS during the middle of that great run by the Garnet.