Week 6: There’s excitement to be had, if you just know where to look

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Buff State’s defensive side of the ball will need to come through vs. Ithaca. (Buffalo State athletics photo)

Not every week is filled with top-25 clashes and rivalry games when we look for intriguing matchups across the nation. But with more than 200 teams in action on a given weekend, we usually end up with our fair share of dramatic finishes, milestones and outstanding performances. Some can be anticipated if you know where to look.

That’s where Pat Coleman, Ryan Tipps and I come in. We’ll take you on a quick whirl around the country so you know which games to keep an eye on while you’re doing what you normally do on Saturdays, and we’ll keep it from feeling like a whirlwind.

 — Keith McMillan

Game of the week
Keith’s take: East Texas Baptist at Texas Lutheran. It’s between this and the Lyco-Del Val game for me, and this matchup of ‘others receiving votes’ teams gets the nod because of the potential for fireworks. In the most amazing stat of the year possibly, ETBU, after allowing 98 points to a scholarship-level opponent in Week 1, is 3-1 and already back in the positive point differential for the season, on the strength of the country’s fourth-best offense. Yet TLU hasn’t scored fewer than 37 points in a game itself. ETBU QB Josh Warbington has 12 TDs, 3 INTs and three 350+ yard passing games. TLU RB Marquis Barrolle is rushing for 181 yards a game and has 10 touchdowns. But the clincher is the playoff implications; In a conference with No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor, ETBU needs every win in case it has to make an at-large case for a postseason spot. In Pool B, even at 5-0, Texas Lutheran remembers being shunned last season with just one loss. It’s an under-the-lights clash we can all take an interest in for the potential big numbers and the trickle-down effect.
Ryan’s take: Buffalo State at No. 13 Ithaca. Were it not for Buff’s narrow loss to Alfred a couple of weeks back, we’d be seeing two undefeated teams squaring off here. Despite a slow start in the opener, Ithaca has excelled in conference play, giving Utica its only loss and beating Alfred. On paper, the edge goes to Buffalo State, but the reality is that Ithaca hasn’t been giving up the kind of big points that the Bengals have been. And if the Bombers’ offense happens to be slumping at the half or in the third quarter, a good defense is always going to keep them in the game.
Pat’s take: No. 20 Lycoming at Delaware Valley. These MAC elimination games are going to be a brutal slog and this sounds like it’s going to be a hard-fought battle. Delaware Valley can score in bunches (49.8 points per game), while Lycoming hasn’t allowed more than 14 in a game all season. Lyco probably would like to have one more season of Tanner Troutman just for this game alone, to cover Rasheed Bailey, who is an electrifying receiver, by all accounts. Would love to see which contrast in styles wins out here.

Surprisingly close game
Keith’s take: Chicago at Trinity (Texas). The Maroons are 4-0. The Tigers are 1-4. And while that would normally make for a pretty straightforward winner, they move in completely different D-III circles. Chicago’s wins are against teams we ranked 84, 89, 213 and 217 in the 1-244 ranking in Kickoff. The Tigers losses are to teams we ranked 19, 37, 50 and 179. Preseason rankings don’t tell the whole story, but neither does just glancing at a record. Trinity’s talent should match up better with Chicago than it did with, say, Pacific Lutheran. That means the Maroons will have to keep playing outstanding defense. They’re currently allowing just 190.3 yards per game, third nationally behind Mount Union and UW-Whitewater.
Ryan’s take: Crown at Greenville. I felt like going deep into the conference rankings to find this week’s game, which is a great example of misdirection. Greenville sits at 4-1; Crown is winless. Those records seem to be in complete opposite directions until you consider that Greenville’s wins come against teams that are a combined 4-16. The Panthers’ one loss came against a 2-2 CCIW team. Crown, on the other hand, has played teams that are a combined 20-4, including an undefeated MIAC team. I expect the Storm to be able to hang right with Greenville, and I’d even wager they’ll pull off the upset.
Pat’s take: Texas Lutheran at East Texas Baptist. Actually, I just think this will be an awesome game and didn’t have room for two game of the week picks. Expecting an entertaining back-and-forth game worthy of two Little 12 teams, even if only one of them is still in the American Southwest Conference.

Most likely Top 25 team to be upset
Keith’s take: No. 7 Wartburg. Coe, Saturday’s host, is off to a 2-2 start, with losses to teams currently ranked No. 16 (UW-Stevens Point) and No. 18 (Wheaton). More importantly than what might be a deceptive record is the idea that they simply have Wartburg’s number. The Knights haven’t beaten the Kohawks since 2010, after Coe rallied from down 17-0 to win by a field goal in 2011, won by four touchdowns in 2012 and scored 24 second-half points last year to become the only team besides Bethel to beat Wartburg. It’s a new year, and the Knights are 4-0 with a great defense (12th nationally at 11.3 points per game) and the Royals already in the rear-view mirror. Coe QB Josh Rekers had success passing against both Wheaton and UW-SP and will be a challenge though.
Ryan’s take: No 8 Hobart. Springfield always brings a good bit of quality to the table, but, since being in the LL, the team has yet been able to get over the hump against Hobart. The Statesmen have look good this year, but not flawless. Dickinson was able to play its way back into the opener; Endicott, too, scored the bulk of its points in the fourth quarter. A cushion going into the final period would help Hobart here, because high-scoring fourths are not foreign to the Pride.
Pat’s take: No. 13 Ithaca. I don’t have a strong feeling about anyone this week but perhaps Buffalo State can be the team to score more than 16 points on the Bombers. They will definitely need to if they want to win at Butterfield Stadium.

Pick a team that faces much better competition this week than last, and tell us how it fares.
Keith’s take: Berry. The Vikings won the first game in program history, 29-23, last week against Wash. U. This week they face Centre, which hung 50 on that same Bears group two weeks ago. The Colonels have outscored opponents by a 38-17 average in its 4-0 start, and rush for 244 of their 443 yards of weekly offense. Berry will likely have to wait for its first win streak.
Ryan’s take: Willamette. The swing is big if you’re going up against football newbie George Fox one week and then turning around to face Whitworth the next. Whitworth bested its weaker foes but is on a two-game skid against some tougher teams. I’m not sure that a win here would be enough to lift the Bearcats into the Top 25, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of voters will bump Willamette up a spot or two after winning.
Pat’s take: No. 3 Mount Union, at Ohio Northern. I was reviewing old Top 25 polls this week — the coaches poll, mind you — in helping a school out on a research project and was reminded that in 2005, when Ohio Northern won at Mount Union, the Purple Raiders actually fell to No. 9 in the AFCA Top 25. It’s hard to imagine the Purple Raiders ever being just the ninth-best team in Division III. We’re in our tenth season since then and Mount Union has barely skipped a beat. One beat at most. They won’t skip a beat this week. (For the record, Mount Union fell to No. 6 in that week’s D3football.com Top 25.)

Which one of the surprise unbeatens remains that way?
Keith’s take: Luther. The Norse haven’t beaten Central since 2008, and they’re hosting in front of a homecoming crowd that doesn’t really know what it’s like to cheer for a 4-0 team. So not only should it be a wild atmosphere, but the Norse seem up to the challenge. Josh Vos and DB-turned-QB JJ Sirios are each rushing for more than 100 yards per game, and Central hasn’t been great at run defense (166 yards per game). Luther’s rushing offense is No. 2 nationally, sandwiched between more familiar option teams Maine Maritime and Springfield. It’s the Norse and the Dutch, so why wouldn’t one side make history?
Ryan’s take: UW-Stevens Point. Then again, the Pointers are going up against the only team in the WIAC that is currently winless, UW-Eau Claire. UW-EC has had one of the toughest schedules to date in Division III: They started off against St. Thomas, then played St. John’s, Wheaton and UW-Platteville. Had Eau Claire not gotten pasted against Platteville, I might think they’d have the spark to play a spoiler role. Instead, Stevens Point will have one last opportunity to work out the kinks before going on the road to Platteville next weekend.
Pat’s take: Bridgewater (Va.). It’s an unexpected battle of unbeatens between Bridgewater and Emory and Henry, and if this were 2000, this would be front-page news. But since both programs have been down for the better part of a decade, at least, it’s slipped well under the radar. I like Bridgewater at home, but E&H has played three road games out of four, so the road won’t be unfamiliar.

Which player put up huge numbers in Week 5 and will do it again this week?
Keith’s take: Satiir Stevenson, safety for Guilford. Ryan turned his answers in first and yoked my original pick. (Fun fact: I’m told it’s cog-lin, not cough). The Quakers might seem like they’re all offense, but Stevenson’s 22 tackles last week against Washington & Lee were the second highest single-game total in D-III this season. This week’s opponent, Shenandoah, happens to be the ODAC’s best rushing offense, at 289 yards per game, so they’ll need another big tackling effort to slow down the Hornets and 5-9 all-purpose threat Cedrick Delaney.
Ryan’s take: Pete Coughlin, quarterback for Washington and Jefferson. Last week, the big numbers (383 passing yards, six touchdowns) really mattered because the game was against rival Thomas More and is generally the matchup that yields the PAC’s playoff contender. It would be of little surprise to see him fling around those kinds of numbers again, with winless Grove City on the docket. The only limiting factor will be if Coughlin sits out most or all of the second half.
Pat’s take: Withler Marcelin, Rowan running back. Good category because I was feeling bad about him not having a spot for him on the D3football.com Team of the Week last week. He ran for 245 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, with scores of 28, 54 and 75 yards vs. Cortland State and if Rowan needs him to, he’ll have a big game vs. William Paterson.

They’ll be on your radar
Keith’s take: Thomas More. It’s deflating to lose the conference matchup that often defines the season, so I’m interesting in seeing how the Saints get up to face Geneva. Thomas More seemed like it had the makings of a playoff-bound team when I saw it in Week 1, but after the W&J loss, it’s out of their hands. The Wesley loss means at-large is probably out too, which means they’ll have to get some help. But you can’t take advantage of help if you don’t take care of your own business first.
Ryan’s take: The Trine at Olivet matchup. I know we usually pick a single team here, but the MIAA has been next to impossible to get a handle on this fall. It’s nice that the two teams with the best overall records are meeting so early in conference play. We’ll get a bit of clarity in Michigan after Saturday.
Pat’s take: Gustavus Adolphus. This is the end of the 6-0 run we’ve been talking about since the preseason. St. Olaf won’t be able to stop the Golden Gusties’ offense.

Around the Nation podcast: McKoy and the conference showdowns


Ill. Wesleyan hasn’t been 7-0 since 1996.
Illinois Wesleyan photo by Marc Featherly

Subscribe to the Around the Nation Podcast in iTunes.

If you are a regular listener to the Around the Nation podcast, you already knew who Western Connecticut running back Octavias McKoy is. This week the rest of college football found out, as he ripped off 455 rushing yards, setting the single-game rushing record for all levels of NCAA football. Hear from him and his coach at the top of the podcast. Continue reading

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, d3photography.com

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.