TAG | Hanover
With an extra week to wait and prepare, Chris Haupt and Widener need a win against Delaware Valley to secure a playoff bid.
Widener athletics file photo
For all the games played in the regular season, those that live as part of storied rivalries are among the greatest.
It’s special for the players, alumni and parents who get to be a part of those traditions. For no matter how bad a season has been, rivalry week offers a chance at a bit of redemption, a chance to play with heart and end the school year – or even a college career – with a smile. From Monon and Cortaca to Bowls and Games, the edge-of-your-seat excitement happens all across the country.
Pat, Keith and Ryan take you into Week 11, with Selection Sunday looming just beyond.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Delaware Valley at No. 9 Widener. There has been no shortage of questions about the Pride’s strength throughout the season. They’ve beaten their three best opponents by only a combined 13 points. And their lesser opponents? Well, those teams have been absolutely pummeled. The Aggies are the last hurdle to Widener’s ride into the postseason, but oh what a hurdle. After a fall from grace with two opening losses, DelVal regained its form and has been more convincing than Widener down the stretch. Both teams are statistically sound, but Widener will want to win this one to avoid an ugly three-way tie for the top of the MAC. Of course, DelVal will want to win to force just such a situation. This will be a conference people could be talking a lot about come Sunday.
Pat’s take: St. John’s at No. 22 Bethel. Once upon a time, St. John’s had beaten Bethel 20 consecutive meetings. But these days, the Royals have the upper hand. Bethel’s playoff hopes are already flagging thanks to the loss to St. Olaf and it can’t afford to lose this game. Meanwhile, St. John’s needs the win to finish with a winning record … and who knows, it might take some extra motivation from the possibility that John Gagliardi might be coaching his last game.
Keith’s take: Adrian at No. 17 Huntingdon. Since I wrote the Around the Nation column largely on the implications of this game, there’s no need to rehash that if you’ve been following along. But I didn’t get into player matchups or X’s and O’s, and there’s something big to focus on here: Adrian is second in the country in scoring defense (10.67 points per game to No. 1 Mount Union’s 3.11) and held five consecutive MIAA opponents in the single digits before Albion scored 19 in an overtime loss last week. Huntingdon scores 39.25 points per game and puts up 417.75 yards (numbers that are just 16th and 54th nationally), with multitalented RB Trevor Manuel guiding the way. Adrian LBs Deonte Bridgman and Hunter Juntunen lead the Bulldogs’ defense, which is adept at stopping the run (1oth nationally) and the pass (fifth). Huntingdon DL D.J. Chappell and Courtney Moss have been spending time in opponents’ backfields. This game is a curiosity because of the mismatch of styles, as well as D-III regions. The MIAA isn’t exactly known as one of D-IIIs top conferences, and Huntingdon, if it wins big by scoring a bunch, will be making a statement for playoff inclusion and for the quality of D-III ball in the deep south.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Maryville at Ferrum. Both teams have a lot to play for here, and it’s rare in recent years for this game to be separated by more than one score. The Scots are trying to secure their first winning season since 2007, and this under the leadership of a first-year coach. Ferrum, on the other hand, could be propelled into the postseason if Christopher Newport suffers an upset loss. Expect this matchup to go down to the bone.
Pat’s take: Denison at Kenyon. Denison has a huge chance to play spoiler here. And who thought we would ever be talking about someone spoiling Kenyon’s playoff chances? Denison’s 3-6 is just as misleading as Kenyon’s 6-3. For two members of the same conference, they have fairly few common opponents.
Keith’s take: Buena Vista at Dubuque. The Beavers, in hindsight, played perhaps the nation’s toughest opening five games (a distinction that previously belonged to Buffalo State). They went 0-5 against four teams that have playoff aspirations (UW-Platteville, Concordia-Moorhead, Bethel and Coe) and Wartburg, allowing 48.6 points per game and losing each contest by between 21 and 51 points. Since, however, they’ve reeled off four wins in varying fashions, and can get to .500 on the season by beating last season’s IIAC champ, who also comes in at 4-5. The Spartans can still wing it, as Sean Anderson averages seven catches a game and Austin Morgan (6.89) is just a shade behind, and you’d expect them — by reputation and name recognition — to run up some high totals against BVU. The Beavers allowed 369 yards and four passing touchdowns against Simpson last week, but they won, 29-27, and are playing to end the season on a high note, while Dubuque is undoubtedly disappointed with its encore.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Waynesburg. One- and two-point wins against teams that are 2-7 don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence, especially when this week’s opponent is veteran power Washington and Jefferson. Top 25 voters (myself included) held off a long time pulling the trigger on the Yellow Jackets because the strength of schedule and margins of victory just didn’t stack up well compared with the rest of the teams being considered. With a loss, Waynesburg could very well be sitting nervously as a 9-1 at-large team on Selection Sunday.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Cortland State. The Cortaca Jug is motivation enough for either team, and Ithaca has had a pretty good season. The Bombers lost each of the past two meetings, including being dominated last year in a 27-3 loss. There seems to be some gamesmanship going on with the status of Ithaca quarterback Phil Neumann as well, but I wouldn’t expect Ithaca to come with anything better than its best possible performance.
Keith’s take: No. 24 Pacific Lutheran. In trying to find a team that isn’t mentioned elsewhere in Triple Take, my options were limited; even more so when look for one that might actually lose. In a game at Menlo, in California’s bay area, the Seattle-area Lutes travel to face a team that’s lost four in a row. The Oaks, a former NWC and D-III member, have faced No. 3 Linfield, No. 6 Wesley and NAIA No. 1 Marian this season, so they’re ready for the kind of athletes they’ll see from PLU. The Lutes are tested as well, and need to win for playoff inclusion (even though Menlo is non-D-III, the at-large bids are so competitive, each team needs everything it can get), so perhaps this is a terrible pick. But what’d you want me to do, suggest Mississippi College would win at No. UMHB? Suggest 0-9 McDaniel would pick off No. 21 Johns Hopkins? I guess I could have picked No. 11 Salisbury to loaf, with playoff spot now in hand, against Regents Cup rival Frostburg State. My bad.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Pomona-Pitzer/Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Both of these teams can’t end the season winless. *Somebody* has to go home happy on Saturday. The Sagehens are riding an unflattering 18-game skid, so I could venture a guess as to which team will come out on top. But if ever there were a time to break the streak, this is it.
Pat’s take: St. Norbert. After a couple of years on the sidelines, St. Norbert is again playing a part in the Midwest Conference race. They could take Lake Forest down on Saturday, but if not, they were here in the end, which is something that would have been difficult to imagine after the opener against John Carroll.
Keith’s take: Louisiana College. Here’s a team I consider in the nation’s top 15, whose playoff hopes are on life support because Pool C is loaded with teams which grade out slightly better on the criteria than the Wildcats. As my eighth team in for seven spots when I ran a quick projection earlier in the week, LC’s hopes are very much alive. I know for a fact the selection committee members are curious about the game against Hardin-Simmons, which brings the nation’s No. 2 total offense (556.56 yards/game) and No. 234 defense (493 yards/game) to Pineville. Here’s the deal: The pressure is on, as it will be in the playoffs, so LC’s start a week early. A win with spotlight on, against this offense, is worth a win over a regionally ranked opponent, plus an SoS boost, which could help the Wildcats get in. They need just one thing to break right — a loss by one of the CCIW leaders, or a result in the NCAC that gives Wittenberg or Ohio Wesleyan the AQ, an Adrian win at Huntingdon — but more than anything, they need to beat the Cowboys, or there’ll be no one to blame but themselves.
Rivalry game you’re most interested in (alma maters excluded).
Ryan’s take: Mount St. Joseph at Thomas More. Remember the last time these two Bridge Bowl opponents met without one of them prepping for the postseason? Me neither. This is where the rivalry lives on the best, in the games in which each team is laying it all out on the field and playing with absolutely nothing to lose. MSJ is 4-5; TMC is 6-3. This is just such a game – the final hurrah for the seniors on both sidelines.
Pat’s take: Union at RPI. This snuck up on me because I wasn’t aware that the Dutchman Shoes game had been moved back to Week 11, which is where it belongs. A rivalry game just isn’t the same in Week 9, where it had been stuck for a while, or Week 6, where it was played a decade ago. For me, this rivalry game is most interesting because I want to see if RPI can continue the success it has had this season. And that success is surprising to me, considering the amount of turmoil the program has been through, including a four-head-coaches-in-15-months span. By the way, of this group, I’m the only one that doesn’t have an alma mater/rivalry game to worry about anymore. ::shakes fist:: Curse you, Georgetown!
Keith’s take: Hanover at Franklin. I had a similar thought about Union-RPI, and I’m glad it, the Bronze Turkey and the NESCAC rivalry games all fall on Week 11. Mostly though, the rivalry games this year are a bit out of the national spotlight. Trinity (Conn.) going for a perfect season against a better-than-usual Wesleyan (5-2) is a big deal, but the Victory Bell game is this year’s biggest. Despite Hanover’s 35-34 loss to Manchester (five straight wins) last week, the Panthers still have a chance to beat their rivals on their home field, win the HCAC and take the conference’s automatic playoff bid. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have been on a tear since an 0-2 start, and have allowed just 23 points over the past five games. Hanover won 15 of 16 from 1989 to 2004, but Franklin — coached by Mike Leonard, a 1984 Hanover grad — has won seven in a row.
Who will have the least momentum going into the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: The NCAC’s tiebreaker champ. While so many other teams out there have clarity on how to get their conference’s automatic qualifier, Wittenberg, Ohio Wesleyan and Kenyon (all with one conference loss) have been bogged down by conference criteria that has been interpreted a dozen different ways by those outside of the NCAC brass. It appears that either Witt or Kenyon would get the AQ, but how grueling it must be to not know over these final two weeks whether you control your own fate. (UPDATE: The NCAC office has made public what would happen in the various scenarios)
Pat’s take: Castleton State. If the Spartans make it to the playoffs, and they very well can beat Mount Ida, they’ll get there without their star quarterback, Shane Brozowski, who broke his leg in last week’s win against Husson.
Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins. Great idea for a question, but my issue with it is every answer that makes sense now — North Central, for example — wouldn’t make as much sense after a win on Saturday puts that team into the playoffs. But I can say that the Blue Jays were once a ball rolling down hill, undefeated, in line for a playoff home game and a second consecutive 10-0 regular season before Franklin & Marshall spoiled it last week. Rebounding to beat McDaniel will clinch the Centennial Conference, and it’s plenty to pump up the players to push hard in Week 10. But it’s also going to be light years away from the type of challenge the Blue Jays get in the first round — against a Salisbury, maybe, or at home against Washington & Lee, as in Pat’s most recent projection. I think I’d rather be going into the playoffs having played my best game against my conference’s best team rather than this.
Which team can alter its fortunes the most?
Ryan’s take: No. 13 Heidelberg. For a team that played Mount Union better than any other this year, Heidelberg could give itself a lot of drive (and maybe a good seeding) heading into postseason if they are able to knock off formerly ranked Baldwin Wallace.
Pat’s take: Adrian. With a win at Huntingdon on Saturday, the Bulldogs, already in as the MIAA champ, could potentially play themselves as high as a possible home game, or at least a winnable road game in the first round of the playoffs. With a loss, the Bulldogs could well find themselves on the short road to Alliance, Ohio, and a date with Mount Union. They will need to be at their most motivated, too, to go down to Alabama and beat a team that is playing for its playoff life. Huntingdon needs this win to get in, but I’d say Adrian needs the win in order to extend its reasonable playoff life.
Keith’s take: St. Olaf. Mostly an afterthought in this week’s playoff chatter, the Oles, with a win at 9-0 St. Thomas, would have closed the season with consecutive victories against regionally ranked opponents, be 8-2 and have an SoS that would get them in the discussion (.515 but bound to rise). So why is nobody talking about the Oles? Well, they allow 211 rushing yards per game, and the Tommies rush for 239 per, for starters. Upsetting the No. 4 Tommies would probably take a combination of great Oles play and lackluster effort from St. Thomas, which makes sense if you think the Tommies are content with just being in the postseason, but not if you believe they’d rather play in December in Minnesota instead of Oregon, Ohio or Texas.
Adrian · Bethel · Buena Vista · Castleton State · Claremont-Mudd-Scripps · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Denison · Dubuque · Ferrum · Franklin · Hanover · Hardin-Simmons · Heidelberg · Huntingdon · Johns Hopkins · Kenyon · Louisiana College · Maryville · Mount St. Joseph · Pacific Lutheran · Pomona-Pitzer · RPI · Salisbury · St. John's · St. Olaf · Thomas More · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Wayneburg · Widener
Hobart has run out to a 5-0 start. And it’s too early to talk top seed, but we’ll do it anyway.
Hobart file photo by Kevin Colton
The sight of two gunslingers in slings is not a good one for UW-Platteville
Photo by J. Jensen, D3sports.com
With Mount Union firing on all cylinders on offense, crushing it on defense and by the way, also doing so on special teams, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the Purple Raiders are going back to the Stagg Bowl. And we’d have agreement on the Around the Nation Podcast … except that the Around the Nation guy does his best Lee Corso impression.
Is it too fast, my friend? Perhaps. But there are other teams that look like they could have the stuff to reach Salem, even if UW-Whitewater isn’t one of them at the moment.
Pat and Keith talk about that and more in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast. Plus the revolving door playing the role of “No. 2 team in the OAC,” the three key two-point conversion attempts that could have sunk Top 25 teams and the two that saved one of them. The thought of the top seed in the East makes its first appearances, as does that word “clarity.” And Pat, who has now seen UW-Whitewater play three times, gives us his most important takeaways from the three-time defending champs.
Plus we talk about the late comeback by Hanover, the surprise win by Catholic, Mississippi College’s choosing Division II and what that does to the American Southwest Conference and more.
You can also get this and any of our future Around the Nation podcasts automatically by subscribing to this RSS feed: http://www.d3blogs.com/d3football/?feed=podcast
Plus, here’s this week’s D3football.com reports and highlight packages.
And this week’s photo galleries from our friends at d3photography.com:
- UW-Platteville vs. UW-Whitewater
- Ohio Northern vs. Mount Union
- Cal Lutheran vs. Pomona-Pitzer
- UW-Stevens Point vs. UW-La Crosse
ASC · Augsburg · Baldwin-Wallace · Bethel · Catholic · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · Heidelberg · Hobart · Illinois Wesleyan · Lebanon Valley · Linfield · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Millikin · Mississippi College · Mount Union · Ohio Northern · Otterbein · Rose-Hulman · SCAC · St. Thomas · Sul Ross State · UW-Platteville · UW-Whitewater · Washington and Lee · Widener · WPI
St. John Fisher ended last season on a roll to the Elite 8. The Cardinals start with a Top 25 opponent in Thomas More.
Are you ready to take in more than 1,200 college football games this season? We sure are!
The Division III community is embarking on a fall during which 239 teams will take the field, most playing nine or 10 games in the regular season. D-III is the largest division in college, and D3football.com will give you insight across the board into the good, the bad, and the potential breakouts.
That all started with Kickoff 2012, our preseason publication, which has a slew of feature stories as well as rankings and interviews with coaches from every team in the nation. (There’s still lots of valuable info there if you haven’t purchased yet.)
D3football.com also brings you regional and national columns throughout the season, and every Friday morning, you’ll be able to dive into the column you’re reading right now, called Triple Take.
In Triple Take, Executive Editor and Publisher Pat Coleman, Managing Editor and National Columnist Keith McMillan and Senior Editor and longtime Mid-Atlantic Columnist Ryan Tipps break down some of the week’s biggest games, sleeper teams and those who we’re keeping an especially close eye on. From now until the Stagg Bowl, we’ll take you well beyond the Top 25.
We open up Triple Take to comments in the section below, or feel free to take the conversation to Twitter using the hashtag #3take. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: Pat (@d3football), Keith (@D3Keith) and Ryan (@D3MidAtlantic).
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Thomas More at No. 11 St. John Fisher. Fisher blasted through the first two rounds of the 2011 playoffs, proving to the selection committee and the D-III community that 8-2 teams deserve at-large bids. Their Empire 8 conference is one of the absolute toughest in the land, and getting the ball rolling against the PAC’s standard-bearer will be an exciting test. Both teams return the bulk of their starters and match up amazingly well on the field. A win for momentum’s sake could be crucial, too, as each team faces its top conference opponent the first week of October.
Pat’s take: St. Norbert vs. John Carroll. It’s in Ireland, for goodness sakes. I’m not sure I need to write anything else.
Keith’s take: No. 20 Thomas More at No. 11 St. John Fisher. Usually we try not to duplicate picks, but this was my standout game before I saw Ryan’s, and I’m sticking with it. There’s some other intrigue, like Willamette at Hardin-Simmons and Monmouth at Coe, but this is the biggest toss-up involving at least one top 25 team. Luke Magness became Thomas More’s starting quarterback right at the end of the season last year; We’ll be watching to see how much better he is with an offseason to prepare for the job. Likewise, St. John Fisher’s Ryan Kramer was a running back-turned-QB in a pinch last season; He’s had a full go-round to train as a signal-caller.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve at Marietta. Case has ushered in some teams with top-notch records recently, not losing more than two games a season over the past five years. But the Spartans are rarely dynamic out of the gate. Chalk that up to reasons we may never know. But with some changes happening up front for Case, an OAC team (even a lower-tier one) isn’t how I’d prefer to start my season.
Pat’s take: No. 9 Delaware Valley at Rowan. The Profs look to be coming into this season undermanned when compared to their cross-river rivals. And even though Rowan is far removed from the program which beat Delaware Valley in back-to-back years for the East Region title in 2004 and 2005, there’s still a little pride in Glassboro. Enough to give them a fighting chance.
Keith’s take: Augustana at Dubuque. On the surface, it’s a 2-8 team vs. a playoff team. Beneath it, though, the Vikings have usually been good for about seven wins a season, and come from the always-tough CCIW. Last season, the Spartans won, 18-13, on the road. They’re a more confident team now, coming off an IIAC championship, but they’re also without Gagliardi Trophy winner Michael Zweifel, who accounted for an enormous amount of their offense last season. Even if Dubuque wins again, it’ll be by a not-pretty score like last season.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 8 St. Thomas. Can a team really lose its best players at its three prime skill positions — the quarterback and All-Americans at running back and wide receiver — and still deserve a spot in the Top 10? Not unless your name is Mount Union or UW-Whitewater. The Tommies’ opening opponent, UW-Eau Claire, is a solid mid-pack WIAC team, which stands for a lot coming from that conference. St. Thomas might make the playoffs again (they might even go 10-0), but there’s a lot more trepidation about the team’s potency now than there was at this time in 2011.
Pat’s take: No. 20 Thomas More. St. John Fisher performed better in the playoffs last season without Ryan Kramer than it did with him. But it’s good to remember that Kramer was not expected to be the quarterback in 2011 when the season started, and worked out in the offseason and preseason as a running back before the presumed starter got hurt. With a full offseason to prepare, Kramer should be much more polished under center.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Kean. I don’t think any of the ranked teams are really likely to be upset; If I thought so, I wouldn’t have put these teams in the preseason top 25. And I mean actual upsets (*glares at Pat*). Kean though, is replacing nearly its entire offense (four starters back; 13 overall) while its opponent, Albright, brings back the group almost intact (nine offensive starters, 16 overall). The game is under the lights in Union, N.J. though, which means this is about as weak an upset pick as I could possibly make. Other viable choices were No. 6 North Central, hosting UW-LaCrosse or No. 7 Salisbury, at Christopher Newport.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 24. Birmingham-Southern. Any team that has a rusher like Shawn Morris has one less position it needs to worry about come Saturday. As the No. 2 rusher in country last fall, Morris was instrumental in helping B-SC reach further for its gold ring than ever before. The Panthers have turned things around in recent years, and barring any major stumbles, they should be on everyone’s radar for the next several weeks, starting with their game against LaGrange.
Pat’s take: Buffalo State. The Empire 8 coaches’ poll snubbed the Bengals and despite my best efforts, I think Kickoff did too. I agree with what Ryan said above, about the Empire 8 being among the toughest conferences in Division III football, but Buffalo State will be able to hold its own. Whether that translates into a win against Cortland State remains to be seen but the Bengals should be on your radar, for sure.
Keith’s take: William Paterson and Wisconsin Lutheran. Yeah I’m not sure I understood Pat’s obssession with Buffalo State during our Kickoff meetings, but then he could probably say the same about my Wisconsin Lutheran pick in the Beyond the Top 25 piece. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, buy Kickoff. … It won’t affect the Northern Athletics Conference race, but Wisconsin Lutheran’s opener at Ripon is a chance for them to take a step toward the postseason. Meanwhile, the real intrigue is in the NJAC, a race that could be up for grabs, especially if my upset pick is correct. That means William Paterson needs to start the season with an attention-grabbing victory against King’s. Other potential picks here included North Park at Hope and Illinois College, hosting Hanover.
Which 2011 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays have said more than once in recent seasons that quarterback Hewitt Tomlin was the face of the franchise, the player on whom success and defeat often rested. Tomlin has graduated, and with him the more than 2,600 yards he threw for last year. That doesn’t leave a settling thought for a team that has to go up against Randolph-Macon, with its penchant for replacing top-notch running backs with even more top-notch backs. Macon is stingy with points, too. A team might be able to air the ball out and make some big plays to put up points, but most opponents won’t win the war in the trenches with Macon. JHU won’t have the leverage going into Saturday to outlift R-MC.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. It isn’t a rebuilding season for the Saints, to be sure, but they won’t be 10-0 dominant like they were last year. And you can consult the Kickoff rankings to see the difference between last year’s non-conference opener (Lawrence) and this year’s (Whitworth).
Keith’s take: Franklin. Look, we salute the Grizzlies for playing Mount Union. It’ll be a meeting of some of D-III’s best fans, at least in the pre-game tailgate. For years we’ve seen teams take this Week 1 game to get a taste of the Purple Raiders, and they end up with a mouthful. Franklin, which has designs on being a perennial contender, took a game with UW-Whitewater last season and lost 45-0. The playoff rematch was 41-14. I know Franklin doesn’t really wish it had a bye, because they’re playing these games to figure out what it takes to get to the purple powers’ level, but the final score may leave a bit to be desired. Mount Union has been vulnerable in recent seasons, but we’re talking December vulnerable, not beginning of September. Other candidates: Bendictine at No. 15 Wheaton, Monmouth at Coe.
Which conference will have the most impressive non-conference win?
Ryan’s take: The MIAA. It’s not every day that a team from Michigan can get a leg up on the CCIW, but that’s exactly what could happen when Adrian hosts Carthage. The Bulldogs are a team on the rise, and they’re certainly hoping to bite into a piece of the playoff pie. Should they lose a conference game, wins against teams like Carthage could factor in nicely for at-large consideration.
Pat’s take: The MAC. There are a couple of possible matchups here that could give me that result, but the one I’m thinking of is Lebanon Valley at Montclair State. Montclair State just lost too much on offense and defense … and special teams … and while Lebanon Valley doesn’t exactly return intact either, it should have the upper hand.
Keith’s take: The ECFC. A few teams scheduled aggressively, opening up opportunities for upsets. Gallaudet at Otterbein, Norwich against Western New England and Husson at Hartwick are the three games that would catch my attention, should the ECFC team prevail.
Which long losing streak is likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Greensboro, at Guilford. If you’re going to end a losing streak, nothing’s sweeter than doing it against a cross-town rival. The Pride has a new coach, one who is familiar with the inner workings of the team. That means there’s new perspectives but without the learning curve. To most teams, Guilford wouldn’t be a chest-thumping win, but Greensboro has won just one game since September 2010. And last year’s matchup against Guilford was a lopsided affair. A win by Greensboro isn’t going to be a sign of a great resurgence afoot, but it will be a step in the right direction for a program looking to rebuild.
Pat’s take: Knox, vs. Eureka. The Prairie Fire have been put out 14 consecutive times, but it’s better to open against Eureka than against Wash U. Knox is playing at home and should have 18 starters back. Eureka has some pretty good talent as well, but if the win doesn’t come here for Knox, in the inaugural Lincoln Bowl, it will be more than a month before there’s another similar opportunity.
Keith’s take: Thiel, vs. Juniata. The Tomcats won 11 games in 2005, but now are coming off consecutive 0-10 seasons and 22 consecutive losses. Juniata, meanwhile, is 6-54 since that 2005 season, so if there was ever an opportunity for Theil to break the streak, now is the time. Hamline (16 consecutive losses) at Minnesota-Morris is another candidate.
Adrian · Albright · Augustana · Birmingham-Southern · Buffalo State · Carthage · Case Western Reserve · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Dubuque · Eureka · Gallaudet · Greensboro · Guilford · Hamline · Hanover · Hartwick · Hope · Husson · Illinois College · John Carroll · Johns Hopkins · Juniata · Kean · Knox · Lebanon Valley · Marietta · Minnesota-Morris · Montclair State · North Park · Norwich · Otterbein · Randolph-Macon · Rowan · St. John Fisher · St. Norbert · St. Scholastica · St. Thomas · Thiel · Thomas More · UW-Eau Claire · Western New England · Whitworth · William Paterson · Wisconsin Lutheran
Joe Wojceichowski and the Widener defense will try to shut down Delaware Valley.
Widener athletics photo
The intensity of rivalries is virtually unmatched. The players become more focused, the crowd more vibrant. Alumni flood to stadiums, and memories are dredged up. A win against a rival opponent can rescue an otherwise sour season. And it makes Saturday night celebrations so much sweeter.
Across the country, rivalries will be taking place Saturday as the regular season comes to a close and the playoff prowess in a few remaining conferences shakes out.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps walk you through the action, with Selection Sunday right on the horizon.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Huntingdon at No. 7 Wesley. It’s been a couple of years now since the Wolverines were in a position in which losing the regular season finale would likely mean no playoff performance. But there are question marks for Saturday. Wesley’s loss to Kean earlier in the year made perfection necessary for the final eight games of the season. And Huntingdon won’t be a pushover. The Hawks have already dealt losses to teams that currently stand at 8-1 and 7-2. Could a team like Wesley, which has been to the national semifinals each of the past two seasons, get left out in the cold entirely? Their performance Saturday will be telling.
Keith’s take: Wherever you’re headed. The other guys nail the games with the farthest-rippling playoff implications. So I’ll go ahead and cop out, under the premise that there’s no need to single out a game when we have five conference championships decided (NEFC, NJAC, MAC, LL and NWC), rivalry games from Indiana to Massachusetts to Virginia — and Iowa and Pennsylvania — that make or break seasons. And beyond that, it’s Week 11 — the last game of the season for all but 32 playoff teams and 14 ECAC bowl-bound squads. Hundreds of seniors will hang it up after this. Parents will see their son play one last time, and tailgate grills will make a final appearance before heading into the garage for offseason storage. So I’ll play the Jon Gruden “everything’s awesome” role. Because, you know, it is.
Pat’s take: Widener at No. 11 Delaware Valley. Literally, you can’t do a playoff projection without the result of this game, and there are a lot of factors. Let’s see, Delaware Valley has this tremendously backloaded schedule, with Lycoming and Widener at the end. The Aggies haven’t looked very much like the young team that they are this season. Widener surprised Delaware Valley last year and sent them on a course for Mount Union in the second round, so the rivalry got amped up a little higher and Delaware Valley has even more motivation. But what could be more motivating than the only chance Widener has to get a playoff bid?
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: No. 12 Johns Hopkins at McDaniel. Part of the motivation here is seeing JHU almost drop their matchup against Franklin and Marshall last week, a team that should have been handled easily by the high-powered Blue Jays. However, what makes McDaniel a thinker in this situation is its track record this year: of the Green Terror’s seven losses, five were by eight points or less. McDaniel hasn’t really been able to bring all the pieces together to get wins, but the team has been able to hang around long enough to make it interesting. This Saturday’s game will be interesting, too.
Keith’s take: Trine at Albion. Maybe surprising only in the sense that the Britons are playoff-bound no matter the outcome, and Trine — the dominant MIAA program of the past few seasons picked up two conferences losses by mid-October. But I’m not sure I expect Albion to win, observing from afar. After an impressive five-game stretch, the Britons outgained DePauw 380-126 last week but managed just three points. Trine is the MIAA’s top rush offense (179 yards/game) and Albion is the top rush defense (96 yards). Should be a fun one.
Pat’s take: UW-La Crosse at No. 1 UW-Whitewater. UW-La Crosse gave UW-Whitewater a decent game in the season opener. It’s not likely to be the same close game it was in September, but it will be interesting to see how the teams have grown since Week 1 … not to mention how Whitewater might do if it needed to use Levell Coppage in the fourth quarter.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Franklin. Over the past four weeks, the Grizzlies have progressively played their way through the bottom four teams in the HCAC, starting with 4-5 Rose-Hulman and ending with 0-9 Earlham. So how will they react to all of sudden having to play a more competitive team again? Franklin is unquestionably the better team in this matchup, but Hanover’s advantage is being able to push Franklin enough to throw the Grizzlies off their game. This is a rivalry game, too, played for the Victory Bell. Hanover will be well aware of the fact that this is the last game of their season, win or lose. The Panthers will surely want to win.
Keith’s take: No. 9 Wabash. Just kidding Little Giants fans. Admit it, you got mad there for a second. No. 22 Bethel is my real pick. And with the 10th best rushing offense in the country at 279 yards a game, and with the No. 14 total defense, the Royals probably are just an unfortunate version of the team that played in a national semifinal last season. That said, it’s not easy to force yourself to play just for pride, and that appears to be all the Royals have left when they face 6-3 Augsburg in the Metrodome. Bethel and Augsburg had similar results against St. Thomas and St. Olaf, but only the Royals have to realize there’s no long playoff run ahead this year, just a long football-free December like most of are used to, and turning that into positive motivation.
Pat’s take: No. 13 Redlands. Last year, Redlands barely beat Chapman, finishing 8-1. The previous two years, Redlands lost in Week 11 to finish 7-2 each season and miss out on any shot at the playoffs. Not going to say any more.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. A win in the Mules’ crosstown rivalry game against Moravian would position them well for an ECAC postseason game. Muhlenberg stumbled a couple of times during the season but showed they could compete with the likes of Delaware Valley and Johns Hopkins. The team’s seniors certainly remember the special run the Mules had during their freshman year, and they’ll certainly be eager to channel that energy again.
Keith’s take: UW-Platteville. If the Pioneers can beat UW-Stevens Point for a second time, they’ll finish 7-3 and go down as the best team not to beat anybody great, but to only lose to really good teams. The three losses are to Wheaton, UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh, which are 22-5 combined. A seventh win would also eclipse the best record of the D3football.com era, a 6-4 mark in 2004.
Pat’s take: UW-River Falls. The Falcons started the season 0-8, but had two close losses at home, then won at UW-La Crosse last week to snap the losing streak. River Falls returns home this week to face UW-Eau Claire.
Rivalry game you’re most interested in (alma maters excluded).
Ryan’s take: Amherst at Williams. No matter what, this is the end of the road for both of these teams, which opt not to compete in the playoffs. So at stake is pride: the Ephs’ pride in keeping Amherst from an undefeated 2011 season; the Lord Jeffs’ pride in avenging last year’s loss. If you don’t know the history between these two schools, look it up. It’s unlikely that any two institutions have claim to a more natural rivalry than these two. And it’s rare for them to produce anything but a captivating game.
Keith’s take: Coe at Cornell. Okay, you can get Curt Menefee to pose in a “beat Cornell” shirt. Probably could get Fred Jackson too. But as long as I’ve been writing rivalry stories, I’ve never been able to say anything about this game but that they’ve played it for a long time (121 and counting). Am I just not talking to the right people? The two teams have followed each other from the MWC to the IIAC and are going their separate ways as Cornell heads back to the MWC, but I’m interested in whether fans in Iowa really care about this rivalry.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Kean at No. 15 Montclair State. Okay, so it won’t appear on too many lists of great rivalries but I’m going to go ahead and pick it here because there should be plenty of bad blood … or blood, anyway … to go with what’s on the line in this game, for the NJAC title. Kean coach Dan Garrett and both of his coordinators played at Montclair, which is just 18 miles from Kean, in northern New Jersey.
Who will have the least momentum going into the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: Albion. The Britons have to be scratching their heads after last weekend’s loss to DePauw and should have spent this week learning how to once again become in tune with their offensive mojo. Even though Trine doesn’t have the luster of the last couple of seasons, the team still knows how to force turnovers and run the ball down its opponent’s throat. Albion knows how to handle the run — usually — and the ability to stop that will help them with their confidence going into the playoffs. However, it won’t be a surprise if Albion is an eighth seed in the region, which wouldn’t be doing them any favors. The mental hurdle will be as tough as the physical one.
Keith’s take: St. Thomas. They’re 10-0, sure. But they don’t have a game this Saturday. So I guess it depends how you define momentum.
Pat’s take: Thomas More. Regardless of whether Thomas More wins this week or not, the Saints are already back on their heels after the loss to Waynesburg. Thomas More went solely from being a heavy favorite to being a favorite against Mount St. Joseph in their local rivalry game, but either way, the damage has been done.
Which team can alter its fortunes the most?
Ryan’s take: Lewis and Clark. The question isn’t which team “will,” but rather which team “can.” And the Pioneers certainly can. A win at Linfield puts L&C — a team just three seasons removed from a long string of 0- and 1-win seasons — in the playoffs. On the flip side, a loss for the Pioneers means they’ll be sitting at home next week.
Keith’s take: Hampden-Sydney. Besides Widener and the other teams that can play their way into the playoffs with wins, H-SC could change course the most on Saturday. A win over 7-2 Randolph-Macon continues the Tigers’ dominance in the series and gives them an advantage in recruiting. A loss could mean the difference between a home playoff game against somebody like Christopher Newport, Centre or Thomas More, or a road game at Salisbury, Wesley or Johns Hopkins.
Pat’s take: Trinity (Texas). Not sure it’s in a positive way, however. Austin has to be motivated to not finish the season 0-10. The Kangaroos have been fairly decent at home while the Tigers have struggled a little bit on the road.
Albion · Amherst · Augsburg · Bethel · Chapman · Coe · Cornell · Delaware Valley · Franklin · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · Huntingdon · Johns Hopkins · Kean · Lewis and Clark · Linfield · McDaniel · Montclair State · Moravian · Mount St. Joseph · Muhlenberg · Redlands · St. Thomas · Thomas More · Trine · Trinity (Texas) · UW-Eau Claire · UW-Platteville · UW-River Falls · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Wesley · Widener · Williams
Was Redlands stiffed in this week’s regional rankings?
Redlands athletics photo
The Eastern Collegiate, Empire 8, North Coast, Old Dominion, Southern Collegiate and USA South each feature matchups this week involving teams that are undefeated in conference play. That means the stakes are high, and postseason hopes are brimming for players, coaches and fans.
But several teams elsewhere — including powerhouses Mount Union and North Central — are also closing in on the automatic qualifier and can clinch with Saturday wins. There’s no doubt that a clearer view of the playoff landscape will be had by the time the weekend is over.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps take you through some of the big games. We probably aren’t hitting them all, so feel free to weigh in in the comments section. We’re always happy to hear what you have to say, especially if you have your own predictions.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 12 Delaware Valley at Lycoming. There’s more at stake here than the MAC’s automatic qualifier. A Lycoming win can push DelVal into the crowded end of Pool C, and with their standing, the Aggies would be ripe for snagging one of the few at-large playoff spots. So every Pool C contender should be paying attention to this matchup in Williamsport, Pa., hoping for Delaware Valley to give Lycoming its second loss of the season. Both Delaware Valley and Lycoming have hung substantial points on opponents, but what have been impressive are their defenses — and they will be the biggest factors come game time Saturday.
Keith’s take: No. 25 Centre at No. 18 Trinity (Texas) and McMurry at No. 20 Louisiana College. I’m cheating and taking a two-game swing down south. Here’s why: These matchups have conference title (in the SCAC) and playoff (both) implications, the latter of which could be far reaching. A Trinity win could mean a home game against the winner of the other game, and a flight to Mary Hardin-Baylor for someone else. A Centre win might affect someone like fellow Kentucky school Thomas More, or one of the Virginia or Ohio playoff teams. But here are the clinchers: Each team has subtext to its performance. Dennis Dunn came to LC as a nationally known high school coach; the Wildcats are winners, but have yet to visit the playoffs. Centre’s been knocking on the door of the playoffs for years as well, winning as many as nine games and not getting in. Trinity could bid adieu to its conference mates leaving to form the SAA with one last SCAC football title. And McMurry, on the way to D-II, might have its first real taste of D-III success on the way out the door.
Pat’s take: No. 13 Wheaton (Ill.) at No. 6 North Central (Ill.). The Little Brass Bell grew in stature starting in 2005, when the Cardinals actually became capable of winning the game on a regular basis. In this instance, North Central can wrap up the conference automatic bid with a victory. The Cardinals have allowed less than a touchdown per game over the past six contests and Wheaton has had some similar performances of late.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Baldwin-Wallace at No. 2 Mount Union. We all know that a “close game” in Purple Raider Land is relative. Maybe, after I picked Baldwin-Wallace in the preseason to finish second in the OAC, I simply want this game to be close. And “wants” don’t always line up with “realities.” It’s hard to ignore that in four of the past five games, UMU has been held to three points or less in the first quarter (before then laying waste to their opponents). B-W, on the other hand, has been consistent in putting up points early. But none of those B-W games came against Mount, which for 60 minutes, is a whole ’nother beast entirely.
Keith’s take: Alfred at Ithaca. The Saxons lost by 69 to Salisbury three weeks ago, then gave up 54 to Frostburg State. The Bombers eked out a 13-10 win against the Bobcats last weekend, and they only gave up 21 to Salisbury in September. But this seems to be a case where comparing scores will fail us. Both teams bounced back from losing streaks with close wins last week, and have been up and down all season. Add in the need for Ithaca to win their last two games to help their streak of winning seasons hit 40, and we’ve got the recipe for a tight finish.
Pat’s take: St. John Fisher at No. 11 Salisbury. The concept of surprisingly close, you know, is just a measure of a game that might throw a scare into a team, or make fans do a double take at the score. Since Wesley showed the blueprint of how a team can beat Salisbury last week, St. John Fisher has a better chance of keeping the margin of victory down. But do they have the personnel on defense to shut the Salisbury defense down, at Salisbury? I’m thinking not.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 17 Montclair State. The Red Hawks are sandwiched in a stressful part of their season, and a loss means they could be flushing their playoff hopes away. Two weeks ago, Montclair lost to New Jersey, and this week’s Rowan team will bring a tough defense that could catch the Red Hawks off guard, especially if they find themselves looking ahead to next week’s showdown with fellow NJAC frontrunner Kean. It’s a perfect storm, and Montclair doesn’t want to find itself struggling to stay afloat.
Keith’s take: No. 10 Wabash. There’s hardly a game on the board that is both likely and would be a true upset. But since the Little Giants are ranked so highly and Wittenberg is not, and because I’m a glutton for punishment on our message boards, let’s go here. Wabash allowed only 24 points in its first five games, a stat so good I wonder why I’m just now noticing it. Since, the Little Giants might have let their feet off the gas, but no matter. With QB Ben Zoeller passing for 291 yards per game, Wittenberg will be a test unlike anything Wabash has seen so far. But then again, the Little Giants defense, which allows only 74 rushing yards per game, will be like nothing the Tigers offense has seen.
Pat’s take: No. 19 St. Olaf. Alright. I’ll buy one last time into the Johnnie magic concept. After that they’ll have to show me once before I go again. But the Oles haven’t won in Collegeville since 2001, and have lost 10 of 11 at St. John’s. Whether St. John’s recent bounceback is a measure of improved play or catching some easier opponents will be determined Saturday, but the Johnnies need a win to finish with a winning record.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: McMurry. I just added McMurry to my Top 25 ballot last weekend, and lining up against Louisiana College will tell me whether I bet on the right horse. Because, you see, Louisiana College isn’t on my ballot at all, instead hovering just outside at that 26 or 27 spot in my mind. A win here would keep the War Hawks in the running for a Pool C bid. Could they cap their final year in Division III with a playoff run?
Keith’s take: Trinity (Conn.) and Amherst. The big rivalry games for these two teams are next week, but the NESCAC title is on the line Saturday. A little national recognition should be in order for the winner as well, as the Bantams and Lord Jeffs are the No. 1 and No. 5 scoring defenses in the country. Both teams rush for more than 200 yards a game as well, and given that there’s no other way to tell how good they are, this result means everything.
Pat’s take: Louisiana College. Sorry, Ryan, I’m going in the other direction. I think Louisiana College does enough to take McMurry’s aerial attack off the radar and ensure that McMurry’s final season in Division III ends like the rest of its seasons did.
A team that will clinch a share of the conference title on Saturday.
Ryan’s take: Franklin. While clinching a conference certainly means that the Grizzlies have to win against 0-8 Earlham on Saturday, there’s another piece to this puzzle: Hanover must lose. If Hanover loses to Mount St. Joseph, every team in the HCAC except Franklin will have two in-conference losses. That punches the playoff ticket of Franklin and its high-powered offense. So this isn’t really about watching Franklin this weekend, it’s about watching the evenly matched Hanover and Mount St. Joseph square off.
Keith’s take: Dubuque. The Spartans are no one-man gang, not gaining 506 yards per game they aren’t. They’ve thrown 41 touchdown passes; Monmouth and Widener are next best with 31. Their opponent, Coe? It’s the 202nd-ranked pass defense in the country, and No. 158 in pass efficiency defense, which means Dubuque has a golden opportunity to light up the scoreboard and head home as IIAC champions.
Pat’s take: Norwich. And in this case, not just a share, but they’ll be in the clubhouse with a win against SUNY-Maritime. It’s hard to come up with any kind of trend from Norwich’s recent results, so I’m counting on Norwich’s aggressive (by ECFC standards) non-conference scheduling to carry the day.
Which season turnaround has been the most interesting?
Ryan’s take: Albion. It’s tough to fault a team starting 0-3 if those first few games come against the likes of Wheaton, UW-Stevens Point and Division 1-FCS (non-scholarship) Butler. But, wow, how Albion has redeemed itself in conference play. The Bulldogs’ passing offense has become more effective, the run defense has been better able to stop the opposition and, most of all, the team earned itself a spot in the playoffs. And this is without yet lining up against defending MIAA champ Trine, which is sitting with two conference losses already. From 0-3 to conference champ isn’t unheard of, but it definitely says a lot about the team and the coaching staff.
Keith’s take: Defiance. The Yellowjackets opened up with three home games, yet lost their first four overall. They’ve rebounded with four wins in a row, and by beating 2-6 Manchester and 4-5 Bluffton, they can match last season’s 6-4, 6-2 record. A nod here, too, to Christopher Newport, which is playing for the USA South title after a 1-2 start and a loss to a first-year program.
Pat’s take: Baldwin-Wallace. And they’ve certainly trying to impress us, what with that 75-0 win at Wilmington two weeks ago. It’s a far cry from the surprising home loss to Capital back in Week 4, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be enough to carry the day against Mount Union.
Which team will rise in the regional rankings next week, and why?
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney. It’s a tough call in their matchup against regionally-ranked Washington and Lee, but I give the Tigers a narrow nod in this one. And that means H-SC will bump up past the LC/McMurry loser and possibly even leapfrog Thomas More.
Keith’s take: Illinois Wesleyan. It’s subtle, but assuming the Titans beat a struggling Carthage team, they should move ahead of Case Western Reserve. Especially if Wheaton, which lost to IWU, clinches the CCIW title with a win of 15 or more points. The three CCIW teams have strength of schedule numbers and results against each other that make them three of the teams most likely to end up high in the North regional rankings.
Pat’s take: Redlands. They’re incorrectly below St. Olaf this week, in my opinion. Of the criteria, there is nothing in which St. Olaf is better than Redlands. The only way this ranking can be justified is if they ignored the win against a regionally ranked opponent, in North Central. Is the committee’s memory short or was a cross-check missed at the national committee level?
Albion · Alfred · Amherst · Baldwin-Wallace · Centre · Christopher Newport · Defiance · Delaware Valley · Dubuque · Franklin · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Louisiana College · Lycoming · McMurry · Montclair State · Mount St. Joseph · Mount Union · North Central (Ill.) · Norwich · Redlands · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · St. Olaf · SUNY-Maritime · Trinity (Conn.) · Trinity (Texas) · Wabash · Wheaton (Ill.)