TAG | Hartwick
Mike Benderski made the D3football.com Team of the Week for his performance on special teams against Rochester. Will St. John Fisher need similar heroics this week?
St. John Fisher athletics photo
By the end of Saturday, every one of the 239 teams in Division III will have lined up to take a snap this season.
This weekend marks the debut of the NESCAC teams, which don’t play any teams outside the conference, either in the regular season or the postseason. The teams in the NESCAC should have some familiarity across the football landscape, though. Few folks haven’t heard of the storied Amherst-Williams rivalry, dubbed the “Biggest Little Game in America.” Or of the “other Trinity,” the Connecticut-based team that regularly notches 7-1 or 8-0 seasons.
And the, of course for us, there’s the other 200-plus teams worth talking about, from the ones who are still hunting for their first win here in Week 4 to the ones who are hanging onto undefeated seasons – and hope to keep it that way!
Pat Coleman (@d3football), Keith McMillan (@D3Keith) and Ryan Tipps (@D3MidAtlantic) give you a taste of the NESCAC and a full helping from the other 28 conferences in Division III in this week’s Triple Take.
Don’t hesitate to comment below or join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #3take.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Hartwick at No. 10 St. John Fisher. I know we hit on this two weeks ago, but the Empire 8 is truly one wickedly scary conference to play in. Hartwick and SJF are the only 3-0 teams currently in the pack, which makes this the first of many conference matchups where teams will be able to separate themselves from the ravenous bunch. (Sidebar: Don’t be surprised to see next week’s Salisbury/Buffalo State E8 clash as a Game of the Week pick, too.) Fisher has lined up against quality opponents, dealing its first three opponents their only losses of the season. The Hawks, on the other hand, have blown out most of their competition by a margin of 144-62. But those opponents were much weaker than the fare Fisher has lined up against, and that makes me wonder if Hartwick is really prepared for what’s going to come at it on Saturday. Come to think of it, this situation is a good argument for playing tough nonconference games.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Thomas More at Waynesburg. Thomas More was ranked No. 8 last time these teams met, and has gone 2-3 since. The Saints come in at a more realistic ranking this time and have undefeated Waynesburg waiting for them. Both teams have been slow starters so far this season on offense, so look for at least one of these teams to make a bold move early.
Keith’s take: No. 6 Wesley at Louisiana College. It’s almost a defacto playoff game, in Week 4. That alone makes it worth of G.O.T.W. status — Wesley’s loss to No. 2 UMHB means it can’t afford to lose again and expect its usual spot in the playoffs. LC, meanwhile, has to go through UMHB to win its conference, and if it loses, one loss to a team like Wesley is all it can afford. The Wolverines have already played two road games, and two of the top 10 teams in the country, so their stats are skewed toward unimpressive. But if ever Justin Sotillare, Askia Jahad and the offense needs to guide an inspired effort, it’s on a trip to unfamiliar territory, coming off a loss. The Wildcats are known for their passing offense, but it’s actually their pass defense, and overall prowess on that side of the ball — just 400 yards allowed in a 2-0 start — that’s been key so far.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: St. Scholastica at Martin Luther. The Saints are best when they’re able to move the ball with ease via their run game, particularly in last week’s lopsided win over Greenville. But Martin Luther, after three games, has limited opponents to an average of 73 yards a game. If the Knights can neutralize the Saints’ best attack, they might be able to keep this one close.
Pat’s take: No. 6 Wesley at Louisiana College. Every game from here on out, Wesley is fighting for its playoff life, as the NCAA doesn’t take our poll into account when selecting or seeding playoff teams. While Wesley is the superior team on paper, the trip might take a few points out of them. What the Wolverines need is to find their running game and when Louisiana College allows just 100.5 yards per game on the ground, it might not be easy. But neither Webber International nor Belhaven is on the level of a highly ranked Division III team.
Keith’s take: Kalamazoo at Centre. With its first foray into the playoffs last season, Centre has become a nationally known name. Kalamazoo is anything but, but they’ve pulled out three close wins this September, with one in four overtimes. The Hornets’ running game, behind Dimeko Price (105.33 yards per game) and Aaron McGuire (86.67) is humming and confidence is as high as its been. The Colonels have given up 559 rushing yards in the past two games, including 338 in a 34-16 loss at Washington & Lee. Centre definitely needs to get back on track, but if they allow the Hornets to get the run game going, it could be quite the tussle.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 4 UW-Whitewater. I’m not going to lie, I feel like I’m stirring the pot with this one, even though that’s not my intent. Any team lining up against UW-Stevens Point would have its hands full this week — Whitewater just happened to draw that short straw. The Pointers are 1-1, coming off a week of drubbing Dubuque. Their only loss is an eight-point decision to St. Francis, one of the nation’s best NAIA programs. UW-SP has put up some wild numbers on offense, but the key to beating Whitewater will be defense, as Buffalo State showed. The Warhawk throne has been rattled. I’m sure most of you are like me and eager to see how the defending national champions respond tomorrow and through the rest of the season.
Pat’s take: No. 24 Johns Hopkins. Muhlenberg has been quietly dominant in going 3-0, and has outscored opponents 81-7 in the process. The Centennial so rarely has a team run the table the way it did last year. One of these two is likely to win the conference anyway, and I think the Mules are the ones.
Keith’s take: No. 17 Brockport State. Three weeks ago Kean was a top 25 team and Brockport wasn’t yet on the top 25 radar. But the Golden Eagles have started 3-0, and the Cougars 0-2, and here we are. Kean is ranked 210th in the country in total offense, with Brockport 10th, but defensively the Golden Eagles should be more generous than UMHB, which Kean lost to, 34-7, in its last game, two weeks ago. The Cougars have had that time to stew, and to heal up, from their visit to Texas. They led Albright 26-7 in their opener before allowing the Lions to score the final 22 points of the game. Brockport State’s offense might continue to hum, but Kean has far too much talent to sputter as it has for the past six quarters. Plus, as a playoff team last season, the Cougars are at a point where their pride is being tested. Win now, in front of the home crowd, or there’s a miserable season ahead.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Central. The Dutch have to be wondering what to make of this Albion squad, which knocked off Wheaton only to fall to the NATHC’s Benedictine. Central’s been interesting so far this year, having not scored even one first-half touchdown but then having posted 35 points in fourth quarters alone. And we have yet to see any breakout performances — though punter Blaine Forsythe has been doing quite well with ample opportunity. Maybe Central is on my radar for the wrong reasons, but maybe that’s just the nature of the buildup to this year’s IIAC matchups.
Pat’s take: Carnegie Mellon. Or Waynesburg or Muhlenberg, whom I’ve mentioned in previous categories. But Carnegie Mellon is facing DePauw, and while I might pick the Tigers to rally around their new coach and win, I’m not sure I’ll do so against an unbeaten team on a long road trip.
Keith’s take: Huntingdon. I’m curious about how Buffalo State handles success and how St. John’s bounces back from defeat. Endicott, Muhlenberg and Otterbein all interested me this week. But the Hawks bring a 545-yard and 49-point-per-game offense to Hampden-Sydney, which is off to a slow start by its offensive standards, which are similar to Huntingdon’s. But the Hawks have played almost no defense to date (450 yards and 32 points per game allowed) while the Tigers seem to have figured out that being one-dimensional isn’t too productive. The Tigers have a solid pass rush and a decent defense overall. Against Huntingdon, we’ll find out if they’re “good.” Quarterbacks Neal Posey (Huntingdon) and Nash Nance could get to slinging it around the field on Saturday.
From which “direction” do you see bigger things?
Ryan’s take: North Park. OK, we all know that the Vikings don’t fare well against their CCIW brethren. But it’s been several seasons since North Park has started the year 0-2. And last year, they even swept their nonconference slate. This week, they line up against another winless team, Olivet. North Park may not be great, but they’re better than the 0-2 record they bring to the table. Of course, when you give up six turnovers in one game as they did last week, there’s not a lot of wiggle room to succeed.
Pat’s take: Uhh … Birmingham-Southern. But this shouldn’t be a surprise and I’m probably not enlightening too many people with this pick. The most interesting thing here is that this will be the first time that the Panthers have had to leave the state this season.
Keith’s take: Western New England. The Golden Bears lost their opener at Norwich, then responded by outscoring its next two oppoents, 85-24. Nichols is up next, and they’re 0-3 with each loss by at least 23 points. There’s a bad statistical mismatch ahead too. WNEU is the nation’s second-best team in turnover margin, averaging 3.67 more per game than they give to their opponents. The Bison are 229th, turning it over 3.67 times a game more than they generate.
Which team could get caught looking ahead?
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve. Opponent Ohio Wesleyan hasn’t put together a highly commendable season since a 7-3 outing in 2005. But this year, the team has a new coach and, with him, a new offense and new excitement surrounding the program. The last two times these teams played, Case held OWU to just 7 points each outing while piling on 55 and 35 points of their own. That won’t happen this time. OWU is 2-0 so far, and if Case gets too focused on next week’s game against Wittenberg, they just might see themselves with another game in the loss column.
Pat’s take: Lebanon Valley, perhaps. Stevenson might have enough firepower to take the Dutchmen down a peg or two a week before Leb Val hosts Widener. However, after Leb Val’s loss to Lyco last week they might be better focused than to fall into a trap game.
Keith’s take: Wittenberg. Wooster tends not to be an easy win, but the Tigers have two of those so far, and know their season can be defined by games against Case Western Reserve and Wabash the next two weeks. Wooster is good enough to force the Tigers to snap into focus. Wittenberg has been lighting up the skies, passing for 342 yards per game of its 492 offensively. Meanwhile, the Scots have seven sacks in their 1-1 start, and have been solid defensively (36th, at 259 yards allowed per game).
Which NESCAC game are you most looking forward to?
Ryan’s take: Bates at Trinity (Conn.). It’s hard being in someone’s shadow. And while Trinity running back Evan Bunker hasn’t exactly floundered, it will be good for him to have a season all to himself without older brother Eric (from Amherst) competing for accolades. The pair were the conference’s two first-team rushers, tying with 853 yards each last season, and Eric earned the NESCAC’s Offensive Player of the Year honor. You can be sure Evan will want that nod this season, and it all starts in the battle against Bates this weekend.
Pat’s take: Bowdoin at Middlebury. Middlebury should be putting some points on the board this year and I’m interested to see how they start out. McCallum Foote won’t surprise opponents this year but he should be no less effective in his second year, with an extra year of experience reading defenses and understanding the playbook.
Keith’s take: Wesleyan at Tufts. Hear me out here. We already know Amherst, which hosts Hamilton, and Williams, which hosts Colby, are going to be pretty good, as usual. But you never know which NESCAC team is suddenly going to go 6-2. Wesleyan, 4-4 last season, might be a candidate, but has only 11 starters back. Tufts (1-7) has 15. This is the NESCAC game with the most drama potential in the outcome, though conference championship potential is low.
Albion · Bates · Birmingham-Southern · Bowdoin · Carnegie Mellon · Case Western Reserve · Central · Hartwick · Johns Hopkins · Lebanon Valley · Louisiana College · Martin Luther · Middlebury · Muhlenberg · North Park · Ohio Wesleyan · St. John Fisher · St. Scholastica · Trinity (Conn.) · UW-Platteville · Waynesburg · Wesley
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
Mount Union might be struggling on offense but you can’t beat them if you can’t score.
Mount Union athletics photo by JT Higgins
Records could fall, bids could be clinched, but the key story of this past week was big defensive performances by the top teams. UW-Whitewater’s defense may well have won it the game at Oshkosh, Mount Union shut down and picked off Capital, St. Thomas did its job at Bethel and North Central more than did so at Illinois Wesleyan. But as we caution, don’t forget special teams.
And there seems to be a bit of a pecking order emerging for those six at-large playoff bids. Who is in the drivers seat, as much as anyone can be for an at-large bid? Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan name six teams. They discuss that and more in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast. See the list of tags at the bottom of this post to see who else is discussed.
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 the first look at this week’s D3reports, as well as Division III football highlight reels. These will also appear on the front page on Monday afternoon.
Alex Tanney · Bethel · Capital · Delaware Valley · Dubuque · Hartwick · Illinois Wesleyan · Justin Peery · Lewis and Clark · Louisiana College · McMurry · Mike Zweifel · Monmouth · Montclair State · Mount Union · New Jersey · North Central · Occidental · Redlands · Salisbury · Scott Pingel · St. John Fisher · St. Olaf · St. Thomas · TCNJ · Trinity (Texas) · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wesley · Westminster (Mo.) · Widener
If healthy, Nate Wara can hurt teams with his arm and legs.
By Larry Radloff, d3photography.com
Three crucial games between Top 25 teams take place this weekend. Each and every Saturday, players line up to help sort out conference races and hopefully take down rivals, but these national games have an even broader audience because of their implications toward the NCAA postseason. Many eyes should be watching.
Giving you insight into some of the Top 25 as well as pieces of the rest of the 214 teams out there are Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 6 North Central at No. 15 Illinois Wesleyan. Truth be told, both of these teams are in the Top 10 on my ballot and are separated by just two spots. Both teams are coming off of games against mid-pack CCIW squads, so be ready to see them hit the ground running. If the Titans hope to pull the upset, they need to be mistake-free through the air and able to create some big plays. Take too long in the pocket? North Central will get you. Hiccup into too many third-down situations? North Central will force the punt. But Illinois Wesleyan should be able to stop the Cardinals’ multi-pronged run game better than any team so far this season, so weight will be on North Central not to let momentum falter amid a few stuffed plays.
Keith’s take: No. 1 UW-Whitewater at No. 20 UW-Oshkosh. That CCIW game might end up being the GOTW, but if Titans QB Nate Wara and Warhawks LB Greg Arnold both play, the WIAC could hog the spotlight. It’s rare that the Warhawks get a challenge, but UW-Oshkosh is loose — coach Pat Cerroni told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the pressure is on Whitewater — and has legitimate credentials. The Warhawks and Titans are 1-2 in the WIAC in total offense and defense. In four wins against WIAC teams (though only three count in the conference standings), UW-Oshkosh has outscored the opposition, 145-36. That’s less than 10 points allowed per game, and while they’re unlikely to match that against Whitewater, they might not have to stay in the playoff hunt. Aside from a one-point loss to UW-Stevens Point in 2008, Whitewater hasn’t lost a WIAC game since 2004. They’re 44-1, and even if Oshkosh can’t make it a 2, a good showing would keep them in the mix, in my opinion. Playing both Whitewater and Mount Union makes the Titans an exception to any rule.
Pat’s take: No. 3 St. Thomas at No. 10 Bethel. I’m not sure I need to say anything more here so I won’t, except to say that St. Thomas players and coaches have talked about enjoying playing Bethel because they just line up and bring it with hard-nosed smash-mouth football.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Mount Ida at SUNY-Maritime. Maritime is at the top of the ECFC, is undefeated in conference play and is the reigning conference champion. But what 3-3 Mount Ida has is a competitive team that can move the ball — a lot. To the tune of nearly 500 yards a game in conference play, in fact. The Privateers will be in trouble if they can’t slow running back Johrone Bunch or can’t keep their penalties in check.
Keith’s take: Mount Ida at SUNY-Maritime. Usually we aim not to repeat games, but I went through my usual routine without seeing Ryan’s pick, and this game stood out. Here’s why: Of the top 22 defenses in the country by yardage, 13 belong to undefeated teams and five more are one-loss squads. Then there’s Mount Ida. It allows just 233 yards per game, and 106 rushing. Although the Mustangs have faced some teams that struggle to move the ball, they’ve also taken teams out of what they do well. That’s what it takes against the triple-option attack of the Privateers. The Mustangs might fall to 3-4, but they should make Maritime work to make it happen.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Salisbury at Hartwick. How close does it have to be to surprise? Closer than 42 points? Closer than 69? At some point the back-to-back trips to upstate New York will slow the Sea Gulls down, just not enough to put this game in serious doubt.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 17 Redlands. Though Occidental is certainly having a down year, the Tigers match up fairly well against the Bulldogs. Occidental is almost an all-pass offense, and Redlands’ strength isn’t stopping the pass, it’s stopping the run. So if Oxy can find a way to move the ball and stay on the plus side of turnovers as they have over the whole of the season, then they may be able to make some noise in this game.
Keith’s take: No. 24 St. Olaf. Ninth-ranked Montclair State could be in trouble without quarterback Tom Fischer against TCNJ, but the Oles’ game at Augsburg is worth focusing on. St. Olaf might feel the pressure of being ranked for the first time this season, although it’s deserved. A road win against the Auggies (4-2) would go a long way toward proving the comeback against Bethel was not a fluke. Last week’s win against Carleton was the first time the Oles held a team below 22 points, and Augsburg is averaging 26 a game even after a shutout against St. Thomas two weeks ago. The Auggies have lost two in a row and should play with a season-saving sense of urgency.
Pat’s take: No. 6 North Central. Illinois Wesleyan plays the top CCIW teams better at home, there’s no two ways about it. In 2008 and 2010, having to travel to North Central and Wheaton, IWU finished a combined 7-7 in the league. In 2009 and so far in 2011, the Titans are 9-1, having already beaten Wheaton.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 Wabash. How’s my 11th-ranked alma mater just now on my radar, you ask? Well, I’ve certainly kept the Little Giants close at heart all season, but this week, they may be defined by how well they respond after seeing some weaknesses in their armor after last Saturday’s Oberlin game. The Yeomen were down 30-3 at one point and battled back against a nationally ranked team to within one score. Wabash needs to make sure it has confidence down the stretch and, possibly, into the postseason. Right now, the Little Giants’ opponents are just 12-24, a record that hasn’t given the team much chance to really prove themselves. This week’s Denison is 3-4, and the next two teams, Allegheny and Wittenberg, are both above .500. Wabash will need to sign, stamp and seal its show of force in these next three matchups.
Keith’s take: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. My radar. I love this category because it’s the only pick I can’t get wrong. And what would be wrong about wanting to see how the Stags bounce back from being on the wrong end of the D3football.com play of the week, a hail mary that kept Redlands from having to play overtime? The 2-3 Stags are at Whittier this week, then play Cal Lutheran the following Saturday. In Kyle Sweeney’s first season at the helm, CMS seems like it’s on the path to someday being a legitimate SCIAC contender, but first I want to see how it performs after last week’s devastation. If so, perhaps it plays spoiler.
Pat’s take: The College of New Jersey. With Montclair State facing an immediate future without starting quarterback Tom Fischer, TCNJ has a chance to throw a monkey wrench into the NJAC and open the door wider for Mount Union to be the “East” bracket’s top seed. The oldest college football rivalry in New Jersey isn’t the biggest rivalry for either of these two schools, but surely someone in the Trenton area will mention it. If they’re not too busy talking about it being homecoming.
Which unlikely conference leader is most likely to pick up a loss?
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport, to N.C. Wesleyan. As a regular visitor to the playoffs, CNU isn’t in the unlikeliest of spots, but in the preseason, I had expected N.C. Wesleyan and Ferrum to be the two teams atop the USA South, so CNU’s positioning is a little surprising. However, they will certainly be put to the test when they face off against NCWC this weekend. The Bishops are a good team year in and year out, and the Captains have had so many games this fall that were decided by the narrowest of margins. Two of the close ones ended in losses, while two others were wins. I’m not sure CNU will succeed against NCWC if they can’t establish a good-size lead early on.
Keith’s take: Lewis & Clark, to Puget Sound. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see the Pioneers’ program revived. And the Loggers are struggling at 0-6. But there aren’t many candidates for this category (technically Linfield, at 3-0 in the NWC, outpaces L&C at 2-0). I’m just playing the odds. (Can the Pios really be that much improved? Beating Whitworth last week seemed to suggest so.) Last season these two teams played an instant classic, 68-64 game that the Pioneers won on a TD pass with one second left. If UPS can’t muster an upset to get revenge for that, I don’t know what would inspire them.
Pat’s take: Lakeland, to Concordia (Ill.). I’m not sure how many unlikely conference leaders there actually are. UW-Oshkosh is an easy choice as WIAC co-leader to lose to UW-Whitewater but that seems like cheating and there are a couple of other unlikely leaders that I don’t see losing this week. Although Concordia lost a lot of seniors from last year’s squad, they’ve still performed admirably so far and could knock Lakeland out of its first-place tie with Benedictine.
Which team with two or more losses is worth watching?
Ryan’s take: Emory & Henry. Having seen the Wasps play in their opener this season, I’m confident in saying they are a much better team than their 4-3 record would indicate. One of their losses came against a non-Division III institution, while the other two losses came against 6-1 squads, Hampden-Sydney and Washington and Lee. What’s more, no loss this year was by more than three points. I can’t imagine the frustration this team is feeling. There’s no shortage of talent: Sophomore quarterback Kyle Boden broke an ODAC record en route to a 390-yard passing performance last week, while players like Daniel Preston, Devan Sproles and Tyler Houk have revived the defense. The level of the talent will be on display against Catholic this week.
Keith’s take: Gettysburg. Its 525-yard-per-game offense outpaces Mount Union (No. 3 nationally, a spot behind the Bullets) and UW-Whitewater (No. 9), and it does it with almost perfect balance (254 rushing, 271 passing per game). Plus they host 6-0 Johns Hopkins (No. 6 offense in the nation) Saturday; I’m sure they’re going to be jacked up. This could’ve been my upset pick, but the Bullets seem to run out of them when the defense takes the field. They’re 174th in total defense (389 yards/game and 212th in scoring D, and not just because they’ve given up 56 and 57 in losses. A 14-10 win last week against Muhleberg was the defense’s first step in the right direction.
Pat’s take: McDaniel. The Green Terror made their displeasure known with a preseason conference poll that had McDaniel picked to tie for eighth, but at 1-5, they haven’t put that possibility behind them at all. Trying to muster another couple of wins to salvage some pride starts at Dickinson on Friday night.
What team will turn the biggest 180 from last week?
Ryan’s take: Mount St. Joseph. Because after a three-week skid, the Lions have nowhere to go but up. They will again be above .500 after lining up against Earlham, which hasn’t won since the 2009 season. MSJ might not be able to compete for a playoff spot anymore this season, but like all teams with great rivalries, they have something to keep them going till the end. Look for them to begin to work out their kinks ahead of the Bridge Bowl Trophy game against Thomas More on Nov. 12.
Keith’s take: Heidelberg. It’s cherry-picking, sure, but playing Mount Union midseason is like a one-week suspension of reality. Before the 56-7 loss to the Purple Raiders, the Student Princes had won four of five and were averaging 451 yards per game of total 0ffense. Throw out last week’s 195 yards of offense, and expect the Germany Woods-led ground attack to pick up where it was two weeks ago in a trip to Marietta. The Pioneers’ two wins are against 0-6 teams, Thiel and Wilmington.
Pat’s take: Anna Maria. The annual other game between third-year programs Anna Maria and Castleton State is this weekend, with Castleton having won the first, 56-52. Anna Maria is 0-25 in its football career and could get off the schneid this weekend.
Anna Maria · Augsburg · Bethel · Castleton State · Catholic · Christopher Newport · Claremont-Mudd-Scripps · Concordia (Ill.) · Denison · Emory and Henry · Gettysburg · Hartwick · Heidelberg · Illinois Wesleyan · Lakeland · Lewis and Clark · McDaniel · Montclair State · Mount Ida · Mount St. Joseph · New Jersey · North Carolina Wesleyan · North Central (Ill.) · Occidental · Puget Sound · Redlands · Salisbury · St. Olaf · St. Thomas · SUNY-Maritime · TCNJ · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wabash
By this point in the season, it’s hard to call teams flukes, and teams that have gone above and beyond what we expected of them have to be dubbed something else, perhaps surprise teams.
If you’ve played three or four games and are undefeated, that’s one thing. If you’ve knocked off a team that was believed to be better than you are, that’s what makes you a surprise.
But can we believe in you? That’s another question. Most of these teams have yet to play the best team on their schedule. How will they hold up as the road gets tougher? That’s what Keith McMillan and I tackle in this week’s Around the Nation podcast. We look at more than a dozen teams with the goal of answering one simple question: sold or not sold?
One team we didn’t touch on in the podcast is St. Norbert. I would have to go with not sold, for the moment, waiting for the Monmouth game on the road to find out more. Hopefully Keith will weigh in in the comments section.
Click the play button below to listen.
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Alfred · Central · Centre · Concordia (Ill.) · Hampden-Sydney · Hartwick · injuries · Lebanon Valley · Linfield · Millikin · New Jersey · podcast · sold or not sold · surprise teams · TCNJ · Top 25 · UW-La Crosse · UW-Stout · Wilkes · Wittenberg