TAG | Illinois College
Lycoming is on our list, but will the Warriors ever get on the board?
Lycoming athletics photo
By Keith McMillan
For the purposes of discussing Pool C on Monday’s podcast, Pat Coleman and I ran a loose projection of what regional rankings would look like after Saturday’s games (new ones come out Wednesday afternoon). Then we took a look at the teams who have the best chances at securing the seven at-large playoff bids.
Given last week’s regional rankings and last Saturday’s upsets, some changed, but not much. In the East, we move St. John Fisher out and Delaware Valley in. In the South, Franklin & Marshall takes the place of Hampden-Sydney. In the North, Wabash tumbles from fourth out of the ten regionally ranked teams, while Wheaton joins, and slots no lower than sixth. In the West, losses by Bethel and Concordia-Moorhead weren’t enough to push them out, which meant teams like Illinois College, St. Olaf and Willamette, which might be ranked in less competitive regions, are still on the outside looking in.
With that part of the exercise complete, Pat and I were able to project automatic qualifiers in the 11 conferences with bids up for grabs. The main ones that affect Pool C are the CCIW and NCAC, with the MAC not far behind. For this, we projected North Central (by virtue of a win against 5-4 Augustana and an Elmhurst win over 6-3 Illinois Wesleyan) and Widener in. At the time of recording, we didn’t feel comfortable with how we were interpreting the NCAC tiebreaker, but as I read it then and read it now, I think Kenyon would win a three-way tiebreaker with Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan. The Lords have the worst overall record, but their only conference loss is to OWU, because it doesn’t play Wabash or Wittenberg. The Tigers and Battling Bishops losses are to Wabash, which is lower in the standings than OWU.
Kenyon in is bad news for other Pool C hopefuls, who’ll be rooting for potential Pool C teams to take any Pool A bid possible.
What we came up with is the below chart. This is both what the board would look like after the AQ teams are put into the field, and the way these teams fell in our mock regional ranking, excluding teams we project to win the AQ. Included with each team is its current strength of schedule figure and its record against regionally ranked opponents. Asterisks denote a Week 11 clash with an RRO.
Most likely Pool C candidates:
|Pacific Lutheran, .625, 0-2||Elmhurst, .530, 1-1||Huntingdon, .603, 1-1*||Rowan, .508, 1-1|
|Bethel, .585, 1-1||Heidelberg, .450, 0-1||Louisiana College, .505, 0-2*||Lycoming, .536, 0-1|
|Concordia-Moorhead, .604, 0-2||Wheaton, .558, 1-1||Muhlenberg, .548, 1-1||Bridgewater State, .511, 0-1|
|UW-Platteville, .530, 0-1||North Coast runners up||Franklin & Marshall, .537, 2-1||Delaware Valley, .471, 0-2*|
If you want to simulate the way the national selection committee will approach at-large selections on Saturday night, take the top four teams in each regional and compare them on the criteria. Instead of evaluating a pool of 16 or 18 teams at once, they’ll just look at four. Each time you put a team in — say Elmhurst finishes 9-1 and is your first — then you just bump the next team up on to the board (in this case Heidelberg) and compare the four. In theory, all seven at large teams could come from the same region.
The purpose of this post is not to pick the seven for you — I’ll leave that for you — but to give you insight on what the facts are, and what the committee is looking at, prior to Saturday’s final week of games. Some points of analysis:
Few one-loss teams: Though we always say its about who you beat not who you lose to, number of losses clearly matters, as winning percentage is primary criteria. Loosely translated, that means 9-1 and 8-1 teams are usually Pool C locks, provided there are enough bids to accommodate them. But this year, there are seven bids and just a handful of teams who could finish 9-1 and not earn an AQ: Elmhurst, Heidelberg, Ohio Wesleyan, Wittenberg, Bridgewater State, Illinois College. That’s it. Rowan, which could finish 8-2, but 8-1 against Division III opponents, makes a seventh “one-loss team” for playoff purposes.
Strength of schedule: If only wins mattered, we’d slot those seven in and call it a day. But we know all schedules are not created equal. So the NCAA adds two-thirds opponents winning percentage (who you played) and one-third opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage (reflects strong conference, strong non-conference scheduling) to get the SoS figures linked to above. And that means Pacific Lutheran, with its monster figure, could be in better shape than half of the one-loss teams. It also means if, say, Huntingdon were on the board alongside Delaware Valley, which beats Widener but not by the 16 points required to secure the AQ, then the Aggies are at a serious disadvantage. One note about how to interpret SoS figures. Slightly higher is not a big deal to the committee, but a very noticeable difference could tilt the scales among otherwise tied teams. Below .500 is not very good.
Once ranked, always ranked: Wabash might have dropped out of our mock regional rankings, but they were ranked at one point, therefore their results still counts as games played vs. RRO.
Week 11 RRO clashes: Adrian at Huntingdon, Delaware Valley at Widener, Hardin-Simmons at Louisiana College.
Watch for falling AQs (first loss): Widener (.450, 1-0*) and Waynesburg (.402, 0-0) could poach a Pool C spot from somebody if they fail to win on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets host Washington & Jefferson for the PAC title. They’re already 9-0 and could get in on record alone, but they also have one of the worst SoS figures and no games against RROs. They might be out with a loss, or they might boot your team from the field. You need them to clinch AQs.
Watch for falling AQs (second loss): Cal Lutheran (.515, 1-1) and Franklin (.471, 0-1) could fall into Pool C by picking up another D-III loss (the Grizzlies have one against I-AA Butler). Lake Forest and Elmhurst could join the group, and will have SoS figures above .530 and results vs. RROs, but would be better off just winning. Illinois College (vs. 7-2 Carroll) has an outside shot at its AQ, but would be in trouble with a defeat, due to a very low SoS and a h2h loss to Lake Forest.
Explaining the North Coast: If Kenyon steals the automatic bad, that’s bad news for everyone. Bumps all three NCAC runners up into Pool C. Ohio Wesleyan, (.511, 0-1); Wittenberg, ( .420, 0-1) and Wabash (.561, 2-0). Right now we have them in this order. But Wabash beat both teams head to head, so you’d want them to get to the board first. But those pesky two losses, to a potential 9-1 for OWU and Wittenberg. So maybe they get to the board first, separated by OWU’s SoS.
Explaining the CCIW: North Central takes the AQ if they, Elmhurst and Wheaton each win. In this case, Elmhurst is a strong Pool C. if North Central loses, Elmhurst can win. If Elmhurst loses, Wheaton wins.
On Bridgewater State: As the NEFC’s third-best team, they miss the conference title game, but are protected from picking up another loss. So while 9-1 is good, it might not be better than 9-2. Framingham State, if it loses the title game and automatic qualifier, has a head to head victory over the Bears. So they would get in first. And maybe Salve Regina would too; having played in the championship game, adding one RRO and also coming in under the ‘conference postseason contests’ criteria, giving it something Bridgewater State can’t match.
Too far out: There are a handful of teams who could finish with only two losses, but not be seriously considered for the field. St. Olaf (0-2, .515) might actually deserve consideration, but they would have to win at St. Thomas (9-0) this week to stay in the discussion. The group also includes Carroll (low SoS), Endicott (losses to Salve Regina, Bridgewater), Ferrum (low SoS), Gallaudet (low SoS), Greenville (no RROs), Millsaps (low SoS), Northwestern (no RROs), Otterbein (stuck behind Mount Union and Heidelberg) and Wisconsin Lutheran (low SoS), among others.
Guide to teams to root for (or against): Teams in need want the other teams with good resumes to pick up an additional loss. Root for Adrian to beat Huntingdon, and for Widener and Waynesburg to finish unbeaten. You sho should pull for the NCAC to shake out in Ohio Wesleyan’s favor. Or Wabash’s somehow. Root for Cal Lutheran to handle business against Chapman; Every AQ in Pool A is one fewer candidate to worry about in Pool C.
Okay fine, just this one: So this is the fun of it.
PLU, Elmhurst, Huntingdon and Rowan come the board first. The Bluejays go based on overall record and decent-enough SoS.
PLU, Heidelberg, Huntingdon, Rowan: The Berg can’t lose to Baldwin-Wallace. Their SoS isn’t good enough, even with the expected bump, to make up for the second loss. Here though, Rowan gets in, then Heidelberg.
PLU, Wheaton, Huntingdon, Lycoming. I take the Hawks, with the high SoS and the win over an RRO (Hampden-Sydney). Would need another win over an RRO to survive, so we’re projecting. After that, it’s Pacific Lutheran. Lost to two top-10 teams but beat three with at least five wins.
Bethel, Wheaton, Louisiana College, Lycoming. Two more to choose. By virtue of high SoS and a win over RRO each, the Royals and Thunder round out my field.
My seven: Elmhurst, Rowan, Heidelberg, Huntingdon, Pacific Lutheran, Bethel, Wheaton.
Left on the board: Concordia-Moorhead, NCAC team, LC and Lycoming. So that last-second Royals TD would have decided a playoff bid. And Wheaton would have played its way in. Louisiana College sees two-loss teams get added, but it and UW-Platteville watch others with higher SoS and wins over RROs go.
Leave yours in the comments.
Sorry for not posting this on Tuesday, everybody. It will be reprised for Thursday’s Around the Nation, using the actual regional rankings.
Bethel · Bridgewater State · Cal Lutheran · Concordia-Moorhead · Delaware Valley · Elmhurst · Franklin & Marshall · Heidelberg · Huntingdon · Illinois College · Louisiana College · Lycomning · Muhlenberg. Wheaton · Ohio Wesleyan · Pacific Lutheran · Rowan · St. Olaf · UW-Platteville · Wabash · Waynesburg · Widener · Wittenberg
The rare event this week is a battle of 25′s, as Heidelberg takes on Otterbein.
Heidelberg athletics photo
The saying is that history repeats itself. And we ask ourselves whether certain teams are doomed to stare down another upset.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps dive into the past to bring you analysis of the present. We cast a wide net to predict the fall of a Top 25 team, detail the game of the week and pore over some of the unusual nicknames in D-III.
Don’t hesitate to offer your comments below.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 25 Otterbein at No. 25 Heidelberg. Nope, that’s not a typo. If you’ve looked at our Top 25 this week, you’ll see these two OAC teams are tied for the 25th spot. They are both undefeated, and with the second-place OAC team often having an inside track to a Pool C playoff bid, this game holds worlds of value — and intrigue.
Pat’s take: No. 9 Bethel at No. 4 St. Thomas. This has been a good game in recent seasons already, with two teams who love to line up and smash-mouth it straight at each other. Ironically, both teams are led by talented sophomore quarterbacks, and Bethel, especially, has opened it up on offense a little more this season. The past three meetings have been decided by 19 points combined, with St. Thomas winning both of the regular season meetings. It’s likely to be another battle.
Keith’s take: No. 13 UW-Platteville at No. 14 UW-Oshkosh. Wow, I pick third, and I still get two no-brainers to choose from. Much to the dismay of two of the most active Twitter followings in No. 2 UMHB and No. 21 Louisiana College, I went to Wisconsin with this one. In WIAC history, the spotlight rarely has shone on Oshkosh and Platteville — You’d have to go back to 1976 to find the last time UW-Oshkosh tied atop the conference, and 1972 to find their last outright title, an undefeated 8-0 WIAC season. For UW-Platteville, go back to 1980 for the tie, 1974 for the outright. Worse yet — before tying for second last season, the teams only had one season each in the past 30 years finishing higher than fourth in the WIAC, each finishing third once (Oshkosh in 2007, UW-P in 1990). In 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2008, the Titans and Pioneers were at the bottom of the standings. So that should put in perspective how big a game it is, with UW-P (4-1, 1-1) just a failed two-point conversion against defending national champion UW-Whitewater from being undefeated, and UW-O 5-0. A Platteville win could make the WIAC three-way tie territory, but either way, UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater the following week is huge. Titans QB Nate Wara has got the name recognition, now let’s see if he delivers in a big game.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Concordia-Chicago at Concordia (Wis.). The Illinois one will pound the rock over and over and over. It’s the only way they’ll find success. The Wisconsin one, on the other hand, should be able to air out the ball, especially against a Cougars team that at 5-0 has nonetheless been prone to giving up some big yards. And both teams like to put up points: The Cougars average more than 38 on the scoreboard, while the 3-2 Falcons emerged from a week of hanging 55 on their opponent.
Pat’s take: No. 5 UW-Whitewater at UW-Stout. I look at a combination of a few factors that will keep this game unexpectedly close. In addition to UW-Whitewater’s struggles on offense, they’re also traveling on the day of the game. That four-hour bus ride, mandated by the WIAC office, might leave them a little slow to start. The question will be whether Stout can put enough points on the board to make it close or if it will be like the Stevens Point/Whitewater game.
Keith’s take: Pacific at Pacific Lutheran. If you just remember the Boxers as the expansion team and the Lutes as the program with the championship pedigree, it might be time to take a closer look at the NWC. Pacific is 2-3, with a three-point loss to Whitworth (5-1) among the defeats. The Lutes’ 2-2 record might be deceiving, since all four of the teams they’ve played are solid (three were in the postseason last year, three are 4-1 or better this season). Kyle Warner is averaging 116 receiving yards per game and Kellen Westering 97, so the Lutes’ air attack will probably be too much for the Boxers, but expect Pacific to show some bite.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 St. John Fisher. At what point can we excuse an Alfred team’s opening day loss to RPI? Is it after the Saxons beat the team that toppled UW-Whitewater? Check. Is it after they beat an undefeated conference opponent? Check. Is it after they hold an opponent to just 4 rushing yards? Check. Fisher is coming off a punishing game against Salisbury, and Alfred’s hot streak coupled with SJF’s bruises make the Cardinals a target again this week.
Pat’s take: No. 13 UW-Platteville. So many ranked teams are playing each other this week that I feel forced to take a higher-ranked team playing on the road in a game that the rankings suggest is a toss-up. And I like what Bryce Corrigan did last week against UW-La Crosse after getting a full week of reps as the No. 1 starter at quarterback. But UW-Oshkosh is in a position where it can just run it right at Platteville. If you have not seen dual-threat quarterback Nate Wara for Oshkosh, do yourself a favor and watch the live video on Saturday. Defenses are hard pressed to bottle him up.
Keith’s take: No. 16 Birmingham Southern. Eight top 25 teams are playing each other, so toss those out. Two are picked above. The pickins’ are downright slim, and Trinity (Texas) is the only team I can see really pulling a stunner. The Tigers won last season when B-SC was a conference mate, but now that the Panthers have gone and split off, another win could be satisfying. To do it, Trinity QB Nyk McKissic has to keep making good decisions; with 11 TD passes and just one interception, he’s done it so far. Trinity’s D also rebounded with a decent game against Rhodes after allowing 111 points in consecutive weeks, against Sul Ross State and I’m sure I’ll get some silly irate tweet from Alabama saying how wrong this upset pick is, but keep in mind the Panthers have never beaten Trinity. Maybe it’s B-SC who would be pulling the upset, should our rankings hold.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Washington and Lee. This is about the time of year when we can accurately take stock of what’s happening in the ODAC. The conference is as balanced as they come, and it’s often difficult to stick by early-season predictions. But after starting the season with a loss, W&L is looking like the playoff-caliber team of the past two seasons. Their points have increased with each game (28, 34, 42, 45), but unfortunately for them, so have their opponents’ points. Three of the last five games are probably the toughest on the schedule, starting with this weekend against Randolph-Macon, the only other ODAC team that hasn’t lost a conference game yet. These two teams, plus Bridgewater and Hampden-Sydney, will make for a jumbled race at the top.
Pat’s take: Waynesburg. This has to happen eventually, right? The lack of churn at the bottom of the Top 25 has made it difficult for teams such as Coe, Concordia-Moorhead or Waynesburg to get their due in the Top 25, but I think Waynesburg deserves one of those 20-25 spots. After consecutive 5-5 seasons, Bethany is struggling out of the gate, at 1-4.
Keith’s take: Washington & Jefferson, Concordia-Moorhead and Allegheny. Hey, I’ve got a big radar. The Presidents host Westminster (Pa.), playing their first home game since RB Tim McNerney was killed. The Cobbers shouldn’t have much trouble with Hamline, but I’m curious if they’ll be sluggish after last week’s ending, or sharp. The Cobbers are guaranteed to see two of their MIAC competitors lose, when Bethel and St. Thomas, and Augsburg and St. Olaf play. And Allegheny, following the upset of Wabash, beat Oberlin 15-3 and lost a non-conference game to Chicago, 10-0. I thought this year’s Gators might be a great defensive team keeping scores low, but with the 219th-ranked offense in the nation, that would not seem to be the case. The Gators haven’t exactly seized the opening, but with home games against DePauw and Wittenberg in back to back weeks, the AQ and NCAC title is still there for the taking.
Which upset of the past will have a different outcome this week?
Ryan’s take: Whitworth at No. 3 Linfield. When you go four straight seasons undefeated in conference play, with a national championship sprinkled in, expectations are always high. But at some point, the bubble does burst. That happened in 2006 for Linfield, when a Whitworth team that amassed just 85 yards of total offense — but also forced five fumbles — went on to topple the 15th-ranked home team 17-13. Fast-forward to 2012, and Linfield is earning win after hard-fought win. The Wildcats are coming off a bye week, and the Pirates are following an aching loss to Willamette. This game may be as close as the ’06 matchup, but Linfield will keep its 20-game NWC win streak alive.
Pat’s take: No. 15 Wabash at Washington U. In 2010, Wabash came in unbeaten ranked No. 19, and Wash U came in 2-2, with its wins against Knox and Westminster (Mo.). Nonetheless, Wash U. came away the 24-20 victor. For history to repeat itself, Wabash would have to have significant breakdowns on both sides of the ball, and I don’t see that happening. Wash U has been held to 17 points or fewer by every team not named Kenyon this season in starting off 1-4.
Keith’s take: Trine at Adrian. The Thunder had won 18 MIAA games in a row, won in the playoffs, given UW-Whitewater a challenge and developed a Gagliardi Trophy winner. Then Trine lost, 26-7, at Adrian in last year’s MIAA, and nationally, we kind of stopped paying attention. Trine (4-2) and the Bulldogs (4-1) face off again Saturday, and the stats say Adrian (No. 7 defense in the country) is the favorite this time around. Before you get confused, let’s review: The upset of the past was Adrian over Trine. So this time around, Trine gets some payback. The Thunder hasn’t been a great offense overall, but quarterback Ryan Hargraves has been heating up over the past three games, and Myron Puryear, who had a touchdown on defense last week, is a threat in the return game.
Red, blue or green?
Ryan’s take: Red of Wittenberg. Timed at any other point in the season, and we’re looking at a Chicago team that would be competitive with Wittenberg. But following Witt’s loss at home to Wabash, the Tigers have to know that they need to be perfect from here on out to have any shot at the postseason. Witt will be on a mission and more than ready to put these pesky one-score margins behind them.
Pat’s take: Blueboys, of Illinois College. They’ll get right back on the winning side this week after a loss to Lake Forest in Week 6. Beloit, the Blueboys’ opponent, has been a surprise winless team this season. Not that we expected huge things out of the Buccaneers, considering we ranked them No. 192 in the preseason, but even that was ahead of Lawrence, Cornell and Knox, each of whom have beaten Beloit head-to-head this season.
Keith’s take: Green of … Nope, sorry. Red of Muhlenberg. Hey I looked for some Green Knights I could get excited about, to keep it balanced. I even considered the all-green Plymouth State-Endicott game. But I’d rather give you one extra upset pick, just outside the top 25, and a test of whether it’s important to have the human element in game insight. The computer ratings love Gettysburg. I like the Bullets, but see three of their wins (over start-up Misericordia, hapless Juniata and 0-5 McDaniel) as no great shakes. You’re supposed to beat those teams, and they did, so there’s that. But Muhlenberg brings a lot more defense to the table than most of the Bullets’ opponents so far. The Mules are coming off a loss to Susquehanna, which Gettysburg beat, which makes this pick slightly illogical. But, hey, at least there’s not much riding on it. Just a potential showdown of CC unbeatens next week, oh, and the future of man vs. computer. No pressure, Mules.
An unusual nickname you like.
Ryan’s take: Moravian Greyhounds. Moravian has been a Centennial seesaw team the past few seasons, with records of 8-3, followed by 2-8, then 7-4, and back to 2-8. This season, they’ve already tied last year’s win total, and there is clear potential yet to notch two or three more wins in the books. And that means doing what it can to keep forcing turnovers and pressuring quarterbacks. As of late, Susquehanna has been finding its groove on both sides of the ball, which means Moravian will need to channel the quickness of its namesake in order to come away with a victory. (Want more of the unusual? Check out Moravian’s ambidextrous rugby-style punter in Around the Mid-Atlantic.)
Pat’s take: UW-Eau Claire Blugolds. But do you need me to say something about the game as well? I’m confused. They host UW-La Crosse this week in sore need of a win. In fact, both teams need a win badly, as La Crosse hasn’t lived up to the credit some gave it in the WIAC after it knocked off North Central in Week 1.
Keith’s take: Los Lobos, of Sul Ross State. Mostly I just wanted to name-check the ‘La Bamba’ band. But also we have what could be an epic shootout on deck. Sul Ross State is fourth in the country in total and scoring offense, with 545 yards and almost 49 points a game. Texas Lutheran is 50th in the nation, with a mere (!) 416 and 30. But here’s the real eye-opener. The Lobos are 233rd in D-III in pass defense, and the Bulldogs are 226th. Buckle up.
Adrian · Alfred · Allegheny · Beloit · Bethany · Bethel · Birmingham-Southern · Carnegie Mellon · Chicago · concordia (wis.) · concordia-chicago · Gettysburg · Heidelberg · Illinois College · Linfield · Moravian · Muhlenberg · Otterbein · Pacific · Pacific Lutheran · Randolph-Macon · St. John Fisher · St. Thomas · Sul Ross State · Susquehanna · Texas Lutheran · Trine · UW-Eau Claire · UW-La Crosse · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Platteville · UW-Stout · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington and Jefferson · Washington and Lee · Washington U. · Waynesburg · Whitworth · Wittenberg
In this photo, you can see the Concordia-Moorhead defender just about to control the fumble, with players already well out onto the field.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com
It’s destined to go down as one of the great finishes in Division III football history, and while it doesn’t have a catchy nickname like the Mississippi Miracle or the Miracle in the Mud, the way Concordia-Moorhead’s loss to Bethel went down is going to be talked about for a long time.
If you have not watched this game yet, watch Bethel’s archive now. If you just want to skip ahead to the final couple of plays start at the 2:24:00 mark.
Pat and Keith talk about that and more in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast. It was a sad weekend on both the campuses of Washington and Jefferson and Bates, where young men who played football each died last week. There were also two other games between Top 25 teams and a game that is normally good for the North Coast Athletic Conference title. But will Wabash and Wittenberg do so this year? Pat and Keith point out that it’s not so clear.
We also get a first-person look at Widener, talk about midwest and east coast conference races and much more.
You can subscribe to the Around the Nation Podcast in iTunes. 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
Here’s this week’s D3football.com reports and highlight packages, including Bethel-Concordia highlights.
And this week’s photo galleries from our friends at d3photography.com:
Allegheny · Augsburg · Best finishes ever · Bethel · Birmingham-Southern · Cal Lutheran · Concordia-Moorhead · Illinois College · Kenyon · Lake Forest · Mount Union · Ohio Wesleyan · Redlands · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · St. Norbert · St. Thomas · Stevenson · Sul Ross State · Tim McNerney · Utica · UW-Platteville · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington and Jefferson · Wesley · Whitworth · Widener · Willamette · Wittenberg
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
UW-Whitewater was opportunistic on defense, to say the least.
Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com
Four backup quarterbacks, a wide receiver at corner, a triple-overtime game, an “upset” that all three Triple Take predictors got right and a lot more happened in the first round of the 2011 Division III NCAA playoffs.
Best game? Check. Biggest surprise? We cover that. Best performance by a quarterback off the bench? Best time to turn off the cameras? Most surprising stat? Best defensive effort? Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan cover that and more in the Around the Nation podcast.
Plus Pat gets on his soapbox for a minute or two. But it’s quick.
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Plus, here’s this week’s D3football.com reports, with eight of them, seven of which are mostly understandable. Keep your camera’s back to the wind!
Albion · Benedictine · Cal Lutheran · Centre · Christopher Newport · Delaware Valley · Dubuque · Franklin · Hampden-Sydney · Hobart · Illinois College · Illinois Wesleyan · Jake Mullin · John Gagliardi · Johns Hopkins · Kean · Linfield · Mary Hardin-Baylor · McMurry · Mike Zweifel · Monmouth · Mount Union · North Central (Ill.) · Norwich · Redlands · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · St. Scholastica · St. Thomas · Thomas More · Trinity (Texas) · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Wesley · Western New England