TAG | Ithaca
Kevin Burke and Mount Union are going strong, despite Heidelberg actually scoring this week.
Mount Union athletics photo by JT Higgins
Now at least we know we will have no more than one Purple Power in Salem for the Stagg Bowl, after the elimination of UW-Whitewater from any reasonable playoff hopes with its third overall loss and second regional loss this week. If Mount were to advance, who might join them? And what do the potential No. 1 seeds need to avoid? Keith and Pat talk about it in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast, sponsored by the City of Salem, hosts of Stagg Bowl XL. Tickets on sale now!
As the season winds down, there are just 22 conferences left to have teams clinch automatic bids, so there’s still a long way to go. Not all of them can clinch this week either, but some can, and some teams on byes can actually clinch from home. Plus, as at-large bids go, some teams played themselves out of consideration this week by picking up a second loss, while some two-loss teams actually have strong resumes for consideration.
Pat and Keith talk about a lot of teams this week, including both teams in the Mount Union-Heidelberg game. Check the tags at the bottom of this page to find out who is on the topics list.
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Here’s this week’s D3football.com reports and highlight packages.
And this week’s photo gallery from our friends at d3photography.com:
Adrian · Albion · Amherst · Baldwin-Wallace · Bethel · Coe · concordia-chicago · Concordia-Moorhead · Heidelberg · Hobart · Huntingdon · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Kenyon · Lake Forest · Linfield · Mount Union · North Central (Ill.) · Ohio Wesleyan · Pacific Lutheran · Salisbury · St. Norbert · St. Thomas · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Utica · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington and Jefferson · Waynesburg · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Willamette · Wittenberg
Josh Dean leads Willamette, which has gone from the Fly to being the top passing team in Division III.
Willamette athletics photo
Can you believe we’ve already reached the midpoint of the regular season?
We’re entering Week 6 in the 11-game season. Most teams already have their bye week behind them, which means lots and lots of football will be played down the stretch.
At the moment, 29 teams that play nonconference games are still undefeated, and amazingly, the same number of teams are currently winless.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you some nuggets of insight to chew on in this week’s Triple Take. And if you’ve got something to say, don’t hesitate to voice your comments below.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 7 Salisbury at No. 9 St. John Fisher. This is the kind of matchup I anticipated most when Salisbury joined the Empire 8 last season. Though the Gulls won the conference, Fisher got an at-large bid to the 2011 postseason – both went on to overcome two opponents and make it to regional finals. As usual, SU has one of the best rushing attacks in the country (whether dynamic quarterback Dan Griffin will be back in the lineup after Saturday’s injury is unclear). They will be tested against Fisher’s defense and sacking capabilities. Both teams are Top 10. I like the Gulls for the win, but I also expect this one to be tight.
Pat’s take: Washington and Jefferson at Thomas More. I can’t imagine what the four and a half hour bus ride from W&J to suburban Cincinnati will be like for a team that has to be reeling emotionally after the loss of its senior captain and running back. But on the field, I am sure the memory of Tim McNerney will be an inspiration to the Presidents. Conventional wisdom might expect W&J to come out flat but in my opinion they will be anything but.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Birmingham-Southern at No. 6 Wesley. There’s at least as much on the line in No. 8 Cal Lutheran at Redlands and No. 16 Wabash at Wittenberg, but with only one Pool B bid guaranteed, the round robin between B-SC, Wesley and Huntingdon looms large. The Wolverines play both Alabama teams this month, and the Panthers have already scored a 45-38 win over the Hawks that wasn’t as close as the final would have you believe. If the Wolverines keep winning, they’ll earn the Pool B bid. But with a loss to No. 2 UMHB in the books, another would be pushing it. B-SC is rushing for 250 yards per game, scoring 42 points per and has the nation’s third-best pass efficiency defense. The Wolverines are unlike any team B-SC has faced so far, talent-wise. If Wesley’s defensive line can control the line of scrimmage, B-SC is going to struggle.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Louisiana College at East Texas Baptist. ETBU comes in as the underdog, no question about that. But both have experience against some good teams, and the Tigers have the benefit of practicing against a strong passing game, an element that will translate well when they host the No. 21 ranked Wildcats.
Pat’s take: No. 16 Wabash at Wittenberg. Wittenberg has had a great deal of success at home in recent years, and the Tigers haven’t lost a home game since Wabash came to town in 2008. That’s the one thing which gives me pause about this game. It’s also one of those games where the AFCA poll and our poll disagree. Our poll suggests Wabash should win at Wittenberg. While the AFCA poll does rank Wabash higher, it’s only by one spot and I wouldn’t think that’s enough to overcome home-field advantage. On a neutral field, I’d take Wabash for sure. At Wittenberg, however, I think it will be close.
Keith’s take: Northwestern (Minn.) at St. Scholastica. The surprising part is only if you’re far from UMAC country but are familiar with the Saints from last season’s playoff bracket. The Eagles won nine games in 2008 and one in 2010, and are back in the mix for a conference title, at 4-1, with only a loss to St. John’s. Since allowing 28 in a season-opening loss to Whitworth, St. Scholastica has given up 26 points total in four wins. So it’s the UMAC’s best defense, any way you slice it, against the conference’s best scoring offense and most efficient passing attack, led by QB Josh Balzer. One of these teams will likely end up in the playoffs.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 North Central. Yes, I know one of my colleagues picked on North Central last week, too, but when you play in a conference as good as the CCIW, every week will be treacherous. A 3-1 opponent like Millikin that played Illinois Wesleyan to the bone will be no exception.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Bethel. Yes, I know I picked Bethel to play surprisingly close last week, but that came through, actually. This is the middle of three big games for Bethel, as the Royals host Concordia-Moorhead this week, which is receiving votes in the D3football.com Top 25, then travel to St. Thomas next week. Concordia-Moorhead doesn’t have the dynamic playmaker that Augsburg has on offense, but is undefeated and also coming off a bye week.
Keith’s take: No. 9 St. John Fisher. I wasted a bunch of time looking at the numbers on Concordia-Moorhead and Bethel before I noticed that Pat took that game. With so many top 25 teams playing their best opponents of the season, I could pick games that are technically upsets but not surprises. And that’s what I ended up doing. Having seen it before, the Cardinals will defend the Salisbury option better — the Sea Gulls might not hit their average of 319 yards per game. Yet Fisher has let inferior opponents hang close, so there’s a good chance Salisbury runs away with it (pun acknowledged, but not intended). With practically the whole top 25 playing tough opponents, there just weren’t any limbs I felt comfortable going out on. So you get a not-shock as the pick.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Gallaudet. With a rushing offense that averages 230 yards a game, and solid division of special teams players, has anyone else noticed that the Bison are creeping their way through a one-loss season, with that lone loss coming against undefeated Otterbein? Sure Mount Ida and Norwich and a couple of other ECFC teams could upend Gallaudet, but the team is on its way to a remarkable season after only a couple of years into restarting its varsity program. The checklist for the next three weeks involves Husson, Norwich and Becker.
Pat’s take: Willamette. The Bearcats are 4-0, with two wins against the American Southwest Conference, one against the Southern Athletic Association and one against fellow NWC member Pacific. No offense to Pacific, but this will be the first serious NWC challenge the new-look Bearcats have faced this season. And while Whitworth is 5-0 itself, the Pirates haven’t played anyone on the level of either Hardin-Simmons or East Texas Baptist. The top passing team might be slowed, but not enough to stop the unbeaten run.
Keith’s take: Millsaps. Off to their best start since the Mike DuBose years, the Majors have a major challenge in a visit from No. 24 Huntingdon. The Hawks are averaging 452 yards and 43 points a game, slightly more than Millsaps’ 442.5 and 41. So basically first team to play defense, or get a few turnovers, wins. The radar-worthy interest is so that I can figure out whether to start taking the Majors seriously as a playoff threat again. And if so, what an awful year for the SAA to give up its automatic bid.
Which team will continue to defy preseason expectations?
Ryan’s take: Albion. Albion is a 3-1 team with a win (albeit a close one) over Wheaton. They’re on my ballot for the Top 25 poll, but clearly many people are still skeptical of how good this Britons squad is. It’s hard to think they can be this good the year after Chris Greenwood graduated and went to the NFL. Well, Albion lining up against Trine this weekend should help do some convincing by coming away with a win.
Pat’s take: Rowan. The Profs have definitely outplayed the expectations, with their only loss coming to Merrimack, a Division II program that is 2-2 against fellow D-II schools in a not-so-great conference. Montclair State has definitely underplayed even the modest preseason expectations for a team that lost a large senior class.
Keith’s take: Redlands. By this I mean I don’t think a playoff team last season expects to be 1-3 after the first week of October, but the Bulldogs are staring at the very real possibility of this, at home against No. 8 Cal Lutheran. Redlands is 213th nationally in passing yardage allowed, at 258 yards per game, and the Kingsmen are passing for 295.
Which team is going to soar?
Ryan’s take: The Owls, of Westfield State. After a 1-4 start to the season, there doesn’t appear to be a lot working in favor of Westfield State. Rusher Kevin Parnell, who does good work on special teams, too, is the team’s bright spot. But this week, their NEFC Bogan pride is on the line as they go up against winless Maine Maritime. Both teams are riding a four-game skid, and someone’s got to break it. Despite the losses, the Owls, compared with the Mariners, have simply been playing better, more competitive games as of late.
Pat’s take: The Bombers, of Ithaca. It will be interesting as Ithaca’s schedule gets a little harder here. For a team that has had such upheaval at the quarterback position, the offensive numbers are impressive, but the defense will have its hands full dealing with an Alfred team that dropped 40 on Buffalo State two weeks ago.
Keith’s take: The Eagles, of UW-La Crosse. Turnover generation has been key for UW-La Crosse, which is hosting UW-Platteville, which was without its top two QBs in much of last week’s game. In other words, backup QBs vs. a team that has forced six more turnovers than it has allowed, against good competition, is a recipe for trouble. It’s also the first home game for the Eagles after four on the road in their 2-2 start.
Which team needs a win for morale purposes?
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney. For the past several years, the Tigers have rightfully seen themselves as strong contenders for the ODAC title. But last week, Catholic had other things in mind. The conference, though, isn’t too far removed from the 2008 season, when four teams shared the conference title with 4-2 ODAC records. All is certainly not lost for H-SC, and a win this weekend against undefeated Bridgewater will again put the team back on its intended track. But this will be one. tough. fight.
Pat’s take: St. John’s. But whether the Johnnies will get it, with a trip to Augsburg on the docket, is another matter.
Keith’s take: Knox. I was going to go with Wilkes here, after losing by 90 to Widener, but the Colonels already bounced back and won, 37-27, against FDU-Florham. Wilkes plays first-year Misericordia, while Knox, which had a quarterback pass for 736 yards in Week 1 and hasn’t won since, gets a visit from 0-5 Beloit. The Buccaneers are averaging less than 10 points per game, good for 233rd in the nation in scoring offense, giving Knox a rare advantage. They average more than 22, factoring in the 55 they scored in the Week 1 loss to Eureka. And, making my answer four times as long as Pat’s, St. Vincent (0-4) could use a morale-boosting win when it gets a visit from Thiel (1-4.)
Albion · Alfred · Augsburg · Bethel · Concordia-Moorhead · East Texas Baptist · Gallaudet · Hampden-Sydney · Ithaca · Louisiana Collage · Montclair State · North Central · Rowan · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · St. John's · Thomas More · Wabash · Washington and Jefferson · Westfield State · Whitworth · Willamette · Wittenberg
When Williams and Trinity (Conn.) meet, usually the game has NESCAC title implications, even though it’s always the second game of their season.
Williams athletics photo
Some weeks, our perceptions are shaken; other times, they’re only slightly stirred.
This year, we’ve seen Top 10 teams fall, and many others earn just the narrowest of wins. But that’s not an indictment on the higher-polled team. Rather, it’s a testament to the underdogs’ “leave it all on the field” mentality — that which pushes them forward even when the odds are stacked against them. Isn’t that the heart of competition? Isn’t that the reason the players play and fans cheer on Saturdays? Isn’t that why we love football?
And the best part is that any team, from any conference, can bounce back the following week. Some teams play with the goal of the postseason, but many others play for pride or simply to do better than the year before. Ask undefeateds Ohio Wesleyan and Salve Regina and Whitworth if this was the kind of season they realistically saw ahead of them. Conversely, ask McDaniel, DePauw and St. Vincent if they expected to still be on the hunt for win No. 1 at this point in the year.
There is still lots of time left on the field for teams to reach their goals. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps will walk you through their own unique views of the weekend at hand.
– Ryan Tipps
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Carnegie Mellon at No. 17 Wabash. The Little Giants experienced a fall from grace last week after a surprising loss against Allegheny. Can Wabash rebound in front of its home crowd? Carnegie, which sits undefeated, will provide a much tougher matchup than the Gators were for Wabash, which should give Wabash pause. CMU quarterback Rob Kalkstein leads the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown for more than 1,000 yards in just four games. The Little Giant secondary will have to be on its toes, and the defense will need to showcase its ability to force turnovers.
Pat’s take: No. 4 UW-Whitewater at No. 13 UW-Platteville. At least it better be, since it’s nearly a five-hour drive each way for me. The Warhawks’ struggles on offense were somewhat put behind them last week in a 34-7 win against UW-Stevens Point, putting together three long scoring drives though Lee Brekke was just 12-for-30 passing. Now, UW-Platteville, on the other hand, has averaged more than 53 points against overmatched competition, including a 49-19 win against UW-Eau Claire. If John Kelly can have anywhere near the kind of success against UW-Whitewater as he did against Eau Claire, the Whitewater I saw the first two weeks is going to have a hard time keeping up. The Warhawks may need to make some significant changes on offense.
Keith’s take: Trinity (Conn). at Williams. There’s nothing on the line here but Saturday night pride, and perhaps a shot at the NESCAC title in November. And that’s what makes it so appealing — that and a couple of very good defenses. With no playoffs and little top 25 recognition because they don’t accept bids and start so long after everyone else (it’s NESCAC Week 2), there are but a few opportunities for the spotlight games that bring out the best. The Bantams allowed 120 yards in Week 1, making theirs the nation’s No. 1 defense. The Ephs weren’t far behind, with 149 yards and a No. 3 national ranking. It’s not uncommon for NESCAC teams to rank that high, espscially after one game — Amherst is fifth — but it could make points hard to come by. Williams QB Adam Marske was 22 of 27 for 277 yards in a 41-7 win over Colby. Trinity got 146 yards from RB Evan Bunker in the opener. These two teams, plus Amherst, are your main title contenders here, and someone is going to get eliminated on Saturday. Honorable mention, Elmhurst at No. 11 North Central (see below) and No. 2 UMHB at Sul Ross State.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Spingfield at Union. Averaging nearly 375 yards a game on the ground, Springfield has rightly earned respect for its ground game. But 1-3 Union has been able to limit its opposition to less than half that per outing, and the Dutchmen’s opposition has been more consistently challenging than that of the Pride, which carries a 3-1 record into its second week of conference play.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Bethel at Augsburg. If you didn’t hear me on the Around the Nation podcast this past week, Augsburg quarterback Ayrton Scott intrigues me. He’s a speedy and shifty runner — my only question is whether that’s going to be enough against Bethel, which will feature a much better defense than Hamline did last week. First-year starting quarterback Erik Peterson has completed 74 percent of his passes and throws for an average of 225 yards per game, but Buena Vista and Carleton haven’t provided much competition either.
Keith’s take: Juniata at Johns Hopkins. I’m going way out on a limb in this one, but the Eagles deserve a little notice. They’re predictably 1-3, aren’t outstanding at any one thing and have the recent history that would make Blue Jays players take them lightly. But Juniata lost by just a touchdown to Dickinson and Franklin & Marshall, and led Gettysburg early in a 28-7 loss. With the right combination of Johns Hopkins apathy and continued improved play by the Eagles, including sophomore QB Ward Udinski,who had 371 yards of total offense against Dickinson, this could be a close game into the second half.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 15 Baldwin Wallace. I’ve been high on the Yellow Jackets since the beginning of last year, thinking they’ve been on the cusp of some really great things. A low-scoring overtime win against Muskingum last week, though, has my faith in BW rattled. Opponent Otterbein has yet to earn a blemish this season, but the Cardinals are saddled with a litany of ifs and buts. The Yellow Jackets need to find their momentum soon if they want to be playing deep into November.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Illinois Wesleyan. Going out on a limb here because I don’t think Millikin is actually quite ready to do so this year. I might come back to this in 2013 when it makes more sense, but this is my super upset special for the week.
Keith’s take: No. 11 North Central. I might as well hop all the way on the Elmhurst bandwagon. With the nation’s No. 2 rusher (Scottie Williams, 193 yards per game), No. 2 turnover margin (plus nine) and No. 3 scoring defense (Loras and Chicago were shut out, Trine scored 13), there’s a lot to like. But the Cardinals are at home, and have played a power schedule in the first few weeks. They’ll be ready for Elmhurst. The question is whether the Bluejays redefine the CCIW narrative, or stick to the script.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Widener. I can’t help but think to a game earlier this year, where Wartburg thumped an opponent 73-0. The following week, the Knights failed to score even once against a tougher competition. Coming off a 90-0 win, Widener reminds me of that. The Pride won’t be able to steamroll Lebanon Valley (3-1) the way they have their previous opponents, but a win should help validate Widener’s ranking.
Pat’s take: Lebanon Valley. Sorry, Ryan, I’m going in the opposite direction. A win would definitely validate Widener’s ranking, though, that’s true. Lebanon Valley will be a much tougher opponent than anyone Widener has faced (Widener’s first four opponents are currently 2-12). Lebanon Valley has pulled itself out of the doldrums it was in a decade ago and is now a contender for the conference crown. A win here would secure that.
Keith’s tak: Rhodes. The Lynx have more than just one of D-III’s coolest mascot names. They’ve got wins over Wash. U. and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, and a very respectable 16-2 loss to nationally ranked Birmingham-Southern. Their next three games are on the road, but Macalester and Austin could be easy wins nonetheless. This week at Trinity (Texas), a team coming off consecutive humbling weeks, is the one time before late October we get to see if Rhodes is for real, or just had a fortunate first few games.
Which undefeated team is going to pick up its first loss?
Ryan’s take: Millikin. It’s very possible that the CCIW, which currently has three undefeated teams, will have just one left after the weekend is over. Millikin lines up against Illinois Wesleyan, neither of which have a blemish on their 2012 record. But I like the Titans for this because I like what they bring to the table defensively: seventh in the nation in total defense, allowing just 65 and 135 yards from rushing and passing, respectively. Illinois Wesleyan should be riding high going into the second half of its season, and that moment starts with Millikin.
Pat’s take: Millsaps. I like what Millsaps has done so far this season, don’t get me wrong. But I think the top of this five-team SAA is going to be pretty competitive and all three will take a loss at some point, perhaps two.
Keith’s take: Ithaca. The Bombers put their 229-yard a game defense against Utica’s 459-yard-per-game attack. Andrew Benkwitt is completing six passes per game to Jeremy Meier, and more than three each to Paul Smith, Matt Dunn and Jamie Murphy. As good as the Bombers have been statistically, not many teams have the personnel the Pioneers land.
Team most likely to salvage a bad season.
Ryan’s take: LaGrange. An 0-3 start is not what the Panthers were hoping for, but the USA South slate should be much more favorable than the nonconference opposition, which has combined to go 10-1 this year. Don’t count LaGrange out for a .500 season just yet, and this week against N.C. Wesleyan will be a good tell as to where they could end up.
Pat’s take: DePauw. And there is a lot of salvaging to do for this reeling program. But scoring 28 against Carnegie Mellon is a nice start, and Wash U, which travels to Greencastle, Ind., doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower of the Tartans.
Keith’s take: Redlands. As a playoff team last season, the Bulldogs didn’t expect an 0-2 start. But what’s done is done. The SCIAC slate opens against an Occidental program that’s fallen on hard times, with the 233rd-ranked turnover margin and just 12 points scored. Time for QB Will King, who didn’t start in the opener, to impress.
Which predator is ready to feast on the opposition?
Ryan’s take: The Panthers of Chapman. Chapman will be squaring off against Whittier, and both carry a 1-1 record into the matchup. On the surface, they pair quite well: Both have had high scoring wins against Puget Sound, both had narrow losses to Whitworth and both have pretty impressive statistical rankings because of these games. But Chapman brings a run game that is going to grind the ball and be too much for the Poets to contain.
Pat’s take: The Pirates of Whitworth. I was taught in my high school bio class that humans were the top predator on the planet. Who’s with me? Whitworth has gone 4-0 so far without facing a program really capable of putting up a challenge, and unfortunately, I don’t think Pacific is there either.
Keith’s take: The Lobos of Sul Ross State. They might not beat the No. 2 team in the country, but you can bet A.J. Springer’s gang is going to sling it around, making UMHB’s defense work for its stops. Springer is fifth nationally in passing efficiency and has already thrown 14 touchdown passes
Augsburg · Baldwin-Wallace · Bethel · Carnegie Mellon · Centre · Chapman · DePauw · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Johns Hopkins · Juniata · LaGrange · Lebanon Valley · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Millikin · Millsaps · North Central (Ill.) · Pacific · Redlands · Rhodes · Spingfield · Sul Ross State · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Utica · UW-Platteville · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington U. · Whittier · Whitworth · Widener · Williams
Tyler Robinson caught two TD passes for Huntingdon in a win at Hampden-Sydney.
Huntingdon athletics file photo
As much as the Division III landscape was turned upside down last week, it reset this weekend, with Buffalo State losing big to Alfred, Brockport State losing at Kean and UW-Whitewater winning big. But the struggles by Wesley to win at Louisiana College and the occasional offensive woes from Whitewater make us reconsider what we believed about their preseason quarterback situation. Why do we like Justin Sottilare and Lee Brekke so much in 2012 based on what they did in 2010? And then contrast that with Mount Union, which isn’t going with its 2010 quarterback at all.
Plus we talk about Wabash’s surprise loss, Huntingdon jumping into the Top 25, Mary Hardin-Baylor’s season, Widener’s 90-point drubbing of Wilkes, Western Connecticut’s near upset and much 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.
Alfred · Allegheny · Augsburg · Buffalo State · Hampden-Sydney · Heidelberg · Huntingdon · Ithaca · Justin Sottilare · Kevin Burke · Lee Brekke · Louisiana College · Marietta · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Mount Union · Rowan · Salve Regina · Stevenson · UW-Stevens Point · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Wesley · Western Connecticut · Widener · Wilkes
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.)