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ATN Podcast: The MVP, players and coach of the year

It was a tension-filled battle to decide Stagg Bowl XLIV and a great game to boot Pat and Keith were joined by the rest of the on-air crew from the D3football.com Stagg Bowl XLIV audio broadcast, including Adam Turer, Frank Rossi and Kevin Niehus, for this final ATN Podcast of 2016. We discussed the championship game, interviewed UMHB quarterback Blake Jackson live and debated and ultimately determined the D3football.com Players and Coach of the Year.

This week’s podcast was hosted and sponsored by Mac and Bob’s Restaurant in Salem, Va. Whether you’re in Salem for the Stagg Bowl, the Final Four, or any other reason, it’s a great place to stop — it’s been our post-championship hangout for years.

The Around the Nation Podcast is a weekly conversation between Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan covering the wide range of Division III football. It drops on Monday morning weekly throughout the season and monthly in the offseason.

Hit play, or subscribe to get this podcast on your mobile device. 
Photo by Dave Hilbert, d3photography.com
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
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ATN Podcast: Breaking down the semifinals

Our podcast team was truly around the nation this week, as Keith McMillan was in Belton, Texas, and Pat Coleman was in Oshkosh, Wis., for the two national semifinals. What results is an informative breakdown with commentary from players and coaches at both games, along with a quick look at the future for John Carroll and Mount Union and Pat and Keith’s key players to watch on offense and defense for both Mary Hardin-Baylor and UW-Oshkosh in Friday’s Stagg Bowl.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by the City of Salem, hosts of Stagg Bowl XLIV. For more information about the Stagg Bowl or any national championship Salem hosts, visit salemchampionships.com.

The Around the Nation Podcast is a weekly conversation between Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan covering the wide range of Division III football. It drops on Monday morning weekly throughout the season.

Hit play, or subscribe to get this podcast on your mobile device. 
Photos by Joe Fusco and Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
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
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The Quick Hits take on the semifinals

Well, we’ve spent this past week talking about these games, envisioning what these semifinals look like and now it’s time to get down to the finish and tell you how the games will go. We’ve got a rematch of a season opener and a rematch of the 2004 and 2012 semifinals, and we’re expecting two great games that will be great examples of Division III football to the audience on ESPN3.

Enough with the pleasantries. Here’s our takes:

— Pat Coleman (photos by d3photography.com)

The Quick Hits
playoff crew:

keith-mcmillan-150x200
Keith McMillan
ryan-tipps-150x200
Ryan Tipps
Pat Coleman
Pat Coleman
Adam Turer
Adam Turer
Frank Rossi
Frank Rossi
Josh Smith
Josh Smith

John Carroll (12-1) at UW-Oshkosh (12-1), 12 p.m. CT, ESPN3

UW-Oshkosh logoKeith: Normally beating Mount Union, UW-Whitewater and Wesley in a four-week span would mean a team has already won it all. John Carroll still needs two more wins, and standing in its way is an offense more dynamic than any the Blue Streaks have defeated. They’ll tell you themselves how dangerous UW-Oshkosh is, and while Round 2 14 weeks later will be closer, the Titans still score enough to make a Stagg Bowl. UW-Oshkosh 27, John Carroll 16.

UW-Oshkosh logoRyan: The first meeting between these two teams feels like a lifetime ago, so we can’t automatically assume the same outcome. The defenses are particularly impressive for both teams, and we’re going to see all three phases of the game getting points on the board. When the clock hits zero, the Stagg Bowl will again have a WIAC rep, as it has so many times in recent seasons. UW-Oshkosh 28, John Carroll 24.

JCU logoPat: Over the course of a 14-week season, both teams will have improved, no doubt. But UW-Oshkosh came into the season already close to the finished product, while John Carroll was starting a freshman quarterback, figuring out its defense, oh, and traveling more than 500 miles to get to its opener. I feel that the arc for John Carroll is much higher than it has been for UW-Oshkosh, which was much closer to its ceiling. Now, all of what I said here could be true and UWO could still well be favored. But I also think that John Carroll will win this game and keep the OAC in Salem. John Carroll 33, UW-Oshkosh 29.

JCU logoAdam: Kudos to UW-Oshkosh for its disruptive defensive showing against St. Thomas, but a team winning the turnover battle 8-0 and only winning the game by three points is concerning. I’m looking forward to a defensive battle with few mistakes from either side. Ro Golphin and the Blue Streaks rushing game will make the difference, keeping the chains moving and leaving Dylan Hecker and Brett Kasper on the Titans sideline. Salem will still host an OAC champion, just not the usual purple one. John Carroll 24, UW-Oshkosh 10.

UW-Oshkosh logoFrank: With the high temperature forecast for 19 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit, folks) and snow showers, you generally have to give the edge to a team that’s used to going deeper in the playoffs and this type of weather. In their earlier matchup, the Titans started with a 27-0 lead. Asking the Blue Streaks to completely turn that result around is a tough request, even with their improvement on defense. It will be a closer game, but… UW-Oshkosh 20, John Carroll 13.

UW-Oshkosh logoJosh: I’m guilty of underestimating each of these teams in the quarterfinal round. But both the Titans and Blue Streaks recorded key takeaways to reach the semis. Oshkosh has a turnover margin of plus-23 this season, so if turnovers play a critical role again this weekend, the Titans will likely have the edge. Oshkosh’s big play ability on offense helps too. UW-Oshkosh 35, John Carroll 28.

Mount Union (12-1) at Mary Hardin-Baylor (13-0), 3:30 CT, ESPN3

UMHB logoKeith: Mount Union has done a tremendous job getting the most out of an inexperienced roster, and embracing the role of road underdog. But this is the first time their opponent actually has more talent. Haston Adams, Teidrick Smith and the UMHB defensive front will make running the ball difficult, and this Purple Raiders offense can’t flourish if it can’t. The third matchup between these teams isn’t nearly as epic as the first two. Mary Hardin-Baylor 35, Mount Union 17.

UMHB logoRyan: Both teams will come close, or surpass, the number of points they’ve given up all season. Each boasts an All-Region Offensive Player of the Year (Cru quarterback Blake Jackson, and Mount rusher Bradley Mitchell), so scoring is what these guys are all about. Still, there are almost too many reasons to list why I had UMHB as No. 1 on my ballot — the Cru is Salem-bound. Mary Hardin-Baylor 44, Mount Union 33.

UMHB logoPat: It’s been an amazing run for Mount Union, one that this relatively young team can build on and go back to blowing the doors off nine regular-season opponents next year. But I think it ends here. And it’s not because of some hokey BS about being tired from being on the road for four consecutive weeks — it’s because UMHB is damn good, better than Mount Union up front, better at quarterback, better in the secondary, better at receiver. The Cru have certainly had their issues at crucial times in big games in their history, but this game doesn’t come down to one or two plays, in my estimation. Mary Hardin-Baylor 35, Mount Union 20.

UMHB logoAdam: Statistically, this is the most evenly matched contest possible. These teams are nearly identical on paper. The Purple Raiders have proven that their playoff pedigree discounts their opponent’s home field advantage. Both teams excel in all three phases, but the Crusaders have an edge thanks to their aggressive special teams play and dominant D-line. Mary Hardin-Baylor is responsible for the only Stagg Bowl without Mount Union this millennium (2004). The Cru does it again, emphatically. Mary Hardin-Baylor 38, Mount Union 20.

UMHB logoFrank: I was told a long time ago that picking against the Purple Raiders is a fool’s game. Well, regular readers and listeners know that’s never stopped me before… You have a home team with a rock-solid quarterback leading the offense, and a top-caliber defensive end as the helmsman of the defense. The experience and success of the year pay off for the Cru. Mary Hardin-Baylor 52, Mount Union 37.

UMHB logoJosh: The Cru has been my pick to win the Stagg Bowl since the bracket was released, so I won’t waiver now. But Mt. Union’s playoff run can’t be overlooked. If Mary Hardin-Baylor continues to play well up front on offense and defense, it should make things tough for Dom Davis and Bradley Mitchell while offering opportunities for Blake Jackson. I wouldn’t be surprised if a key special teams play factored into the final score. Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, Mount Union 28.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below or tweet at us at @D3Keith, @NewsTipps, @D3football, @adamturer, @FrankRossi and @By_Josh_Smith. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the picks and the highlights from the semifinal round.