TAG | McDaniel
Joe Wojceichowski and the Widener defense will try to shut down Delaware Valley.
Widener athletics photo
The intensity of rivalries is virtually unmatched. The players become more focused, the crowd more vibrant. Alumni flood to stadiums, and memories are dredged up. A win against a rival opponent can rescue an otherwise sour season. And it makes Saturday night celebrations so much sweeter.
Across the country, rivalries will be taking place Saturday as the regular season comes to a close and the playoff prowess in a few remaining conferences shakes out.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps walk you through the action, with Selection Sunday right on the horizon.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Huntingdon at No. 7 Wesley. It’s been a couple of years now since the Wolverines were in a position in which losing the regular season finale would likely mean no playoff performance. But there are question marks for Saturday. Wesley’s loss to Kean earlier in the year made perfection necessary for the final eight games of the season. And Huntingdon won’t be a pushover. The Hawks have already dealt losses to teams that currently stand at 8-1 and 7-2. Could a team like Wesley, which has been to the national semifinals each of the past two seasons, get left out in the cold entirely? Their performance Saturday will be telling.
Keith’s take: Wherever you’re headed. The other guys nail the games with the farthest-rippling playoff implications. So I’ll go ahead and cop out, under the premise that there’s no need to single out a game when we have five conference championships decided (NEFC, NJAC, MAC, LL and NWC), rivalry games from Indiana to Massachusetts to Virginia — and Iowa and Pennsylvania — that make or break seasons. And beyond that, it’s Week 11 — the last game of the season for all but 32 playoff teams and 14 ECAC bowl-bound squads. Hundreds of seniors will hang it up after this. Parents will see their son play one last time, and tailgate grills will make a final appearance before heading into the garage for offseason storage. So I’ll play the Jon Gruden “everything’s awesome” role. Because, you know, it is.
Pat’s take: Widener at No. 11 Delaware Valley. Literally, you can’t do a playoff projection without the result of this game, and there are a lot of factors. Let’s see, Delaware Valley has this tremendously backloaded schedule, with Lycoming and Widener at the end. The Aggies haven’t looked very much like the young team that they are this season. Widener surprised Delaware Valley last year and sent them on a course for Mount Union in the second round, so the rivalry got amped up a little higher and Delaware Valley has even more motivation. But what could be more motivating than the only chance Widener has to get a playoff bid?
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: No. 12 Johns Hopkins at McDaniel. Part of the motivation here is seeing JHU almost drop their matchup against Franklin and Marshall last week, a team that should have been handled easily by the high-powered Blue Jays. However, what makes McDaniel a thinker in this situation is its track record this year: of the Green Terror’s seven losses, five were by eight points or less. McDaniel hasn’t really been able to bring all the pieces together to get wins, but the team has been able to hang around long enough to make it interesting. This Saturday’s game will be interesting, too.
Keith’s take: Trine at Albion. Maybe surprising only in the sense that the Britons are playoff-bound no matter the outcome, and Trine — the dominant MIAA program of the past few seasons picked up two conferences losses by mid-October. But I’m not sure I expect Albion to win, observing from afar. After an impressive five-game stretch, the Britons outgained DePauw 380-126 last week but managed just three points. Trine is the MIAA’s top rush offense (179 yards/game) and Albion is the top rush defense (96 yards). Should be a fun one.
Pat’s take: UW-La Crosse at No. 1 UW-Whitewater. UW-La Crosse gave UW-Whitewater a decent game in the season opener. It’s not likely to be the same close game it was in September, but it will be interesting to see how the teams have grown since Week 1 … not to mention how Whitewater might do if it needed to use Levell Coppage in the fourth quarter.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Franklin. Over the past four weeks, the Grizzlies have progressively played their way through the bottom four teams in the HCAC, starting with 4-5 Rose-Hulman and ending with 0-9 Earlham. So how will they react to all of sudden having to play a more competitive team again? Franklin is unquestionably the better team in this matchup, but Hanover’s advantage is being able to push Franklin enough to throw the Grizzlies off their game. This is a rivalry game, too, played for the Victory Bell. Hanover will be well aware of the fact that this is the last game of their season, win or lose. The Panthers will surely want to win.
Keith’s take: No. 9 Wabash. Just kidding Little Giants fans. Admit it, you got mad there for a second. No. 22 Bethel is my real pick. And with the 10th best rushing offense in the country at 279 yards a game, and with the No. 14 total defense, the Royals probably are just an unfortunate version of the team that played in a national semifinal last season. That said, it’s not easy to force yourself to play just for pride, and that appears to be all the Royals have left when they face 6-3 Augsburg in the Metrodome. Bethel and Augsburg had similar results against St. Thomas and St. Olaf, but only the Royals have to realize there’s no long playoff run ahead this year, just a long football-free December like most of are used to, and turning that into positive motivation.
Pat’s take: No. 13 Redlands. Last year, Redlands barely beat Chapman, finishing 8-1. The previous two years, Redlands lost in Week 11 to finish 7-2 each season and miss out on any shot at the playoffs. Not going to say any more.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. A win in the Mules’ crosstown rivalry game against Moravian would position them well for an ECAC postseason game. Muhlenberg stumbled a couple of times during the season but showed they could compete with the likes of Delaware Valley and Johns Hopkins. The team’s seniors certainly remember the special run the Mules had during their freshman year, and they’ll certainly be eager to channel that energy again.
Keith’s take: UW-Platteville. If the Pioneers can beat UW-Stevens Point for a second time, they’ll finish 7-3 and go down as the best team not to beat anybody great, but to only lose to really good teams. The three losses are to Wheaton, UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh, which are 22-5 combined. A seventh win would also eclipse the best record of the D3football.com era, a 6-4 mark in 2004.
Pat’s take: UW-River Falls. The Falcons started the season 0-8, but had two close losses at home, then won at UW-La Crosse last week to snap the losing streak. River Falls returns home this week to face UW-Eau Claire.
Rivalry game you’re most interested in (alma maters excluded).
Ryan’s take: Amherst at Williams. No matter what, this is the end of the road for both of these teams, which opt not to compete in the playoffs. So at stake is pride: the Ephs’ pride in keeping Amherst from an undefeated 2011 season; the Lord Jeffs’ pride in avenging last year’s loss. If you don’t know the history between these two schools, look it up. It’s unlikely that any two institutions have claim to a more natural rivalry than these two. And it’s rare for them to produce anything but a captivating game.
Keith’s take: Coe at Cornell. Okay, you can get Curt Menefee to pose in a “beat Cornell” shirt. Probably could get Fred Jackson too. But as long as I’ve been writing rivalry stories, I’ve never been able to say anything about this game but that they’ve played it for a long time (121 and counting). Am I just not talking to the right people? The two teams have followed each other from the MWC to the IIAC and are going their separate ways as Cornell heads back to the MWC, but I’m interested in whether fans in Iowa really care about this rivalry.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Kean at No. 15 Montclair State. Okay, so it won’t appear on too many lists of great rivalries but I’m going to go ahead and pick it here because there should be plenty of bad blood … or blood, anyway … to go with what’s on the line in this game, for the NJAC title. Kean coach Dan Garrett and both of his coordinators played at Montclair, which is just 18 miles from Kean, in northern New Jersey.
Who will have the least momentum going into the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: Albion. The Britons have to be scratching their heads after last weekend’s loss to DePauw and should have spent this week learning how to once again become in tune with their offensive mojo. Even though Trine doesn’t have the luster of the last couple of seasons, the team still knows how to force turnovers and run the ball down its opponent’s throat. Albion knows how to handle the run — usually — and the ability to stop that will help them with their confidence going into the playoffs. However, it won’t be a surprise if Albion is an eighth seed in the region, which wouldn’t be doing them any favors. The mental hurdle will be as tough as the physical one.
Keith’s take: St. Thomas. They’re 10-0, sure. But they don’t have a game this Saturday. So I guess it depends how you define momentum.
Pat’s take: Thomas More. Regardless of whether Thomas More wins this week or not, the Saints are already back on their heels after the loss to Waynesburg. Thomas More went solely from being a heavy favorite to being a favorite against Mount St. Joseph in their local rivalry game, but either way, the damage has been done.
Which team can alter its fortunes the most?
Ryan’s take: Lewis and Clark. The question isn’t which team “will,” but rather which team “can.” And the Pioneers certainly can. A win at Linfield puts L&C — a team just three seasons removed from a long string of 0- and 1-win seasons — in the playoffs. On the flip side, a loss for the Pioneers means they’ll be sitting at home next week.
Keith’s take: Hampden-Sydney. Besides Widener and the other teams that can play their way into the playoffs with wins, H-SC could change course the most on Saturday. A win over 7-2 Randolph-Macon continues the Tigers’ dominance in the series and gives them an advantage in recruiting. A loss could mean the difference between a home playoff game against somebody like Christopher Newport, Centre or Thomas More, or a road game at Salisbury, Wesley or Johns Hopkins.
Pat’s take: Trinity (Texas). Not sure it’s in a positive way, however. Austin has to be motivated to not finish the season 0-10. The Kangaroos have been fairly decent at home while the Tigers have struggled a little bit on the road.
Albion · Amherst · Augsburg · Bethel · Chapman · Coe · Cornell · Delaware Valley · Franklin · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · Huntingdon · Johns Hopkins · Kean · Lewis and Clark · Linfield · McDaniel · Montclair State · Moravian · Mount St. Joseph · Muhlenberg · Redlands · St. Thomas · Thomas More · Trine · Trinity (Texas) · UW-Eau Claire · UW-Platteville · UW-River Falls · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Wesley · Widener · Williams
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
Louisiana College is looking for a chance to gain some national respectability.
Louisiana College athletics photo
For the first time all season, teams from every conference around the country will be competing. That’s because, on Saturday, we get to welcome teams from the NESCAC to the field. Those 10 schools play only an in-conference schedule.
We’ll take a look at some of them as well as other teams from coast to coast. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you the breakdown.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 21 Hardin-Simmons. There’s no question that, on a national scale, this is one of the most anticipated in-conference games each and every season. And HSU is coming off a surprising lopsided loss to Mississippi College last week. If the Cowboys are looking for a game to renew their spirits, this one won’t be it. HSU probably doesn’t have the run defense to stop UMHB’s 271-yard-a-game ground attack. The Cowboys will need a few big plays through the air to win Saturday’s shootout and will need to learn how to better stop its opponents in the red zone.
Keith’s take: No. 8 Thomas More at Washington & Jefferson. There are games matching more exciting teams perhaps, but nothing with more on the line this week. For all intents and purposes, the winner of this game wins the PAC and goes on to the playoffs. That’s how it’s been nearly every year since the Saints joined the Presidents’ conference. The games were 29-21 last year and 14-7 the year before, both in favor of Thomas More but close enough to irk W&J. The Saints bring a 42.5-point-per-game offense powered by RB Kendall Owens into the game, while the Presidents counter with QB Matt Bliss and a defense that’s played well for three games.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Mississippi College at Louisiana College. The Choctaws have to avoid a letdown after their big win last weekend at home against Hardin-Simmons. Meanwhile, Louisiana College is looking for a little respect after a triple-overtime win against NAIA Belhaven and a shellacking of Millsaps last week. The Wildcats offense certainly came alive last week in its second game since the graduation of quarterback Ben McLaughlin and if they can take care of the ball better than Hardin-Simmons last week, they should have a chance to be successful.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Randolph-Macon at Frostburg State. It’s been four years since Frostburg won this matchup, and while the Bobcats have given up a lot of points so far this season, they may be able to zero in on how to stop Macon. That’s because R-MC has been surprisingly one-dimensional this year. Past years showed them to have the most balanced offense in the Old Dominion, but this year, they’ve struggled in the pass game (only 57 such yards last week). Over the past two weeks, R-MC hasn’t been able to really get out in front of its opponents, something that will need to happen to ward off a strong effort by Frostburg late in the game.
Keith’s take: Hobart at St. John Fisher. Hard to know what to make of these upstate New York teams from different conferences. Each is unbeaten, though Fisher’s wins are by 5 and 49 against seemingly the same level of competition. Hobart started out with a 33-9 win at Dickinson. Here’s the deal though: Where they once were near equals, the Empire 8′s reputation has gone through the roof the past five years, while the Liberty League just sent a 5-5 conference champion to the postseason. So you’d expect the top-flight E8 team to put a hurting on the LL team, especially at home, but I see a strong effort from Hobart and a tight finish.
Pat’s take: Coe at No. 10 Wartburg. This game has certainly lost its luster since the season began and now Wartburg has to be considered a favorite, but Coe and senior quarterback Brad Boyle have to sense the opportunity to give their conference title hopes a big boost. The Kohawks also need a win or a surprisingly close performance to remain the No. 2 team in the conference, rather than slipping behind Central and even Dubuque in the IIAC pecking order.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 24 Cortland State. If the Red Dragons hope to rebound after last week’s loss to Kean, now’s the time to do. Though I’m really still waiting to see what Cortland State opponent Rowan is capable of this season. The Profs certainly haven’t yet hit their stride (where’s the offense?), so this game means as much to them as it does to Cortland State staying alive in the playoff hunt.
Keith’s take: No. 17 Wabash. Less a Little Giant dis than it is finally recognizing Dee Brizzolara and the Chicago Maroons. Every few years the UAA pushes out a team that’s playoff-worthy and good enough to beat top 25 teams, and this year’ Maroons have that feel.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Montclair State. I might be guilty of underanalyzing this game, but coming off of last week’s respective games, Buffalo State and Montclair State seem to have differing levels of momentum. I remember a particular Montclair State-Buffalo State we broadcast in 2000 that went to two overtimes — in addition, this was the last season Buff State had a national profile. If the Bengals win this one, they’ll be back on the scene for more than just blowing out Western Connecticut a couple times.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Allegheny. Why? Because I’m impressed the Gators are standing at 2-1 and have found a solid balance of both rushing and passing on offense. They’ve proven in the past two games that they can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but the biggest test by far comes this weekend when they go up against conference kingpin Wittenberg. A good showing here will go a long way, and Witt is not invincible.
Keith’s take: Hampden-Sydney. The Tigers have looked dominant in a 3-0 start, but there are questions about the defense and the level of competition. A trip to Alabama to face Huntingdon (2-1, 37.3 points per game) should give us some answers.
Pat’s take: Dubuque. It’s been a long time since the Spartans beat Central (1987) but this is a good opportunity for Dubuque and the Zweifels. Other than last year, games recently have been close, including the three-overtime classic in 2007.
Which NESCAC game are you most looking forward to?
Ryan’s take: Trinity (Conn.) at Colby. The Bantams are always a part of the NESCAC discussion, and this year, they should be able to harness their offensive strengths to again make a run at the conference title. The NESCAC is a pass-heavy conference, so seeing whether Trinity’s young defensive backfield can slow Colby (and ultimately other opponents this season) will be interesting.
Keith’s take: Williams at Bowdoin. I’ve got the Ephs in the top 25, but I need to see an indication that they deserve it. Just beating the Polar Bears might not be enough, and that’s a shame because any team can look shaky in its opener, and Bowdoin looked improved last season.
Pat’s take: Middlebury at Wesleyan. Having taken a step forward under Mike Whalen, the Cardinals have a change to get this season off on the right foot and perhaps break out of the middle of the nESCAC pack, where they have been the past two years.
Which team could get caught looking ahead?
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve. Next week, Case faces Allegheny (who I discussed a couple of questions ago), but this week is Denison, which has proven itself to be a competitor above and beyond years past. The Big Red haven’t played the toughest teams, but they’ve won the past two games by wide margins and played another to within a field goal. The Spartans can’t look past this one, otherwise they’ll find themselves looking back on it next week and shaking their heads.
Keith’s take: No. 16 Alfred. Next week’s clash with St. John Fisher will help determine if the Saxons are headed back to the playoffs, or at least will have a shot at winning the Empire 8. But they have to deal with 2-0 Springfield and the nation’s No. 1-ranked rushing offense (491 yards/game) first.
Pat’s take: No. 3 St. Thomas. The Tommies host St. John’s net week and while I’d like to give Glenn Caruso’s team the fullest benefit of the doubt, they do have to go to Concordia-Moorhead, and it’s not a great trip. The Cobbers are the best team St. Thomas has played so far this season. They might not get completely caught but another slow start like the ones against St. Norbert or UW-River Falls could have greater consequences. In considering this I looked at a whole bunch of teams who couldn’t get caught looking ahead — Mount Union playing Wilmington this week with Ohio Northern next week.
Game most likely to be decided by a 2-point conversion.
Ryan’s take: Puget Sound at Whittier. Both teams pass waaaaaay better than they run the ball. Note to defensive backs: Stay on your heels for the whole 60 minutes. Both teams enter this contest winless, and aside from it likely ending up a close-scoring game, look at it, too, as the last nonconference hurrah for them. Who’s bringing some momentum into conference play?
Keith’s take: Salve Regina at Endicott. Both teams are off to good starts, with the only blemish being Salve’s loss to top-25 Montclair State. When the Seahawks play, points could be scarce, and plus it took a 20-point fourth quarter Gulls rally for a 29-28 victory last year. The only way to top that is to have this year’s game in Newport, R.I. come down to a conversion attempt.
Pat’s take: McDaniel at Ursinus. I suggest this game because it’s likely to be a back-and-forth kind of game, one that could lead a coach to go for two. And the way McDaniel has given up fourth-quarter points, Tim Keating might want to stop the bleeding with a two-pointer.
Allegheny · Buffalo State · Case Western Reserve · Central · Coe · Colby · Concordia-Moorhead · Cortland State · Denison · Dubuque · Frostburg State · Hardin-Simmons · Louisiana College · Mary Hardin-Baylor · McDaniel · Middlebury · Mississippi College · Montclair State · Randolph-Macon · Rowan · St. Thomas · Trinity (Conn.) · Ursinus · Wartburg · Wesleyan · Wittenberg
Ohio Northern survived an upset bid by Otterbein, setting up an interesting conundrum for the people who like to play comparative scores.
Ohio Northern athletics photo
If you like playing the comparative scores game, you know, where X beat Y by 3 and Y beat Z by 3, therefore X would beat Z. But just try to wrap your mind around the direct correlation between Ohio Northern and Gallaudet, each of whom played Otterbein at home and went to overtime. Or figure out what to make of Hardin-Simmons … beating Willamette … which lost a close game to UW-Stevens Point … which got shut down by UW-Platteville … etc.
It gets even more complicated. Thankfully Keith McMillan and Pat Coleman can make at least some sense of it in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast.
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Bethel · Buffalo State · Catholic · Centre · Christopher Newport · Coe · East Texas Baptist · Gallaudet · Hardin-Simmons · Kean · Lycoming · McDaniel · Mount Union · Muhlenberg · Ohio Northern · Otterbein · Salisbury · Stevenson · UW-Whitewater · Washington and Lee · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Widener
There are nine undefeated teams still outside of the Top 25. That will change this week as we get to more pairing off in conference play, particularly in the OAC and IIAC.
But as teams look forward to the playoffs, they also have to find ways to stay in the moment. Teams can get caught looking ahead, and midseason is when players’ bumps, bruises and other injuries begin to take their toll, especially on squads that lack depth. Last week, we saw how injuries can help derail teams that appeared to be on track to the postseason.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps go over a few teams that will bring the hurt on Saturday, while spotlighting some of the country’s biggest contests.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Baldwin-Wallace at No. 13 Ohio Northern. We usually count Mount Union as getting the automatic qualifier in the OAC. But what about the other nine teams in the conference? I appreciate history, and history suggests that the OAC will get a second team into the playoffs. In fact, over the past decade, the conference has fielded a second team all but three times. Right now, B-W and ONU are the clear front-runners for that spot, so playoff gold will be on the line come Saturday.
Pat’s take: Wartburg at No. 6 Coe. Wartburg has been sitting outside the Top 25 for too long, and admittedly, I could find a higher spot for the Knights on my ballot. This weekend provides for the distinct possibility that Wartburg could move up in our poll with a close loss. The dissenting view would point out that after the season-opening win against Monmouth, Wartburg has faced Gustavus Adolphus, Cornell, Loras and Buena Vista, not the strong part of its schedule. Coe and Wartburg have no common opponents so far to make the comparison easier.
Keith’s take: No. 23 Cortland State at Rowan. The Red Dragons lead the nation in scoring defense (19 points allowed, or 3.80 per game; They haven’t given up a point since Buffalo State’s third-quarter touchdown on Sept. 18.) and are second to NJAC rival Montclair State in total defense (194.60 yards per game). To stay on track for the all-red defensive showdown in Week 9 (Oct. 30), Cortland needs to eliminate the only other remaining threat to the conference throne in the Profs. Rowan has settled on quarterback Tim Hagerty but hasn’t found its way offensively, averaging just 17.60 points per game despite rushing for 205 yards a contest. The Profs aren’t bad defensively, surrendering a shade over 14 points per game, so long drives should be tough to come by for either side, and the game could be swayed by a fluke turnover or a special teams score.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Adrian at DePauw. DePauw might be undefeated, but Adrian has been down this road before — they’ve already squared off against UW-Whitewater and Trine this season. So let’s take any intimidation factor off the table right now. Adrian is not a running team, clearly, but against a rush defense like DePauw’s, that’s probably for the best. What Adrian can do is air out the ball, and a few big plays here and there could present some big problems for the Tigers’ secondary.
Pat’s take: Oberlin at Wabash. Actually, I’m not even sure who to favor, except that Wabash is at home which would give them a bit of an edge. But from a name perspective, this game is likely to produce a score that 12 months ago would make you sure it was posted incorrectly.
Keith’s take: St. Vincent at No. 11 Thomas More. Because the Bearcats are just 1-4 and haven’t developed into a consistent winner so far in the program’s revival, folks outside the PAC might not have taken note of the improvement. Three of St. Vincent’s losses have come by five points or fewer, and all have come against teams .500 or better. In last week’s 31-20 loss to the other PAC power, Washington & Jefferson, St. Vincent fell behind 17-0 but didn’t let the game get away, making the score 24-14 in the second half. Thomas More poses quite the challenge, as the measuring stick for PAC teams these days, and we’ll likely see another mark of progress for the Bearcats.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Randolph-Macon. I don’t see a lot of potential for upsets outside of the Game of the Week contests that we’ve already addressed. And I’m not saying here that Macon is flawed, but in going up against Washington and Lee, we do have a nice comparison in Emory and Henry to use. E&H played each team in the past two weeks and was beaten by at least two scores each time. What’s caught my attention though, is how many points W&L has been putting up. The team’s wins this season have come on 48-, 55- and 45-point performances. R-MC should win this one, but W&L could sneak up if the Yellow Jackets aren’t on their game.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Cortland State. The distance between Cortland State and opponent Rowan is probably not very significant. Rowan struggled on offense earlier in the season but has rebounded with Hagerty taking over the starting quarterback spot.
Keith’s take: No. 1 UW-Whitewater. Okay, so they’re technically the least likely top 25 team to be upset, but if it’s going to happen before the Stagg Bowl, this Saturday is likely as any. UW-Eau Claire is 3-2 and doesn’t stand out statistically, but they’ve played St. John’s, No. 7 North Central and UW-Stevens Point already, so they’ve proven they can stand up with top Division III talent. If the Blugolds can hang close to the almighty Warhawks, they might fare well; UW-EC beat the Johnnies and Pointers in overtime. Plus, the state’s pride, the Badgers, kick off later in the evening, which means any football fan near Eau Claire can come out to Carson Park to give the Blugolds a raucous home atmosphere.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: McDaniel. Over each of the past four weeks, Green Terror defenders have been honored by the conference. And rightfully so. McDaniel opponents average only about 13 points a game this season. All will be on display when the team faces its 4-1 conference bedfellow, Muhlenberg. Both teams are trying to regain their peak, but McDaniel has been enduring a much longer climb to get there.
Pat’s take: Ursinus. See Wartburg above. This is a no-room-at-the-inn exclusion from the Top 25 as well, in my opinion. Perhaps beating Johns Hopkins will get the Bears on enough voters’ radar.
Keith’s take: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The Stags are one of the nine unbeaten teams mentioned frequently in this post, and their four wins are Lewis & Clark, first-year Pacific, La Verne and Chapman. SCIAC power Redlands is the stiffest test to date, but CMS has mixed and matched with Patrick Rooney, Peter Kimney, Spencer Clark and Alex Wheatley to rush for nearly 250 yards per game, and if they can pull off a victory against the Bulldogs, nationally we’ll start to take notice.
Which team will we have to start taking seriously?
Ryan’s take: Lycoming. With perennial MAC star Delaware Valley looking good, lots of preseason hype around Lebanon Valley and the not-so-distant playoff past of Albright, the Warriors seemed to duck under the radar for the first six weeks. But now they’re coming off a 50-point walloping of Albright and standing at 4-1, their only loss to a tough Rowan team. With Widener and DelVal games over the next two weeks, we’ll see exactly what Lycoming is made of.
Pat’s take: Salisbury. The Sea Gulls lost their showdown with Hampden-Sydney three weeks ago — barely — but they’re not out of the Pool B race by any stretch, especially considering they have a head-to-head shot with Wesley later. First things first, though, including this week’s home game against Huntingdon.
Keith’s take: The Elmhurst/Illinois Wesleyan winner, and Carthage. Rarely do we discuss defending conference champs as teams we’re not certain about this far into the season, but IWU has underwhelmed while going 4-1, which is the same record both the Bluejays and Redmen have. IWU (29-19) and Elmhurst (27-24) lost to Wheaton, and Carthage (43-8) lost to North Central. But all of these teams can stay in the CCIW hunt with wins on Saturday, Elmhurst or IWU against one another, and Carthage against Augustana. And the CCIW is known for its frequent three-way tie scenarios and sending two teams to the field of 32.
Which team will be affected the most by injury?
Ryan’s take: Wabash. The Little Giants drew their first loss of the season after starting quarterback Chase Belton left midway through last Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury. The sophomore signal-caller who went 9-12 that day was replaced by Tyler Burke, who managed only 11 for 19 the rest of the game. What makes this particularly stinging isn’t just Belton’s injury but the fact that this is compounded upon other wounds in the skill positions to wideouts Kody LeMond and Wes Chamblee. As of Thursday, Belton is still not cleared to play. A resurging Oberlin team is in town Saturday, and then three even tougher games are right around the corner for Wabash.
Pat’s take: UW-Whitewater. The Wisconsin State Journal report regarding the status of running backs Levell Coppage and Booker Stanley gives pause. That still leaves Antwan Anderson — you remember him, he rushed for 1,213 yards in 2008 — but that’s not the same as having three guys who could rush for 100 yards at the drop of a hat.
Keith’s take: No. 2 Mount Union. The Purple Raiders have D-III’s most dynamic talent in wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (3,938 career receiving yards @UMU) and perhaps its most prolific Twitter user (7,493 @CShorts10). Bothered by a foot injury that cost him part of last week’s game against Marietta, Shorts tweeted midweek that his boot “had to go.” Mount Union, which hosts Heidelberg, might not be affected in the win-loss column, but you can bet the loss of Shorts changes what they do offensively.
How many undefeated teams will be outside the Top 25 after Saturday?
Ryan’s take: Six. I could see two of those teams taking headers: an Adrian upset at DePauw and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps falling to Redlands. And factor in a Baldwin-Wallace loss to Ohio Northern. I also reserve the right to leave on the table any other combination that results in six remaining.
Pat’s take: Four. Well, I see that we have 19 unbeatens in the poll so far and nine out of the poll. We’re guaranteed to lose one unbeaten because Wartburg and Coe face off. Some of our unranked unbeatens aren’t going to make the poll no matter what. I count four additional unbeatens who could lose, one in the poll, and will bank on one moving into the Top 25. But this is still a guess.
Keith’s take: Six. Here are the nine: Wartburg (first team outside the top 25 in also receiving votes), Case Western Reserve (third), Baldwin-Wallace (fourth), Ursinus (sixth), DePauw (seventh), Amherst (11th) and Williams, SUNY-Maritime and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps not receiving any votes. Two factors are at work; how many teams will stay unbeaten, and how many move into the top 25 with wins? Safe bets are on CMS losing to Redlands, and either Wartburg losing to Coe or B-W to ONU. So I say seven of nine stay unbeaten, but only Wartburg or B-W are close enough to move in and playing an opponent that will make voters shake up their order. And there aren’t many top 25 teams facing ultra-tough challenges this week, so not many poll spots will open up. One moves in, and two lose, leaving six.
Adrian · Amherst · Baldwin-Wallace · Carthage · Claremont-Mudd-Scripps · Coe · Cortland State · DePauw · Elmhurst · Illinois Wesleyan · Lycoming · McDaniel · Montclair State · Muhlenberg · Oberlin · Ohio Northern · Randolph-Macon · Rowan · Salisbury · St. Vincent · Thomas More · Ursinus · UW-Eau Claire · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Wartburg · Washington and Jefferson · Washington and Lee · Williams