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Quick Hits Week 4: Cracking the win column

This week the panel looks at a top-12 clash in the OAC, some big games down south, and which teams are poised to get their first win of 2019.

Our regular crew is Keith McMillan, Ryan Tipps, Pat Coleman, Adam Turer, Frank Rossi and Greg Thomas.

— Greg Thomas

Which game is the Game of the Week?

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Keith’s take: No. 2 Mount Union at No. 12 John Carroll.  On the pod I took SJF-Ithaca, but I think this is the right call.
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Ryan’s take: No 8 Bethel at Gustavus Adolphus.  The Gusties hung tough with St. John’s already, and Bethel will need to be ready for its first real test of the season.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Franklin & Marshall at No. 24 Susquehanna.  Also in contention for the longest game when listed on scoreboards.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 2 Mount Union at No. 12 John Carroll. After thrashing Baldwin Wallace last week, the Purple Raiders face their biggest test of the regular season. If the Blue Streaks can’t put up a fight, expect The Machine to pick up even more top votes in next week’s poll.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 2 Mount Union at No. 12 John Carroll. Mount was moved to the No. 1 slot on my ballot last week, and John Carroll did a huge leap on it. I’m curious to see how this plays out, even if it’s a close JCU loss.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: St. Norbert at Monmouth. It’s a rematch of last year’s MWC championship. And the one before that. And maybe a preview of this year’s MWC championship. These teams know each other well is what I’m saying.

Which Top 25 team is most likely to get upset?

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Keith’s take: No. 24 Susquehanna.  I hate when panelists do the none thing, and F&M is averaging 41 points a game.
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Ryan’s take: No. 13 Ithaca.  Oppenent St. John Fisher is already better than they were last year, and there’s a sense of returning to form. And the Bombers have crept up unusually high in the poll.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor.  I actually feel we are unlikely to have any upsets at all, but HPU is improving and UMHB has struggled.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 24 Susquehanna. If there’s any week to pick “None” this is it. But what’s the fun in that? I’ll take undefeated Franklin and Marshall to contribute to the Centennial Conference chaos.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 18 Johns Hopkins. I think the topsy-turvy season for Hopkins continues here against a Dickinson team that has been a little inconsistent, but that has the pieces needed to win at home.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: No. 25 Hobart. It took a pretty furious rally for the Statesmen to survive winless Rowan last week. This week, Montclair State closes the deal.

Which 0-3 team cracks the win column this weekend?

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Keith’s take: Hiram. Of the 35 choices, I like Hiram, as its level of competition has been tougher so far than Kenyon, this week’s opponent.
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Ryan’s take: Bridgewater State.  The Bears line up against Fitchburg, which statistically has the worst defense in the conference.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Belhaven.  In the battle of 0-3 teams, taking the one that looked good last week.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Belhaven. The Blazers put a scare into Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday. If they can get the offense on track, they should be able to defeat fellow winless ASC foe McMurry.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Belhaven. Their three losses have been by a combined 30 points, but they include a close 10-point loss to UMHB last week. Their experience should lead to a win.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: Belhaven. It’s hard to see the Blazers’ 23-13 loss at UMHB last week and not think they’re close to a cracking the win column in 2019. Hosting McMurry is a great opportunity.

Which game are you following that nobody else on this panel is following?

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Keith’s take: Southwestern at Texas Lutheran. I am very fascinated by Southwestern’s hot start, yet Texas Lutheran is no easy W.
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Ryan’s take: Southern Virginia at Bridgewater.  The Knights are 2-0 for the first time in … ever. Curious to see if lightning will strike a third time.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Defiance vs. Anderson.  I think Anderson is beyond the point where it can be Defiance’s only win, but watching to be sure.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Mount St. Joseph at Franklin. Listen to my preview on today’s podcast. The Grizzlies will try to extend their win streak over the Lions to 10 games. Mount St. Joe has the edge at quarterback. Will that be enough to shake up the HCAC standings?
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Western New England at University of New England. For a second-year program like UNE, a huge upset like this would be a signature win. But UNE has a small chance here. WNE can’t look past this game.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: Denison at Wabash. It’s Homecoming. It’s Senior Day. It’s a critical conference game for both teams. And it’s also the first of the last five games at the current iteration of Hollett Little Giant Stadium.

Pick a winner in a LL vs. E8 game.

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Keith’s take: Cortland. SUNY Buffalo State and SUNY Cortland are in different conferences, and tiers. The Dragons outscoring opponents 94-7, and will get top 25 consideration soon.
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Ryan’s take: St. Lawrence over Hartwick.  The Saints’ Tyler Grochot puts up good numbers even in losses — he’ll be hard for the Hawks to stop.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Alfred.  There are a bunch of games that seem like pretty easy picks in this group, so I’m sure we’ll have a bunch of upsets instead.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 13 Ithaca defeats St. John Fisher. A battle of unbeatens, a turning point for two resurgent programs trying to reclaim the top spot in the East Region. I think this is Ithaca’s year.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: St. Lawrence (vs. Hartwick). The Saints got their first win last week and have played stronger generally based on schedule comparisons and scores. Home cookin’ seals this deal for them.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: Cortland over Buffalo State. In their first season out of the E8, the Bengals are on the verge of a four-game non-conference sweep courtesy their former conference rivals. The good news is that they’re still 0-0 in league play.

Which Week 3 upset victim gets back on course this week?

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Keith’s take: Ursinus.A surprise 44-38 loser to Juniata last week, Ursinus gets a chance to get right against 0-3 Moravian.
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Ryan’s take: Washington & Jefferson. The game won’t come down to the fourth quarter for the Presidents, like it has two of the past three weeks already.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Ohio Northern. I’m not confident in any of them, but will take ONU to beat Otterbein.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Washington & Jefferson. Most of last week’s upset victims have an unwelcome bye week. They would much rather be on the field with the opportunity to get back on the winning path. The Presidents face a hungry Grove City team, which just had its nine-game winning streak snapped by Case Western Reserve.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Washington & Jefferson (at Grove City). That said, I think Grove City plays them very close, unlike last year and unlike last week’s disappointing Case Western Reserve loss.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: Ohio Northern. Back home and under the lights, the Polar Bears shake off last week’s shocker and get a win over winless Otterbein.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Fridays, where Pat and Keith review the Quick Hits that were prescient, and the Quick Misses that were terribly off base.

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Quick Hits Week 3: Please stay

It’s been such a long week in Division III football, but game day is finally here. (Apologies to Guilford, Catholic and Randolph-Macon.) Our regular crew for picking games is Keith McMillan, Ryan Tipps, Pat Coleman, Adam Turer and Frank Rossi. Our sixth spot goes to a guest each week, and this week’s is broadcaster and longtime friend of the site John McGraw, who is broadcasting Hamilton football this weekend.

— Pat Coleman

Photo: Defensive lineman Mike Williams for W&J, by Martin Santek Photography

Which game is the Week 3 game of the week?

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Keith’s take: Redlands at No. 11 Linfield. The Bulldogs’ second trip to the Pacific NW could prevent a third in the postseason.
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Ryan’s take: No. 12 Wheaton at Illinois Wesleyan. Last year, IWU’s win shook up the conference race — and perceptions — big time.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Carnegie Mellon at No. 15 W&J. Lots of quality games this week — I like that this is the first solid test for each of these teams.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 18 Berry at Rhodes. The SAA has impressed in non-conference play and the Lynx could serve notice that this race is wide open.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Redlands at No. 11 Linfield. Was Linfield’s loss to a middling NAIA team a fluke, or are the Wildcats taking a step backward? Playing 2-0 Redlands could help answer this.
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John’s take: No. 12 Wheaton at Illinois Wesleyan.Two of the preseason favorites in the CCIW not named North Central go head-to-head under the lights.

Which Top 25 team is most likely to get upset?

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Keith’s take: No. 6 Frostburg seems upset that its home game vs. CNU is canceled. (And Rhodes could beat No. 18 Berry).
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Ryan’s take: No. 6 Frostburg State. They, along with CNU, are “upset” that they won’t be playing on Saturday.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 21 RPI. Going to take a flier here vs. Utica. If nothing else, really think Ithaca should be ranked from LL, not RPI.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 18 Berry. Rhodes dual-threat quarterback PJ Settles has accounted for 524 yards through two games while the Lynx defense has held opponents to 448 yards.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 25 Springfield. The teams have split their last ten matchups with five wins apiece. Union’s air attack looks legit, so it’s a real test for the Pride on both sides of the ball.
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John’s take: No. 16 UW-Platteville. Started slow in week 1 against ETBU. Another slow start could doom them against TMC.

Pick a home team to win a NESCAC game.

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Keith’s take: Wesleyan. Hosting Middlebury, the Cardinals are the only team Kickoff ’18 picked to finish top half of NESCAC that’s home.
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Ryan’s take: Hamilton. Even if I’m wrong, with the starters returning for both Hamilton and Tufts, this should be a good one.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Hamilton. Wesleyan is the “easy pick” but I am taking a flier on Dave Murray moving the needle in his fifth year in charge.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Wesleyan. The Cardinals’ fourth quarter rally came up short at Middlebury last year. The home team gets revenge to open the 2018 season.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Wesleyan. The home team won last year, 30-27. Flip the script for Wesleyan’s hosting duties this year.
Guest
John’s take: Hamilton. While Tufts has one of the stronger offenses in the NESCAC behind dual-threat QB Ryan McDonald, the Jumbos have holes to fill on defense.

Which game are you following that nobody else on this panel is following?

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Keith’s take: Maine Maritime at Mass. Maritime. The 46th Admiral’s Cup features teams that lost openers by four scores (or, by 28 and 30).
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Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg at Susquehanna. The River Hawks are the newest entries on my ballot, and this is another stiff test.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: McMurry at Howard Payne. Teams have lost by a combined score of 116-9 so far and interested to see them face more even matches.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Southwestern at East Texas Baptist. Y’all like offense? These offenses have collectively averaged 41 points per game. Expect a speedy back-and-forth shootout.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Merchant Marine at SUNY-Maritime. The Privateers have won by an average of 29 points, but this is a rivalry game.  And USMMA coach Mike Toop won the Internet leading up to it.
Guest
John’s take: Ithaca at Alfred. Ithaca held Brockport to 13 and came within one score of the Golden Eagles last weekend after rolling past St. Vincent in its opener. How good are the Bombers?

Predict a final score in the Willamette-Occidental game.

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Keith’s take: 45-21, Willamette.
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Ryan’s take: 42-7, Willamette.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: 41-12, Willamette.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: 34-13, Willamette.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: 31-24, Occidental.
You heard it here first.
Guest
John’s take: 24-10, Willamette.

The sixth question is intentionally left blank in memory of Evan Hansen.

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If you need help ...
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Call 1-800-273-8255.
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Tweet .
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: Text HOME to 741741.
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1-866-488-7386.
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Please stay

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Fridays, where Pat and Keith review the Quick Hits that were prescient, and the Quick Misses that were terribly off base.

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Triple Take, Week 9: Several down and three to go

Week 9 isn’t quite the week of marquee games that Week 8 was, but there are three clashes that pit top-20 teams against one another. And besides, with three weeks left in the regular season, we’ve hit the point where every game is big for teams in the hunt for conference titles and one of the 32 playoff spots.

Sometimes around this time of year, we veteran playoff prognosticators get more concerned with losses, because they help us eliminate contenders. But no matter what’s left to compete for as November nears — championships, rivalry trophies or plain ol’ pride — the object is to win. With 239 teams each trying to get one, participating in 120 Week 9 games across 28 conferences and beyond, it can be hard to keep track of what matters. That’s where Around the Nation columnist Ryan Tipps, editor and publisher Pat Coleman and I come in. We compile our seven-point primers for the weekend independent of one another, then reveal them so Division III observers can know where to look beyond their own games for potential upsets, the biggest face-offs and those that are below-the-radar but still meaningful.

— Keith McMillan

Game of the week

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 13 Hardin-Simmons. The clashes of top-20 MIAC and CCIW teams are big, but both of those conference races have other teams in the mix; this is pretty much winner-take-all. Yet the prize is no longer the ASC’s automatic bid. Because the conference has just six core members, plus McMurry transitioning back into D-III and Belhaven in its first year, it no longer has a playoff spot reserved for its champion. The winner in Abilene is probably a shoo-in for the Pool B playoff spot reserved for teams without access to automatic bids. The loser has to swim in Pool C with the runners up in 26 of the other conferences, hoping for one of six at-large bids.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 13 Hardin-Simmons. For the first time in more than a decade, we’re deep in the season and both teams are still undefeated as they meet. Plus there’s the lone Pool B bid riding on the outcome of this game. I could go into more reasons why we should all be paying attention to this one, but I spelled a lot of it out already this week in my Around the Nation column.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Washington University at No. 23 Case Western Reserve. Case gets to put its newly minted top-25 ranking on the line in a big game right away. Despite playing for automatic bids in their separate conferences, the UAA teams still all play each other. Case, which has already lost to University of Chicago, now faces Wash. U., which is coming in riding high. The Bears are 5-2 and have scored 145 points in the past three weeks. This should be a great matchup of teams peaking at the right time, as both Case and Wash. U. are facing their toughest competition at the end of the season.

Surprisingly close game

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Loras at Dubuque. The Duhawks started this season with seven wins in the previous four years. If the host Spartans win Saturday, it’d be their sixth this year. Dubuque (5-2) got national notice two weeks ago by walloping then-No. 8 Wartburg, so it now leads the IIAC. The Spartans have also won the past four in the series by 27 or more. However, Loras (4-3) boasts the nation’s top passing offense at 409 yards per game, and is 207th in time of possession — suggesting the Duhawks play fast and get off the field. Dubuque is 170th nationally in pass efficiency defense so they’ll either have to play a superb game defensively or score to keep up. The IIAC has traditionally been the territory of Central, Wartburg and Coe, and a bit further back, Simpson. Loras reinstated football in 1980, and has never won an IIAC title. Dubuque has won it once since that year. Saturday, they play for first place in a game so rarely big, I had no idea they played for the Key City Trophy.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: LaGrange at Maryville. If looking strictly at the records, a 6-1 Maryville squad should roll over a 2-4 LaGrange without issue. But the scoreboard itself points to another angle: Of the four games the Panthers have lost, three of the margins have been by one point, three points and seven points. Of the games they’ve won, the margins were two points and three points. This is a team that has been playing close games all season, and while many of the games haven’t been against competition as good as the Scots, there’s nothing to suggest that this will be a runaway performance by Maryville.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Berry at Millsaps. Berry is 6-1, 5-0 in the SAA and Millsaps is 1-6, 0-5. That brings with it a connotation of a big win for Berry but I’m looking for a closer game. Berry has only blown out one opponent all season, the 24-0 home win vs. Rhodes that opened everyone’s eyes early in the season. In fact, the Vikings have only outscored opponents 142-113 this season, despite their gaudy record. Millsaps won’t be getting 70 points rolled up on it this week.

Most likely top-25 team to be upset

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No. 23 Case Western Reserve. The Spartans now play football in the PAC, while Washington U. plays in the SAA; Both are UAA rivals in other sports. The Bears (5-2) have recently discovered a high-powered offense. Since being held to 13 by Berry, they’ve gone for 37, 38 and 70 points. Junior quarterback J.J Tomlin leads what is now the nation’s sixth-best passing offense at 339 yards per game. Case Western Reserve’s defensive strength, unfortunately, is against the run. The Spartans (6-1) have just four turnovers all season, and they’ll need to keep that going and keep pace with the Bears’ offense to avoid making their stay in the top 25 a short one.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: No. 22 Washington and Lee. The ODAC is one of those conferences where anything can happen. We’ve said it a few times already this season, and it applies now as the Generals square off against Emory and Henry. Both teams average in the 30s when it comes to scoring, and both are good at holding their opponents to an average of about 21 points. What could make this interesting is the E&H has statistically the best rushing defense in the conference, but that’s only because we’re deep in the season, and most of the other teams have already played the ultra-run-heavy W&L. So the numbers are skewed in favor of E&H. If there’s any legitimacy to that stat, though, we’ll find out for certain on Saturday. The momentum of games change on big plays; between these two teams, the winner may depend on them.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 20 Cortland State. It might be easy pickin’s here to take the Empire 8 game, but it’s not just because the conference has been evenly balanced and difficult to predict. Cory Benedetto is coming off the best performance of his brief starting career at Morrisville State and Cristian Pena has rushed for 100 yards in three of the past four games. I think we’ll continue to have churn at the bottom of the poll this week.

Pick a team that can greatly improve its playoff chances with a win

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Albion. The Britons gained notice by averaging about 50 points per game in a 6-0 start. They scored 51 last week, but allowed Trine to rally from down 17 for the 55-51 win, which means Saturday’s game at 7-0 Olivet is its last playoff hope. The Comets are on top and would clinch with a win (Trine, the only other team in the hunt, lost 49-24 to Olivet on Oct. 10). The Britons, however, would jump right back into the top spot with a win and any Trine loss. Since MIAA teams really don’t get at-large bids, this is essentially a conference title game with a playoff spot on the line. It’s such a big game, the Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer published dueling columns making the case for either team to win.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Endicott. The NEFC is a mess of undefeated Western New England and three one-loss conference teams, including Endicott. The key to this cluster, though, is that WNEU hasn’t played any of those one-loss teams yet, so head-to-head matchups and the potential for tiebreakers will probably leave fans of this conference guessing about its Pool A selection until the final clock runs out on Nov. 14. Endicott can stay in the hunt if it knocks Western New England off this weekend.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 22 Washington and Lee. The Generals travel to Emory and Henry for what should be their last big test of the ODAC season. I say “should be” because of the ODAC’s general unpredictability. But the Generals can all but clinch this week with a win against the Wasps. And if Guilford were to lose to Catholic and Hampden-Sydney to Bridgewater, the Generals could clinch the automatic bid outright, regardless of their results the final two weeks vs. Shenandoah and Catholic.

Pick a surprising one-loss team that will remain on the fringes of the playoff hunt

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: DePauw. Joe Sager’s Around the Great Lakes column this week featured the Tigers’ offensive balance, partly fueled by QB Matt Hunt and his wide receiver brother Andy. At Denison, which features its own QB/WR brothers in Tommy and Matt Iammarino, DePauw will need to keep it balanced and continue to be the NCAC’s best third-down offense. Both DePauw and Denison have yet to face Wabash and its mighty defense, so improving to 7-1 might keep whichever team wins on the playoff fringe only until the Little Giants game.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Frostburg State. This week’s game against Rowan is a tough matchup for the Bobcats, probably the toughest since the Wesley game in Week 2. Frostburg is a young team that starts five freshmen on offense, but, like Rowan, their success is largely rooted in how they’ve performed on defense. With so much youth and with the shift in the conferences, probably no one saw this kind of success from the team this season, but what it’s doing is helping to build toward something even bigger in the years to come. Rowan is coming off of a close loss to Wesley – how banged up the Profs are will also factor into how this game plays out.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Gustavus Adolphus. Keith and I spent some time this August talking about whether the Gusties would be able to improve on their 6-0 start/0-4 finish from last season and even though they don’t necessarily match up well with Bethel’s weaknesses, I’m looking at this game as a possibility. The Royals should, however, be able to pass for more than 1 yard, which will be an improvement over last week.

Pick a team that won’t be playing for any titles this season, but will win comfortably

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Hamline. Because the Pipers play in the absolutely loaded MIAC, their revival story has gone underappreciated. After four wins in four seasons, Hamline won four last year. They’re just 2-5 this time around, but were competitive in seven- and 10-point losses to Gustavus Adolphus (6-1) and Concordia-Moorhead (7-1). The Pipers can get to .500 with a strong finish, and St. Olaf, one of the two MIAC teams they beat last season, is beatable again. Hamline’s problem areas are a deadly mixture of penalties and poor performance on third downs and in the red zone, but the Oles have the nation’s 229th-ranked defense, allowing 501 yards per game. Pipers QB Justice Spriggs and WRs Philip Sherman and Naji El-Araby could have their first really big day together.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Hobart. Once the king of the Liberty League, the Statesmen weathered their third loss last week and are effectively (though perhaps not technically) out of the title hunt. Up next, though, is Union. The winless Dutchmen have played a couple of close games this month, but even with Hobart losing a bit of its edge, it seems unlikely that Union will be able to hang around in this one.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Finlandia at Maranatha Baptist. I have to get in my contractually obligated minimum number of references to Finlandia and since we left them out of the podcast this week the 2-6 Lions fit here. Finlandia beat Maranatha at Finlandia back on Oct. 3, 30-14. Logic would suggest the Sabercats would be able to keep it closer at home, but I’m here saying it won’t go down that way.

They’ll be on your radar

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: McMurry, hosting Belhaven. The War Hawks are 3-5 in their first season back in D-III, and 1-3 against D-III opponents. Belhaven is now one of those, in its first season coming over from NAIA, but it is just 1-7 and 0-6 against D-IIIs. The Hal Mumme bowl (the ex-Kentucky coach was head man at McMurry from 2009 to 2013, and now leads Belhaven) will take place while Matt Mumme’s LaGrange team plays a key USAC game at Maryville.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Lakeland. It sometimes gets easy as we talk about teams from the 10 strongest conferences to overlook those closer to the bottom who are fighting to be in the same 32-team playoff. The NACC is one of those weaker conferences, and this weekend, Lakeland takes on Concordia (Wis.) to help sort out of the top of the heap. Coupled with Benedictine who is also still sitting comfortably at the pinnacle, there is a lot yet to sort out there.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The Stags play Cal Lutheran at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday night and Keith and I might have to hold off a little while on recording the weekly podcast that night to see how that game progresses first. Pretty sure I’ll be spending that “fall back” hour on D3football.com, as I usually do.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the picks that were prescient, and those that were terribly off base.