ATN podcast: Road trips, memory lane, playoff chase

Lake Forest players walk from the dorms to the stadium before Saturday’s game.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

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Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan both went out on the road this week, with Pat taking one of’s Best road trips and Keith taking in his 15th class reunion. It’s a good look at a handful of Division III campuses and programs that runs the gamut from the return of UW-Whitewater to prominence to what D-III looked like 15 years ago. Has your campus changed? Keith McMillan and Pat Coleman take a look at in this week’s Around the Nation podcast.

In terms of playoff hopes, those of St. Thomas and Wesley took big hits this past weekend. Dubuque’s playoff hopes rose, obviously, by beating Coe. Some other teams’ hopes improved and a lot of games have yet to be played. Lots of teams talked about, and you can see them listed in the tags at the bottom.

This has been updated to correct erroneous information about the playoff format released by the NCAA to member schools.

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The tags below include the schools we talked about. Also, here’s your first look at the Postgame Show, with your D3reports and team interviews and highlight packages:

Triple Take: Starting to click

PLU teammates look on as Connor Cummings breaks up a pass downfield at UW-Eau Claire.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

We hear it in the ATN Podcast. We read about it in regional columns or on the message boards. The elements of a team that were hazy and green early on are finally starting to click.

Offensive lines that were breaking in new members and secondaries that got burned in the opening games are now settling into their roles and learning how to work together, and most of all, to play off one another. They’ve become a team, in every sense of the word.

And there are so many of those teams in Division III. For Triple Take, Pat, Keith and Ryan bring some insight into just a sliver of those that are out there.

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 Pacific Lutheran at No. 2 Linfield.
Probably one of the most anticipated conference clashes of the season — and I hope that it lives up to the billing. Linfield, though, is teetering toward nearly 600 yards a game in offense and is a wildcat when it comes to putting up points. The Lutes, on the other hand, are coming off a close win against UW-Eau Claire, which, as Pat and Keith mentioned in this space last week, could be attributed to them getting caught looking ahead to this matchup. While Pacific Lutheran and Linfield aren’t all that far apart on the Top 25, I think the dropoff from that elite tier to where the Lutes are is significant enough that it would be a clear upset if PLU were to win.
Pat’s take: Augsburg at No. 5 Bethel. Although I like that game above as well, obviously. Augsburg remains a dark horse in the MIAC, not having played anyone of note on the national or regional scene as of yet. And since the season started, that dark horse status has been usurped by St. John’s, then Concordia-Moorhead. But the Auggies have a pretty special quarterback in sophomore Ayrton Scott, a significant dual threat. Bethel, however, has grass, and a lot of rain in the Twin Cities leading up to this weekend. It could get messy.
Keith’s take: No. 11 Pacific Lutheran at No. 2 Linfield. I know we try to mix it up, and I pick third by virtue of waiting the longest to put my games into the blog post, but to me there’s not another choice in Week 5. A large part of why I believe that is because PLU played Linfield twice last year, losing 31-24 at home in Tacoma and 27-24 in McMinnville in the playoffs. So while Linfield has outscored its three opponents 168-35 and looks like it might have a team for the ages, the Lutes aren’t intimidated. Both teams frontloaded their schedules, perhaps to get ready for this game. It could be clear sailing for each after this — no disrespect to Willamette, Pacific and the rest of the NWC bunch. QB Dalton Ritchey and the Lutes are rarely penalized and have seven turnovers in three games, but it would help against Linfield if they generate some. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are fifth nationally in total offense and No. 15 in defense. In the playoff game, Linfield sacked Ritchey six times and had a key interception return for a TD, and they’d like to get after him again.

Richard Gunn’s Trine team could be the near-victim of a surprisingly close game, or the Thunder could be on your radar at the end of the weekend.
Photo by Eric Kelley,

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Kalamazoo at Trine.
These two team pretty regularly go in opposite directions in the standings, but K-zoo has been playing well enough at the line (on both sides of the ball) this season that they could keep this one close. What’s been killing them most this year is the turnovers — and they’re one of the worst offenders in the country in that category. Guard the ball and air it out a bit to put the linebackers on their heels and this game will be within a score.
Pat’s take: UW-Eau Claire at No. 9 UW-Platteville. I feel like I could be going out on a limb here a bit but on paper, when you think about Platteville struggling early with Lewis and Clark and Pacific Lutheran not being able to finish off Eau Claire until the end, there’s a case to be made. The question will be whether Joel Sweeney and the Eau Claire offense can wear down the Platteville defense and whether the Eau Claire defense can even begin to slow down the Pioneers’ passing game.
Keith’s take: Olivet at Alma. The Comets are 4-0, and the Scots 0-4 with just 33 points scored. Easy pickins, right? Well, if Alma isn’t demoralized by the unfortunately powerful part of their schedule — Heidelberg and UW-Oshkosh are former doormats now in the top 25, and Illnois Wesleyan is knocking on the door as well — maybe not. The Comets were the only team Alma beat last year, and that came after getting similiarly pummeled in their first four games. The Scots also had a 20-0 lead against Lakeland but gave up the winning score with 24 seconds left, so they’re not hopeless when matched against someone of their caliber. Alma’s numbers are bad across the board, and Olivet has beaten Wilmington, Rockford, Wisconsin Lutheran and North Park by starting with good run defense — just 74.3 yards per game allowed. They’ve generated turnovers as well.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 Bethel.
Both Bethel and opponent Augsburg have played decent schedules — at least enough so to prepare them to face each other. I have Augsburg on my Top 25 ballot, so I certainly think there’s something there to like. There are similarities in the two teams’ offensive capabilities, and both are ahead of the curve in terms of forcing turnovers. It would surprise me little if a big play or two were the deciding factor in this one.
Pat’s take: No. 21 Delaware Valley. Although this would only be an upset on paper. Delaware Valley and Lycoming are closer together than a No. 21 ranking and zero votes would suggest. The top teams in the MAC … and of course, the number of top teams is up for debate … are all really close together. The thing keeping Lycoming from having Top 25 votes is the inability of the offense to even score against Brockport State.
Keith’s take: No. 21 Delaware Valley. Not to dump on the Aggies, who could very well go on the road and beat Lycoming, I just don’t see a lot of top 25 upsets this week. There are some top 25 teams I wonder about — We’ve yet to see No. 15 Wheaton against a strong opponent, for example, but visiting Augustana might not fit that bill, even at 2-1; I’m curious if No. 22 Christopher Newport can be consistent through 10 games — but not many I’d pick to lose.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 8 UW-Oshkosh.
OK, so there’s no team ranked in the Top 10 that isn’t already on my radar. But they are higher in the overall poll than they are on my ballot, because clobbering an 0-4 Alma team and beating a non-Division III opponent don’t give me a lot of great data to go on. So let’s not say that they’re just coming on my radar, rather let’s say I’m hoping to use Saturday’s game against UW-Stout to help calibrate that radar a bit.
Pat’s take: Misericordia. I’m calling it here — first win in program history on Saturday. That’s because if they don’t win at home vs. King’s, it’s a long wait until the next chance. They play Widener, Lebanon Valley, Stevenson and Albright before ending the 2013 season at FDU-Florham. You need to do it here, Cougars.
Keith’s take: Brockport State. The Golden Eagles beat Lycoming, 30-2, then lost close games at Buffalo State and against Alfred in overtime. Rowan makes the longest remaining road trip in the NJAC, six hours from South Jersey to the village northwest of Rochester and not far from the banks of Lake Ontario. The Profs aren’t the easiest team to figure out either, so this game could go in an unexpected direction. What we do know is that the Golden Eagles, behind their dual Tys, QB Ty Stoldt and RB Tyrone Nichols, can put up offense. The bad news is that even after holding Lycoming to 2 points, Brockport still has the country’s 223rd-ranked defense.

Team most likely to salvage a bad season.
Ryan’s take: Salisbury.
The Gulls have had two weeks to put the past behind them and give into E8 play, which starts this week at Utica. In fact, Salisbury carries with it a 13-1 conference record over two seasons, winning the automatic qualifier both times. Maybe chalk this up to the quarterbacking tandem of John Dunbar and Joey Jones feeling like they’ve gotten their feet wet — “clicking” if I want to play off the Triple Take intro. Maybe their near win against Wesley still resonates. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll still finish the season 8-2.
Pat’s take: UW-River Falls. And it hasn’t been a particularly bad season, but it was definitely a bad September in the W-L column. If I continue to feel like the Falcons are going to be better than the two wins they had last year, this is a game (at UW-Stevens Point) they should think about winning. I feel like I’ve written almost these exact same words in #3take in the past, too.
Keith’s take: Monmouth. It wasn’t that long ago when the Scots’ game with St. Norbert was the defacto MWC title game. Now Monmouth is 1-2 and the Green Knights 3-1. The Scots go on the road for the first time this season, and after a 1-point and a 3-point loss at home, the trip to DePere, Wis. might be welcome. There’s no pressure, but plenty of inspiration in this old-fashioned conference rivalry. If the Scots can get RB Trey Yocum, the nation’s fourth-leading rusher (160.7 yards/game) going against St. Norbert’s defense, which has given up yards but no more than seven points the past three games, they could score a mild upset.

A conference opener you like.
Ryan’s take: Emory and Henry at Randolph-Macon.
There have been more than a few times in recent years in which the Wasps torched the opposition in nonconference play and then slid a bit once the ODAC docket began. Against the 2-1 Yellow Jackets, we’ll get a good idea of just what kind of team E&H is this season and whether star passer Kyle Boden and his top-notch receiving corps can keep the offensive sparks flying. R-MC is certainly no pushover and, as always, is expected to also be in the conference hunt.
Pat’s take: Loras at Luther. I like this game because these two teams had such poor seasons last year and Loras’ only conference win was against Luther. It’s a chance for Luther to return the favor, and the Norse already have a surprise win under their belt with the victory against rival St. Olaf earlier in the season.
Keith’s take: Simpson at Wartburg and Adrian at Hope. The IIAC and MIAA have both been mentioned plenty already, so I’ll keep it brief. Storm QB Taylor Nelson is completing 68% of his passes, 20 of which have gone to Brad Vogel in a 2-1 start. The Knights are 2-1 as well, and LB Ryan Billings and the defense could make a statement. I don’t know that there’s a clear IIAC favorite yet, but this game will help us determine one; Same goes for the MIAA, where Flying Dutchmen QB Michael Atwell is third in the country with 1,306 passing yards, while a team traditionally known for good defense tries to stop him. LB Deontae Bridgeman leads the Bulldogs’ defense.

Which “fighters” will win their battle this week?
Ryan’s take: The Spartans of Dubuque.
I have to believe that a nonconference slate of WIAC teams prepares someone as well as possible for their run toward the AQ. While it’s tough to say that the Spartans hung with their opponents each time, some late scores tell me that they’re not ones to throw in the towel. With a visit from Central on deck, Dubuque can bring themselves back into the Iowa discussion, a year after a deflating .500 season. And they’d do themselves some favors, too, if they’d find a darned ground game.
Pat’s take: The Privateers of SUNY-Maritime. I just know it won’t be the Mariners of the Merchant Marine Academy, and that’s a shame. I just don’t want to see something like “Fightin’ Engineers” in this category because you could put “Fighting” in front of anything. Except Quakers, perhaps. No Fighting Quakers. Or Diplomats.
Keith’s take: The Majors of Millsaps. Could you do Fighting Flying Dutchmen? Because that seems like one modifier too many. And while we’re on fighters, how lucky is Coast Guard to be under the Department of Defense instead of Transportation? The Bears’ game with Western New England will go on. But anyway, Millsaps hosts Hendrix. And after one week — mostly one giant SB Nation article — turned Hendrix from ‘the first-year program that could’ to ‘okay, enough about these noobs,’ I’m sure the Majors (3-0) would like to give the Warriors (2-1) a proper Welcome-to-D-III humbling.

Triple Take: Some we haven’t seen yet

Jared Morris
In Jared Morris’ first game as a defensive back, he picked off four passes.
Wesley athletics photo

Who would have thought that we’d see the record books being rewritten right out of the gate? But that’s why the game is played, isn’t it, to see the greatness of individual players and of teams emerge? Some rise up and conquer their opponents against the odds, and sometimes it’s not just the record books that are rewritten — but our perspectives as well.

Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps lay out their evolving perspectives, building off the week gone by and forecasting the Saturday ahead. We don’t live in a bubble, so please comment below or light it up on Twitter using the hashtag #3take.

Lots of teams that took Week 1 off are joining the fray this weekend:

Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 3 Wesley at No. 6 Salisbury.
Two of the top teams in the country, led by two of the highest-outputting quarterbacks at this level, and playing in the storied Route 13 Rivalry. This is the kind of matchup worth salivating over.
Pat’s take: Christopher Newport at Hampden-Sydney. It’s high time these two teams played each other. They have scrimmaged each other fairly frequently, but have not met in a regular season or postseason game. But with a combined record of 139-53 over the past decade, these two Virginia schools should be on the field together, and it should be an entertaining game.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Redlands at No. 13 North Central. When the Bulldogs beat the Cardinals in California, it echoed throughout the top 25 for much of last season. This year, North Central is hosting, coming off a Week 1 loss to a WIAC team and looking to return the favor. North Central, long considered one of the D-III programs most likely to break through to Salem in place of the purple powers, is now fighting to avoid an 0-2 start. Meanwhile, it’s the opener for Redlands and quarterback Chad Hurst, and an opportunity to score another one for the SCIAC while national observers are paying attention. 

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Washington U. at Rhodes.
I typed and deleted this answer probably six times before settling on this game. Because, when it comes down to it, almost every game at this point in the season has a surprise element of some sort that affects the outcome, even if it’s just how a new player is going to perform under center or how well an offensive line will mesh. Me, I can see Washington being pretty beat up after taking on the defending national champs. That opens a door, even if just a crack, for Rhodes to be competitive.
Pat’s take: Eureka at St. Scholastica. The teams couldn’t have been further apart in their first-week opponents. There are a couple of other UMAC teams stepping up to play strong non-conference opponents (Northwestern playing St. John’s, MacMurray playing Wartburg) but Eureka beating Knox and St. Scholastica losing to Whitworth doesn’t show the relative strength of the teams. But Eureka, our pick to finish tied for sixth in the league, and St. Scholastica our pick to win it, should play an entertaining and relatively high scoring game. The question is whether the front six can get enough pressure on Eureka quarterback Sam Durley to force him to get rid of the ball. Otherwise he will pick apart just about any secondary in the UMAC.
Keith’s take: Montclair State at Salve Regina. The teams met last season, and the Seahawks were game but not able to win in New Jersey, losing 18-7. This time around, the game is in Rhode Island, the Red Hawks are fielding a much younger lineup and coming off a Week 1 loss. Salve, on the other hand, beat Union despite just 246 yards of total offense. That might not be enough to beat Montclair State, but Salve should against give them a scare, at least.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 15 Bethel.
Bethel travels to Wartburg, but don’t think for a moment that the Knights’ 73-0 stomping of a lower-tier UMAC team did them many favors in terms of preparation. Complacency can’t set in. The Royals are a whole different beast. Wartburg at least has a game under its belt, which Bethel can’t claim.
Pat’s take: No. 21 UW-Platteville. Dubuque still has enough offensive talent to cause trouble. They won’t be intimidated by a WIAC team, especially not the ones across the river. I look at Dubuque and picture them thinking Platteville has the notoriety and the ranking Dubuque earned with its play last season.
Keith’s take: No. 9 St. John Fisher. Boy, one week we love you and the next … well, it’s not really that the Cardinals are ripe for upset. It’s that there’s playing at Washington & Jefferson, often the equal to fellow PAC power Thomas More. The Saints pushed the Cardinals into overtime in Week 1.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 Linfield.
In Kickoff, I made an unusual prediction about the Wildcats, but to have a good run this fall, they need to make sure that they shore up their fresh-faced secondary. Hardin-Simmons has the ability to spread the ball around and get some yards, but turnovers for the Cowboys were a killer in Week 1. If Linfield can replicate that kind of containment of the HSU passing game, then the future in McMinnville will look even brighter.
Pat’s take: Huntingdon. If the experienced front four can bottle up or at least slow down Birmingham-Southern running back Shawn Morris, it will give the Hawks a little room to work with. Only the winner is likely to stay in contention for a playoff bid, and even then they really have to beat Wesley.
Keith’s take: Buffalo State and Brockport State. Okay, you got our attention in Week 1. The Bengals put up 49 points and 706 yards on Cortland State. The Golden Eagles limited Lycoming to 31 yards rushing, three third-down conversions and just 23:17 of possession and 60 snaps. Something’s got to give in this week’s clash of the SUNYs, and we’ll be watching the game at Brockport to see what.

Which team will bounce back from a Week 1 loss?
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport.
Don’t be fooled by the Captains’ 40-16 loss last week. With 3:30 left in the third quarter, the score was 20-16, and CNU was notably keeping pace with the sixth-best team in the nation. CNU showed it had offense thanks to a strong passing attack, but the defense was simply worn down in the trenches. Hampden-Sydney doesn’t play such a hard-nosed style — they’re more of a finesse team. CNU should be ready to handle that well.
Pat’s take: No. 16 Franklin. Butler is beatable, even though it’s apparently “Band Day” at the D-I non-scholarship school. Butler’s better than Valparaiso is, a team which Franklin beat last year, but even being competitive is better than last week’s loss to Mount Union.
Keith’s take: Adrian, St. Norbert and Monmouth. This was covered in my Around the Nation column this week, so I have three teams at the ready. Defiance, Knox and Beloit are this week’s opponents for the Bulldogs, Green Knights and Scots, and if they all don’t win by double digits, I’d be stunned. 

Opener you’re most curious about.
Ryan’s take: DePauw.
I’m not sure that lining up against St. Olaf is going to tell me much about how well the Tigers will play against their new North Coast conference mates. DePauw’s lone year as an independent in 2011 told us a lot about the considerable rebuilding the team was going through (first losing season since 1995). The Oles are good at breaking through the bricks and mortar of a team, but DePauw can’t let Saturday’s likely setback cripple the next nine weeks.
Pat’s take: Bethel. I know the passing game has not been a big part of the Royals’ offense so I’m more interested in new quarterback’s Erik Peterson’s running ability. They’ll get a big test right out of the gate. Normally I would give Wartburg a bit of a bonus for having played a game already but MacMurray didn’t put up much of a fight and the starters were out early.
Keith’s take: Cal Lutheran. There are six teams who have yet to open up in the top 25, including Wabash, Redlands, Bethel, Baldwin Wallace and Mary-Hardin Baylor. I’m intrigued by all of them, but none more than the Kingsmen, who were a hair away from winning a playoff opener at Linfield last year, and earning the SCIAC unprecedented respect. I wanted to ride that wave and rank them higher, but with only 13 starters back, including six on offense and five on defense, I was wary. Seeing how the Kingsmen play in the opener against Pacific Lutheran will help define how voters feel about them, not to mention how they feel about themselves. Plus we’re all curious to see 6-4 star wide receiver Eric Rogers back in action.

Which long road trip will turn out the best?
Ryan’s take: Washington and Lee at Sewanee.
In Week 1, the Generals fell to Franklin and Marshall, in a matchup that’s opened the season for several years now. But even in those years in which W&L has lost, the Generals have shown themselves adept at bouncing back, righting their ship ahead of conference play. Making this all the more exciting is Sewanee, coming off its best season in nearly a decade and starting 2012 with a win. This should be a good matchup, with W&L ultimately landing its first win of the season.
Pat’s take: St. Olaf at DePauw. I think DePauw has more work to do before it can begin to bounce back from last year. The long trip is not all that unusual for the Oles, who played at Pacific Lutheran in 2009, so the only issue is that St. Olaf needs to play better than it did at Luther last week.
Keith’s take: Rowan at Merrimack. It’s basically NWC-SCIAC challenge week out West, but the matchups are surprisingly even. There are a ton of short non-conference trips this week, like Methodist to Guilford and Case Western Reserve to Hiram, leaving me to take a out-of-division game here. But if the Profs, like the Rowan teams of old, beats a team from a scholarship division, it sends a message to the NJAC that perhaps the program is back. Nevermind that Merrimack, from the D-II Northeast-10, is probably recruiting players who compare to those recruited into the NJAC, with Rowan’s public-school tuition and dearth of in-state competition for players. This is a winnable game for Rowan, riding high after the Week 1 upset. Merrimack, which lost, 45-18, to New Haven in its opener could be demoralized by an early Profs score or two.