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Nov/13

15

Triple Take: Rivalry week 2013


The Hampden-Sydney/Randolph-Macon game always draws a crowd. This year it’s also a winner-take-all game for the ODAC title.
Hampden-Sydney athletics photo

If you’ve never been affiliated with a school that has an intense, no-love-lost rivalry, you’re missing out on one of the sweeter things in life. Because when game time comes, there’s something absolutely all-consuming about how you feel about your team and what you’d like to do to those on the “other team.”

Many teams will be feeling that this weekend, capping the season against their archrival. And if the playoffs are not on the horizon, Week 11 can spell one last chance to make the season memorable by taking home the Bridge Bowl Trophy or Monon Bell or Cortaca Jug or Regents Cup or any of the many other prizes out there.

This week highlights the rivalries, but there’s more to this week than that. With Selection Sunday coming up, there’s so much to play for.

Here’s what Pat, Keith and Ryan have to say about that:

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Nov/12

9

Triple Take: Rivalry week

Chris Haupt
With an extra week to wait and prepare, Chris Haupt and Widener need a win against Delaware Valley to secure a playoff bid.
Widener athletics file photo

For all the games played in the regular season, those that live as part of storied rivalries are among the greatest.

It’s special for the players, alumni and parents who get to be a part of those traditions. For no matter how bad a season has been, rivalry week offers a chance at a bit of redemption, a chance to play with heart and end the school year – or even a college career – with a smile. From Monon and Cortaca to Bowls and Games, the edge-of-your-seat excitement happens all across the country.

Pat, Keith and Ryan take you into Week 11, with Selection Sunday looming just beyond.

Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Delaware Valley at No. 9 Widener.
There has been no shortage of questions about the Pride’s strength throughout the season. They’ve beaten their three best opponents by only a combined 13 points. And their lesser opponents? Well, those teams have been absolutely pummeled. The Aggies are the last hurdle to Widener’s ride into the postseason, but oh what a hurdle. After a fall from grace with two opening losses, DelVal regained its form and has been more convincing than Widener down the stretch. Both teams are statistically sound, but Widener will want to win this one to avoid an ugly three-way tie for the top of the MAC. Of course, DelVal will want to win to force just such a situation. This will be a conference people could be talking a lot about come Sunday.
Pat’s take: St. John’s at No. 22 Bethel. Once upon a time, St. John’s had beaten Bethel 20 consecutive meetings. But these days, the Royals have the upper hand. Bethel’s playoff hopes are already flagging thanks to the loss to St. Olaf and it can’t afford to lose this game. Meanwhile, St. John’s needs the win to finish with a winning record … and who knows, it might take some extra motivation from the possibility that John Gagliardi might be coaching his last game.
Keith’s take: Adrian at No. 17 Huntingdon. Since I wrote the Around the Nation column largely on the implications of this game, there’s no need to rehash that if you’ve been following along. But I didn’t get into player matchups or X’s and O’s, and there’s something big to focus on here: Adrian is second in the country in scoring defense (10.67 points per game to No. 1 Mount Union’s 3.11) and held five consecutive MIAA opponents in the single digits before Albion scored 19 in an overtime loss last week. Huntingdon scores 39.25 points per game and puts up 417.75 yards (numbers that are just 16th and 54th nationally), with multitalented RB Trevor Manuel guiding the way. Adrian LBs Deonte Bridgman and Hunter Juntunen lead the Bulldogs’ defense, which is adept at stopping the run (1oth nationally) and the pass (fifth). Huntingdon DL D.J. Chappell and Courtney Moss have been spending time in opponents’ backfields. This game is a curiosity because of the mismatch of styles, as well as D-III regions. The MIAA isn’t exactly known as one of D-IIIs top conferences, and Huntingdon, if it wins big by scoring a bunch, will be making a statement for playoff inclusion and for the quality of D-III ball in the deep south.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Maryville at Ferrum.
Both teams have a lot to play for here, and it’s rare in recent years for this game to be separated by more than one score. The Scots are trying to secure their first winning season since 2007, and this under the leadership of a first-year coach. Ferrum, on the other hand, could be propelled into the postseason if Christopher Newport suffers an upset loss. Expect this matchup to go down to the bone.
Pat’s take: Denison at Kenyon. Denison has a huge chance to play spoiler here. And who thought we would ever be talking about someone spoiling Kenyon’s playoff chances? Denison’s 3-6 is just as misleading as Kenyon’s 6-3. For two members of the same conference, they have fairly few common opponents.
Keith’s take: Buena Vista at Dubuque. The Beavers, in hindsight, played perhaps the nation’s toughest opening five games (a distinction that previously belonged to Buffalo State). They went 0-5 against four teams that have playoff aspirations (UW-Platteville, Concordia-Moorhead, Bethel and Coe) and Wartburg, allowing 48.6 points per game and losing each contest by between 21 and 51 points. Since, however, they’ve reeled off four wins in varying fashions, and can get to .500 on the season by beating last season’s IIAC champ, who also comes in at 4-5. The Spartans can still wing it, as Sean Anderson averages seven catches a game and Austin Morgan (6.89) is just a shade behind, and you’d expect them — by reputation and name recognition — to run up some high totals against BVU. The Beavers allowed 369 yards and four passing touchdowns against Simpson last week, but they won, 29-27, and are playing to end the season on a high note, while Dubuque is undoubtedly disappointed with its encore.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Waynesburg.
One- and two-point wins against teams that are 2-7 don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence, especially when this week’s opponent is veteran power Washington and Jefferson. Top 25 voters (myself included) held off a long time pulling the trigger on the Yellow Jackets because the strength of schedule and margins of victory just didn’t stack up well compared with the rest of the teams being considered. With a loss, Waynesburg could very well be sitting nervously as a 9-1 at-large team on Selection Sunday.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Cortland State. The Cortaca Jug is motivation enough for either team, and Ithaca has had a pretty good season. The Bombers lost each of the past two meetings, including being dominated last year in a 27-3 loss. There seems to be some gamesmanship going on with the status of Ithaca quarterback Phil Neumann as well, but I wouldn’t expect Ithaca to come with anything better than its best possible performance.
Keith’s take: No. 24 Pacific Lutheran. In trying to find a team that isn’t mentioned elsewhere in Triple Take, my options were limited; even more so when look for one that might actually lose. In a game at Menlo, in California’s bay area, the Seattle-area Lutes travel to face a team that’s lost four in a row. The Oaks, a former NWC and D-III member, have faced No. 3 Linfield, No. 6 Wesley and NAIA No. 1 Marian this season, so they’re ready for the kind of athletes they’ll see from PLU. The Lutes are tested as well, and need to win for playoff inclusion (even though Menlo is non-D-III, the at-large bids are so competitive, each team needs everything it can get), so perhaps this is a terrible pick. But what’d you want me to do, suggest Mississippi College would win at No. UMHB? Suggest 0-9 McDaniel would pick off No. 21 Johns Hopkins? I guess I could have picked No. 11 Salisbury to loaf, with playoff spot now in hand, against Regents Cup rival Frostburg State. My bad.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Pomona-Pitzer/Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
Both of these teams can’t end the season winless. *Somebody* has to go home happy on Saturday. The Sagehens are riding an unflattering 18-game skid, so I could venture a guess as to which team will come out on top. But if ever there were a time to break the streak, this is it.
Pat’s take: St. Norbert. After a couple of years on the sidelines, St. Norbert is again playing a part in the Midwest Conference race. They could take Lake Forest down on Saturday, but if not, they were here in the end, which is something that would have been difficult to imagine after the opener against John Carroll.
Keith’s take: Louisiana College. Here’s a team I consider in the nation’s top 15, whose playoff hopes are on life support because Pool C is loaded with teams which grade out slightly better on the criteria than the Wildcats. As my eighth team in for seven spots when I ran a quick projection earlier in the week, LC’s hopes are very much alive. I know for a fact the selection committee members are curious about the game against Hardin-Simmons, which brings the nation’s No. 2 total offense (556.56 yards/game) and No. 234 defense (493 yards/game) to Pineville. Here’s the deal: The pressure is on, as it will be in the playoffs, so LC’s start a week early. A win with spotlight on, against this offense, is worth a win over a regionally ranked opponent, plus an SoS boost, which could help the Wildcats get in. They need just one thing to break right — a loss by one of the CCIW leaders, or a result in the NCAC that gives Wittenberg or Ohio Wesleyan the AQ, an Adrian win at Huntingdon — but more than anything, they need to beat the Cowboys, or there’ll be no one to blame but themselves.

Rivalry game you’re most interested in (alma maters excluded).
Ryan’s take: Mount St. Joseph at Thomas More.
Remember the last time these two Bridge Bowl opponents met without one of them prepping for the postseason? Me neither. This is where the rivalry lives on the best, in the games in which each team is laying it all out on the field and playing with absolutely nothing to lose. MSJ is 4-5; TMC is 6-3. This is just such a game – the final hurrah for the seniors on both sidelines.
Pat’s take: Union at RPI. This snuck up on me because I wasn’t aware that the Dutchman Shoes game had been moved back to Week 11, which is where it belongs. A rivalry game just isn’t the same in Week 9, where it had been stuck for a while, or Week 6, where it was played a decade ago. For me, this rivalry game is most interesting because I want to see if RPI can continue the success it has had this season. And that success is surprising to me, considering the amount of turmoil the program has been through, including a four-head-coaches-in-15-months span. By the way, of this group, I’m the only one that doesn’t have an alma mater/rivalry game to worry about anymore. ::shakes fist:: Curse you, Georgetown!
Keith’s take: Hanover at Franklin. I had a similar thought about Union-RPI, and I’m glad it, the Bronze Turkey and the NESCAC rivalry games all fall on Week 11. Mostly though, the rivalry games this year are a bit out of the national spotlight. Trinity (Conn.) going for a perfect season against a better-than-usual Wesleyan (5-2) is a big deal, but the Victory Bell game is this year’s biggest. Despite Hanover’s 35-34 loss to Manchester (five straight wins) last week, the Panthers still have a chance to beat their rivals on their home field, win the HCAC and take the conference’s automatic playoff bid. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have been on a tear since an 0-2 start, and have allowed just 23 points over the past five games. Hanover won 15 of 16 from 1989 to 2004, but Franklin — coached by Mike Leonard, a 1984 Hanover grad — has won seven in a row.

Who will have the least momentum going into the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: The NCAC’s tiebreaker champ.
While so many other teams out there have clarity on how to get their conference’s automatic qualifier, Wittenberg, Ohio Wesleyan and Kenyon (all with one conference loss) have been bogged down by conference criteria that has been interpreted a dozen different ways by those outside of the NCAC brass. It appears that either Witt or Kenyon would get the AQ, but how grueling it must be to not know over these final two weeks whether you control your own fate. (UPDATE: The NCAC office has made public what would happen in the various scenarios)
Pat’s take: Castleton State. If the Spartans make it to the playoffs, and they very well can beat Mount Ida, they’ll get there without their star quarterback, Shane Brozowski, who broke his leg in last week’s win against Husson.
Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins. Great idea for a question, but my issue with it is every answer that makes sense now — North Central, for example — wouldn’t make as much sense after a win on Saturday puts that team into the playoffs. But I can say that the Blue Jays were once a ball rolling down hill, undefeated, in line for a playoff home game and a second consecutive 10-0 regular season before Franklin & Marshall spoiled it last week. Rebounding to beat McDaniel will clinch the Centennial Conference, and it’s plenty to pump up the players to push hard in Week 10. But it’s also going to be light years away from the type of challenge the Blue Jays get in the first round — against a Salisbury, maybe, or at home against Washington & Lee, as in Pat’s most recent projection. I think I’d rather be going into the playoffs having played my best game against my conference’s best team rather than this.

Which team can alter its fortunes the most?
Ryan’s take: No. 13 Heidelberg.
For a team that played Mount Union better than any other this year, Heidelberg could give itself a lot of drive (and maybe a good seeding) heading into postseason if they are able to knock off formerly ranked Baldwin Wallace.
Pat’s take: Adrian. With a win at Huntingdon on Saturday, the Bulldogs, already in as the MIAA champ, could potentially play themselves as high as a possible home game, or at least a winnable road game in the first round of the playoffs. With a loss, the Bulldogs could well find themselves on the short road to Alliance, Ohio, and a date with Mount Union. They will need to be at their most motivated, too, to go down to Alabama and beat a team that is playing for its playoff life. Huntingdon needs this win to get in, but I’d say Adrian needs the win in order to extend its reasonable playoff life.
Keith’s take: St. Olaf. Mostly an afterthought in this week’s playoff chatter, the Oles, with a win at 9-0 St. Thomas, would have closed the season with consecutive victories against regionally ranked opponents, be 8-2 and have an SoS that would get them in the discussion (.515 but bound to rise). So why is nobody talking about the Oles? Well, they allow 211 rushing yards per game, and the Tommies rush for 239 per, for starters. Upsetting the No. 4 Tommies would probably take a combination of great Oles play and lackluster effort from St. Thomas, which makes sense if you think the Tommies are content with just being in the postseason, but not if you believe they’d rather play in December in Minnesota instead of Oregon, Ohio or Texas.

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Nov/11

11

Triple Take: Enter Rivalry Week

Widener's Joe Wojceichowski
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.

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