TAG | North Carolina Wesleyan
Chris Denton was the Purple Raiders’ top receiver and returned two punts for touchdowns.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com
It was a long, strange trip. But when you see four games, you are bound to see a good one, and that’s what happened when Pat Coleman (and his 10-year-old son) drove into Galesburg, Ill., where Eureka quarterback Sam Durley was about to have the game of his life.
You see, you never know what you’re going to get when you roll into town for a game in Division III. There are so many schools and rivalries and storylines that you could end up seeing something truly memorable, like a last-second win, a surprise upset or a great individual performance.
Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan discuss in this week’s Around the Nation podcast.
Plus, they talk about the teams who got their 2012 off to a good start by ending long losing streaks, look at UW-Whitewater’s opening game, as well as Mount Union’s, and the surprises put up by North Carolina Wesleyan, Buffalo State, Rowan, Norwich, Willamette … as was said, a very interesting week.
Press play below to listen or follow the download links included.
You should also be able to get this and any of our future Around the Nation podcasts automatically by subscribing to this RSS feed: http://www.d3blogs.com/d3football/?feed=podcast
Plus, here’s this week’s D3football.com reports.
Becker · Benedictine · Buffalo State · Capital · Cortland State · Empire 8 · Eureka · Hardin-Simmons · John Carroll · Juniata · Knox · MacMurray · Millsaps · Mississippi College · Montclair State · Mount Union · NJAC · North Carolina Wesleyan · North Central (Ill.) · Norwich · Ohio Northern · St. Norbert · UW-La Crosse · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wartburg · Washington U. · Western New England · Wheaton (Ill.) · Willamette · Wittenberg
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
So far Birmingham-Southern (and running back Joseph Moultrie) have made Keith’s preseason prediction look pretty good.
Birmingham-Southern athletics photo by Cari Dean
If it wasn’t on your radar before, Dubuque better be now. Similarly Birmingham-Southern. And definitely Louisiana College. But Muskingum? Augsburg? UW-Oshkosh?
For all of the expected that happened on Saturday, Mount Union rolling, Mary Hardin-Baylor beating Hardin-Simmons, etc., there was plenty of unexpected. And Keith McMillan and Pat Coleman talk about both in this week’s Around the Nation podcast. Hear what they think about the upcoming clash between UMHB and Louisiana College, about the Iowa Conference race, the Empire 8 and the SCAC. Does UW-Platteville or UW-Oshkosh have a shot to knock off Whitewater? How many tangents will Pat and Keith go on in this 56 minutes of Division III football analysis? And how many times will they project out the rest of the regular season and talk playoffs?
For a better indication of how many teams they talk about each week, check the tags list at the bottom of the file.
You can also get this and any of our future Around the Nation podcasts automatically by subscribing to this RSS feed: http://www.d3blogs.com/d3football/?feed=podcast
Plus, here’s the first look at this week’s D3reports, as well as Division III football highlight reels. These will also appear on the front page on Monday afternoon.
Alfred · Augsburg · Birmingham-Southern · Central · Coe · Cortland State · Dubuque · Hamline · Hardin-Simmons · Hobart · Huntingdon · Kean · Louisiana College · Macalester · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Mississippi College · Mount Union · Muskingum · North Carolina Wesleyan · North Park · Ohio Northern · Rowan · Salisbury · Springfield · St. John Fisher · St. John's · St. Scholastica · St. Thomas · Trinity (Texas) · Union · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Platteville · UW-Whitewater · Wartburg · Wilkes
Trinity athletics photo
As a football conference in the Division III model, the SCAC never made sense. The geographic footprint, from Colorado to Indiana to Alabama to Texas, created a demand on travel costs that small-college budgets usually find unnecessary.
Colorado College realized this and abruptly dropped football after the 2008 season. But they weren’t the only outlier. Rose-Hulman left after the 2006 season to join the HCAC, which is Indiana and Ohio-based. DePauw, finding a group of schools with similar academic cache in closer proximity, decided this year to join Indiana rival Wabash in the NCAC, beginning in 2012.
That left seven football members behind in the SCAC, enough to maintain its automatic bid to the 32-team playoff field. Schools from coast to coast – LaGrange, Cornell and Chapman – announced new conference affiliations this offseason. But nothing shakes up the national picture like seven schools withdrawing from a 12-school conference; of the seven football-playing members, five are forming a new conference that will require less travel but would need to add two football programs and then wait two years to get an automatic bid. Trinity and Austin retain the SCAC name and history but need five football-playing members — and two “core” members in all sports — to keep their AQ.
Who exactly might those be? What ripple effects can Division III expect?
With the remaining SCAC schools mostly Texas-based, this would seem to be a ripe opportunity for any school in the ASC that feels it either isn’t competitive or wants to align itself with Trinity and Austin (which left the ASC and took Rose-Hulman’s place in the SCAC) to make the leap. Texas Lutheran comes to mind, while Howard Payne and East Texas Baptist wouldn’t be total shocks.
It also means any NAIA school, particularly those in the Mid-South Conference and perhaps the KCAC, which eyes the NCAA’s financial stability has its opening. There are also four NAIA schools in Oklahoma, two independents in Florida and another independent, Southern Virginia, which has expressed interest in moving to Division III. Those schools might not all fit in the SCAC, but might come into play if teams begin shuffling their affiliations.
Then of course, there’s the obvious: Huntingdon, one of the last football independents in D-III, has eagerly sought out a conference. The Hawks joined the SLIAC for one season, then the conference dropped football. The SCAC-7 (those schools that just broke off from the SCAC) appear to have not been interested in the Hawks, but the SCAC-5 might take them out of necessity. They’d be a core member.
That’s an example of the tough spot the SCAC is in. With 50 years of history and a reputation for academic prestige, the conference – whose commissioner of 16 years, Dwyane Hanberry, is staying on – would probably like to maintain how it is perceived. We might hear a lot of talk about being “excited for the future” or schools that “fit the SCAC profile,” but from an outsider’s view, it’s hard to see how the SCAC-5 isn’t desperate.
The SCAC-5, remember, has just two football schools. Colorado College recently dropped the sport, and Southwestern and U. of Dallas don’t seem to be on track to add it. Huntingdon would be a third. If the SCAC stole more than two from the nine-member ASC, then that conference’s automatic bid would be in jeopardy.
The odd thing is Division III had narrowed itself down to just three football independents, and only two with scheduling problems. Huntingdon is one. Wesley, which is a competitive fit for the NJAC but as a private school can’t afford to play by that conference’s rules, such as 100-player roster limits, might look to revive talks of football in its all-sports conference, the CAC. The third, Macalester, is independent by choice, having left the MIAC in the early part of the decade. The St. Paul-based school also has 14 potential opponents in Minnesota, plus dozens more nearby in Iowa and Illinois.
A former independent, LaGrange already made its move this offseason, to the USAC, where former football-only affiliate Maryville and non-football Piedmont joined this offseason, All three were members of the GSAC in other sports. Shenandoah announced plans to leave the USAC for the ODAC in all sports –- citing reduced travel as a reason – last fall.
The USAC moves leave few Division III schools in the south looking to move. A GSAC/SCAC-5 merger doesn’t make much sense for football because of the four women’s schools and the distance from Southwest Virginia to Colorado. Rust (Holly Springs, Miss.) is in no shape to add the sport.
The USAC might not have seen its last shuffle either. Averett, N.C. Wesleyan and Christopher Newport could join Wesley in the CAC, which currently doesn’t sponsor football. Salisbury and Frostburg State, which joined the Empire 8 as a football-only affiliates for access to an automatic bid and because Norwich had left the E8 one member short, could come back home and give the CAC six football playing members. Two sources have told D3sports.com that Neumann (Pa.) is considering adding football, which could be a potential seventh, as could Marymount (Va.) if it added the sport. Catholic, a former member of the CAC, competes in the ODAC for football and the non-football Landmark conference for other sports.
So why all the movement?
First, access to automatic bids, especially in sports like football where at-large bids are scarce, is key. But schools prefer being in conferences for ease of scheduling, formation of natural rivalries, an enhanced athletic experience (i.e. all-conference awards, etc.) and association. Schools like being aligned with certain peers, because of the perceptions it creates.
The SCAC certainly did that. But perhaps the main reason Division III schools like their conferences are something the SCAC-5 still doesn’t care about: containing travel costs.
That would open the door for Westminster (Utah), an NAIA member whose name was mentioned in The Colorado Springs Gazette as a potential member. They’d be the third Westminster in D-III, joining the ones in Missouri (UMAC) and Pennsylanvia (PAC).
If Trinity and Austin can’t save the SCAC’s football automatic bid, they might be forced elsewhere to look for affliate membership. Or, they could dangle their bid and entice others – perhaps the four schools in the UAA (Case Western Reserve, Chicago, Carnegie Mellon and Wash U.) could join to create a who-cares-about-travel-costs football league. It certainly would be prestigious, but it would need a seventh member to keep the AQ.
The perfect seventh member, Rochester, figured something out long ago. Flying a football team across the country four or five times a season is cost-prohibitive. The Yellowjackets, a member of the UAA in other sports, are in the New York-based Liberty League for football.
ASC · Austin · Averett · Berry · Birmingham-Southern · Centenary · Centre · Christopher Newport · East Texas Baptist · Empire 8 · Frostburg State · Hendrix · Howard Payne · Huntingdon · LaGrange · Marymount · Maryville (Tenn.) · Millsaps · Neumann · NJAC · North Carolina Wesleyan · Oglethorpe · Rhodes · Salisbury · SCAC · Sewanee · Texas Lutheran · Trinity (Texas) · USAC · Wesley
Kentel Noel and Christopher Newport still control their own destiny.
CNU photo by Heidi Naylor
So much to talk about this week and we didn’t even get to it all — we try to keep the podcast under an hour and almost did so this week. But not quite.
Let’s run it down for you.
- Six conferences yet to be decided
- Three could end up in three-way tiebreakers
- Pool B took another blow. Who gets those bids?
- Are those new faces or just bad teams in the playoffs?
- How did W&L and Muhlenberg sneak up on everyone?
- Pat and Keith talk about their trips to Wittenberg and Muhlenberg
- Rivalry games still have a lot to play for
That just about covers it. All that and yes, more, in the Around the Nation podcast.
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We’ve had some trouble with the iTunes situation and we keep trying to resolve it. Thanks for your patience.
Albion · Benedictine · Case Western Reserve · Chicago · Christopher Newport · Cortland State · Defiance · DePauw · Endicott · Franklin · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · HCAC · Maine Maritime · MIAA · Montclair State · Muhlenberg · NCAC · NEFC · NJAC · North Carolina Wesleyan · Rowan · Salisbury · St. Lawrence · SUNY-Maritime · Trine · Ursinus · USAC · Wabash · Wartburg · Washington and Lee · Washington U. · Wesley · Wittenberg · Wooster