TAG | Presentation
Wesley has had the upper hand in the Route 13 rivalry, winning nine of the past 12. But Wesley may be the underdog this year.
Case Western Reserve athletics photo
There won’t be any automatic bids handed out in the Route 13 rivalry between Wesley and Salisbury but there could be plenty of playoff impact. Wesley could find itself far out on the bubble with a loss, while Salisbury’s chance at a top seed hangs in the balance with every game.
Elsewhere, Johns Hopkins could clinch the Centennial Conference automatic bid with a win against Ursinus and Monmouth can clinch the MWC by beating Carroll. Mount Union can clinch the OAC with a win and a Baldwin-Wallace loss to Muskingum. St. Scholastica can clinch the UMAC with a win Friday night and a Eureka loss on Saturday. Thomas More can clinch the PAC with a win and a Waynesburg loss.
Two of Division III’s career records could fall Saturday as well, as Monmouth’s Alex Tanney could break the career touchdowns record of 148 held by Westminster (Mo.) quarterback Justin Peery and Dubuque’s Mike Zweifel is aiming at the all-divisions record for career receptions held by Peery’s teammate, Scott Pingel.
Plus there are only about 110 other games. Chime in about any of them on our live game day chat below or by using the #d3fb hashtag on Twitter.
Manny Sicre got nearly half of his rushing yards in Case’s season opener. The Spartans need to win out to have a shot at the playoffs.
Case Western Reserve athletics photo
The season is getting down to the wire, and conference matchups will be decided with each week that goes by. But individual achievements are on the watchlist as well for Saturday. Career records set at Westminster (Mo.) are threatened by players from Dubuque (wide receiver Michael Zweifel) and Monmouth (quarterback Alex Tanney).
Will they fall? Will the weather wreak havoc? Snow? And what races will get clarity? Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps offer up their thoughts.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 Salisbury at No. 7 Wesley. In their first year in the Empire 8, the Gulls have certainly approached things with a take-no-prisoners attitude. How else would you describe posting 65, 69 and 70 points on some of the conference’s best teams? Better than ever, quarterback Dan Griffin is getting the job done both through the air and on the ground, totaling 22 touchdowns this season. And the team is plus-11 in turnovers. But Salisbury hasn’t won the annual matchup against Wesley, the Route 13 Rivalry, since 2004. For all the good that Wesley brings to the table year in and year out, they feel somewhat vulnerable this year. Maybe it’s just hard to get a handle on them since three of their seven games have been against non-D-III schools. Nonetheless, if there’s ever been a time for Salisbury to break its losing streak against Wesley, this year is it.
Keith’s take: Birmingham-Southern at No. 23 Trinity (Texas). Aside from Ryan’s pick, the only meeting of top 25 teams this week, the Panthers-Tigers matchup probably has the furthest-reaching consequences. Not only are both teams in the mix for the SCAC title and automatic bid, but their location and previous results give other teams in the playoff hunt a rooting interest in how they do.
Pat’s take: Rowan at No. 18 Kean. The loss by Montclair State on the scoreboard and the other one under center have opened the NJAC race up even further. It’s going to get nuts from here. So far, it’s hard to say whether Kean’s football program has gotten distracted by the winds swirling around other Kean athletic teams, but even if not, it’s a key game. Both teams need this.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Widener at Albright. With a lot to gain and the potential to still win the conference, Widener could pour it on and run away with this game. But if the Pride get caught thinking too much about the conference showdown against Delaware Valley, Albright may be able to catch them sleeping. Aside from one game this season, Albright plays its opponents competitively, so a one-score game isn’t out of the question.
Keith’s take: Wooster at Hiram. Traditionally a pretty good NCAC program, Wooster might seem from an outsider’s view as the team with a chance to get right against the 1-6 Terriers. But look for a tight finish, mostly because both teams struggle mightily at putting points on the board. Hiram is the 229th-ranked scoring offense in the country at a shade more than 10 points per game and No. 225 Wooster isn’t much better at a little more than 12.
Pat’s take: Carthage at North Park. There’s nothing to be gained by picking North Park to win a CCIW game when it hasn’t since time immemorial (actually 2000). But the Vikings have been competitive more often than not, including a 27-24 loss at Augustana last week. Keith keeps talking about the North Park-at-Carthage game from last year where North Park was competitive. A loss would make it 80 consecutive conference games, by my count.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Kean. It seems a little like Kean’s opponent, Rowan, has flown under the radar this season. Remember last year they were a one-loss team that got snubbed from the postseason while conference-mates Cortland State and Montclair State got to keep playing? This year’s Profs have a lot to be motivated about, and they’re just balanced enough in all facets of the game to keep the opposition guessing. And Kean hasn’t exactly been steamrolling teams this season.
Keith’s take: No. 24 Illinois Wesleyan. This might a week without an upset in the top 25, and this could be a little bit of a reach. But the Titans have to be careful to avoid the hangover that comes from gearing up for a game as big as last week’s clash with North Central, and then the deflating feeling that goes with getting shutout. Millkin hasn’t won since Oct. 1, and if it begins to sniff a chance at victory, IWU’s job is going to get tougher. The Big Blue scores more than 30 points a game, but the Titans are a powerhouse defensively, allowing less than 10.
Pat’s take: No. 7 Wesley. I don’t usually pick ranked games for this, even the home team when higher ranked, but Salisbury is in a good position here to reclaim U.S. 13 for its own and put Wesley deep on the playoff bubble. Salisbury hasn’t been tested in a while but one of the side benefits to the recent blowouts is that they came on the road, where the Sea Gulls couldn’t completely empty the bench because it was left at home. The key players on the two-deep still had a fair amount of playing time. Plus, Salisbury is throwing the ball better than in previous years and that has appeared to be where Wesley struggles defensively.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve. The Spartans line up against their stiffest UAA competition, Chicago, this weekend. For my part, Case hasn’t really been on my radar yet. Their games have been close, and Pool B entry to the postseason is scarcer than ever. But, as noted above, Wesley could pick up loss No. 2 this weekend, which means Case should be determined to finish out 9-1 if they hope to make the playoffs. With the selection committee now able to factor in previous playoff performance, Case is in trouble with its few one-and-dones under their belt. So the Spartans shouldn’t simply be looking to win but rather to win convincingly.
Keith’s take: Wartburg. The up-and-down IIAC needs the annual Knights-Dutch clash to help sort the conference title race out. Central has been hot offensively, scoring 119 points in its past two games, and the Wartburg defense — traditionally a strength — has given up 39 and 38. I don’t know quite what to make of this Wartburg team, even this deep into the season, but I hope Saturday provides the most definitive clue yet.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. The Saints can’t clinch the automatic bid this weekend at the Metrodome unless they win and Eureka also loses to Northwestern, but they are going to be all but assured of winning the automatic bid from the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference with a win against first-year program Presentation.
Which team with a losing record has the most left to play for?
Ryan’s take: DePauw. Any season — no matter humbling or below expectations it is — can be salvaged with a win against a bitter rival, in this case Wabash. That’s three weeks away, which means two more games for DPU to fix what may be broke. The Tigers have not been impressive on offense this year, but last week against Ohio Wesleyan, Drew Seaman strung together a 166-yard, three-touchdown performance. That, folks, amounts to a glimmer of hope for a team that’s 2-4 only one season removed from a SCAC title and a playoff run. A chance to find itself, as well as battle for the Monon Bell trophy, gives DePauw plenty to fight for.
Keith’s take: Pacific. Still looking for the first win since reviving the program, the Boxers are 0-7 and coming off of demoralizing losses of 49-6, 49-7 and 48-6, at Willamette, against Linfield, and at Whitworth. Pacific’s best chance to get over that is by beating another potentially demoralized team, in 0-7 conference foe Puget Sound. The Loggers, whose two wins last season were against Pacific, have given up 450 points and 43 points per game. That’s an opportunity for the Boxers offense to get on track.
Pat’s take: Ithaca. At 3-4, and with Frostburg State, Alfred and Cortland State still to come, the Bombers are in danger of seeing their streak of consecutive winning seasons end at 40. It’s not the longest such streak, obviously, but Ithaca is among the historic Division III football programs for a reason. They need to win all three to keep that streak alive. Central’s streak, formerly the second-longest, ended with a 5-5 season in 2003.
If there were no obstacles, and excluding your game of the week pick, where would you like to be this Saturday?
Ryan’s take: Ursinus at No. 14 Johns Hopkins. I feel like I’m talking about one or the other of these teams almost every week, but if I want to answer honestly, this is the game I want to see. I want to see if JHU is for real this year — as in 2009 playoff-run real. I think they are. JHU can clinch a playoff berth with a win, so there’s plenty at stake for them. Ursinus isn’t the kind of Bears you play dead with though or they’ll eat your team up.
Keith’s take: At Castleton State or Middlebury. I have no qualms going to see the Route 13 rivalry, but if I could be anywhere, Vermont during fall foliage season sounds nice. The Spartans and Panthers are just a 45-minute drive from one another, and the start times are staggered. Castleton plays Gallaudet, and Middlebury faces off with Trinity (Conn.).
Pat’s take: Actually, the game I’ll be at. I feel good about having a chance to be there for history when Dubuque hosts Luther. But more about that in a second.
Do one, both or neither of the Westminster (Mo.) records fall this weekend?
Ryan’s take: One. I think Monmouth’s Alex Tanney will get the two touchdown passes he needs to break the career mark in that category. His team should be able to make short work of Carroll. However, I don’t think Dubuque’s Michael Zweifel gets the 12 catches he needs to set the career catches record. He’ll probably fall three or four catches short of that mark. But look for him to break it in the Spartans’ last game of the regular season on Nov. 5.
Keith’s take: Both. With 123 career TD passes and five in each of the past two games, Tanney seems a sure bet to break through. The Pioneers have the best defense in the MWC though. Meanwhile, Zwiefel has had 17 or more catches for more than 200 yards twice in his past three games, so whopping numbers are normal for him.
Pat’s take: Both. There’s no way Michael Zweifel doesn’t get those receptions this weekend, in the team’s final home game. Remember who the offensive coordinator reports to. He caught 17 passes last week. Twelve catches is merely right at his average.
Albright · Alex Tanney · Alfred · Birmingham-Southern · Carroll · Carthage · Case Western Reserve · Castleton State · Central · Cortland State · DePauw · Dubuque · Eureka · Frostburg State · Gallaudet · Hiram · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Johns Hopkins · Kean · Luther · Middlebury · Mike Zweifel · Millikin · Monmouth · North Park · Northwestern (Minn.) · Presentation · Puget Sound · Rowan · Salisbury · St. Scholastica · Trinity (Conn.) · Trinity (Texas) · Ursinus · Wartburg · Wesley · Widener · Wooster
Trinity (Texas) answered Huntingdon’s statement with one of its own.
Trinity athletics file photo
It was an interesting week down south, with Birmingham-Southern and Huntingdon taking losses and Centre and Trinity (Texas) getting a leg up in the SCAC race. Salisbury rolled up an amazing point total and continues to dominate against Empire 8 foes. Wartburg fell and Redlands rose in crazy fourth quarters. (Here’s a link to that video.) Plus Kean picked up its first loss after flirting with it in previous weeks.
Keith McMillan and Pat Coleman discuss that and more in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast. See the list of tags at the bottom of this post to see who else is discussed.
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 · Birmingham-Southern · Brockport State · Cal Lutheran · Central · Centre · Claremont-Mudd-Scripps · Cornell · DePauw · Dubuque · Heidelberg · Huntingdon · Kean · Loras · McMurry · Mount Union · Olivet · Presentation · Randolph-Macon · Redlands · Salisbury · St. Scholastica · St. Vincent · Texas Lutheran · Thomas More · Trinity (Texas) · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Stout · UW-Whitewater · Wartburg · Washington and Lee · Westminster (Mo.)
Tyler Brown helps key a defense that has allowed just 177 yards per game.
Johns Hopkins athletics photo
We’re past the midway point in the season. Many conferences still have nearly half their teams in contention. Races are still wide open, but for the seasoned observer, conclusions are being drawn and expectations are being laid.
Less than one month from now, the final regular season game of 2011 will be played. The time has flown by, hasn’t it? But don’t look too far ahead because there are games right in your backyard that still matter, that still carry excitement and that still could buck your expectations.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you nearly two dozen games to mull over in this week’s Triple Take.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 2 Mount Union at Heidelberg. I know that it’s always a gamble highlighting a regular-season Mount Union game because they so rarely are close enough to warrant this kind of hype. But Heidelberg is having a great year, and the past two weeks’ victories over Capital and Muskingum leave no doubt that they are a team to keep your eye on. Heidelberg is a team that starts fast, playing hard-nosed football on both sides of the ball, especially through the first half. So far this year, the Student Princes have given up nothing more than a field goal in the first quarter. That’s total, folks. And they’ve got a ground man averaging nearly 125 yards a game and a passer throwing for well over 200 a game. It’s the kind of dual offense they need to bring into the Mount Union game this weekend. Couple that attack with a defense that is plus-14 in the turnover ratio, and you’ve got a game that can be competitive.
Keith’s take: No. 18 Salisbury at No. 23 Alfred. Most of the top 25 are playing teams they should beat, but the Empire 8 gauntlet takes weeks to run through. Since a bye week, the Sea Gulls have averaged 67.5 points a game. They rush for 363 yards a game, while the Saxons allow just 98. Alfred’s defense is No. 15 nationally, while Salisbury passes enough to make its offense No. 9 in the country. After Alfred’s 17-3 loss to St. John Fisher, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Salisbury run away with it; then again, this is the Saxons’ chance to dig deep and have people take notice. Otherwise, we look ahead to SJF’s Nov. 5 trip to Maryland’s Eastern shore.
Pat’s take: Centre at Birmingham-Southern. This isn’t the only game either of them needs to win to take the SCAC, but it’s the first blow, with the winner needing to also beat Trinity (Texas) to avoid a three-way split and a tiebreaker situation. Centre hasn’t gotten much credit from our poll, probably because Washington & Lee, the Colonels’ best opponent, is unranked as well, but it’s safe to say they’re in the ballpark for consideration on a few ballots.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Trine at Alma. A 4-1 team vs. a 1-5 is rarely a recipe for a close contest, but Alma this season has gone above and beyond by scheduling some of the toughest teams they could get their hands on. Of those five losses, the three nonconference games were against 4-1 Heidelberg, 5-0 Illinois Wesleyan and 5-1 Washington and Lee. And each was separated by eight points or less. The Thunder, on the other hand, have been winning this year but not by the big comfortable margins they’ve seen in the past couple of seasons. The Scots can put up a lot of yards and points. Expect them to do just that on Saturday.
Keith’s take: No. 8 Thomas More at St. Vincent. Outside of PAC country, you might think of the Saints as a top-10 program and the Bearcats as the conference pushover. But no longer; St. Vincent (3-2) is six points from being unbeaten, and just knocked off Washington & Jefferson last week. Kendall Owens is the name you know for Thomas More, but they’re getting efficient passing from Rob Kues and rushing contributions from Domonique Hayden, Luke Magness and Landon Savoy. St. Vincent has the PAC’s best rush defense at 104 yards allowed a game; Thomas More (196/game) has the PAC’s top rush offense.
Pat’s take: No. 9 Bethel at Gustavus Adolphus. Since convincingly dispatching with its first two opponents, Bethel has had a few results that were puzzling late in the game — a close home game against Carleton, a loss at home to St. Olaf and a game at St. John’s that was close throughout before two late scores. The 1-4 mark for Gustavus (26-21 loss at Wartburg) is certainly deceiving and this won’t be the kind of blowout you picture for a Top 10 team against a one-win opponent.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Johns Hopkins. This is a stretch, though, as not many Top 25 games are looking good this week to call the upset. JHU is lining up against Dickinson, a team that’s coming off a win against a lost-its-luster Franklin and Marshall squad. Still, Dickinson is a team that’s certainly found itself down at times, but it’s rarely out. Turnovers are the potential game-changers here.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Delaware Valley. At 6-0 with three one-score victories, the Aggies might be one of the more fortunate teams in the top 15. They’re young on offense, but have been propped up by the nation’s No. 9 total defense (225 yards/game). Albright, which averaged more than 50 points per game the last three weeks of September to get to 4-0, has been held to 15 points per game in October losses to Lycoming and Lebanon Valley. Common opponents don’t explain much here; the Lions hung 65 on Wilkes and Delaware Valley scored 14. Lebanon Valley lost by 24 at Delaware Valley and won by seven at Albright. If the Lions can rediscover their September offense, there’s upset potential here. One would think going against the MAC’s toughest defense means struggle is ahead, but often knowing the challenge in advance makes for a more attentive, effort-filled week of practice, and teams rise to the occasion.
Pat’s take: No. 25 UW-Oshkosh. The Karner Rules (these are the ones that say a conference opponent can’t take an overnight trip, as opposed to the ones that say two conference teams must play one non-conference game against each other) prohibit a WIAC team from staying overnight for this trip, hence the 2 p.m. local kickoff time. Platteville is no slouch and if healthy, the Pioneers won’t necessarily go all Bo Ryan swing offense on the Titans, but should give them a heck of a game with the upset a distinct possibility. Hey, Saturday is the start of basketball practice. It has to make some sense somewhere.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Baldwin-Wallace. This is a team I had pegged in Kickoff as being the OAC’s No. 2, and that claim will be tested against Ohio Northern. Aside from a somewhat surprising loss against Capital earlier in the year, the Yellow Jackets have been winning — though not by dominating margins. While there are a handful of teams above ONU in the conference standings, toppling the Polar Bears would be as symbolic as it is significant.
Keith’s take: Framingham State. They’ve won three in a row since a 1-2 start to get to 4-2, but they need to win at Maine Maritime to stay on track in the NEFC Bogan division. They’ve got the perfect inspiration: The Mariners rushed for 523 yards on the Rams last year and handed them one of their two losses.
Pat’s take: Trinity (Texas). And I guess this is going to put me at odds with the pick by Ryan Tipps below me but here’s why I make this a split decision: Huntingdon has won two pretty impressive games at home, but going to Trinity is still a different story and has been since 1996. Last year the Tigers lost three games at home and it’s hard to see that happening again, although Trinity ends with Huntingdon, Centre and Birmingham-Southern at home, so it’s not at all unreasonable.
Of the Nos. 26-30 teams, which is most likely to win its way into the Top 25?
Ryan’s take: Huntingdon. The Hawks are already in my Top 25, something I believe they’ve earned after wins over Hampden-Sydney and Wittenberg. This week’s opponent is undefeated Trinity (Texas), which has also flirted at times with being on my ballot. A win here will be a huge boost and will be the third time this season that they’ll have dealt a one-loss team that lone blemish.
Keith’s take: Huntingdon. It can only be the Hawks making a move this week; handing Trinity its first loss would be a third impressive win (along with Hampden-Sydney and Wittenberg). If Birmingham-Southern, the only team to beat the Hawks this season, also lodges a win against unbeaten Centre, there’ll be enough ammo for voters to feel comfortable bumping them up. With Cortland State playing Western Connecticut, Wittenberg facing Kenyon, St. Olaf battling rival Carleton and Hobart sitting idle, it’s the only choice.
Pat’s take: Anyone but Hobart. It’s hard to figure on what keeps Hobart so down in the coaches’ poll, with just nine votes out of 42 voters (.2 average), making the Statesmen’s 1.4-point average in the D3football.com Top 25 seem laudatory. Are the coaches reacting to Hobart’s offseason sanctions, where they were placed on three years’ probation? But one thing which probably hurts Hobart’s reputation is after this week, some teams will have played seven games, most conferences serious about football will have played six … and Hobart will have played four. That’s what an eight-game non-NESCAC schedule looks like. Actually, also what a NESCAC schedule looks like.
Which team will be affected the most by injury?
Ryan’s take: Guilford. The Quakers came into Week 1 with a new coach, a new strategy and new energy. But an injury here, and an injury there can create holes in that excitement. Starting quarterback Zac Halbert played sparingly in last week’s loss, and his health and ability to return to the field will be an important factor. But the field is littered with more spots where the depth chart is being raided. Prior to the season, Guilford should have expected to be sitting at 3-2 and going into a winnable game against Bridgewater. Now, they’re at 1-4, and a win on Saturday would be considered an upset.
Keith’s take: Uncertain. I’m afraid I’m going to have to forfeit my expert badge for this one. The injury that might most affect Saturday’s games might not have even happened yet. But I also don’t have a great feel for teams this season that have lost key guys, or a bunch of them. School me in the comments section below.
Pat’s take: Colby. Everyone is dealing with injuries seven weeks into the season, so it’s hard to see it as a valid excuse here. But even if maybe you don’t give Colby much of a chance at home against Amherst, linebacker Mike Hyatt’s injury has to affect more than the White Mules’ on-the-field play. This young man suffered his fourth concussion recently, his second in college football, and is not expected to play football again. In his final game two weeks ago against Middlebury, Hyatt recorded 18 tackles, nine solo, and recovered a fumble, but his absence will leave the White Mules’ linebacking corps pretty young.
Red, blue or green?
Ryan’s take: Blue (and gold) of Ithaca. The Bombers are going to line up against Springfield on Saturday, at a spot in the season where they’re playing for pride more than they are for the Empire 8’s automatic qualifier. The two teams match up well against each other, and it’ll be interesting to see which offense (Springfield’s 379-yard-a-game rushing efforts or Ithaca’s mostly blended attack) will be able to put a chink in the opponent’s armor. Ithaca’s offense is pretty woeful in the red zone, where not converting means more than loss of points, it means loss of momentum.
Keith’s take: Blue of Concordia (Wis). The Falcons started 0-3, but have dominated the two Northern Athletics Conference teams its played. The game against Benedictine is to hang on to at least a share of first place in a conference where everyone has multiple overall losses, but gets an automatic bid just like anyone else. The Falcons, who have outscored Rockford and Maranatha Baptist 105-21, takes its conference-best defense and puts it up against Benedictine’s conference-best offense.
Pat’s take: Green (and gold) of Presentation. In Kickoff 2011, we predicted the first-year Saints would go 2-8, 1-8 in the UMAC. But we figured that win would be at MacMurray. The Saints surprised even our generous prediction by winning last week against Crown. A win at MacMurray, which has lost 17 in a row and (yikes!) 44 of 45 games, would give them three wins in their first season of football and be pretty impressive by any standard.
Alma · Amherst · Baldwin-Wallace · Bethel · Birmingham-Southern · Bridgewater · bye · Centre · Colby · Dickinson · Guilford · Gustavus Adolphus · Heidelberg · Hobart · Huntingdon · Johns Hopkins · MacMurray · Mount Union · Ohio Northern · Presentation · Trine · Trinity (Texas) · Washington and Lee
“Long” as in a long season is ahead of us, and we’re just getting started.
And we’re willing to bet that most of you have been looking forward to this moment for eight months or more. We hope that our publication, Kickoff 2011, gave you your “football fix” over the past several days. (If not, there’s still time to buy it and get an insider’s look at all 239 teams.)
From now until the Stagg Bowl, Triple Take will be a weekly forecast for the Saturday ahead. Three members of the D3football.com staff — Executive Editor Pat Coleman, Managing Editor and National Columnist Keith McMillan and Senior Editor and Mid-Atlantic Columnist Ryan Tipps — will go through a series of questions to help readers gauge what to expect on game day. We’re thinking aloud, of sorts. And in many cases, we’ll take you beyond the Top 25 teams and perhaps highlight some sleepers that weren’t otherwise on your radar.
For Week 1, here are some of the most interesting matchups nationwide:
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 10 Coe at No. 16 Hardin-Simmons. Two of the best teams from two of the best conferences in the country. That should say a lot right there. But truth be told, Coe should be near unstoppable most of this season. Any team in the country would be envious to have the kind of returning players that the Kohawks have, and with some gaps for HSU to fill (superstars at quarterback and wideout are gone), this is Coe’s game to lose.
Pat’s take: Trinity Bible at Presentation. It’s not going to be a particularly pretty game, this we know, but it will be the first Division III home game in South Dakota and Presentation might well start its football life off 1-0.
Keith’s take: No. 4 North Central at Redlands. Remember that the Bulldogs were 8-1 last year, a record that almost always gets a team in the playoffs. There are 18 starters back from that squad, though longtime quarterback Dan Selway is not one of them. Likewise, the heart of North Central’s third-best-in-the-nation defense from last year, linebacker Matt Wenger, is gone. But 15 Cardinals starters return. So we’ve got two loaded teams, and the favorite has to travel 1,750 miles from the Chicago area to the L.A. area – flights are rare for D-III teams – for a 7 p.m. PDT kickoff under the lights at Ted Runner Stadium. Heck yeah it’s a game of the week!
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: N.C. Wesleyan at No. 14 Ohio Northern. In their short history, the Bishops have been known for taking on some of the best teams they can get their hands on in non-conference play: Wesley, Hampden-Sydney, Salisbury. The list goes on, and in an era when every loss can become a compounded postseason strike against a playoff-worthy team, the Bishops are putting risk ahead of caution. Even after losing some key starters, it’s rare when they don’t come out swinging. ONU, on its end, has long been a top-tier OAC team, but they have to replace an All-Conference quarterback, rusher and receiver. That’s a hard feat to overcome.
Pat’s take: East Texas Baptist at No. 3 Wesley. I’d like to put this in the next category down but Wesley has too many weapons and is too good defensively. The Wolverines faced a dual-threat quarterback from the ASC last season in LiDarral Bailey and bottled him up (86 yards of total offense). Sed Harris seems to be a similar threat. The only question is if Shane McSweeny, who is returning from injury, can’t connect with a new receiving corps. Justin Sottilare, who led the Wesley offense to the national semifinals last year, disappeared from the Wolverines’ roster sometime this week.
Keith’s take: No. 23 UW-Stevens Point at Willamette. The Bearcats scored 33 unanswered in last season’s 33-14 season-opening win in Wisconsin, partially because the Pointers had no answer for Willamette’s Fly offense. UW-SP lost star wide receivers Jared Jenkins and Anthony Aker, and they travel to Oregon. They’re the ranked team, but I’m not sure they should be expected to win. And yet, I doubt there’s another blowout here, because defenses tend to perform much better after players and coaches have had a look at a specialty offense.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Wittenberg. Most of the Tigers’ recent games against Capital were just plain ugly. That’s not to say such a result will happen again this time, but there are some definite kinks to be worked out before they can find success. It’s been more than a decade since Witt beat an OAC team — and working against the Tigers is that they are not the same team that ended 2010.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Rowan. My gut wants me to aim a little higher, such as the No. 14 spot or even the No. 3 spot, but I can’t pull the trigger. This was a close game last year at Rowan and although Rowan certainly got better over the course of the season, Lycoming peaked earlier. But in this battle of two proud programs, I take the team that won the 1998 semifinals in this rematch. One other note: Rowan played just one game on grass all of last year, beating 2-8 Brockport State. And yeah, Ryan, I’ve been to a Capital-Wittenberg game and it wasn’t pretty. But that was a long time ago.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Wartburg. There’s every reason to like the Knights, who were 10-1 last season with a scoring defense and takeaway margin in the top 10 nationally. They beat their Week 1 opponent, Monmouth, 27-7 last year, and the Scots’ star quarterback, Alex Tanney, played the whole game. So as both teams return 18 starters, it doesn’t seem logical to use Tanney’s return as a reason to think the Knights are in danger. And yet I’m going to do it. Tanney got hurt after throwing one pass in Game 2 against Grinnell, and there’s something that burns inside a player to excel when the game is taken away unexpectedly. All five offensive linemen from last year are back to give Tanney time to throw, and he’s as dangerous as any quarterback in Division III. Wartburg lost to St. Norbert in the 2009 opener, so an upset defeat against a top-shelf MWC team is totally foreseeable. If the Knights aren’t on their game Saturday, it’s likely.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Centre. You can bet that the Colonels want to avenge their 1-point loss to Hanover last year. And in a season where they might be the favorites to win the SCAC, it’ll be interesting whether they can start and stay strong through their nine-game schedule.
Pat’s take: UW-La Crosse. My only question is, will it be enough? The Eagles have the pieces to perform admirably against UW-Whitewater in the season opener but must play the Warhawks twice this season and Mary Hardin-Baylor. Throw in UW-Stevens Point and they could be the best 6-4 or 7-3 team in Division III.
Keith’s take: Salve Regina. If you read Kickoff, you might have noticed my unhealthy obsession with the NEFC’s Seahawks. Union comes to Rhode Island for the opener trying to erase memories of a rare bad season (2-7). There’s a bigger NEFC game in Week 1 too (Framingham State at Endicott), but I’m eager to see if in Year 2, the defensive-minded Bob Chesney begins to field a team that can score as well as it can slow others from scoring.
Which Thursday or Friday night game would you like to attend?
Ryan’s take: Baldwin-Wallace at Wooster. I’m sure that the Yellow Jackets would just like to forget that the last two games of 2010 even happened. And here’s their chance. I’ve pegged B-W to be the No. 2 team in the OAC this year, but I also think that Woo has an upset or two in them this fall. It probably won’t happen in Week 1, but down the line, they will sneak up on somebody.
Pat’s take: Dubuque at Augustana. This should be a nice shootout of passing offenses, with the Spartans and Mike Zweifel leading the way. The schools are not that far apart and it’s a Thursday night game, under the lights. If it weren’t a six-hour drive from here I’d go myself, but I’ll settle for live video.
Keith’s take: Adrian at Husson. I’m curious about McMurry, which is transitioning out of D-III, playing at Stephen F. Austin, but I still think I’d rather go see a Michigan-based D-III team play in Maine. There’s something unique when teams who move in different D-III circles get together. I’d appreciate both the travel opportunity and the chance for us D-III nerds to evaluate conferences against one another.
Which 2010 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. Few things might be more intimidating than starting a season against the big dog of the MAC, Delaware Valley. It’s not an impossible game (the Mules do have players such as All-American linebacker Pat McDonough to prop them up), but most people would probably hitch their wagon to Del Val in this situation.
Pat’s take: St. Lawrence. The Saints open with Utica after they lost every non-conference game they played last year, including a 31-13 decision to Utica later in the season, when youth is less of an excuse.
Keith’s take: St. Norbert. I guess this is a cop-out, because of course it isn’t easy to play the No. 5 team in the country out of the gate. I actually applaud the Green Knights for scheduling tough openers, and this isn’t the first time. They’ve won the non-conference game, gone 9-1 and missed the playoffs, then gone 7-3, won the MWC and gotten in. But still, if they lose the opener, they have to hope it prepared them to win the conference, because two-loss teams are always on shaky playoff ground.
Whose long losing streak is likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Guilford’s, against Greensboro. I mentioned this in my Around the Mid-Atlantic column this week, too, but I think that because the Quakers have a new coach, they also have a new reason to be excited. This week’s opponent is crosstown rival Greensboro, and Guilford’s new coach, Chris Rusiewicz, is bringing a fresh, defensive approach to a team that has lost 11 games in a row. Rusiewicz has made several changes on defense and already understands his players’ strengths and weaknesses. He’ll do a good job of playing to the strengths.
Pat’s take: Thiel’s, against Marietta. The Tomcats finally showed some signs of putting things together down the stretch after a dismal beginning to the season that also had an emotional component following the September death of freshman defensive lineman Louis Giuntini. And to those at Frostburg State and who knew and loved Derek Sheely, our condolences.
Keith’s take: Olivet’s, against Cornell. Or maybe I have that backwards. Okay, fine, someone’s long losing streak is ending here; the Comets’ 27-game streak or the Rams’s 11-game streak. Both teams have second-year coaches and most of their starters back, which isn’t always a good thing if you lost all 10 games. It’s impossible to have a read on a team before they’ve played a game. But Olivet’s at home, so I’ll give them the edge.
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Augustana · Baldwin-Wallace · Capital · Centre · Coe · Dubuque · East Texas Baptist · Guilford · Hardin-Simmons · Lycoming · Marietta · Muhlenberg · N.C. Wesleyan · Ohio Northern · Presentation · Rowan · Thiel · UW-La Crosse · UW-Whitewater · Wesley · Wittenberg · Wooster