TAG | RPI
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.
Adrian · Bethel · Buena Vista · Castleton State · Claremont-Mudd-Scripps · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Denison · Dubuque · Ferrum · Franklin · Hanover · Hardin-Simmons · Heidelberg · Huntingdon · Johns Hopkins · Kenyon · Louisiana College · Maryville · Mount St. Joseph · Pacific Lutheran · Pomona-Pitzer · RPI · Salisbury · St. John's · St. Olaf · Thomas More · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Wayneburg · Widener
Cory Wipperfurth’s touchdown catch against UW-Whitewater comes up in Keith’s breakdown of the game.
Photo by Daryl Tessmann for d3photography.com
There have been lots of “nevers” this year in Division III and we’re potentially headed for another one right now. Since the advent of the automatic bid, the defending national champion has never been on the bubble on Selection Sunday. But UW-Whitewater may well be there even if it wins out, and Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan discuss the Warhawks’ chances as part of this week’s Around the Nation Podcast, sponsored by the City of Salem, hosts of Stagg Bowl XL. Tickets on sale now!
But amid the doom and gloom, there are bright points for the Warhawks. Plus, if this is your first look at UW-Oshkosh, we give you a good description of what the Titans are all about.
It was a channel surfing Saturday for both Pat and Keith, who got their eyes on a lot of games. It was a tough weekend for Illinois Wesleyan and Lycoming, who played two pretty similar games but saw their fourth-quarter nine-point leads vanish at the hands of Wheaton (Ill.) and Widener.
Plus: Why does this unbeaten Johns Hopkins team look better than the last one? Who could be the first team to clinch an automatic bid? What CCIW team might have the best shot at an at-large bid? Who is the stealth unbeaten? And who might be a top candidate for the Gagliardi Trophy … in 2014? All of those questions are discussed in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast.
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Here’s this week’s D3football.com reports and highlight packages.
And this week’s photo galleries from our friends at d3photography.com:
- UW-Whitewater vs. UW-Oshkosh
- Menlo vs. Wesley
- Cal Lutheran vs. Occidental
- Kalamazoo vs. Hope
- Carleton vs. St. Olaf
- Macalester vs. Trinity Bible
Augsburg · Carnegie Mellon · Concordia-Moorhead · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Earlham · Hobart · Illinois Wesleyan · Kean · Linfield · Louisiana College · Lycoming · Marietta · Mark Hiben · MIT · Ohio Wesleyan · Pacific Lutheran · Rowan · RPI · Salve Regina · St. John Fisher · TCNJ · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Platteville · UW-Whitewater · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Widener · Wilmington
Rudy Rudolph caught seven passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns for Christopher Newport in a USAC-clinching win at Ferrum.
CNU athletics photo
If it seems like we have a lot of automatic bids already clinched, well, you’re right. With 20 down and just five to go, an unprecedented number of bids have already been claimed.
That doesn’t stop teams from potentially shooting themselves in the foot (Albion, Thomas More), however. There are 12 teams who clinched this week and many play in Week 11. Keith McMillan and Pat Coleman talk about each of those 12, plus a classic Mount Union/Baldwin-Wallace game and much more in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast. Scroll to the bottom and read the tags to see which teams are mentioned in this week’s show.
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.
Albion · Baldwin-Wallace · Benedictine · Christopher Newport · Delaware Valley · Dubuque · Framingham State · Franklin · Hampden-Sydney · Hobart · Kean · Lewis and Clark · Linfield · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Montclair State · Mount Union · North Central (Ill.) · Norwich · Pierre Garcon · Redlands · RPI · Salisbury · St. John's · St. Olaf · Thomas More · Trinity (Texas) · Union · Wabash · Western New England · Widener
Dan Griffin has rushed for 1,016 yards and 13 scores from his quarterback position for Salisbury. Will Wesley be able to contain the Sea Gulls’ rushing attack?
A one-loss record isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be — at least in the eyes of the NCAA. We’ve seen this week what teams in that category matter most, thanks to the release of the NCAA’s Regional Rankings. And in the ATN Podcast, we’ve heard Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan break down the strength of schedule numbers for a lot of the pack that is hoping to swim in the Pool C waters.
Less than a month before the end of regular-season play, D3football.com has also been able to touch on which four teams the NCAA could build its four brackets around. We’re no longer living in a North/South/East/West mentality. With the shifting of Mount Union and some other changes in recent years, the NCAA has done a much improved job of picking the four top teams (according to their standards) and creating the regions around them.
As was stated in the Podcast, it’s amazing how different the playoff picture can wind up in just these last couple of weeks. Most teams have just three games left to make or break their season.
Pat, Keith and Ryan Tipps have a few things to look out for on Saturday:
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 3 Wesley at Salisbury. These longtime foes will clash for the last time this year in conference play, and, like often, the drama is swirling. Wesley is riding an undefeated streak that includes a win over Delaware Valley as well as over Christopher Newport and Capital, the latter two of which lost some of their luster this season. Salisbury, in turn, has often steamrolled teams this year on the ground (500- and 600-yards rushing hasn’t been uncommon). But have the Gulls been tested? They’ve played just two teams all season that have a winning record, one of those matchups ending in a close loss to Hampden-Sydney. Salisbury needs to perform well on Saturday to show they’re a playoff-worthy team, especially in an environment that has been skeptical of two-loss Pool C teams. And for Wesley? An undefeated season, one notably built around their successful backup quarterback, would go far in seeding consideration.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Montclair State at Cortland State. For Cortland, the big challenges come late in the season, and the Red Dragons have already failed one of them, losing to Rowan. I don’t think it informs us much to compare their games against Rowan — Kenny Brock played quarterback for Rowan against Montclair (and was 7-for-28) while Tim Hagerty took over the starting job after that. Both have had some great defensive performances this season, however. So expect a high-scoring game. That’s how it works, right?
Keith’s take: Montclair State at Cortland State. I could have gone with the other Pool B clash, Norwich at SUNY-Maritime, for variety. And that is probably the third biggest game of the week. But while Wolverines-Gulls and Cadets-Privateers will impact the playoff fortunes of the teams involved, and maybe each other, the NJAC battle has far-reaching consequences. A Montclair State win keeps the Red Hawks on track to be the first East Region team to go unbeaten and earn a No. 1 seed in the playoffs since Wilkes in 2006. A loss opens the door to another team, either Mount Union or Wesley, likely being the center of the easternmost bracket. Plus, Red Hawks-Red Dragons is a matchup of silly-good defenses: Cortland is the national leader in scoring defense (6.43 points per game) and is fifth in yardage (210.86), while Montclair is fourth (8.14) and third (205.57).
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Luther at No. 13 Wartburg. Once Wartburg beat Coe, the Knights were seen as having clear control of the IIAC. I agree with that notion. But Luther is not far behind at 4-3, and could put a kink in this conference race. Wartburg’s defense is stout, but Luther’s offense is balanced just enough that they should be able to move the ball. And perhaps most of all, Wartburg will showdown with Central a week from now and could be in jeopardy of getting caught looking ahead to that game.
Pat’s take: McMurry at No. 7 Hardin-Simmons. I certainly expect a lot of offense in this game. Is 62-45 close? McMurry hasn’t beaten Hardin-Simmons since HSU restarted football — and picture that, by the way, the first-year Cowboys beating the Indians back in the 1990′s.
Keith’s take: Birmingham-Southern at DePauw. Because the Panthers are in their fourth season in the transition from Division I, and are yet ineligible for the playoffs or the SCAC title, their 5-2 record has gone largely unrecognized nationally. They rush for 285 yards per game, with a low of 149 against Trinity, and 5.6 per carry. Across the white lines, DePauw may well relax after clinching a playoff spot and find itself in a familiar spot. The Tigers have pulled out wins of five points or fewer against Centre (4-3), Adrian (3-4) and Trinity (3-4), but it’s dangerous living on the edge.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 24 Ursinus. Opponent Moravian is one of those teams that has flashes of greatness — but when things on the field start to snowball, they really snowball. The Greyhounds have improved in recent weeks, using a varied ground attack enhanced and complemented by Matt Johnson taking the reins under center. As quarterback, he has put up 788 passing yards in the past four games and will help his team become a real threat to the Bears’ perfect season.
Pat’s take: No. 3 Wesley. No disrespect intended, as always, but the rivalry aspect of this game plays large, plus Salisbury fighting for its playoff life. Salisbury has certainly been on a roll lately, at least, rushing for 420 or more yards in every game since opening day.
Keith’s take: No. 17 Wheaton. It’s not so much a slap at the Thunder, who we’ve already disrespected by including them in Pool C talk before actually losing a game. It’s more a recognition that the CCIW is a week-in, week-out test. Augustana has the nation’s toughest schedule (opponents are 46-19, or .707) by a shade over Ithaca, according to NCAA data. After playing Central and North Central, the teams that handed the 5-2 Vikings their losses, nothing about Wheaton should overwhelm Augustana.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: The first-year starting quarterbacks. Three of the top four most efficient passers in the country are in their first year as starters for their teams. Wittenberg’s Ben Zoeller, UW-Whitewater’s Matt Blanchard and Welsey’s Justin Sottilare are all leading teams that are gunning for playoff runs — and if they repeat last year’s performances, deep playoff runs. Each quarterback has a passer rating of at least 182, and it’s easy to forget how hard it is to lead a team in the spotlight. Witt is on a bye week, but UW-W and Wesley each have arguably their biggest games of the regular season this week. All eyes, including mine, will be on them.
Pat’s take: Chicago. Am I just projecting a Pool B blowup this week? Maybe, but Chicago has had a fine season to date, heading or its best season since 2000. A 17-point loss against comparable opponent Wabash was on the road, at least. Perhaps the magic of Stagg Field will give the Maroons a boost against Case Western Reserve.
Keith’s take: Otterbein. I’m curious, as Pat is, about the UAA. WNEC-Endicott interests me. But I’ll be looking for the Cardinals to show us something against Mount Union; specifically, if reports of the Purple Raiders’ demise are exaggerated. Mount Union has shut out three teams and held two others to single digits. They’ve given up only 7 points at home, but UW-Oshkosh (28) and Marietta (14) earned their totals as hosts. Otterbein is averaging more than 35 points per game.
What team in the NCAA regional rankings is going to make a statement this week?
Ryan’s take: Western New England. In a conference that has long been dominated by the likes of Curry and Plymouth State, the Golden Bears are coming off a week of taking down the second of those two foes. This week, they line up against Endicott, which has just one conference loss and isn’t out of the NEFC Boyd race. Western New England has a shot to improve its strength of schedule and further showcase a defense that has given up more than 10 points only once all season.
Pat’s take: Wartburg. Sorry — with all due respect to my Virginia colleague, I don’t see Luther making it close against Wartburg. Not many teams have been able to score on Wartburg and while I don’t see Luther getting enough to make it close. A big win isn’t going to change this regional ranking but it seems inevitable to me.
Keith’s take: Norwich. At No. 8 in the East Region playing No. 6, there’ll be an opportunity to move up.
Which Pool B contender will need the most help getting into the postseason after this week?
Ryan’s take: SUNY-Maritime. Because of the perceived strength of the ECFC, it’s easy for even the good teams from that conference to slip under the radar for a few weeks. But on Saturday will be the challenge for the top spot when one-loss Norwich takes on undefeated SUNY-Maritime. The winner has a good shot at getting a Pool B bid. However, if the Privateers lose, there will have to be a lot of shake-ups elsewhere (Case Western Reserve dropping a game, Norwich losing in the final two weeks, Wesley falling to Salisbury) for them to appear viable at the table. A loss to Norwich isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. The Cadets are regionally ranked and have some solid wins on their resume: notching itself as Western New England’s only loss or the year and beating St. Lawrence, which is now at the top of the Liberty League. Norwich should have the firmer handle on this game, which means SUNY-Maritime could need to be paying attention to the wider D-III landscape.
Pat’s take: Salisbury. Which is unfortunate, because the Sea Gulls are better than either of the ECFC teams. Even with a win, Salisbury isn’t a lock for the playoffs, but with a loss, Salisbury is definitely hoping for some of those things Ryan mentioned above.
Keith’s take: Salisbury. Taking a second loss could devastate the Gulls in their last non-AQ run before moving to the Empire 8. Their playoff hopes would be virtually none this season with another defeat.
What game slipped under the radar in the East?
Ryan’s take: Middlebury at Trinity (Conn.). Both NESCAC teams have been putting up solid points this year: The Panthers average 24 per game while the Bantams bring home almost 31 a game. Middlebury benefits from its star signal-caller, Donald McKillop, who throws for 331 yards a game. Trinity, on the other hand, creates discord for defenders on the ground, tallying 240 rushing yards a game while holding opponents to just 41 such yards per outing. Expect high scoring and a lot of yardage in Hartford, Conn.
Pat’s take: Widener at Lebanon Valley. Widener’s first-year coach, Isaac Collins, can’t be hearing good things from higher-ups about this season. The Pride have (has?) played a tough schedule but lost all three of those games, 37-0, 31-7 and 31-7. That’s one thing, but last week’s home loss to Albright can’t inspire confidence. Lebanon Valley can’t be very happy with its season either, coming off a near-playoff trip in 2009, but Jim Monos has been through thick and thin with the Flying Dutchmen.
Keith’s take: Union at RPI. Can you believe we got this deep into Triple Take without mentioning The Shoes rivalry? Hard to know what to make of the two teams being down along with the rest of the Liberty League, but I think it enhances the game. There are no second chances this season. No playoffs to alleviate the sting for the loser. Beating a rival might be all either side has to play for.
Birmingham-Southern · Case Western Reserve · Chicago · DePauw · Lebanon Valley · Luther · Middlebury · Moravian · Norwich · RPI · Salisbury · SUNY-Maritime · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Ursinus · Wartburg · Wesley · Western New England · Widener
After last week, the Top 25 got an overhaul as a handful of undefeated teams fell. To top it off, there’s been a lot of shuffling in some of the conferences across the country. The Iowa Conference, Empire 8, the USA South, the Old Dominion — all have featured significant changes in just a week’s time.
The playoff picture in those areas may have gotten a little foggier, if not defied expectations all together.
That’s much of what we do with Triple Take, try to spot the unexpected — a seemingly impossible paradox in and of itself. But there’s a nuance to predictions: finding the statistical mismatch, the key injury, the motivation that could make or break a team. In Week 7, much happened to defy expectations and create a new way to approach a team.
That’s part of the fun of playing the game every Saturday, isn’t it?
Will the eighth week of the season hold as much drama as the seventh did? Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps weigh in.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Lycoming at No. 9 Delaware Valley. Both teams sit as one-loss teams overall yet are undefeated in conference play. And each of their losses comes against quality opponents, the Aggies especially being just 3:29 from beating Wesley. We all expected DelVal to have a prime year, but Lycoming is somewhat of a surprise. Going now into Week 8, no one takes any team for granted, and Lycoming has rolled through the past six games, sometimes winning by 20-, 30- or even 50-point margins. Both teams have been impressive all year, and the winner on Saturday has the inside track to a game on Nov. 20.
Pat’s take: No. 19 St. John Fisher at Alfred. No longer a battle of unbeatens, but it is a battle of Empire 8 unbeatens. The winner stays on the shortest path to the Empire 8 title, but only St. John Fisher can have aspirations of getting a No. 1 seed and keeping Mount Union away until the national semifinals.
Keith’s take: No. 12 Linfield at No. 22 Pacific Lutheran. So rarely do you go third and get the two best choices. Between No. 20 Bethel at No. 4 St. Thomas and Linfield-PLU, I can’t go wrong. I took the NWC clash because there, the lower-ranked team at least has home-field advantage, and because Linfield has a loss and needs to win to stay on track for the automatic bid, or become a team that went from last year’s final four to probably out of this year’s 32. The Wildcats feature the nation’s fifth most prolific offense, but it’s the defense that’s begun to stand out. Since giving up 47 to Cal Lutheran, the team’s given up 38 in four games, and not all of that has come against the first team. Senior Eric Hedin has 10 sacks in five games, and will get after Jordan Rassmussen and the PLU offense.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Salisbury at Union. Chalk this up more to a feeling than anything else, but Union’s schedule has not been an easy one and yet they’re still able to get a couple scores on the board each week. If the Dutchmen want to stay in this game, it will have to be because of the offense. Union hasn’t done particularly well this season against running teams — and Salisbury is just about the mother of all run teams. If Union finds its groove on offense, this could be a high-scoring affair.
Pat’s take: Carthage at No. 17 Wheaton. Carthage has lost two games, both to CCIW opponents, by the score of 43-8 and 43-16. Counting on a little better performance and some learning curve for the Red Men.
Keith’s take: Rochester at WPI. The nation’s top 15 defenses read like a who’s who of the top 25, with 10th-best defense William Paterson (4-2), No. 13 WPI (3-3) and No. 14 Aurora (4-2) not fitting the group. Rochester, while strangely giving up nearly the same number of points (48) to Merchant Marine as it did to St. John Fisher (49), allowed an average of 15.6 to Case Western Reserve, Union and RPI. And that’s good because the Yellowjackets are 216th in scoring at 12.8 points per game. Against WPI’s defense, that number might not improve, but the Engineers’ offense (185th nationally at 281.5 yards per game) isn’t a juggernaut either. Short story long, this could be surprisingly close by being unsurprisingly low scoring.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 6 North Central. The Cardinals have a ton of offensive weapons at their disposal, so a win here for Illinois Wesleyan wouldn’t be easy. But the Titans are coming off a victory against a solid Elmhurst team and should be carrying some momentum into this game. IWU will need to ask for more from its defense — more from Ryan Gresko and the rest of the linebackers and more from the secondary to stop any big plays from happening. With just one in-conference loss, IWU is still in the playoff hunt. But North Central has plenty on its mind, too: A No. 1 seed in the postseason isn’t out of the question.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Thomas More. Alright, it seems unlikely on the face of it, no doubt. Bethany has scored 40 points in each of the past two games and is playing at home. Who knows, perhaps freshman quarterback Matt Grimard won’t know enough to be intimidated, or will simply play the game of his life.
Keith’s take: No. 7 Wittenberg. I don’t know that any of the big clashes, in the CCIW, MAC, MIAC or NWC, will end in upsets. Carnegie Mellon (4-2) is an interesting opponent for the the 7-0 Tigers, though, because it’s had two weeks to prepare, when it’s really Wittenberg that could use the extra week to work on stopping the Wing-T. The Tartans (261 yards/game) are the nation’s No. 12 rush offense, but the Tigers are the No. 8 rush defense (59 yards/game). The UAA-NCAC scheduling agreement gives these two teams as many common opponents as conference rivals would have, and while the comparative scores are inconclusive, it could mean the CMU coaching staff is able to glean some insight from one of them.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: DePauw. The undefeated Tigers are a team I’ve been watching closely all season. But this week, they merit special mention in this category because, with a win against Trinity, DePauw would become the first team in the country to clinch an automatic bid to the playoffs. DPU is the only SCAC team undefeated in conference play. And after the Trinity game, the only conference opponent left that counts toward the AQ is Austin, which already has two losses. Until last season, DPU had never beaten Trinity. Raising the stakes on Saturday is that DPU will have to play their SCAC rival on the road.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Pacific Lutheran. And that’s because win or lose, the Lutes are playoff contenders. Win, of course, and Pacific Lutheran puts Linfield out of control of its own destiny, having to hope for a three-way tie in the NWC (wherein Willamette beats Pacific Lutheran in Week 11) or an upset.
Keith’s take: No. 20 Bethel. If you aren’t in MIAC country, chances are you can’t name two Royals players, because St. Thomas and St. John’s have absorbed all the spotlight. Bethel’s got a suffocating defense that is No. 1 in the nation against the run (33.5 yards per game) and No. 9 overall, and hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game. The Royals, behind the one player you would have heard of if you’ve been following for long enough, in Logan Flannery (125.8 yards/game), has a potent rushing attack. St. Thomas is similarly dominating, and that’s been well documented. If Bethel performs on Saturday, they’ll be able to sign their names to the nationally recognized register as well.
Which unlikely conference leader is most likely to pick up a loss?
Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. The Mules have been an impressive surprise this year despite starting with a loss to Delaware Valley. Sophomore Terrence Dandridge has really stepped into the spotlight and made the Mules one of the best rushing teams in the Centennial. But this week, they face a potent passing attack from John Harrison and Franklin and Marshall. Muhlenberg did reasonably well earlier in the season against the strong passing game Johns Hopkins offered, but F&M’s attach can really sizzle when it gets going. Perhaps the question is whether we’ll see the solid F&M offense that showed up against Dickinson or the one that showed up last week against Moravian, where balance was lacking.
Pat’s take: Plymouth State. The Plymouth State game is the first of two games in a row that Western New England will have to win to clinch itself a bid in the NEFC title game. Western New England lost its opening game to Norwich but has been on a roll since, while Plymouth State has been winning with defense.
Keith’s take: Shenandoah. The trip to Ferrum is nothing easy for the Hornets, and trips to the end zone have not been either. At No. 213 in total offense and 190th in scoring offense (16.5 points per game), Shenandoah — like the other 2-4 teams tied with Averett and N.C. Wesleyan atop the USAC — doesn’t fit the profile of a conference co-leader. (Speaking of leaders, as far as unlikely ones, there aren’t many; St. Lawrence [vs. RPI], maybe Benedictine [vs. Maranatha Baptist], but nationally it’s mostly the usual suspects at the top of conferences)
Which team this week will least resemble last week’s performance?
Ryan’s take: RPI. RPI had the best quarter of its year last week, racking up 24 points against Alfred in the first 15 minutes of play. The other 45 minutes resembled the RPI most probably expected to play in that game. I think that’s where they will pick up against Liberty League leader St. Lawrence this week.
Pat’s take: Westminster (Pa.). The Titans will be hosting their first-ever on-campus night game on Saturday, and are playing Thiel to do so. Now, Thiel’s president this week curiously threw down the gantlet and said the following in an e-mail to the student body: “Many of you don’t know this, but Westminster had the nerve to schedule Thiel College for their first ever night game under the new lights at their home football stadium. As you know I am a very competitive person. I don’t want teams scheduling us for their first competitions under new lights, on a new field or court, or anything else like that. Those games are supposed to be scheduled against teams you can beat.” In calling out his school’s PAC rival, he cast a very interesting spotlight on his team, which hasn’t scored more than seven points in a game all year, while allowing an average of just under 30. Westminster lost at Waynesburg last week, 24-23. This will not resemble that. This is a team Westminster can beat.
Keith’s take: Randolph-Macon. It’s back to the life of unranked and off the radar for the Yellow Jackets after a flirtation with the top 20. They’ve got a get-right game against 0-6 Guilford, which has allowed 55.5 points per ODAC game so far, but R-MC also won’t resemble the team that started 6-0 if quarterback Austin Faulkner isn’t back at full strength.
What team with two or more losses is worth watching?
Ryan’s take: Carnegie Mellon. The Tartans have a chance to break out of the .500 streak they’ve been trapped in each of the past two seasons. And this week they’ll line up against Wittenberg, which will test the CMU run game unlike any game to date. The Tartans have a lot of rushers at their disposal, so being able to rotate carries could keep the players fresh against that stout Tigers defense.
Pat’s take: Lewis and Clark. Worth watching in the first place because the team has been putting up points like crazy the past two seasons. On Saturday the Pioneers have a good chance to win a second Northwest Conference game for the first time since 1997. And lest you say that the only reason L&C is in this position is because Pacific added football, I would point out that L&C also beat Menlo in Week 6, and that would have counted last year.
Keith’s take: McMurry. Hal Mumme is working his magic, and the 5-2 _______s (7-letter mascot, not starting with I- or ending with -ndians) are the nation’s most prolific passing offense, behind Jake Mullin and his 34-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. With at least four TD passes and at least 31 points all but once, “worth watching” does not seem to be a problem.
Alfred · Bethany · Carnegie Mellon · Carthage · Delaware Valley · DePauw · Lewis and Clark · Lycoming · Muhlenberg · North Central · Plymouth State · Puget Sound · RPI · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · Thiel · Thomas More · Union · Western New England · Westminster (Pa.) · Wheaton (Ill.)