TAG | Sewanee
Aaron Terrell-Byrd is the new face at running back for St. Thomas, which has had significant changes on offense from 2011.
By Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com
Teams — their strengths and weaknesses — are coming into shape after two weeks of play. And for many of them, they’re still in the walkup to the start of conference play, where the path to the playoffs is largely traveled.
Perhaps most captivating nationally are the battles between Top 25 teams, but that is not the end-all of Division III. Not by a long shot. And there are still dozens of teams with a shot of playing their way into the rankings and into the postseason.
Often going beyond the Top 25 are Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps in this week’s Triple Take (look for hashtag #3take on Twitter). As always, we’re happy to hear your comments.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 Linfield at No. 10 Cal Lutheran. I see these two teams in very different lights: the visiting squad is one that I’ve had a lot of enthusiasm about entering this year and that should have a huge target on its back; the other is one that needs to prove itself as a national competitor without the benefit Jake Laudenslayer taking snaps. We’ll get a better handle on that after Saturday, and these two teams should have fresh memories and be primed to duke it out. In 2011, these teams played two very competitive games — one in the regular season and one in the postseason — with the Wildcats emerging on top both times. Lining up together, they rarely disappoint.
Pat’s take: The Tommie-Johnnie game. What it’s doing on Week 3, however, is beyond me. I know some conferences feel the need to shuffle their schedules evenly over time but there are other conferences who do that and still make sure the rivalry games get played at the end. With No. 6 St. Thomas having beaten St. John’s by a hideous score last year, expect the Johnnies to come out extra motivated, in front of a home crowd that’s likely to be at least 15,000. And how often can you say that? Both teams had to rally to beat UW-Eau Claire, both had an easier game as well. St. Thomas has had quarterbacks fold in this game before but the new Tommie quarterback, Matt O’Connell, faced some pressure in Week 1, so the only thing new will be the crowd.
Keith’s take: No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 3 Wesley. Oh, cool, I get the slam dunk. And honestly, there isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said here. The two South Region powers have played six times in seven seasons, with Wesley winning four. In the UMHB game notes, Coach Pete Fredenburg makes reference to the whole country watching, and in this case, it’s not an exaggeration. Respect for these guys scheduling this game early. A well-played loss won’t hurt in the top 25, and it will have a limited impact on playoff chances. What would be interesting is if these teams play again in the playoffs, but with experience against each other. UMHB outgained Kean 517-180, with 313 yards rushing, 165 from Darius Wilson. Wesley has been statistically underwhelming, but has given up only 21 points in road wins. This game is as big as they get in the regular season, and might be decided along the lines, by players we’ve heretofore never heard of.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Sewanee at Maryville. There are only three Division III football teams in Tennessee, and two of them are lining up Saturday. Why are Sewanee and Maryville not meeting every single year? This situation is primed for a rivalry, but these two teams haven’t played each other in seven years. Sewanee is playing better ball that Maryville right now, but the Scots will be fighting for some in-state pride.
Pat’s take: No. 11 Trinity (Texas) at Sul Ross State. This is a new opponent for Trinity and a bit of a trip as well. Sul Ross has been competitive with Division II programs each of the first two weeks and transfer quarterback A.J. Springer has the offensive clicking. (And Ryan, I’d say it’s for the same reason Sewanee and its SAA mates broke away from the SCAC — wanting to play so-called “like-minded institutions.” Sewanee surely sees itself as not in the same class as Maryville academically.)
Keith’s take: TCNJ at Brockport State. Behind Joseph Scibilia, the Golden Eagles are 2-0, passing for 317 yards per game, and allowing only 28.5 rushing yards per game. They’re attracting top 25 attention. But TCNJ, at 1-1, has gained 521 yards per game, just a shade better than Brockport’s 518, and there could be a bunch of points put on the board. Justin Doniloski has 244 rushing yards in two games, so the matchup against the Golden Eagles’ run defense bears watching.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 23 Centre. The jury is still out on whether this Centre team is as good as last season’s. If it is, the Colonels will beat Washington and Lee. But W&L is 1-1 and has played opponents that are better than those that Centre has lined up against. That’ll be the biggest advantage the Generals have over the Kentucky competition.
Pat’s take: No. 25 Redlands. Each team has one game under its belt. Pacific Lutheran was tied with Cal Lutheran at half before falling last week, and I like the Lutes’ chances.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Hobart. The Statesmen have given up just 230 yards and seven points in two wins, but Utica’s hung 40 and 45 points on its two opponents. The Pioneers, led by Andrew Benkwitt, are ready for a breakthrough win, but they can’t expect to keep gaining yards at a 500 per game clip. Playing at home should help, and I wouldn’t expect Hobart to make it easy. If it happens, it could be a low-scoring affair where turnovers play a part. No. 13 North Central at UW-Stout was also an option here.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Gettysburg. Statistically, the Bullets are first in the country in rushing offense and are eighth in total defense. Gaining yards and putting up points is nothing new for Gettysburg, but this is an enviable place defensively for Gettysburg to be in as it wends its way toward some of the tougher teams on the Centennial schedule. There are a handful of conference opponents that will bring a pretty good arsenal to the table.
Pat’s take: John Carroll. It’s been a little while since they’ve played, but they open their North American and Ohio Athletic Conference schedule with a home game against No. 15 Baldwin Wallace. We’ll see how good their transfer quarterback is.
Keith’s take: William Paterson. Kickoff ’12 hipped us to the possibility that it could finally be these Pioneers’ turn atop the NJAC. Running back Dawys German is supposed to be a star, but the 9-3 Week 1 win against King’s was underwhelming. The defense impressed, but so did Rowan in the Week 1 upset of Delaware Valley. But with the Profs humbled at D-II Merrimack last week, they won’t be going easy on William Paterson, so this is a big prove-it game for the Pioneers. Or else we just go back to thinking they’re a mid-pack also-ran.
Which 0-2 team will earn its first win?
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Franklin. While I understand that the Grizzlies have taken on Mount Union and Division I-FCS Butler to start the season, they’ve been blown out in both of those matchups. This team — deservedly or not — has some great cred nationally to still be in the Top 20. This week’s opponent, Manchester, which has also begun its season 0-2, will not pose a problem for Franklin, which truly is more potent than its record indicates. Expect to stop paying attention to this game by halftime.
Pat’s take: Hardin-Simmons. I don’t need to know much about Texas College, which is 0-3 against an interesting spread of opponents, to take the D-III team here.
Keith’s take: Delaware Valley. Stevenson’s coming close, with a 10-point loss followed by an OT loss. The Aggies have a chance to salvage their high expectations for the season, but it has to start right away, and they need to generate some offense. Stevenson has allowed 419 yards per game, while Del Val has gained 382. The Aggies’ problem hasn’t been turnovers — they have four, but an even margin. They just haven’t finished drives. They have 10 punts, four turnovers and four touchdowns. The Aggies need to take advantage of Stevenson’s defense early and regain their confidence.
Which saint sparks your interest?
Ryan’s take: St. Vincent. Over the years, the Bearcats have climbed up from the conference depths, going 1-29 in its first three seasons. But last year brought forth a much more refreshing 6-5 outing, including a visit to an ECAC bowl game. But so far, St. Vincent hasn’t turned a corner in 2012, dropping its first two games. This week, the Bearcats face Waynesburg, the PAC’s only 2-0 team. Is Waynesburg for real? Is St. Vincent really lacking? Clarity is right around the bend.
Pat’s take: St. Olaf, which gets its first real challenge of the season after pulling out a close game on a short trip to Luther and winning handily on a long trip to DePauw. Concordia-Moorhead coming to town is by far the most impressive opponent so far.
Keith’s take: St. John Fisher. It’s the final Courage Bowl with Rochester. Having attended one of the cooler young rivalries in D-III, mixing charity and on-field competitiveness, I’ll be sad to see it go. Rochester, which has lost all seven Courage Bowls, is ending the series, which moves back to campus, at Fisher, after two years downtown.
If you’re picking a winning team based on faith, which would it be?
Ryan’s take: Albright, affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The Lions have come out of the gate with two wins, including one that knocked Kean off its preseason perch. But Albright needed overtime to beat conference-mate Stevenson, and the slate only gets harder, starting with this Saturday against Wilkes. Remember this matchup last year? Sixty-five points for the winning Albright, 575 passing yards, school records broken. There’s little doubt there’ll be some excitement going into this year’s game.
Pat’s take: Salve Regina, which is a Catholic school. The Seahawks face Fitchburg State. When I was working at my alma mater, Catholic U., the head coach wanted to put together a “conference” like the ECAC in style, with all of the Catholic schools playing Division III football. It was a great idea but I wasn’t going to run it. However, picture a postseason bowl game featuring the top team from eastern Catholic schools against the top available western Catholic school. Because so many Catholic schools made the playoffs last year (St. Thomas, St. John Fisher, Thomas More, Benedictine) you might end up with Salve Regina or St. Vincent against St. John’s or St. Norbert. Just food for thought.
Keith’s take: East Texas Baptist. Willamette gained 727 yards in its opener, and has had two weeks to prepare. And they’re at home. But the choices among the Baptists were limited, so I’ll have to lean on ETBU’s experience in the opener against Wesley for my pick.
Albright · Cal Lutheran · Centre · Concordia-Moorhead · Franklin · Gettysburg · Hardin-Simmons · John Carroll · Linfield · manchester · Maryville (Tenn.) · Redlands · Salve Regina · Sewanee · St. John's · St. Olaf · St. Thomas · St. Vincent · Sul Ross State · Trinity (Texas) · Washington and Lee · Waynesburg · Wilkes
In Jared Morris’ first game as a defensive back, he picked off four passes.
Wesley athletics photo
Who would have thought that we’d see the record books being rewritten right out of the gate? But that’s why the game is played, isn’t it, to see the greatness of individual players and of teams emerge? Some rise up and conquer their opponents against the odds, and sometimes it’s not just the record books that are rewritten — but our perspectives as well.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps lay out their evolving perspectives, building off the week gone by and forecasting the Saturday ahead. We don’t live in a bubble, so please comment below or light it up on Twitter using the hashtag #3take.
Lots of teams that took Week 1 off are joining the fray this weekend:
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 3 Wesley at No. 6 Salisbury. Two of the top teams in the country, led by two of the highest-outputting quarterbacks at this level, and playing in the storied Route 13 Rivalry. This is the kind of matchup worth salivating over.
Pat’s take: Christopher Newport at Hampden-Sydney. It’s high time these two teams played each other. They have scrimmaged each other fairly frequently, but have not met in a regular season or postseason game. But with a combined record of 139-53 over the past decade, these two Virginia schools should be on the field together, and it should be an entertaining game.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Redlands at No. 13 North Central. When the Bulldogs beat the Cardinals in California, it echoed throughout the top 25 for much of last season. This year, North Central is hosting, coming off a Week 1 loss to a WIAC team and looking to return the favor. North Central, long considered one of the D-III programs most likely to break through to Salem in place of the purple powers, is now fighting to avoid an 0-2 start. Meanwhile, it’s the opener for Redlands and quarterback Chad Hurst, and an opportunity to score another one for the SCIAC while national observers are paying attention.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Washington U. at Rhodes. I typed and deleted this answer probably six times before settling on this game. Because, when it comes down to it, almost every game at this point in the season has a surprise element of some sort that affects the outcome, even if it’s just how a new player is going to perform under center or how well an offensive line will mesh. Me, I can see Washington being pretty beat up after taking on the defending national champs. That opens a door, even if just a crack, for Rhodes to be competitive.
Pat’s take: Eureka at St. Scholastica. The teams couldn’t have been further apart in their first-week opponents. There are a couple of other UMAC teams stepping up to play strong non-conference opponents (Northwestern playing St. John’s, MacMurray playing Wartburg) but Eureka beating Knox and St. Scholastica losing to Whitworth doesn’t show the relative strength of the teams. But Eureka, our pick to finish tied for sixth in the league, and St. Scholastica our pick to win it, should play an entertaining and relatively high scoring game. The question is whether the front six can get enough pressure on Eureka quarterback Sam Durley to force him to get rid of the ball. Otherwise he will pick apart just about any secondary in the UMAC.
Keith’s take: Montclair State at Salve Regina. The teams met last season, and the Seahawks were game but not able to win in New Jersey, losing 18-7. This time around, the game is in Rhode Island, the Red Hawks are fielding a much younger lineup and coming off a Week 1 loss. Salve, on the other hand, beat Union despite just 246 yards of total offense. That might not be enough to beat Montclair State, but Salve should against give them a scare, at least.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 15 Bethel. Bethel travels to Wartburg, but don’t think for a moment that the Knights’ 73-0 stomping of a lower-tier UMAC team did them many favors in terms of preparation. Complacency can’t set in. The Royals are a whole different beast. Wartburg at least has a game under its belt, which Bethel can’t claim.
Pat’s take: No. 21 UW-Platteville. Dubuque still has enough offensive talent to cause trouble. They won’t be intimidated by a WIAC team, especially not the ones across the river. I look at Dubuque and picture them thinking Platteville has the notoriety and the ranking Dubuque earned with its play last season.
Keith’s take: No. 9 St. John Fisher. Boy, one week we love you and the next … well, it’s not really that the Cardinals are ripe for upset. It’s that there’s playing at Washington & Jefferson, often the equal to fellow PAC power Thomas More. The Saints pushed the Cardinals into overtime in Week 1.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 Linfield. In Kickoff, I made an unusual prediction about the Wildcats, but to have a good run this fall, they need to make sure that they shore up their fresh-faced secondary. Hardin-Simmons has the ability to spread the ball around and get some yards, but turnovers for the Cowboys were a killer in Week 1. If Linfield can replicate that kind of containment of the HSU passing game, then the future in McMinnville will look even brighter.
Pat’s take: Huntingdon. If the experienced front four can bottle up or at least slow down Birmingham-Southern running back Shawn Morris, it will give the Hawks a little room to work with. Only the winner is likely to stay in contention for a playoff bid, and even then they really have to beat Wesley.
Keith’s take: Buffalo State and Brockport State. Okay, you got our attention in Week 1. The Bengals put up 49 points and 706 yards on Cortland State. The Golden Eagles limited Lycoming to 31 yards rushing, three third-down conversions and just 23:17 of possession and 60 snaps. Something’s got to give in this week’s clash of the SUNYs, and we’ll be watching the game at Brockport to see what.
Which team will bounce back from a Week 1 loss?
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport. Don’t be fooled by the Captains’ 40-16 loss last week. With 3:30 left in the third quarter, the score was 20-16, and CNU was notably keeping pace with the sixth-best team in the nation. CNU showed it had offense thanks to a strong passing attack, but the defense was simply worn down in the trenches. Hampden-Sydney doesn’t play such a hard-nosed style — they’re more of a finesse team. CNU should be ready to handle that well.
Pat’s take: No. 16 Franklin. Butler is beatable, even though it’s apparently “Band Day” at the D-I non-scholarship school. Butler’s better than Valparaiso is, a team which Franklin beat last year, but even being competitive is better than last week’s loss to Mount Union.
Keith’s take: Adrian, St. Norbert and Monmouth. This was covered in my Around the Nation column this week, so I have three teams at the ready. Defiance, Knox and Beloit are this week’s opponents for the Bulldogs, Green Knights and Scots, and if they all don’t win by double digits, I’d be stunned.
Opener you’re most curious about.
Ryan’s take: DePauw. I’m not sure that lining up against St. Olaf is going to tell me much about how well the Tigers will play against their new North Coast conference mates. DePauw’s lone year as an independent in 2011 told us a lot about the considerable rebuilding the team was going through (first losing season since 1995). The Oles are good at breaking through the bricks and mortar of a team, but DePauw can’t let Saturday’s likely setback cripple the next nine weeks.
Pat’s take: Bethel. I know the passing game has not been a big part of the Royals’ offense so I’m more interested in new quarterback’s Erik Peterson’s running ability. They’ll get a big test right out of the gate. Normally I would give Wartburg a bit of a bonus for having played a game already but MacMurray didn’t put up much of a fight and the starters were out early.
Keith’s take: Cal Lutheran. There are six teams who have yet to open up in the top 25, including Wabash, Redlands, Bethel, Baldwin Wallace and Mary-Hardin Baylor. I’m intrigued by all of them, but none more than the Kingsmen, who were a hair away from winning a playoff opener at Linfield last year, and earning the SCIAC unprecedented respect. I wanted to ride that wave and rank them higher, but with only 13 starters back, including six on offense and five on defense, I was wary. Seeing how the Kingsmen play in the opener against Pacific Lutheran will help define how voters feel about them, not to mention how they feel about themselves. Plus we’re all curious to see 6-4 star wide receiver Eric Rogers back in action.
Which long road trip will turn out the best?
Ryan’s take: Washington and Lee at Sewanee. In Week 1, the Generals fell to Franklin and Marshall, in a matchup that’s opened the season for several years now. But even in those years in which W&L has lost, the Generals have shown themselves adept at bouncing back, righting their ship ahead of conference play. Making this all the more exciting is Sewanee, coming off its best season in nearly a decade and starting 2012 with a win. This should be a good matchup, with W&L ultimately landing its first win of the season.
Pat’s take: St. Olaf at DePauw. I think DePauw has more work to do before it can begin to bounce back from last year. The long trip is not all that unusual for the Oles, who played at Pacific Lutheran in 2009, so the only issue is that St. Olaf needs to play better than it did at Luther last week.
Keith’s take: Rowan at Merrimack. It’s basically NWC-SCIAC challenge week out West, but the matchups are surprisingly even. There are a ton of short non-conference trips this week, like Methodist to Guilford and Case Western Reserve to Hiram, leaving me to take a out-of-division game here. But if the Profs, like the Rowan teams of old, beats a team from a scholarship division, it sends a message to the NJAC that perhaps the program is back. Nevermind that Merrimack, from the D-II Northeast-10, is probably recruiting players who compare to those recruited into the NJAC, with Rowan’s public-school tuition and dearth of in-state competition for players. This is a winnable game for Rowan, riding high after the Week 1 upset. Merrimack, which lost, 45-18, to New Haven in its opener could be demoralized by an early Profs score or two.
Adrian · Bethel · Birmingham-Southern · Brockport State · Buffalo State · Cal Lutheran · Christopher Newport · DePauw · Dubuque · Eureka · Hampden-Sydney · Hardin-Simmons · Huntingdon · Linfield · Monmouth · Montclair State · North Central · Redlands · Rhodes · Rowan · Salisbury · Salve Regina · Sewanee · St. John Fisher · St. Norbert · St. Olaf · St. Scholastica · UW-Platteville · Wartburg · Washington and Jefferson · Washington and Lee · Washington U. · Wesley
Trevor Manuel leads Huntingdon with 177 all-purpose yards per game.
Huntingdon athletics photo
By the time Week 5 rolls past, the Division III landscape usually still has many unbeatens fighting toward the postseason. At this point in 2008, ’09 and ’10, a total of only two teams made the D3football.com Top 10 with a blemish on their records.
This year alone, we have three.
It suggests an anything-can-happen season, but there’s potentially deeper insight into it for those willing to explore on a national scale.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps are here to help you analyze. Saturday is closing in fast, and that means more upsets may be in the making.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 14 Wittenberg at Huntingdon. The Hawks come in as a one-loss team averaging more than 37 points a game in very consistent offensive performances. And, they’ve already taken down a team that’s been in the Top 25 this season, Hampden-Sydney. Statistically, Huntingdon doesn’t stack up well against the pass, and Witt has a signal-caller who’s thrown for 1,500 yards and has a 12:1 touchdown to interception ratio. But these stats were familiar in the H-SC game, too, and Huntingdon found a way through turnovers to overcome their shortcomings and win. (Is it an omen that both Witt and -Sydney are nicknamed the Tigers?) With has an opening-week win against Capital, a team that’s shown glimmers of skill, Witt proved it can win when it counts. It’ll be a long ride from Montgomery back to Springfield if they don’t.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Cortland State at No. 11 Montclair State. Truthfully, I probably would’ve picked Ryan’s game, but his reward for working up the post each week is first choice. This NJAC clash will do, however, because it will provide needed clarity in what is right now potentially a five-team race. Or maybe it won’t, since last season finished in a three-way tie. In any case, I watched Dan Pitcher carve up Rowan a couple weeks ago to the tune of 315 passing yards, and the statistics say Montclair’s been vulnerable to the pass (151st nationally). But the Red Hawks are usually stout on defense, and last season Cortland needed to score 10 points in the final 11 minutes of a 10-9 win. Already this year the Red Dragons and Red Hawks have two common opponents (Buffalo State and Morrisville State), with each winning one by blowout. Cortland’s played the tougher schedule so far, and comes in with a loss to Kean. The lack of any real idea what’s going to happen, though I’d lean Cortland right now if forced to choose, makes it a classic Game of the Week.
Pat’s take: No. 20 Wartburg at Dubuque. I don’t think I can consider this as a team likely to be upset, since the teams are so close together in the voting … and not even in the same order on my ballot. My thinking is that if Coe’s Jared Kuehner caught nine passes for 115 against Wartburg a couple weeks ago, what will Mike Zweifel and Demacus Fleming do through the air for Dubuque?
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: No. 25 Franklin at Rose-Hulman. While the Grizzlies are a one-loss team, they can be excused for their blemish, having come at the hands of defending national champion UW-Whitewater. This week’s opponent, Rose-Hulman, stands at just 2-2, but the Engineers have been able to find success if they balance their offense and not slough off when getting to the ball on defense. Perhaps most critical for Rose to pull an upset will be to stop Franklin on third down. The Grizzlies have a knack for converting the down and keeping drives alive.
Keith’s take: Mount Ida at Anna Maria. It stands to reason that any team that’s lost the first 23 games in its history might be a pushover, even for a 1-3 team like Mount Ida. But the AmCats are on the cusp, coming off a 56-52 loss to rival Castleton State and a 48-40 four-overtime loss to Gallaudet in which they led 34-13. Perhaps, since the Mustangs have played four close games a fifth wouldn’t be a surprise, but it should be close. And Anna Maria might finally win.
Pat’s take: Hobart at Union. I’m taking a bit of a leap of faith here, as Union has been on the wrong side of a couple of surprisingly close games. But the Dutchmen have turned their close losses into close wins the past two weeks, which gives me a reason to make this pick. Union lost in a close one on the road at Hobart last year, starting their season-ending tailspin. With the home field, Union could turn that around.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 16 Delaware Valley. After a slow start to the season, Wilkes has scooped up victories against Widener and FDU-Florham, the former of which stands at 4-1 this season. Wilkes has seen improving play from quarterback Alex George, and the team is coming off a week in which two of its players earned MAC weekly honors. The Aggies, on the other hand, may have the defense to at least slow Wilkes’ nearly 500-yard-a-game average. Swallowing up Zach Tivald along with George should be a priority. If that happens, DelVal may be lucky enough to earn a repeat of its first two games.
Keith’s take: No. 10 Kean. We finally gave them some Around the Region love; that’s the kiss of death. In all seriousness, I could be reading the TCNJ and Western Connecticut results wrong, but the Cougars don’t seem all the way dialed in every week, and eventually that bites a team. I don’t know that I’d expect Buffalo State to pull the upset, but Kean could use a convincing win to keep from finding itself in this space again.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Salisbury. A lot of the talk around the game centers around the two triple-option offenses of Salisbury and Springfield but considering these defenses see the triple-option on a regular basis, I think we could see more of a defensive battle than initially pondered.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Pacific Lutheran. The Lutes came into 2011 with some seriously depleted ranks and real uncertainty about whether they’d come close to a repeat of last year’s 8-1 season. So far, they stand at 2-1, which looks good on the surface. Yet those two wins come against teams that are a combined 0-8 this year. The Lutes’ only challenge was their failed comeback attempt in a 28-17 road loss to Cal Lutheran. Pacific Lutheran may not repeat last year’s success, but a win this week against Whitworth means they won’t have slipped to the NWC’s basement.
Keith’s take: Augsburg. The Auggies have been consistent on the scoreboard, averaging 32 points per game without scoring fewer than 28, and defensive linemen Edmond Smith and Aaron Perry have them among the nation’s leaders in sacks and tackles for losses. I don’t expect them to beat No. 3 St. Thomas, but I would like to find out if we can expect them to be competitive the next two weekends, at Concordia-Moorhead and against St. Olaf. Or will a promising 4-0 start morph into 4-3 in a few weeks?
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. The Saints have a chance to go unbeaten and need to win every week in order to avoid a first-round playoff road trip to a top seed. Northwestern has certainly seen more success in past years, but is 3-1 in the league and certainly not out of the hunt yet.
Which conference game has the potential to change the race or throw us for a loop?
Ryan’s take: Heidelberg at Muskingum. Raise your hand if you saw these two teams being a combined 7-1 and vying for the upper-echelon of the OAC. There might be a hand raised way in the back of the room, but that’s about it. These standings are nothing to scoff at. Together, the Student Princes and the Muskies have taken down Ohio Northern, Otterbein and Capital – you know, the kinds of teams we’ve gotten used to hearing about even into the postseason. Often, the No. 2 team in the OAC gets a playoff bid, and if these teams hope to be in the discussion at the end of the season, they need to keep winning. The victor on Saturday will have earned itself a boost.
Keith’s take: UW-Oshkosh at UW-Eau Claire and Ripon at Monmouth. Double bonus for faithful TT readers! The Blugolds (that’s UW-EC) have beaten both UW-Stout and UW-River Falls by multiple touchdowns in their 3-1 start, but the Titans whomped those teams even worse. With a win against Central and a loss to No. 2 Mount Union, Oshkosh seems made to contend, but we need to see it against a respectable WIAC team. Meanwhile, in the MWC, four teams are 4-1, 3-1, and two face off on Saturday. Ripon bring the nation’s No. 4 rushing offense (349 yards per game) to Illinois to try to outscore Monmouth’s No. 6 passing offense (332.6/game). The Scots have played better defense (17 points allowed the past three games) and have put up the more convincing conference results, so a Ripon win would be a major upset.
Pat’s take: Lebanon Valley at Albright. We need the result of this game in order to see if Albright will be in position to challenge Delaware Valley for the conference lead next week. The Lions stubbed their toe last week at Lycoming and another loss likely eliminate them from the conference race. If not Albright, Wilkes (this week), Widener and Lycoming have a shot left.
Tigers, Lions or Bears?
Ryan’s take: Tigers. But this is almost cheating because the Tigers of Sewanee are playing at the Tigers of Trinity (Texas). This game should belong to Trinity, but the best part is that each of these teams are rebounding. Last year, Trinity had its first losing season in roughly two decades; now, they’re sitting tied atop the SCAC with an undefeated record. Sewanee on the other hand, has hobbled through a zero-win season and a couple of one-win seasons in recent years. But here, they’re not just sitting at 2-3, but they’re playing teams competitively. The worst loss was against Washington and Lee, which is coming off a conference-title season. But losses to 5-0 Birmingham-Southern and 2-3 Millsaps have been much closer. Compared with last season, fortunes have smiled on both of these schools.
Keith’s take: Tigers. I took a look at some Bears — Bridgewater State has played three close games in a row. I checked out some Lions, but Pat already mentioned Albright. Truth is, Tigers are playing this week’s most interesting games, from East Texas Baptist trying to catch No. 19 Louisiana College hung over from its loss at No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor, to Hampden-Sydney facing one-time ODAC power Bridgewater and Wittenberg making its trip to Alabama.
Pat’s take: Tigers. Bengals, to be specific. Buffalo State has a shot at Kean this week, which is coming off back-to-back weeks of unimpressive performances, at least by Top 25 standards. After struggling the first two weeks offensively, Buffalo State has put it together, thanks in large part to the emergence of running back Rich Pete, who has averaged 104.3 yards rushing the past three games. Recommend punt protection if they’re going to upset the Cougars.
Which team needs a win for morale purposes?
Ryan’s take: Greensboro. Or, for that matter, their opponent Averett. The two teams have a total record of 1-7, an indicator of the overall struggles that the USA South has encountered this season. But the Pride need this win more because they haven’t played any Division III teams close this season. Even being within striking distance of a win will be a morale boost.
Keith’s take: Western Connecticut at Morrisville State. Apparently I’m trying to make sure the NJAC is mentioned in response to *every* question … but both of these teams could use a life. The Colonels are in the midst of a fairly inexplicable 15-game losing streak; they’ve lost three games by 37 or more, yet were 10 points behind 10th-ranked Kean in the fourth quarter. Morrisville lost its first two games, to Hartwick and Montclair State, by a total of four points, but is 0-4 because it doesn’t do anything particularly well. The offense is a big culprit, putting up just 14 points per game (210th nationally). Somebody’s going to win here, and it’s going to be a big lift for some kids who have to be struggling to believe right now.
Pat’s take: Aurora. This week’s midseason battle with Benedictine for what could be supremacy in the NATHC took a wrong turn for the Spartans with last week’s loss to Lakeland. Aurora is still looking for a conference win and is 1-3 overall, where Benedictine at least picked up a win against Concordia (Ill.) after losses to North Park and Kalamazoo, traditionally bottom feeders in the CCIW and MIAA.
Anna Maria · Augsburg · Aurora · Averett · Benedictine · Buffalo State · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Dubuque · Franklin · Greensboro · Heidelberg · Hobart · Huntingdon · Kean · Monmouth · Montclair State · Morrisville State · Mount Ida · Muskingum · Pacific Lutheran · Ripon · Rose-Hulman · Salisbury · Sewanee · Springfield · Trinity (Texas) · Union · UW-Eau Claire · UW-Oshkosh · Wartburg · Western Connecticut · Whitworth · Wilkes · Wittenberg
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