TAG | Simpson
Brandon James ran for 77 yards in Pacific Lutheran’s opener. Are the Lutes ready to pick up where they left off in 2010?
Pacific Lutheran athletics photo
We’ve seen what teams can do, and some may already be grinding their way into conference play. And, perhaps most exciting of all, upsets happening around the nation have been forcing us to reshape our notions of who will compete and who will get left behind as we inch toward the playoffs.
In each of the first two weeks, a national Top 4 team has been knocked off. Is being that high in the rankings is a curse? If so, that means Mary Hardin-Baylor and St. Thomas, as well as Division III’s reining purple powers, will be fending off the ghosts this week.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps bring you an inside look at some of the captivating games taking place tonight and Saturday.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Lebanon Valley at No. 25 Delaware Valley. Recent matchups between these two have been far more lopsided than they should have been, but the Aggies no longer have big-gun quarterback piling up the stats. DelVal is 2-0, but the team’s total margin of victory is 2 points. Lebanon Valley, meanwhile, has been finding the end zone fast and frequently so far in their undefeated debut weeks. The X-factor? It could be penalties. Both teams have lacked some discipline in that category so far this year, with the Dutchmen at six per game and the Aggies at eight per game.
Keith’s take: No. 18 Kean at No. 11 Cortland State. We’ll find out quickly if last week’s big upset was due to Kean being top 25-worthy this season, or Wesley being weaker than normal. Cortland State has played Kean every year since 1996, according to the game notes, but has only lost to the Cougars once, at home in ’09. For Kean, this is as long a road trip as it’ll have in the NJAC, and it’s an opportunity to set up a great season; its next five games are against teams it should beat. Defense will be the key on Saturday; both are opportunistic teams in the turnover battle.
Pat’s take: St. John’s at Concordia-Moorhead. It’s probably been a pretty interesting week for the Johnnies after getting blown out at home by UW-Eau Claire last week. The Johnnies have won five of six in this series and 15 of 18 and coach Terry Horan was a wide receiver for the Cobbers the last time they won at home against St. John’s (1986). Last year’s meeting resulted in 70 combined points (42-28 St. John’s) and 950 yards of total offense.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Mount St. Joseph at Anderson. Despite being a lower-tier HCAC team, Anderson has had a knack for being able to put up some significant points against the Lions. And Anderson has many of its core skill players back to make even more dents in the MSJ defense.
Keith’s take: Pacific Lutheran at No. 19 Cal Lutheran. When those Lutherans get together, things can get out of hand! In all seriousness, PLU doesn’t come in ranked, but it does come in having held Hamline to 144 yards in an opening-game shutout. Cal Lutheran, and particularly Eric Rogers, who scored one touchdown rushing and had another receiving against Linfield in the opener, is more of a threat than anyone the Lutes saw in Week 1. Yet it appears PLU picked up right where it left off after an 8-1 season. Although CLU should be hungry for its first victory, its home crowd might be a little more sparse than usual with the game moved to Moorpark College because construction at the on-campus stadium is incomplete.
Pat’s take: No. 21 Wittenberg at Washington U. It’s a big test for the 2-0 Bears, who have beaten Knox and Rhodes but now face a team that has won 22 consecutive regular season games. If there’s a time for Wash U to knock the Tigers off, it’s this year, with 12 senior starters and seven consecutive home wins. Last year this game was not competitive at Wittenberg, with the Tigers winning 37-7, but the Tigers have also had some close calls on the road in the past season-plus.
Most likely Top 25 to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 12 Ohio Northern. It’s not as if either the Polar Bears (with a win over N.C. Wesleyan) or opponent Otterbein (with a win over Gallaudet) were overly impressive in Week 1. ONU may not be able to slow Ott’s passing game come Saturday, and it’s tough for them to be guaranteed the edge in the turnover battle. Still, the Cardinals should not have been pushed into overtime by Gallaudet, so there are clear flaws to be worked out in that corner, too. Each team has had the past two weeks to make repairs.
Keith’s take: No. 7 Wheaton, by UW-Platteville. There are quite a few vulnerable top 25 teams, but they aren’t facing a real rugged slate of opponents this weekend. Platteville usually fits in the “not rugged” category as well, but after allowing just 6 points in two wins, outrushing UW-Stevens Point and Buena Vista 197.5-66.5, Wheaton could be in for a much tougher game than last year’s 51-20 victory. The game is a night kickoff at Platteville’s 10,000-seat Pioneer Stadium to boot.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Trine, by UW-River Falls. The Falcons were in the game for a half last week against St. Thomas, which isn’t really an indicator of future success, but I believe that River Falls is ready to bounce back at least a little in its first year under coach Matt Walker. Trine has won two games but not in convincing fashion against teams it would normally beat in a convincing manner.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Adrian. It’s been several years since the Bulldogs started a season 2-0. Brandon Miller has proven himself a very capable quarterback, Damon Brown a skilled rusher and the defensive line a stingy bunch. The team’s toughest test of the season comes now against Augustana, whose 0-2 record is deceiving. The Vikings, armed with a pass game that will put a lot of pressure on the Adrian defensive backs, have played two solid teams close.
Keith’s take: St. Vincent. After giving it to FDU-Florham pretty good in a 55-3 victory, let’s see how the Bearcats deal with success. The program has not won consecutive games since its revival, but with trips to Thiel and Geneva (both 0-2) on deck, three in a row is possible. Of course, the Tomcats and Golden Tornadoes are probably licking their chops as well; PAC teams are used to St. Vincent being easy pickings.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Hampden-Sydney. Truth be told, the Tigers should be on your radar already, but wins against the USA South don’t always mean much on the national scene. They have one last USAC opponent this week, Ferrum, then travel to Huntingdon next week.
Which 0-2 team will earn its first win?
Ryan’s take: Franklin and Marshall, vs. Ursinus. Both F&M and Ursinus got the season started on a rough foot. But I think the Diplomats have the ability to do a better job of stopping Ursinus’ balanced but average offense than the Bears do of stopping F&M’s pass-heavy attack. Ursinus has yet to really break out of the middle of the pack in any significant statistical category, showing that the need remains for them to light a spark before they’ll be taken seriously as Centennial competitors. For F&M, it’s all about follow-through. Seven trips to the red zone and only two touchdowns? That has to improve if F&M wants to win some games this season.
Keith’s take: Coe, vs. Simpson. Both the Kohawks and Storm were blown out against a top-five team in Week 1 and lost a close one last week. Coe, ranked in the preseason, comes back home against a team it beat 42-21 last season. Coe has rushed for 206 yards per game and 5 per carry; Simpson allowed 411 and 7.6 against Bethel and could be similarly vulnerable in the ground game this weekend.
Pat’s take: Wooster, vs. Oberlin. Although the Yeomen are 1-0 themselves, with a 42-0 win against Kenyon, Wooster will still have an easier time than it had against Baldwin-Wallace and Wabash to open the season. The Scots will need to do a better job hanging onto the ball, though, having turned it over eight times in the first two weeks.
Which upset winner from last weekend will have the biggest letdown?
Ryan’s take: UW-Platteville. In Wheaton’s opener, the Thunder posted 570 yards. Passing, rushing, it was all good news for this stalwart of the CCIW. After Platteville shocked UW-Stevens Point into a lopsided affair last week, don’t expect Wheaton to be as likely to fall. Platteville’s undefeated season ends here.
Keith’s take: Utica. Perhaps the Pioneers have risen enough and Union has fallen to the point where last week’s 28-27 Utica win is no longer an upset. But this week has letdown written all over it, with a lengthy road trip down to Maryland, where the Pioneers may be walking into a beehive of emotion. It’s Frostburg State’s first home game since teammate Derek Sheely died in the preseason. Fans are asked to wear white. On the field, the Bobcats have looked potent offensively; they racked up 411 yards in a losing effort at Springfield last weekend.
Pat’s take: McMurry. Mary Hardin-Baylor is a much better team than UT-San Antonio, regardless of the number of scholarships either one offers. But the War Hawks shouldn’t be intimidated by anything the Cru throws at them, having gotten knocked around hard by a Top 25 FCS team in Week 1 and having played in front of 30,000-plus in Week 2.
If you were a bird, what kind of bird would you be?
Ryan’s take: A Cardinal from Catholic. For two weeks in a row, quarterback Greg Cordivari has led his offense on last-minute, game-winning drives to usher in a team that’s 2-0 instead of the other way around. Being a CUA fan has been a heart-pounding feat so far this season. Tonight, Carnegie Mellon is on tap.
Keith’s take: A War Hawk from McMurry. I see what you did there. Interesting question. After an 82-6 loss to one D-I-FCS program and a televised win over another last week, I’d be a War Hawk so I can take confidence from that win over UT-San Antonio into the atmosohere under the lights at No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor and see if that helps our team, um, soar.
Pat’s take: Hawk. The one from Huntingdon. This weekend is Huntingdon’s chance to write perhaps the final chapter in the Bible Bowl, a rivalry between the Hawks and crosstown rival Faulkner. An NAIA member, Faulkner is seeing its conference schedule expanded to 10 games next year, and the rivalry needs to go. But the game doesn’t help Huntingdon’s playoff chances anyway, and in addition, Huntingdon has won all four meetings so far.
Adrian · Anderson · Cal Lutheran · Catholic · Coe · Concordia-Moorhead · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Franklin and Marshall · Frostburg State · Hampden-Sydney · Huntingdon · Kean · Lebanon Valley · McMurry · Mount St. Joseph · Oberlin · Ohio Northern · Otterbein · Pacific Lutheran · Simpson · St. John's · St. Vincent · Ursinus · Utica · UW-Platteville · Washington U. · Wheaton (Ill.) · Wittenberg · Wooster
Coach Eric Hamilton, left, always seems to have his team up for archrival Rowan.
They always say that the records go out the window during a rivalry game. Players and coaches handle the emotions — and the pressures — of a rivalry differently. The teams aren’t the same as in other games; they have a unique fire inside them. They’re not always playing to go on to next week; more than ever, they’re playing for now.
The last weekend of the regular season plays host to rivalries across the country. Most people know the biggest ones: Williams/Amherst, Wabash/DePauw, Cortland State/Ithaca, Hampden-Sydney/Randolph-Macon. But there are many that are laced with history and excitement that deserve pomp as well: Muhlenberg/Moravian, Thomas More/Mount St. Joseph, Salisbury/Frostburg State, among others.
Throw down the gauntlet and pick up your spirits. Rivalry week is here. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps bring you the forecast to those types of games and more in the culmination of the regular season.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Willamette at No. 19 Pacific Lutheran. Going into this weekend, the national landscape is still dotted with several one-loss teams (PLU included). Willamette’s chances for a Pool C bid are remote with two losses under its belt, but stranger things have happened when the NCAA gets its mitts on the criteria. And who knows how many teams will be in contention after Saturday afternoon. That leaves us with two teams, coming from the ultra-competitive Northwest Conference, having a lot at stake. Plus, it should be fun to see the collision between PLU and WU, which have scored 265 and 350 points, respectively, this season.
Pat’s take: No. 9 Wittenberg at Wooster. Wittenberg has played quite well at home, rather poorly on the road. Wittenberg’s home slate was relatively soft until this past week: Olivet, Ohio Wesleyan, the Wash U team which had lost at Rhodes the week before, Hiram and Kenyon. Then there was Wabash. Is that a new trend? Good year for the Tigers to have six games at home and four on the road, but Wittenberg will need this particular road victory in order to clinch the NCAC title.
Keith’s take: Wash. U. at Chicago. Though having in the neighborhood of a dozen teams still in pursuit of a bid in Pool C bid in Week 11 isn’t all that abnormal, having so many Pool B teams alive for a playoff spot is. Usually the three spots are all but wrapped up by now. The winner of the game between the Bears and Maroons will be put side-by-side with Salisbury for the third Pool B spot, making this the week’s best matchup of even teams with playoff implications.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: No. 9 Wittenberg at Wooster. Against decent teams this year, the Scots really haven’t won big nor have they lost big. And with a chance to force a three-way tie in the NCAC, Wooster has a lot to be playing for. What needs to happen? Wooster needs to improve its defense, especially its secondary, if it hopes to have a slice of the NCAC title pie. Big games can do crazy things to teams, and if Witt wants its ticket punched, it will have to earn it.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Montclair State at William Paterson. Based this off of last week’s closer-than-expected Montclair State-Brockport State. The Pioneers have had a bit of a bad stretch of late, but they’re at home, and needing a win to finish the season at .500.
Keith’s take: No. 13 Wartburg at Simpson. Teams with their playoff spots clinched already worry me. It’s important to remember even if you’re in the field of 32, you’re still playing for a potential home game and a better matchup. But unless it’s stressed to them, college kids aren’t always tuned in to such minute details. And every year some team plays its way out of a good situation in Week 11 and gets sent on the road to a powerhouse instead. With one of the nation’s best scoring defenses (No. 11, 11.11 points per game) against one of the worst scoring offenses (No. 218, 13.67), there’s no reason Wartburg, which plowed through its six of its first seven opponents but has beaten the past two by single digits, should lose. But human nature might make it a more difficult win than it would seem.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 17 Cal Lutheran. In recent years, Cal Lutheran and Occidental have traded wins when they’ve played each other. Not that that’s any real indicator of 2010, when the Kingsmen have a huge win on their resume, but it’s just something to keep in mind. If Cal Lutheran’s secondary doesn’t stay on its toes, it will get shredded by Luke Collis and his receivers. A win is crucial for the Kingsmen because they certainly want to soak up some momentum going into the postseason — especially if they’re going to be forced into a rematch with Linfield.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Pacific Lutheran. Both teams are motivated, we get that. PLU needs the win to stay in the playoff hunt, while Willamette … well, the Bearcats could be in the discussion if enough teams lose, I suppose. But I am looking at this game because I think Willamette has been pushed back under the radar a little unfairly considering their resume this season: two “good” losses and a pretty good road win as well.
Keith’s take: No. 7 Hardin-Simmons. The Cowboys are very deserving of a Pool C bid, especially if they take care of business against 6-3 Louisiana College, a team I thought might have a chance to play its way in in Week 11 way back in Kickoff. HSU is 26th in the country in pass efficiency defense, and it should be able to match up against the nation’s most prolific passing attack and No. 3 scoring offense (LC throws for 387 yards per game and scores about 46 points). But even with the Cowboys being able to match that (304 and 45) and playing to keep postseason hopes alive, the potential here for a shootout makes it a more likely place for an upset than most.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Louisiana College. Starting the season 1-3, the Wildcats fell from the broader public discourse early in the season. But at 6-1 in the ASC, they are clearly in the conference’s top tier this season. And they’re coming off a dramatic late-game win against McMurry before hosting Hardin-Simmons this Saturday. HSU is looking to pick up a playoff spot, but LC is ready to spoil that effort and have sole control of No. 2 in the conference. Averaging 385 yards a game, LC’s Ben McLaughlin is the ASC’s most prolific passer. He has just 12 interceptions in over 400 attempts and has connected for scores 37 times.
Pat’s take: Christopher Newport. With the Captains hosting Methodist and already holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over North Carolina Wesleyan, it seems like a foregone conclusion that CNU will be returning to the playoffs. And although they’ll be 6-4, they’ll have cover from St. Lawrence, which will be 5-5 at best, possibly 4-6. Frostburg State is a bad loss back on Week 3, but there haven’t been any other bad losses and four consecutive wins on top of it.
Keith’s take: St. Lawrence. They’re going to make the playoffs yet finish with a losing record. I’d be willing to bet the just-less-than-500-miles-to-Alliance Saints are going to Mount Union next Saturday for a first-round exposure to what a serious D-III playoff team looks like. So the least St. Lawrence can do is beat WPI on Saturday and go in at 5-5 with its heads held high and its confidence up so that it can at least buy into the dream in Ohio, even if it will be hard for the rest of us to do so.
Rivalry game you’re most interested in (alma maters excluded).
Ryan’s take: Randolph-Macon at Hampden-Sydney. For the first time since 2006, both of the teams in The Game don’t have a shot at going to the postseason. One of them does, however: H-SC. The Tigers can’t win the Old Dominion’s automatic qualifier, but they have some quality wins that will put them in good shape for Pool C contention. While H-SC averages over 420 yards of offense a game, turnovers have been a dangerous Achilles heel for the team. And what’s the story with R-MC? The Yellow Jackets saw their star fade when they lost their fifth-year starting quarterback midway through October. At this point, pride is the biggest thing on the table for them. A worthy goal, to be sure.
Pat’s take: No. 20 Rowan at TCNJ. TCNJ put up a surprise against Kean last week, winning 7-0, holding Jason Gwaltney under 100 yards rushing. Eric Hamilton didn’t win 200-plus games for nothing and don’t expect TCNJ to come out with anything less than everything it’s got against its archrival. This game was good when played on a Friday night, but it belongs in Week 11 and the NJAC should do everything it can to keep it there.
Keith’s take: Hanover at No. 24 Franklin. Victory Bell rivalry game makes it worth watching alone. But put the HCAC title and automatic bid on the line, and ratchet up the excitement to fever pitch. It’s simple, some are going to respond to the pressure, some might wilt under it, and perhaps if most on both teams rise to the challenge, you get a game for the ages, and the winner gets at least one more week of season.
Who will have the least momentum going into the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: No. 6 Mary Hardin-Baylor. Lack of momentum won’t necessarily be a reason to pick against them when they (presumably) rematch Hardin-Simmons next weekend, but the Crusaders have played their last two games against teams that combine to be 3-15. And UMHB hasn’t been challenged in the least. Saturday, they face off against Texas Lutheran, whose 4-5 wouldn’t be so bad until you realize that they’ve lost three of their last four games, getting crushed in those losses. UMHB had better be ready to step up its game once Round 1 rolls around if it hopes to make it to Round 2.
Pat’s take: St. Lawrence. Regardless of what happens Saturday.
Keith’s take: Coe. There are the games competitors look forward to because they know their best effort will be required, and then there are the ones against 0-9 teams. Cornell might give a better than ‘just playing out the string’ effort for its longtime rival, but Coe should be pulling its starters out early in the second half. And while it’s good to get out and stretch your legs, the Kohawks are going to have to play someone like St. Thomas or Bethel next week. Saturday probably won’t much resemble that.
Which team can alter its fortunes the most?
Ryan’s take: Centre. The fortunes in question may be long-term. There were high expectations of the Colonels at the beginning of the season, but hiccups from the outset cast a lot of shadows over this team. The offense has just a few seniors in its ranks; the defense, though, is another story. Lots of starters will be graduating. Going up against 3-6 LaGrange, one of the best things Centre can do is make sure that younger defenders see some time on the field. Next year doesn’t have to be another middle-of-the-pack season.
Pat’s take: Hanover. There are a couple of good answers but I think the best ones in terms of playoff hopes come from the teams that could basically snipe a conference title here at the end of the season. Or snooker, as Keith referred to it on the podcast this week. We can’t say Hanover hasn’t been on the radar this season, because we did think they would take an incremental step forward this season, but this is a team that’s one step away. A win Saturday takes them from last year’s 3-7 to the playoffs.
Keith’s take: Trine. The Thunder could wrap up a 10-0 season and a likely first-round home game with a win over MIAA foe Albion. A loss to the Britons gives them the automatic bid, then sends Trine into the muck: The group of 10 or so one-loss teams who will be hoping their combination of strength of schedule and wins over regionally ranked opponents gets them an at-large bid. Trine has very little to go on there, so they either win and get in and maybe host the Hanover/Franklin winner, or finish an otherwise great season with a thud.
Cal Lutheran · Centre · Chicago · Christopher Newport · Coe · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · Hardin-Simmons · LaGrange · Louisiana College · Mary Hardin-Baylor · New Jersey · Occidental · Pacific Lutheran · Randolph-Macon · Rowan · Simpson · St. Lawrence · TCNJ · Trine · Wartburg · Washington U. · Willamette · Wittenberg · Wooster