TAG | Susquehanna
Tevin Mitchell ran for 162 yards and a touchdown for Hardin-Simmons at Linfield. Can he do something similar against another top five team?
HSU athletics photo by McCorklephoto.com
We talk a lot about the scholar-athletes the Division III level — the ones who skillfully balance sports and study, who are held to the same standard in the classroom as every other student and who don’t tweet about being in college for football first and everything else second.
Next week, the National Football Foundation will announce the winners of its National Scholar-Athlete Award, and more than three dozen Division III players are semifinalists. This week in Triple Take, we touch on but three of those many players and their teams, while also giving you prospects for big turnarounds and Top 25 upsets.
With just four weeks of the regular season left to go, here’s what Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps have to say.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 21 Alfred at No. 7 Salisbury. “Pound the rock” will be the mantra of Saturday. Salisbury comes in averaging nearly 284 yards a game on the ground, while Alfred respectably nears that mark with 220. And, predictably, both are great, great, great at stopping a rushing attack. This E8 battle will be won in the trenches, and because each team already has a loss, they’re in danger of being on the precarious playoff bubble should they be defeated a second time.
Keith’s take: No. 10 UW-Oshkosh at No. 5 UW-Whitewater. Oh snap, I’m choosing before Pat this week, out of the traditional Triple Take order. So at least I didn’t have to fight with him over getting to pick this game, because its G.O.T.W. credentials are thick. Best two teams in the strongest conference. The Titans, who have never so much as been to the playoffs, are playing perhaps the biggest game in program history. The three-time defending champions are playing to keep alive their chance to defend: The Warhawks are unlikely to make the playoffs with two losses. It’s not like the Warhawks, with the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense (29 yards/game) and No. 3 overall and scoring defense (211.5 yards, 7.3 points/game) are even playing poorly. And that rush defense matches up with Oshkosh’s strength. The Titans, No. 10 in total offense and No. 12 in total defense, rush for 296 yards per game. We know QB Nate Wara, but maybe we should get familiar with Cole Myhra, Zack Kasuboski and Caleb Voss as well. The best thing for the WIAC is two 9-1 playoff teams, but the Titans don’t care, and will probably have a lot of variety-seeking fans from across the land on Saturday.
Pat’s take: No. 10 UW-Oshkosh at No. 5 UW-Whitewater. Doesn’t matter. Usually we do try to pick three different games but every once in a while the game dictates otherwise. Keith has been down the key battles in this game already so I’ll remind people how this game went down last year: At UW-Oshkosh, the Titans went up 17-10 just before halftime after an 80-yard drive. Whitewater answered near the end of the third quarter to tie it up and rode Levell Coppage hard on a fourth-quarter drive, keeping the ball on the ground for all nine plays, six by Coppage and three by quarterback Matt Blanchard. They settled for a 17-yard Eric Kindler field goal to take a 20-17 lead with 1:18 left. Nate Wara drove Oshkosh into Whitewater territory but his fourth-down pass was intercepted in the end zone by Ryan Wenkman, allowing the Warhawks to hold on for the win. Oshkosh fans may remember what happened the next week (although they may have successfully blocked it out): The Titans lost to UW-La Crosse, 30-24, ending any hope of a playoff bid.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Susquehanna at Ursinus. The Bears have spent the past couple of weeks beating up on the more winless teams in the Centennnial, so it should be a concern that not only are they going up against a team that is more fundamentally solid than the others but also one that allows an average of just 148 passing yards a game. Ursinus will have to find a way to play without its greatest strength.
Pat’s take: Hardin-Simmons at No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor. It will be interesting to see what Hardin-Simmons can do against its longtime conference rival. The Cowboys haven’t beaten the Cru since 2004, but they have been competitive against two Top 25 teams they’ve played this year, including No. 3 Linfield. So even though the Cowboys have been on a losing streak against the American Southwest Conference’s heavyweight, they shouldn’t be intimidated.
Keith’s take: Concordia-Moorhead at Augsburg. I’m violating the spirit of the category here, but I wanted to make sure we acknowledge this game. It’ll be surprisingly low scoring, as the Auggies put up 470 yards and 38 points a game, but face a Cobbers defense that allows just 259 yards and 17.3. Both teams are 5-1 and need this win, to avoid falling further behind Bethel or St. Thomas.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 14 Widener. In facing the only other team with an unblemished MAC record, it should be of very little surprise that the Pride will have its hands full. Lycoming biggest strength is its defense, one that has held its past five opponents to 14 or fewer points each outing. That unit is adept at making plays behind the line of scrimmage, which means the Widener offensive line will need to give quarterback Chris Haupt time to make decisions. Doing so will let the team move the ball and, with a win, move up the rankings.
Pat’s take: No. 12 Illinois Wesleyan. I admit Wheaton (Ill.) is not as strong as it has been in the past, but I think the jury remains out on Illinois Wesleyan at the moment until this game. The six teams the Titans have played so far are a combined 14-24, while the three other contenders in the CCIW are left on the schedule. And as we pointed out in this week’s podcast, IWU hasn’t won at Wheaton since 1996. This could well be the year, but until that happens, I’ll wait and see.
Keith’s take: No. 12 Illinois Wesleyan. I hate to pile on. I very nearly took No. 11 Hobart and No. 17 Rowan here, but I think they each have the defense necessary to hold off high-powered offenses from RPI and Cortland State. Both teams are on the road, making those picks even more intriguing. No. 24 St. John Fisher is on a two-game slide, but so is their opponent, Ithaca. I could have backed Ryan’s pick as well, as Lycoming has a shot. Simpson, Gettysburg and Pacific Lutheran will give top 25 teams a game, but in the end, for reasons explained below under 180, this was the pick I felt most comfortable with. IWU has a great defense as well (No. 8 nationally) but Wheaton (No. 10) can match it, plus it can score. And yes I expect we’ll hear a lot of chirping from Bloomington if the Titans do what they’re supposed to do and play like the No. 12 team in the country. Whatevs. We can dish it out and we can take it.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Chapman. All of the hype in the SCIAC goes to Top 10-ranked Cal Lutheran. But the Panthers have quietly plowed their way to a 4-1 season and stand ready to line up against perennial conference threat Redlands this weekend. With four games to go, Chapman has already tied its win total from each of the past three seasons. Things are looking up for this squad.
Pat’s take: Lycoming. The Warriors and Widener have played some memorable games in the past, including last year, when the Warriors stormed back from a 31-0 deficit to cute the score to 31-28 with 1:56 before an onside kick attempt failed. Keith and I could each regale you with stories of great Widener-Lycoming games we’ve covered in the past. Their meetings haven’t all been stunners, but many of them have. I look forward to another.
Keith’s take: Allegheny. One week they’re beating Wabash, the next they’re losing at Chicago. Both of the Gators’ losses are to UAA teams, which means they’re in control of the NCAC, for now, alongside fellow surprise Ohio Wesleyan. They’re on my radar because they face a serious challenge, at home against Wittenberg, but also because they’re 4-2 with the 229th-best offense in the nation. The Gators, whose defense is top 50 but not putting up carry-the-offense numbers, have somehow managed to keep scores low with a negative turnover margin and an offense that rushes for 115.5 yards a game — and that’s the strong suit (The Gators pass for 114.5 yards per). Are they a team that finds ways to win, or one whose luck is about to run out?
Which National Scholar-Athlete Award semifinalist and his team are you seeing walking away with a win this weekend?
Ryan’s take: Rowan and Chris Popper. Folks are hard-pressed to find years when the NJAC was a cut-and-dried race to the playoffs. The past two seasons, no team has escaped conference play unscathed. Which makes this weekend’s game between Cortland State and Rowan a big one. They represent two of the three teams undefeated in NJAC play, and it would surprise no one if the race to the top got messy. Popper, a senior defensive lineman, will play his role as part of a stout unit that will be called upon to put pressure on the Red Dragons’ quarterback and slow their potent run game.
Pat’s take: Washington U. and Dan Burkett. Although the Wash U offense has struggled this season and Burkett, a senior quarterback, didn’t play in the Bears’ last game, against Wabash, I have to give props to the program, which produced the last Division III winner of this award, Brandon Roberts, in the 2002 season. The name of the trophy was different but the mission of the so-called “Academic Heisman” was the same. The Bears will be at Denison on Saturday, which has its own Campbell Trophy semifinalist: defensive lineman Nat Kell.
Keith’s take: Mount Union and Nick Driskill. I guess it’s a layup, or to stay sport-consistent, a wide-open bomb. We ignore Mount Union so often on the assumption they’re going to win, and the Purple Raiders rarely ever let us down. Still we should point out that Otterbein is the first opponent with a winning record the Mount Union is facing this season, so I expect the unscored upon streak to bite the dust. Driskill — as perhaps the best player on the nation’s best defense — will have a hand in slowing down Cardinals WR Trey Fairchild, and the Purple Raiders win comfortably.
Which team with two or more losses is worth watching?
Ryan’s take: Hardin-Simmons. Count me among the camp always keeping a close eye on the Cowboys. After starting the season with losses against two currently undefeated NWC teams (Willamette and Linfield), HSU has swept through the bottom half of the ASC with ease. But Saturday, with Mary Hardin-Baylor on the docket, marks a return to the caliber of opponent they faced early in the season. The rushing defense probably isn’t strong enough to slow UMHB, so the Cowboys will have to rely on their aerial attack and hope they come out on the right side of a shootout.
Keith’s take: Sul Ross State. Or Louisiana College. Take your pick, since they play each other in Alpine, Texas, and could be fringe playoff candidates despite their five combined losses. The Lobos lost two a pair of D-II teams, which has a minimal effect on D-III playoff positioning, and both teams got blown out by ASC leader and No. 2 team in the country, Mary Hardin-Baylor. LC also lost by a field goal to No. 6 Wesley in a non-conference clash. The Wildcats have put up gaudy offensive numbers in previous seasons the way Sul Ross State is doing now, and it hasn’t served them well enough. Now they’ve got a top 35 defense, and they’ll need it against A.J. Springer, Dominique Carson and the No. 1 offense in the country. The Lobos are a risky bunch though. That top-ranked offense is backed by a defense that ranks dead last — 239th — overall and against the pass. They gain 574 yards per game and allow 575. They surrender more than 50 points more per game than No. 1 defense Mount Union, so LC’s offensive stars, led by RB Ryan Montague, have got to be licking their chops.
Pat’s take: Delaware Valley. Now, perhaps not this week, but don’t write off the Aggies for the MAC title. This week’s home game against first-year program Misericordia will be a walk in the park, but it will be a good respite before the Aggies visit Lebanon Valley next week. If Widener beats Lycoming this week and the teams win through to Week 11, Delaware Valley and Widener will have a winner-take-all game for the MAC automatic bid to close the season.
Which team will turn the biggest 180 from last week?
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport. The Captains stumbled to their first conference loss in two years and in the process gave USA South newcomer LaGrange a great big reason to smile. Averett won’t be stepping off the field in the same kind of happy mood. Expect CNU to loose some heavy artillery as the conference is logjammed with five teams tied at 2-1.
Keith’s take: Wheaton. The Thunder is five points from being unbeaten, but has losses to Albion and Elmhurst. After piling up 596 yards of offense against the Bluejays and turning it over only twice, Wheaton probably still can’t figure out how it lost. By now, it’s over last week and has its focus on No. 12 Illinois Wesleyan, who has played the Thunder to a close game around the 20s (24-19, 29-19 and 20-17) for three consecutive years, winning twice. This time it’s Wheaton’s turn to be the underdog and spring the upset, and the stats and standings here probably belie how close these teams are. The Titans have played great defense to date, but haven’t seen an offense like Wheaton’s.
Pat’s take: Louisiana College. The Wildcats are going to go from scoring three points in Week 7 against Mary Hardin-Baylor to somewhere in the 40s … or higher … against Sul Ross State. Regardless of whether Louisiana College wins, the Wildcats should have a lot more success on offense.
Alfred · Allegheny · Augsburg · Averett · Chapman · Christopher Newport · Concordia-Moorhead · Cortland State · Hardin-Simmons · Louisiana College · Lycoming · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Mount Union · Redlands · Rowan · Salisbury · Sul Ross State · Susquehanna · Ursinus · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wheaton · Widener
The rare event this week is a battle of 25′s, as Heidelberg takes on Otterbein.
Heidelberg athletics photo
The saying is that history repeats itself. And we ask ourselves whether certain teams are doomed to stare down another upset.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps dive into the past to bring you analysis of the present. We cast a wide net to predict the fall of a Top 25 team, detail the game of the week and pore over some of the unusual nicknames in D-III.
Don’t hesitate to offer your comments below.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 25 Otterbein at No. 25 Heidelberg. Nope, that’s not a typo. If you’ve looked at our Top 25 this week, you’ll see these two OAC teams are tied for the 25th spot. They are both undefeated, and with the second-place OAC team often having an inside track to a Pool C playoff bid, this game holds worlds of value — and intrigue.
Pat’s take: No. 9 Bethel at No. 4 St. Thomas. This has been a good game in recent seasons already, with two teams who love to line up and smash-mouth it straight at each other. Ironically, both teams are led by talented sophomore quarterbacks, and Bethel, especially, has opened it up on offense a little more this season. The past three meetings have been decided by 19 points combined, with St. Thomas winning both of the regular season meetings. It’s likely to be another battle.
Keith’s take: No. 13 UW-Platteville at No. 14 UW-Oshkosh. Wow, I pick third, and I still get two no-brainers to choose from. Much to the dismay of two of the most active Twitter followings in No. 2 UMHB and No. 21 Louisiana College, I went to Wisconsin with this one. In WIAC history, the spotlight rarely has shone on Oshkosh and Platteville — You’d have to go back to 1976 to find the last time UW-Oshkosh tied atop the conference, and 1972 to find their last outright title, an undefeated 8-0 WIAC season. For UW-Platteville, go back to 1980 for the tie, 1974 for the outright. Worse yet — before tying for second last season, the teams only had one season each in the past 30 years finishing higher than fourth in the WIAC, each finishing third once (Oshkosh in 2007, UW-P in 1990). In 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2008, the Titans and Pioneers were at the bottom of the standings. So that should put in perspective how big a game it is, with UW-P (4-1, 1-1) just a failed two-point conversion against defending national champion UW-Whitewater from being undefeated, and UW-O 5-0. A Platteville win could make the WIAC three-way tie territory, but either way, UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater the following week is huge. Titans QB Nate Wara has got the name recognition, now let’s see if he delivers in a big game.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Concordia-Chicago at Concordia (Wis.). The Illinois one will pound the rock over and over and over. It’s the only way they’ll find success. The Wisconsin one, on the other hand, should be able to air out the ball, especially against a Cougars team that at 5-0 has nonetheless been prone to giving up some big yards. And both teams like to put up points: The Cougars average more than 38 on the scoreboard, while the 3-2 Falcons emerged from a week of hanging 55 on their opponent.
Pat’s take: No. 5 UW-Whitewater at UW-Stout. I look at a combination of a few factors that will keep this game unexpectedly close. In addition to UW-Whitewater’s struggles on offense, they’re also traveling on the day of the game. That four-hour bus ride, mandated by the WIAC office, might leave them a little slow to start. The question will be whether Stout can put enough points on the board to make it close or if it will be like the Stevens Point/Whitewater game.
Keith’s take: Pacific at Pacific Lutheran. If you just remember the Boxers as the expansion team and the Lutes as the program with the championship pedigree, it might be time to take a closer look at the NWC. Pacific is 2-3, with a three-point loss to Whitworth (5-1) among the defeats. The Lutes’ 2-2 record might be deceiving, since all four of the teams they’ve played are solid (three were in the postseason last year, three are 4-1 or better this season). Kyle Warner is averaging 116 receiving yards per game and Kellen Westering 97, so the Lutes’ air attack will probably be too much for the Boxers, but expect Pacific to show some bite.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 St. John Fisher. At what point can we excuse an Alfred team’s opening day loss to RPI? Is it after the Saxons beat the team that toppled UW-Whitewater? Check. Is it after they beat an undefeated conference opponent? Check. Is it after they hold an opponent to just 4 rushing yards? Check. Fisher is coming off a punishing game against Salisbury, and Alfred’s hot streak coupled with SJF’s bruises make the Cardinals a target again this week.
Pat’s take: No. 13 UW-Platteville. So many ranked teams are playing each other this week that I feel forced to take a higher-ranked team playing on the road in a game that the rankings suggest is a toss-up. And I like what Bryce Corrigan did last week against UW-La Crosse after getting a full week of reps as the No. 1 starter at quarterback. But UW-Oshkosh is in a position where it can just run it right at Platteville. If you have not seen dual-threat quarterback Nate Wara for Oshkosh, do yourself a favor and watch the live video on Saturday. Defenses are hard pressed to bottle him up.
Keith’s take: No. 16 Birmingham Southern. Eight top 25 teams are playing each other, so toss those out. Two are picked above. The pickins’ are downright slim, and Trinity (Texas) is the only team I can see really pulling a stunner. The Tigers won last season when B-SC was a conference mate, but now that the Panthers have gone and split off, another win could be satisfying. To do it, Trinity QB Nyk McKissic has to keep making good decisions; with 11 TD passes and just one interception, he’s done it so far. Trinity’s D also rebounded with a decent game against Rhodes after allowing 111 points in consecutive weeks, against Sul Ross State and I’m sure I’ll get some silly irate tweet from Alabama saying how wrong this upset pick is, but keep in mind the Panthers have never beaten Trinity. Maybe it’s B-SC who would be pulling the upset, should our rankings hold.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Washington and Lee. This is about the time of year when we can accurately take stock of what’s happening in the ODAC. The conference is as balanced as they come, and it’s often difficult to stick by early-season predictions. But after starting the season with a loss, W&L is looking like the playoff-caliber team of the past two seasons. Their points have increased with each game (28, 34, 42, 45), but unfortunately for them, so have their opponents’ points. Three of the last five games are probably the toughest on the schedule, starting with this weekend against Randolph-Macon, the only other ODAC team that hasn’t lost a conference game yet. These two teams, plus Bridgewater and Hampden-Sydney, will make for a jumbled race at the top.
Pat’s take: Waynesburg. This has to happen eventually, right? The lack of churn at the bottom of the Top 25 has made it difficult for teams such as Coe, Concordia-Moorhead or Waynesburg to get their due in the Top 25, but I think Waynesburg deserves one of those 20-25 spots. After consecutive 5-5 seasons, Bethany is struggling out of the gate, at 1-4.
Keith’s take: Washington & Jefferson, Concordia-Moorhead and Allegheny. Hey, I’ve got a big radar. The Presidents host Westminster (Pa.), playing their first home game since RB Tim McNerney was killed. The Cobbers shouldn’t have much trouble with Hamline, but I’m curious if they’ll be sluggish after last week’s ending, or sharp. The Cobbers are guaranteed to see two of their MIAC competitors lose, when Bethel and St. Thomas, and Augsburg and St. Olaf play. And Allegheny, following the upset of Wabash, beat Oberlin 15-3 and lost a non-conference game to Chicago, 10-0. I thought this year’s Gators might be a great defensive team keeping scores low, but with the 219th-ranked offense in the nation, that would not seem to be the case. The Gators haven’t exactly seized the opening, but with home games against DePauw and Wittenberg in back to back weeks, the AQ and NCAC title is still there for the taking.
Which upset of the past will have a different outcome this week?
Ryan’s take: Whitworth at No. 3 Linfield. When you go four straight seasons undefeated in conference play, with a national championship sprinkled in, expectations are always high. But at some point, the bubble does burst. That happened in 2006 for Linfield, when a Whitworth team that amassed just 85 yards of total offense — but also forced five fumbles — went on to topple the 15th-ranked home team 17-13. Fast-forward to 2012, and Linfield is earning win after hard-fought win. The Wildcats are coming off a bye week, and the Pirates are following an aching loss to Willamette. This game may be as close as the ’06 matchup, but Linfield will keep its 20-game NWC win streak alive.
Pat’s take: No. 15 Wabash at Washington U. In 2010, Wabash came in unbeaten ranked No. 19, and Wash U came in 2-2, with its wins against Knox and Westminster (Mo.). Nonetheless, Wash U. came away the 24-20 victor. For history to repeat itself, Wabash would have to have significant breakdowns on both sides of the ball, and I don’t see that happening. Wash U has been held to 17 points or fewer by every team not named Kenyon this season in starting off 1-4.
Keith’s take: Trine at Adrian. The Thunder had won 18 MIAA games in a row, won in the playoffs, given UW-Whitewater a challenge and developed a Gagliardi Trophy winner. Then Trine lost, 26-7, at Adrian in last year’s MIAA, and nationally, we kind of stopped paying attention. Trine (4-2) and the Bulldogs (4-1) face off again Saturday, and the stats say Adrian (No. 7 defense in the country) is the favorite this time around. Before you get confused, let’s review: The upset of the past was Adrian over Trine. So this time around, Trine gets some payback. The Thunder hasn’t been a great offense overall, but quarterback Ryan Hargraves has been heating up over the past three games, and Myron Puryear, who had a touchdown on defense last week, is a threat in the return game.
Red, blue or green?
Ryan’s take: Red of Wittenberg. Timed at any other point in the season, and we’re looking at a Chicago team that would be competitive with Wittenberg. But following Witt’s loss at home to Wabash, the Tigers have to know that they need to be perfect from here on out to have any shot at the postseason. Witt will be on a mission and more than ready to put these pesky one-score margins behind them.
Pat’s take: Blueboys, of Illinois College. They’ll get right back on the winning side this week after a loss to Lake Forest in Week 6. Beloit, the Blueboys’ opponent, has been a surprise winless team this season. Not that we expected huge things out of the Buccaneers, considering we ranked them No. 192 in the preseason, but even that was ahead of Lawrence, Cornell and Knox, each of whom have beaten Beloit head-to-head this season.
Keith’s take: Green of … Nope, sorry. Red of Muhlenberg. Hey I looked for some Green Knights I could get excited about, to keep it balanced. I even considered the all-green Plymouth State-Endicott game. But I’d rather give you one extra upset pick, just outside the top 25, and a test of whether it’s important to have the human element in game insight. The computer ratings love Gettysburg. I like the Bullets, but see three of their wins (over start-up Misericordia, hapless Juniata and 0-5 McDaniel) as no great shakes. You’re supposed to beat those teams, and they did, so there’s that. But Muhlenberg brings a lot more defense to the table than most of the Bullets’ opponents so far. The Mules are coming off a loss to Susquehanna, which Gettysburg beat, which makes this pick slightly illogical. But, hey, at least there’s not much riding on it. Just a potential showdown of CC unbeatens next week, oh, and the future of man vs. computer. No pressure, Mules.
An unusual nickname you like.
Ryan’s take: Moravian Greyhounds. Moravian has been a Centennial seesaw team the past few seasons, with records of 8-3, followed by 2-8, then 7-4, and back to 2-8. This season, they’ve already tied last year’s win total, and there is clear potential yet to notch two or three more wins in the books. And that means doing what it can to keep forcing turnovers and pressuring quarterbacks. As of late, Susquehanna has been finding its groove on both sides of the ball, which means Moravian will need to channel the quickness of its namesake in order to come away with a victory. (Want more of the unusual? Check out Moravian’s ambidextrous rugby-style punter in Around the Mid-Atlantic.)
Pat’s take: UW-Eau Claire Blugolds. But do you need me to say something about the game as well? I’m confused. They host UW-La Crosse this week in sore need of a win. In fact, both teams need a win badly, as La Crosse hasn’t lived up to the credit some gave it in the WIAC after it knocked off North Central in Week 1.
Keith’s take: Los Lobos, of Sul Ross State. Mostly I just wanted to name-check the ‘La Bamba’ band. But also we have what could be an epic shootout on deck. Sul Ross State is fourth in the country in total and scoring offense, with 545 yards and almost 49 points a game. Texas Lutheran is 50th in the nation, with a mere (!) 416 and 30. But here’s the real eye-opener. The Lobos are 233rd in D-III in pass defense, and the Bulldogs are 226th. Buckle up.
Adrian · Alfred · Allegheny · Beloit · Bethany · Bethel · Birmingham-Southern · Carnegie Mellon · Chicago · concordia (wis.) · concordia-chicago · Gettysburg · Heidelberg · Illinois College · Linfield · Moravian · Muhlenberg · Otterbein · Pacific · Pacific Lutheran · Randolph-Macon · St. John Fisher · St. Thomas · Sul Ross State · Susquehanna · Texas Lutheran · Trine · UW-Eau Claire · UW-La Crosse · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Platteville · UW-Stout · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington and Jefferson · Washington and Lee · Washington U. · Waynesburg · Whitworth · Wittenberg
Playoff roads are being paved across the country as we enter Week 10.
We’ve seen the landscape change over the past two months. There have been break-downs and wrong turns by many along the way, but others have found the route to be direct and relatively free of bumps.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps present their latest gridiron map to help you navigate your way through Saturday.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 North Central at No. 15 Wheaton. There’s barely anything that needs to be said about the magnitude of this matchup. Not only have both teams spent most of the season in our Top 25, they are currently in the first and second spots on the NCAA regional rankings. That means the winner could nab a top seed come playoff time. And what’s not to love about two teams that average 426 and 415 offensive yards per game in one of the country’s toughest conferences.
Pat’s take: No. 25 Wabash at No. 9 Wittenberg. The regional rankings make it fairly clear this is a playoff elimination game, as neither is in line for an at-large bid. Wittenberg’s Ben Zoeller leads Division III in passing efficiency, while Tyler Burke has made just two starts after the Little Giants lost Chase Belton. Burke threw two picks against Oberlin after coming off the bench but has gone 36-for-63 in his two starts. This game doesn’t have the luster I’d hoped for when I booked my flight a few months ago but the NCAC title is still on the line. (If it wins, Wittenberg would still have to beat Wooster next week to stay out of a three-way tie scenario.)
Keith’s take: No. 13 Wartburg at No. 17 Central. Here, and in No. 19 Hampden-Sydney at Washington & Lee, are third leg of the triangle games. And ones we’ve been waiting on for weeks. While the Tigers need to win to force a showdown with Randolph-Macon next week, in the IIAC, Coe has already beaten Central (37-28 in Week 4) and Wartburg has beaten Coe (31-21 in Week 7). Both the Knights, who can win the IIAC outright, and the Dutch, who can force a three-way tie, rush for more than 200 yards per game and have held four oppoents under 10 points. Rushing and defense as the formula for a November win in Iowa makes sense, but something has to give when the Central (75 rush yards allowed per game) and Wartburg (108) rushing defenses face the opponents’ ground attack.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Redlands at Whittier. The 6-1 Bulldogs won’t get off easy against the 2-5 Poets. This could get interesting because, statistically, the teams cancel each other out on several fronts, most notably with Redlands’ passing attack and Whittier’s run game. That could mean that the team with the most dynamic plays or that commits the fewest turnovers (something that works against Whittier) will be the team that can walk away the victor.
Pat’s take: No. 1 UW-Whitewater at UW-Oshkosh. UW-Oshkosh struggled a little bit on the road at UW-Eau Claire last week but the team with the toughest schedule, at least anecdotally, in Division III, won’t be intimidated by a home game against the top-ranked team in the country. The Titans represented themselves well against No. 2 Mount Union back in Week 2. The difference: UW-Whitewater will be tougher on defense and knows what its run game is all about, where the Purple Raiders didn’t have that figured out in their opener. Still, I expect a game that’s less than four touchdowns.
Keith’s take: Louisana College at McMurry. This matchup of the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 passing offenses might be surprisingly close for those who’ve followed from afar. Since the Wildcats started 1-3 and McMurry has put up big numbers against the ASC’s big-name opponents, the latter has garnered most of the publicity. But since LC has won four in a row, both teams are 5-3, pass for more than 380 yards per game and more than 13 yards per completion. LC’s Ben McLaughlin leads the nation in total offense, as does the team, because they also rush for 140 yards per game. McMurry’s Jake Mullin, he of the two seven-TD games, has passed 330 times with just two interceptions. With 53 (LC) and 45 (McM) touchdowns on the season, if this one is close, at 45-44, that would seem about right. Surprisingly close would be 14-13 or 24-21.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 2 Mount Union. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t bet much more than a nickel on this happening. But Baldwin-Wallace has been a team that has surprised a lot of folks this year since its lackluster debut against Wooster. And B-W can probably be seen as one of the two or three teams this season with a chance at knocking off The Machine in the regular season. We saw against Marietta that while Mount still earns our utmost respect, this year’s team is young — and it has weaknesses and inconsistencies. In B-W’s stronger years, they’re often able to play Mount close. I’m interested about what can happen in a year when the Yellow Jackets are up and the Purple Raiders are (relatively speaking) down.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Hampden-Sydney. I don’t think I’m surprising anyone in suggesting that Washington and Lee could well win this game on Saturday. While W&L could well have snuck up on Randolph-Macon, they haven’t snuck up on anyone since. And with a playoff bid on the line, one would have to expect (hope?) that more than 780 show up in Lexington this time around. The challenge for Hamdpen-Sydney will be getting the ball back. W&L held the ball for more than 40 minutes last week at Catholic (although the Generals haven’t dominated time of possession nearly as much in any other game this season).
Keith’s take: No. 10 Thomas More. No. 5 North Central, No. 9 Wittenberg and No. 13 Wartburg could all lose, but it’d be tough to classify those as upsets. If Waynesburg, even at 6-2, pulled the stunner against the Saints, it would definitely be one. Thomas More leads the PAC in nearly every statistical category and gave up 45 points — total — in five October games. If Yellow Jackets quarterback Brad Dawson, the PAC passing leaader, is outstanding and the rest of the team realizes what’s at stake — a Week 10 win against Thomas More and one in Week 11 against Washington & Jefferson would make Waynesburg a playoff team — it could happen. It’s unlikely, but some years, once November arrives, surprises are sprinkled across the national playoff picture.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Kean. The Cougars have not fared well against the trio of NJAC powers, but they’ve had a lot of success plowing through the middle of the conference pack. This week they take on 4-4 New Jersey before hitting the road and becoming Wesley’s last obstacle to a likely No. 1 seed. It’s also easy to get excited to see Jason Gwaltney in his final two regular season games. The running back may not be at West Virginia anymore, but he is still the kind of player who makes an impact on the field. This year, he’s averaging 161 yards a game — which, by the way, puts him third-best in the country in that regard.
Pat’s take: Hanover. Look for the Panthers to continue Mount St. Joseph’s season of struggles and set up a Victory Bell showdown with Franklin in Week 11 that is for a little more than pride and a trophy, namely, the HCAC title.
Keith’s take: Case Western Reserve. Before last week’s 24-20 loss at Chicago, folks were considering the Spartans a lock for a Pool B playoff spot. Now they might not even win the UAA. Back at home against Wash. U., CWRU is on display. If the team has enough heart, and plays well, we’ll see a bounce back. The Bears are 6-2 and riding a five-game win streak that includes a victory against No. 25 Wabash.
A team that will clinch a share of the conference title on Saturday.
Ryan’s take: No. 14 Trine. The way Trine has been, erm, thundering through its conference slate, I don’t see anything short of another MIAA title coming to fruition. This week, Kalamazoo will be on the receiving end of a team that has averaged 45 points a game this season. Kzoo’s record isn’t where they’d probably like it to be, but they do have a solid passing attack that could make a dent against Trine. However, the Hornets’ strength on offense is also the Thunders’ strength on defense. That should be a good test for Trine ahead of Albion and a likely playoff run around the corner.
Pat’s take: No. 6 Mary Hardin-Baylor. The hardest part about playing Sul Ross State is getting to Alpine, Texas. UMHB should be on our Pool A list by about 4:45 ET on Saturday. But not back on campus before midnight.
Keith’s take: St. Norbert. The also-rans of the Midwest Conference had a prime opportunity to crack the dominant hold the Green Knights and the Monmouth Scots have had on the top spot for most of the past decade, as each team lost early, and lost again in October. But despite a three-point Week 2 defeat at Beloit and a one-point setback in Week 6 against Illinois College, St. Norbert is atop the MWC again, because everyone else has at least three conference losses. And with the Green Knights playing their season straight through with no bye, a home win against Lake Forest on Saturday will wrap up a conference title and a West Region playoff game at somewhere other than St. Thomas, which played in DePere in Week 1. Not bad for going 7-3; two years ago, that was good enough for third place behind Monmouth and Ripon.
Which season turnaround has been the most interesting?
Ryan’s take: Washington and Lee. The Generals started the season 1-2, a record that seemed to indicate that W&L was on track to match the 4-6 seasons of 2008 and ’09. What has emerged is a season that’s a lot more special than those. A win against Hampden-Sydney would send W&L, which is rooted in an ODAC-record-setting ground attack, back to the playoffs for the first time in nearly half a decade. A loss, though, doesn’t count them out yet either because H-SC still has to play one-loss Randolph-Macon, which W&L beat earlier in the year. With how good both the Tigers and Generals are, there’s nothing certain about the results come Saturday. And the fact that both are in such enviable positions of being in control of their playoff destinies is exciting to watch unfold.
Pat’s take: Muhlenberg. After a 3-7 season last fall, and Johns Hopkins, F&M, Ursinus and Susquehanna entering the season with reason to be seen as Centennial Conference contenders, the Mules weren’t given much thought. Although they gave up a lot of points (by Muhlenberg standards) early in the season, the defense has been more locked in of late and should give Ursinus plenty to think about on Saturday.
Keith’s take: St. Lawrence. Either way you qualify turnaround — from a rough start to this season, or reversing a program’s poor history — the Saints fit. Under former Ithaca defensive coordinator Mark Raymond, St. Lawrence lost its first three games of the season, but has since won four of five — the same number of games it won the past two full seasons — to take control of the Liberty League race and put itself in position for a playoff spot.
What team not in the playoff hunt has a lot to gain?
Ryan’s take: Susquehanna. Any way you cut it, the Crusaders will have had the steepest dropoff, record-wise, of any 2009 playoff team. Their new conference, the Centennial, has not been kind to them. They went 1-8 on that front and haven’t had a win since the second week of September. We talk a lot about moral victories. Toppling former league-mate WPI on Saturday would certainly fit that bill.
Pat’s take: Wilkes. Following last week’s big home win against Lycoming, the Colonels have a chance to finish the season 7-3 by winning out and earn a trip to an ECAC bowl game, which would have to be pretty satisfying after a 1-2 start.
Keith’s take: Pacific. The Northwest Conference had not been kind to the Boxers, in their first season of the program’s revival after a two-decade absence. In a three-week stretch of October, Pacific lost by 48, 62 and 52 points. The past two games, a 24-12 defeat against Whitworth and a 42-31 loss to Puget Sound, aren’t wins, and got closer late in the fourth quarter, but they weren’t 50-point losses either. At 0-7, the Boxers aren’t going to be the champions of anything, but finishing strong, against top 25 Pacific Lutheran Saturday and Menlo next week, will get the ball rolling toward a crucial offseason of program-building.
Baldwin-Wallace · Hampden-Sydney · Kalamazoo · Kean · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Mount Union · Muhlenberg · New Jersey · North Central · Redlands · Susquehanna · Trine · Ursinus · Wabash · Washington and Lee · Wheaton · Whittier · Wittenberg · WPI
Keith McMillan talks at length about some of the trips he has taken since starting the Around the Nation column back in 2001. Some of those trips he and I have taken together, sometimes he’s been on his own, but the goal, at least unofficially, is to see every Division III team play someday, and see a game in every home stadium.
Now, to be honest, that isn’t very realistic. The fact remains that it’s very difficult to see more than one game in a weekend, which limits the number of teams either of us can see in a season. And I recently moved away from the east coast, where I had a much better chance of knocking teams off the list. But I’ll continue to give it a try.
I’m only counting the teams I’ve seen play (must have seen at least half of a game to qualify) and stadiums I’ve been in for a D-III game. I’ve also visited a bunch of campuses and walked through, or around a bunch of stadiums: Aurora, Beloit, Concordia (Ill.), Delaware Valley, Hamline, Huntingdon, Illinois Wesleyan, LaGrange, Lake Forest, Lebanon Valley, Lewis and Clark, Millsaps, Mississippi College, North Park, Northwestern, Oberlin, St. Thomas, Susquehanna, Trinity (Conn.), Wittenberg, Wooster, WPI. But I’ve seen 108 teams play, by my count, and seen games in 61 stadiums.
This doesn’t count Swarthmore, which I saw play back in the ’90s. Unfortunately, it seems that was a one-time occurrence.
Some of the places I’ve seen games have changed quite a bit. I mean, I was at St. John Fisher in 1994 but I know the stadium isn’t a bit like that was. I saw FDU-Madis… excuse me, FDU-Florham in a different era. Soon my view on RPI will be outdated. But they all count. And maybe I’ll get back there again.
Here’s who I’ve seen play, starting in 1991: Albright, Alfred, Augsburg, Augustana, Aurora, Benedictine, Bethel, Blackburn, Bridgewater (Va.), Brockport State, Cal Lutheran, Capital, Carleton, Carnegie Mellon, Catholic, Central, Chicago, Christopher Newport, Coast Guard, Coe, Cortland State, Crown, Curry, Delaware Valley, Dickinson, East Texas Baptist, Elmhurst, Emory & Henry, FDU-Florham, Franklin & Marshall, Frostburg State, Gallaudet, Gettysburg, Greensboro, Grove City, Guilford, Gustavus Adolphus, Hampden-Sydney, Hanover, Hardin-Simmons, Hobart, Howard Payne, Huntingdon, Ithaca, John Carroll, Johns Hopkins, Kean, King’s, Linfield, Louisiana College, Lycoming, Macalester, Maranatha Baptist, Mary Hardin-Baylor, McDaniel, McMurry, Merchant Marine, Methodist, Millsaps, Mississippi College, Minnesota-Morris, Montclair State, Mount Union, Muhlenberg, North Carolina Wesleyan, New Jersey, Newport News, Nichols, North Central, Northwestern (Minn.), Pacific Lutheran, Principia, Randolph-Macon, Rockford, Rowan, RPI, Salisbury, Shenandoah, Springfield, St. John Fisher, St. Olaf, St. John’s, St. Scholastica, St. Thomas, Susquehanna, Thiel, Thomas More, Trinity (Conn.), Trinity (Texas), Union, Ursinus, UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, UW-Stout, UW-Whitewater, Washington and Jefferson, Washington and Lee, Washington U., Waynesburg, Wesley, Western Connecticut, Wheaton, Widener, Wilkes, William Paterson, Williams, Wittenberg, Worcester State.
Key gets: I went out of my way to see Cal Lutheran when they came to Muhlenberg in 2002. Saw a bunch of teams last year at the UMAC’s Dome Day. Picked off both Macalester and St. Scholastica just this past weekend. Saw both Susquehanna and Grove City play at Dickinson, in 1999 and 2000, and never since. Traveled with Catholic when I was a student to a game at the University of Chicago.
And the schools at which I’ve seen games: Albright, Augsburg, Benedictine, Bridgewater (Va.), Capital, Carnegie Mellon, Catholic, Central, Chicago, Coast Guard, Cortland State, Dickinson, Elmhurst, FDU-Florham, Franklin & Marshall, Frostburg State, Gallaudet, Gettysburg, Hampden-Sydney, Hardin-Simmons, Johns Hopkins, Kean, King’s, Linfield, Lycoming, Macalester, Mary Hardin-Baylor, McDaniel, McMurry, Merchant Marine, Montclair State, Mount Union, Muhlenberg, New Jersey, North Central, Randolph-Macon, Rowan, RPI, Salisbury, Shenandoah, Springfield, St. John Fisher, St. Olaf, St. John’s, Thiel, Trinity (Texas), Union, Ursinus, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, UW-Whitewater, Washington and Jefferson, Washington U., Wesley, Western Connecticut, Wheaton, Widener, Wilkes, William Paterson, Williams, Worcester State.
New this year: East Texas Baptist, Macalester, St. Scholastica, Wartburg,
There are certainly some holes in this list. Never seen Wabash (or DePauw, take it easy, people!). I’ve never been to a SCIAC school or seen anyone from the Midwest Conference. Didn’t take nearly enough advantage of my year in Connecticut. But I’ll get the list down, slowly but surely.
Not sure if Keith will chime in with his list, but anyone else is welcome, of course.
Albright · Alfred · Augsburg · Augustana · Aurora · Benedictine · Bethel · Blackburn · Bridgewater (Va.) · Brockport State · Cal Lutheran · Capital · Carleton · Carnegie Mellon · Catholic · Central · Chicago · Christopher Newport · Coast Guard · Coe · Cortland State · Crown · Curry · d3nation · Delaware Valley · Dickinson · East Texas Baptist · Elmhurst · Emory & Henry · FDU-Florham · Franklin & Marshall · Frostburg State · Gallaudet · Gettysburg · Greensboro · Grove City · Guilford · Gustavus Adolphus · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · Hardin-Simmons · Hobart · Howard Payne · Huntingdon · Ithaca · John Carroll · Johns Hopkins · Kean · King's · Linfield · Louisiana College · Lycoming · Macalester · Maranatha Baptist · Mary Hardin-Baylor · McDaniel · McMurry · Merchant Marine · Methodist · Millsaps · Minnesota-Morris · Mississippi College · Montclair State · Mount Union · Muhlenberg · New Jersey · Newport News · Nichols · North Carolina Wesleyan · North Central · Northwestern (Minn.) · Pacific Lutheran · Principia · Randolph-Macon · Rockford · Rowan · RPI · Salisbury · Shenandoah · Springfield · St. John Fisher · St. John's · St. Olaf · St. Scholastica · St. Thomas · Susquehanna · Thiel · Thomas More · Trinity (Conn.) · Trinity (Texas) · Union · Ursinus · UW-Eau Claire · UW-La Crosse · UW-Stout · UW-Whitewater · Washington and Jefferson · Washington and Lee · Washington U. · Waynesburg · Wesley · Western Connecticut · Wheaton · Widener · Wilkes · William Paterson · Williams · Wittenberg · Worcester State