TAG | Thiel
St. John Fisher ended last season on a roll to the Elite 8. The Cardinals start with a Top 25 opponent in Thomas More.
Are you ready to take in more than 1,200 college football games this season? We sure are!
The Division III community is embarking on a fall during which 239 teams will take the field, most playing nine or 10 games in the regular season. D-III is the largest division in college, and D3football.com will give you insight across the board into the good, the bad, and the potential breakouts.
That all started with Kickoff 2012, our preseason publication, which has a slew of feature stories as well as rankings and interviews with coaches from every team in the nation. (There’s still lots of valuable info there if you haven’t purchased yet.)
D3football.com also brings you regional and national columns throughout the season, and every Friday morning, you’ll be able to dive into the column you’re reading right now, called Triple Take.
In Triple Take, Executive Editor and Publisher Pat Coleman, Managing Editor and National Columnist Keith McMillan and Senior Editor and longtime Mid-Atlantic Columnist Ryan Tipps break down some of the week’s biggest games, sleeper teams and those who we’re keeping an especially close eye on. From now until the Stagg Bowl, we’ll take you well beyond the Top 25.
We open up Triple Take to comments in the section below, or feel free to take the conversation to Twitter using the hashtag #3take. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: Pat (@d3football), Keith (@D3Keith) and Ryan (@D3MidAtlantic).
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Thomas More at No. 11 St. John Fisher. Fisher blasted through the first two rounds of the 2011 playoffs, proving to the selection committee and the D-III community that 8-2 teams deserve at-large bids. Their Empire 8 conference is one of the absolute toughest in the land, and getting the ball rolling against the PAC’s standard-bearer will be an exciting test. Both teams return the bulk of their starters and match up amazingly well on the field. A win for momentum’s sake could be crucial, too, as each team faces its top conference opponent the first week of October.
Pat’s take: St. Norbert vs. John Carroll. It’s in Ireland, for goodness sakes. I’m not sure I need to write anything else.
Keith’s take: No. 20 Thomas More at No. 11 St. John Fisher. Usually we try not to duplicate picks, but this was my standout game before I saw Ryan’s, and I’m sticking with it. There’s some other intrigue, like Willamette at Hardin-Simmons and Monmouth at Coe, but this is the biggest toss-up involving at least one top 25 team. Luke Magness became Thomas More’s starting quarterback right at the end of the season last year; We’ll be watching to see how much better he is with an offseason to prepare for the job. Likewise, St. John Fisher’s Ryan Kramer was a running back-turned-QB in a pinch last season; He’s had a full go-round to train as a signal-caller.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve at Marietta. Case has ushered in some teams with top-notch records recently, not losing more than two games a season over the past five years. But the Spartans are rarely dynamic out of the gate. Chalk that up to reasons we may never know. But with some changes happening up front for Case, an OAC team (even a lower-tier one) isn’t how I’d prefer to start my season.
Pat’s take: No. 9 Delaware Valley at Rowan. The Profs look to be coming into this season undermanned when compared to their cross-river rivals. And even though Rowan is far removed from the program which beat Delaware Valley in back-to-back years for the East Region title in 2004 and 2005, there’s still a little pride in Glassboro. Enough to give them a fighting chance.
Keith’s take: Augustana at Dubuque. On the surface, it’s a 2-8 team vs. a playoff team. Beneath it, though, the Vikings have usually been good for about seven wins a season, and come from the always-tough CCIW. Last season, the Spartans won, 18-13, on the road. They’re a more confident team now, coming off an IIAC championship, but they’re also without Gagliardi Trophy winner Michael Zweifel, who accounted for an enormous amount of their offense last season. Even if Dubuque wins again, it’ll be by a not-pretty score like last season.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 8 St. Thomas. Can a team really lose its best players at its three prime skill positions — the quarterback and All-Americans at running back and wide receiver — and still deserve a spot in the Top 10? Not unless your name is Mount Union or UW-Whitewater. The Tommies’ opening opponent, UW-Eau Claire, is a solid mid-pack WIAC team, which stands for a lot coming from that conference. St. Thomas might make the playoffs again (they might even go 10-0), but there’s a lot more trepidation about the team’s potency now than there was at this time in 2011.
Pat’s take: No. 20 Thomas More. St. John Fisher performed better in the playoffs last season without Ryan Kramer than it did with him. But it’s good to remember that Kramer was not expected to be the quarterback in 2011 when the season started, and worked out in the offseason and preseason as a running back before the presumed starter got hurt. With a full offseason to prepare, Kramer should be much more polished under center.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Kean. I don’t think any of the ranked teams are really likely to be upset; If I thought so, I wouldn’t have put these teams in the preseason top 25. And I mean actual upsets (*glares at Pat*). Kean though, is replacing nearly its entire offense (four starters back; 13 overall) while its opponent, Albright, brings back the group almost intact (nine offensive starters, 16 overall). The game is under the lights in Union, N.J. though, which means this is about as weak an upset pick as I could possibly make. Other viable choices were No. 6 North Central, hosting UW-LaCrosse or No. 7 Salisbury, at Christopher Newport.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 24. Birmingham-Southern. Any team that has a rusher like Shawn Morris has one less position it needs to worry about come Saturday. As the No. 2 rusher in country last fall, Morris was instrumental in helping B-SC reach further for its gold ring than ever before. The Panthers have turned things around in recent years, and barring any major stumbles, they should be on everyone’s radar for the next several weeks, starting with their game against LaGrange.
Pat’s take: Buffalo State. The Empire 8 coaches’ poll snubbed the Bengals and despite my best efforts, I think Kickoff did too. I agree with what Ryan said above, about the Empire 8 being among the toughest conferences in Division III football, but Buffalo State will be able to hold its own. Whether that translates into a win against Cortland State remains to be seen but the Bengals should be on your radar, for sure.
Keith’s take: William Paterson and Wisconsin Lutheran. Yeah I’m not sure I understood Pat’s obssession with Buffalo State during our Kickoff meetings, but then he could probably say the same about my Wisconsin Lutheran pick in the Beyond the Top 25 piece. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, buy Kickoff. … It won’t affect the Northern Athletics Conference race, but Wisconsin Lutheran’s opener at Ripon is a chance for them to take a step toward the postseason. Meanwhile, the real intrigue is in the NJAC, a race that could be up for grabs, especially if my upset pick is correct. That means William Paterson needs to start the season with an attention-grabbing victory against King’s. Other potential picks here included North Park at Hope and Illinois College, hosting Hanover.
Which 2011 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays have said more than once in recent seasons that quarterback Hewitt Tomlin was the face of the franchise, the player on whom success and defeat often rested. Tomlin has graduated, and with him the more than 2,600 yards he threw for last year. That doesn’t leave a settling thought for a team that has to go up against Randolph-Macon, with its penchant for replacing top-notch running backs with even more top-notch backs. Macon is stingy with points, too. A team might be able to air the ball out and make some big plays to put up points, but most opponents won’t win the war in the trenches with Macon. JHU won’t have the leverage going into Saturday to outlift R-MC.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. It isn’t a rebuilding season for the Saints, to be sure, but they won’t be 10-0 dominant like they were last year. And you can consult the Kickoff rankings to see the difference between last year’s non-conference opener (Lawrence) and this year’s (Whitworth).
Keith’s take: Franklin. Look, we salute the Grizzlies for playing Mount Union. It’ll be a meeting of some of D-III’s best fans, at least in the pre-game tailgate. For years we’ve seen teams take this Week 1 game to get a taste of the Purple Raiders, and they end up with a mouthful. Franklin, which has designs on being a perennial contender, took a game with UW-Whitewater last season and lost 45-0. The playoff rematch was 41-14. I know Franklin doesn’t really wish it had a bye, because they’re playing these games to figure out what it takes to get to the purple powers’ level, but the final score may leave a bit to be desired. Mount Union has been vulnerable in recent seasons, but we’re talking December vulnerable, not beginning of September. Other candidates: Bendictine at No. 15 Wheaton, Monmouth at Coe.
Which conference will have the most impressive non-conference win?
Ryan’s take: The MIAA. It’s not every day that a team from Michigan can get a leg up on the CCIW, but that’s exactly what could happen when Adrian hosts Carthage. The Bulldogs are a team on the rise, and they’re certainly hoping to bite into a piece of the playoff pie. Should they lose a conference game, wins against teams like Carthage could factor in nicely for at-large consideration.
Pat’s take: The MAC. There are a couple of possible matchups here that could give me that result, but the one I’m thinking of is Lebanon Valley at Montclair State. Montclair State just lost too much on offense and defense … and special teams … and while Lebanon Valley doesn’t exactly return intact either, it should have the upper hand.
Keith’s take: The ECFC. A few teams scheduled aggressively, opening up opportunities for upsets. Gallaudet at Otterbein, Norwich against Western New England and Husson at Hartwick are the three games that would catch my attention, should the ECFC team prevail.
Which long losing streak is likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Greensboro, at Guilford. If you’re going to end a losing streak, nothing’s sweeter than doing it against a cross-town rival. The Pride has a new coach, one who is familiar with the inner workings of the team. That means there’s new perspectives but without the learning curve. To most teams, Guilford wouldn’t be a chest-thumping win, but Greensboro has won just one game since September 2010. And last year’s matchup against Guilford was a lopsided affair. A win by Greensboro isn’t going to be a sign of a great resurgence afoot, but it will be a step in the right direction for a program looking to rebuild.
Pat’s take: Knox, vs. Eureka. The Prairie Fire have been put out 14 consecutive times, but it’s better to open against Eureka than against Wash U. Knox is playing at home and should have 18 starters back. Eureka has some pretty good talent as well, but if the win doesn’t come here for Knox, in the inaugural Lincoln Bowl, it will be more than a month before there’s another similar opportunity.
Keith’s take: Thiel, vs. Juniata. The Tomcats won 11 games in 2005, but now are coming off consecutive 0-10 seasons and 22 consecutive losses. Juniata, meanwhile, is 6-54 since that 2005 season, so if there was ever an opportunity for Theil to break the streak, now is the time. Hamline (16 consecutive losses) at Minnesota-Morris is another candidate.
Adrian · Albright · Augustana · Birmingham-Southern · Buffalo State · Carthage · Case Western Reserve · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Dubuque · Eureka · Gallaudet · Greensboro · Guilford · Hamline · Hanover · Hartwick · Hope · Husson · Illinois College · John Carroll · Johns Hopkins · Juniata · Kean · Knox · Lebanon Valley · Marietta · Minnesota-Morris · Montclair State · North Park · Norwich · Otterbein · Randolph-Macon · Rowan · St. John Fisher · St. Norbert · St. Scholastica · St. Thomas · Thiel · Thomas More · UW-Eau Claire · Western New England · Whitworth · William Paterson · Wisconsin Lutheran
“Long” as in a long season is ahead of us, and we’re just getting started.
And we’re willing to bet that most of you have been looking forward to this moment for eight months or more. We hope that our publication, Kickoff 2011, gave you your “football fix” over the past several days. (If not, there’s still time to buy it and get an insider’s look at all 239 teams.)
From now until the Stagg Bowl, Triple Take will be a weekly forecast for the Saturday ahead. Three members of the D3football.com staff — Executive Editor Pat Coleman, Managing Editor and National Columnist Keith McMillan and Senior Editor and Mid-Atlantic Columnist Ryan Tipps — will go through a series of questions to help readers gauge what to expect on game day. We’re thinking aloud, of sorts. And in many cases, we’ll take you beyond the Top 25 teams and perhaps highlight some sleepers that weren’t otherwise on your radar.
For Week 1, here are some of the most interesting matchups nationwide:
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 10 Coe at No. 16 Hardin-Simmons. Two of the best teams from two of the best conferences in the country. That should say a lot right there. But truth be told, Coe should be near unstoppable most of this season. Any team in the country would be envious to have the kind of returning players that the Kohawks have, and with some gaps for HSU to fill (superstars at quarterback and wideout are gone), this is Coe’s game to lose.
Pat’s take: Trinity Bible at Presentation. It’s not going to be a particularly pretty game, this we know, but it will be the first Division III home game in South Dakota and Presentation might well start its football life off 1-0.
Keith’s take: No. 4 North Central at Redlands. Remember that the Bulldogs were 8-1 last year, a record that almost always gets a team in the playoffs. There are 18 starters back from that squad, though longtime quarterback Dan Selway is not one of them. Likewise, the heart of North Central’s third-best-in-the-nation defense from last year, linebacker Matt Wenger, is gone. But 15 Cardinals starters return. So we’ve got two loaded teams, and the favorite has to travel 1,750 miles from the Chicago area to the L.A. area – flights are rare for D-III teams – for a 7 p.m. PDT kickoff under the lights at Ted Runner Stadium. Heck yeah it’s a game of the week!
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: N.C. Wesleyan at No. 14 Ohio Northern. In their short history, the Bishops have been known for taking on some of the best teams they can get their hands on in non-conference play: Wesley, Hampden-Sydney, Salisbury. The list goes on, and in an era when every loss can become a compounded postseason strike against a playoff-worthy team, the Bishops are putting risk ahead of caution. Even after losing some key starters, it’s rare when they don’t come out swinging. ONU, on its end, has long been a top-tier OAC team, but they have to replace an All-Conference quarterback, rusher and receiver. That’s a hard feat to overcome.
Pat’s take: East Texas Baptist at No. 3 Wesley. I’d like to put this in the next category down but Wesley has too many weapons and is too good defensively. The Wolverines faced a dual-threat quarterback from the ASC last season in LiDarral Bailey and bottled him up (86 yards of total offense). Sed Harris seems to be a similar threat. The only question is if Shane McSweeny, who is returning from injury, can’t connect with a new receiving corps. Justin Sottilare, who led the Wesley offense to the national semifinals last year, disappeared from the Wolverines’ roster sometime this week.
Keith’s take: No. 23 UW-Stevens Point at Willamette. The Bearcats scored 33 unanswered in last season’s 33-14 season-opening win in Wisconsin, partially because the Pointers had no answer for Willamette’s Fly offense. UW-SP lost star wide receivers Jared Jenkins and Anthony Aker, and they travel to Oregon. They’re the ranked team, but I’m not sure they should be expected to win. And yet, I doubt there’s another blowout here, because defenses tend to perform much better after players and coaches have had a look at a specialty offense.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Wittenberg. Most of the Tigers’ recent games against Capital were just plain ugly. That’s not to say such a result will happen again this time, but there are some definite kinks to be worked out before they can find success. It’s been more than a decade since Witt beat an OAC team — and working against the Tigers is that they are not the same team that ended 2010.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Rowan. My gut wants me to aim a little higher, such as the No. 14 spot or even the No. 3 spot, but I can’t pull the trigger. This was a close game last year at Rowan and although Rowan certainly got better over the course of the season, Lycoming peaked earlier. But in this battle of two proud programs, I take the team that won the 1998 semifinals in this rematch. One other note: Rowan played just one game on grass all of last year, beating 2-8 Brockport State. And yeah, Ryan, I’ve been to a Capital-Wittenberg game and it wasn’t pretty. But that was a long time ago.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Wartburg. There’s every reason to like the Knights, who were 10-1 last season with a scoring defense and takeaway margin in the top 10 nationally. They beat their Week 1 opponent, Monmouth, 27-7 last year, and the Scots’ star quarterback, Alex Tanney, played the whole game. So as both teams return 18 starters, it doesn’t seem logical to use Tanney’s return as a reason to think the Knights are in danger. And yet I’m going to do it. Tanney got hurt after throwing one pass in Game 2 against Grinnell, and there’s something that burns inside a player to excel when the game is taken away unexpectedly. All five offensive linemen from last year are back to give Tanney time to throw, and he’s as dangerous as any quarterback in Division III. Wartburg lost to St. Norbert in the 2009 opener, so an upset defeat against a top-shelf MWC team is totally foreseeable. If the Knights aren’t on their game Saturday, it’s likely.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Centre. You can bet that the Colonels want to avenge their 1-point loss to Hanover last year. And in a season where they might be the favorites to win the SCAC, it’ll be interesting whether they can start and stay strong through their nine-game schedule.
Pat’s take: UW-La Crosse. My only question is, will it be enough? The Eagles have the pieces to perform admirably against UW-Whitewater in the season opener but must play the Warhawks twice this season and Mary Hardin-Baylor. Throw in UW-Stevens Point and they could be the best 6-4 or 7-3 team in Division III.
Keith’s take: Salve Regina. If you read Kickoff, you might have noticed my unhealthy obsession with the NEFC’s Seahawks. Union comes to Rhode Island for the opener trying to erase memories of a rare bad season (2-7). There’s a bigger NEFC game in Week 1 too (Framingham State at Endicott), but I’m eager to see if in Year 2, the defensive-minded Bob Chesney begins to field a team that can score as well as it can slow others from scoring.
Which Thursday or Friday night game would you like to attend?
Ryan’s take: Baldwin-Wallace at Wooster. I’m sure that the Yellow Jackets would just like to forget that the last two games of 2010 even happened. And here’s their chance. I’ve pegged B-W to be the No. 2 team in the OAC this year, but I also think that Woo has an upset or two in them this fall. It probably won’t happen in Week 1, but down the line, they will sneak up on somebody.
Pat’s take: Dubuque at Augustana. This should be a nice shootout of passing offenses, with the Spartans and Mike Zweifel leading the way. The schools are not that far apart and it’s a Thursday night game, under the lights. If it weren’t a six-hour drive from here I’d go myself, but I’ll settle for live video.
Keith’s take: Adrian at Husson. I’m curious about McMurry, which is transitioning out of D-III, playing at Stephen F. Austin, but I still think I’d rather go see a Michigan-based D-III team play in Maine. There’s something unique when teams who move in different D-III circles get together. I’d appreciate both the travel opportunity and the chance for us D-III nerds to evaluate conferences against one another.
Which 2010 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. Few things might be more intimidating than starting a season against the big dog of the MAC, Delaware Valley. It’s not an impossible game (the Mules do have players such as All-American linebacker Pat McDonough to prop them up), but most people would probably hitch their wagon to Del Val in this situation.
Pat’s take: St. Lawrence. The Saints open with Utica after they lost every non-conference game they played last year, including a 31-13 decision to Utica later in the season, when youth is less of an excuse.
Keith’s take: St. Norbert. I guess this is a cop-out, because of course it isn’t easy to play the No. 5 team in the country out of the gate. I actually applaud the Green Knights for scheduling tough openers, and this isn’t the first time. They’ve won the non-conference game, gone 9-1 and missed the playoffs, then gone 7-3, won the MWC and gotten in. But still, if they lose the opener, they have to hope it prepared them to win the conference, because two-loss teams are always on shaky playoff ground.
Whose long losing streak is likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Guilford’s, against Greensboro. I mentioned this in my Around the Mid-Atlantic column this week, too, but I think that because the Quakers have a new coach, they also have a new reason to be excited. This week’s opponent is crosstown rival Greensboro, and Guilford’s new coach, Chris Rusiewicz, is bringing a fresh, defensive approach to a team that has lost 11 games in a row. Rusiewicz has made several changes on defense and already understands his players’ strengths and weaknesses. He’ll do a good job of playing to the strengths.
Pat’s take: Thiel’s, against Marietta. The Tomcats finally showed some signs of putting things together down the stretch after a dismal beginning to the season that also had an emotional component following the September death of freshman defensive lineman Louis Giuntini. And to those at Frostburg State and who knew and loved Derek Sheely, our condolences.
Keith’s take: Olivet’s, against Cornell. Or maybe I have that backwards. Okay, fine, someone’s long losing streak is ending here; the Comets’ 27-game streak or the Rams’s 11-game streak. Both teams have second-year coaches and most of their starters back, which isn’t always a good thing if you lost all 10 games. It’s impossible to have a read on a team before they’ve played a game. But Olivet’s at home, so I’ll give them the edge.
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Augustana · Baldwin-Wallace · Capital · Centre · Coe · Dubuque · East Texas Baptist · Guilford · Hardin-Simmons · Lycoming · Marietta · Muhlenberg · N.C. Wesleyan · Ohio Northern · Presentation · Rowan · Thiel · UW-La Crosse · UW-Whitewater · Wesley · Wittenberg · Wooster
After last week, the Top 25 got an overhaul as a handful of undefeated teams fell. To top it off, there’s been a lot of shuffling in some of the conferences across the country. The Iowa Conference, Empire 8, the USA South, the Old Dominion — all have featured significant changes in just a week’s time.
The playoff picture in those areas may have gotten a little foggier, if not defied expectations all together.
That’s much of what we do with Triple Take, try to spot the unexpected — a seemingly impossible paradox in and of itself. But there’s a nuance to predictions: finding the statistical mismatch, the key injury, the motivation that could make or break a team. In Week 7, much happened to defy expectations and create a new way to approach a team.
That’s part of the fun of playing the game every Saturday, isn’t it?
Will the eighth week of the season hold as much drama as the seventh did? Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps weigh in.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Lycoming at No. 9 Delaware Valley. Both teams sit as one-loss teams overall yet are undefeated in conference play. And each of their losses comes against quality opponents, the Aggies especially being just 3:29 from beating Wesley. We all expected DelVal to have a prime year, but Lycoming is somewhat of a surprise. Going now into Week 8, no one takes any team for granted, and Lycoming has rolled through the past six games, sometimes winning by 20-, 30- or even 50-point margins. Both teams have been impressive all year, and the winner on Saturday has the inside track to a game on Nov. 20.
Pat’s take: No. 19 St. John Fisher at Alfred. No longer a battle of unbeatens, but it is a battle of Empire 8 unbeatens. The winner stays on the shortest path to the Empire 8 title, but only St. John Fisher can have aspirations of getting a No. 1 seed and keeping Mount Union away until the national semifinals.
Keith’s take: No. 12 Linfield at No. 22 Pacific Lutheran. So rarely do you go third and get the two best choices. Between No. 20 Bethel at No. 4 St. Thomas and Linfield-PLU, I can’t go wrong. I took the NWC clash because there, the lower-ranked team at least has home-field advantage, and because Linfield has a loss and needs to win to stay on track for the automatic bid, or become a team that went from last year’s final four to probably out of this year’s 32. The Wildcats feature the nation’s fifth most prolific offense, but it’s the defense that’s begun to stand out. Since giving up 47 to Cal Lutheran, the team’s given up 38 in four games, and not all of that has come against the first team. Senior Eric Hedin has 10 sacks in five games, and will get after Jordan Rassmussen and the PLU offense.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Salisbury at Union. Chalk this up more to a feeling than anything else, but Union’s schedule has not been an easy one and yet they’re still able to get a couple scores on the board each week. If the Dutchmen want to stay in this game, it will have to be because of the offense. Union hasn’t done particularly well this season against running teams — and Salisbury is just about the mother of all run teams. If Union finds its groove on offense, this could be a high-scoring affair.
Pat’s take: Carthage at No. 17 Wheaton. Carthage has lost two games, both to CCIW opponents, by the score of 43-8 and 43-16. Counting on a little better performance and some learning curve for the Red Men.
Keith’s take: Rochester at WPI. The nation’s top 15 defenses read like a who’s who of the top 25, with 10th-best defense William Paterson (4-2), No. 13 WPI (3-3) and No. 14 Aurora (4-2) not fitting the group. Rochester, while strangely giving up nearly the same number of points (48) to Merchant Marine as it did to St. John Fisher (49), allowed an average of 15.6 to Case Western Reserve, Union and RPI. And that’s good because the Yellowjackets are 216th in scoring at 12.8 points per game. Against WPI’s defense, that number might not improve, but the Engineers’ offense (185th nationally at 281.5 yards per game) isn’t a juggernaut either. Short story long, this could be surprisingly close by being unsurprisingly low scoring.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 6 North Central. The Cardinals have a ton of offensive weapons at their disposal, so a win here for Illinois Wesleyan wouldn’t be easy. But the Titans are coming off a victory against a solid Elmhurst team and should be carrying some momentum into this game. IWU will need to ask for more from its defense — more from Ryan Gresko and the rest of the linebackers and more from the secondary to stop any big plays from happening. With just one in-conference loss, IWU is still in the playoff hunt. But North Central has plenty on its mind, too: A No. 1 seed in the postseason isn’t out of the question.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Thomas More. Alright, it seems unlikely on the face of it, no doubt. Bethany has scored 40 points in each of the past two games and is playing at home. Who knows, perhaps freshman quarterback Matt Grimard won’t know enough to be intimidated, or will simply play the game of his life.
Keith’s take: No. 7 Wittenberg. I don’t know that any of the big clashes, in the CCIW, MAC, MIAC or NWC, will end in upsets. Carnegie Mellon (4-2) is an interesting opponent for the the 7-0 Tigers, though, because it’s had two weeks to prepare, when it’s really Wittenberg that could use the extra week to work on stopping the Wing-T. The Tartans (261 yards/game) are the nation’s No. 12 rush offense, but the Tigers are the No. 8 rush defense (59 yards/game). The UAA-NCAC scheduling agreement gives these two teams as many common opponents as conference rivals would have, and while the comparative scores are inconclusive, it could mean the CMU coaching staff is able to glean some insight from one of them.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: DePauw. The undefeated Tigers are a team I’ve been watching closely all season. But this week, they merit special mention in this category because, with a win against Trinity, DePauw would become the first team in the country to clinch an automatic bid to the playoffs. DPU is the only SCAC team undefeated in conference play. And after the Trinity game, the only conference opponent left that counts toward the AQ is Austin, which already has two losses. Until last season, DPU had never beaten Trinity. Raising the stakes on Saturday is that DPU will have to play their SCAC rival on the road.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Pacific Lutheran. And that’s because win or lose, the Lutes are playoff contenders. Win, of course, and Pacific Lutheran puts Linfield out of control of its own destiny, having to hope for a three-way tie in the NWC (wherein Willamette beats Pacific Lutheran in Week 11) or an upset.
Keith’s take: No. 20 Bethel. If you aren’t in MIAC country, chances are you can’t name two Royals players, because St. Thomas and St. John’s have absorbed all the spotlight. Bethel’s got a suffocating defense that is No. 1 in the nation against the run (33.5 yards per game) and No. 9 overall, and hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game. The Royals, behind the one player you would have heard of if you’ve been following for long enough, in Logan Flannery (125.8 yards/game), has a potent rushing attack. St. Thomas is similarly dominating, and that’s been well documented. If Bethel performs on Saturday, they’ll be able to sign their names to the nationally recognized register as well.
Which unlikely conference leader is most likely to pick up a loss?
Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. The Mules have been an impressive surprise this year despite starting with a loss to Delaware Valley. Sophomore Terrence Dandridge has really stepped into the spotlight and made the Mules one of the best rushing teams in the Centennial. But this week, they face a potent passing attack from John Harrison and Franklin and Marshall. Muhlenberg did reasonably well earlier in the season against the strong passing game Johns Hopkins offered, but F&M’s attach can really sizzle when it gets going. Perhaps the question is whether we’ll see the solid F&M offense that showed up against Dickinson or the one that showed up last week against Moravian, where balance was lacking.
Pat’s take: Plymouth State. The Plymouth State game is the first of two games in a row that Western New England will have to win to clinch itself a bid in the NEFC title game. Western New England lost its opening game to Norwich but has been on a roll since, while Plymouth State has been winning with defense.
Keith’s take: Shenandoah. The trip to Ferrum is nothing easy for the Hornets, and trips to the end zone have not been either. At No. 213 in total offense and 190th in scoring offense (16.5 points per game), Shenandoah — like the other 2-4 teams tied with Averett and N.C. Wesleyan atop the USAC — doesn’t fit the profile of a conference co-leader. (Speaking of leaders, as far as unlikely ones, there aren’t many; St. Lawrence [vs. RPI], maybe Benedictine [vs. Maranatha Baptist], but nationally it’s mostly the usual suspects at the top of conferences)
Which team this week will least resemble last week’s performance?
Ryan’s take: RPI. RPI had the best quarter of its year last week, racking up 24 points against Alfred in the first 15 minutes of play. The other 45 minutes resembled the RPI most probably expected to play in that game. I think that’s where they will pick up against Liberty League leader St. Lawrence this week.
Pat’s take: Westminster (Pa.). The Titans will be hosting their first-ever on-campus night game on Saturday, and are playing Thiel to do so. Now, Thiel’s president this week curiously threw down the gantlet and said the following in an e-mail to the student body: “Many of you don’t know this, but Westminster had the nerve to schedule Thiel College for their first ever night game under the new lights at their home football stadium. As you know I am a very competitive person. I don’t want teams scheduling us for their first competitions under new lights, on a new field or court, or anything else like that. Those games are supposed to be scheduled against teams you can beat.” In calling out his school’s PAC rival, he cast a very interesting spotlight on his team, which hasn’t scored more than seven points in a game all year, while allowing an average of just under 30. Westminster lost at Waynesburg last week, 24-23. This will not resemble that. This is a team Westminster can beat.
Keith’s take: Randolph-Macon. It’s back to the life of unranked and off the radar for the Yellow Jackets after a flirtation with the top 20. They’ve got a get-right game against 0-6 Guilford, which has allowed 55.5 points per ODAC game so far, but R-MC also won’t resemble the team that started 6-0 if quarterback Austin Faulkner isn’t back at full strength.
What team with two or more losses is worth watching?
Ryan’s take: Carnegie Mellon. The Tartans have a chance to break out of the .500 streak they’ve been trapped in each of the past two seasons. And this week they’ll line up against Wittenberg, which will test the CMU run game unlike any game to date. The Tartans have a lot of rushers at their disposal, so being able to rotate carries could keep the players fresh against that stout Tigers defense.
Pat’s take: Lewis and Clark. Worth watching in the first place because the team has been putting up points like crazy the past two seasons. On Saturday the Pioneers have a good chance to win a second Northwest Conference game for the first time since 1997. And lest you say that the only reason L&C is in this position is because Pacific added football, I would point out that L&C also beat Menlo in Week 6, and that would have counted last year.
Keith’s take: McMurry. Hal Mumme is working his magic, and the 5-2 _______s (7-letter mascot, not starting with I- or ending with -ndians) are the nation’s most prolific passing offense, behind Jake Mullin and his 34-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. With at least four TD passes and at least 31 points all but once, “worth watching” does not seem to be a problem.
Alfred · Bethany · Carnegie Mellon · Carthage · Delaware Valley · DePauw · Lewis and Clark · Lycoming · Muhlenberg · North Central · Plymouth State · Puget Sound · RPI · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · Thiel · Thomas More · Union · Western New England · Westminster (Pa.) · Wheaton (Ill.)
Week 4 marks the debut of the remaining Division III teams — those from the NESCAC. After this week, every one of the 238 teams we cover will have game time in the bank.
But while some teams are taking the field for the first times, in other parts of the country, squads are setting up for some pretty big showdowns, and they go beyond the purview of the Top 25.
Three D-III minds – Pat’s, Keith’s and mine — help make sense of what’s in store.
– Ryan Tipps
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 8 Hardin-Simmons at No. 5 Mary Hardin-Baylor. There’s so much to pick from this week, but I have to go with this battle in the heart of Texas because on my Top 25 ballot, I have these two teams flipped around. Especially coming off of a trouncing of another top-ranked team last weekend, it’s hard not to be excited about what HSU brings to the table. The offense is operating as if Justin Feaster and ZaVious Robbins never missed a year. UMHB is good, too, but if the Crusaders get in the unenviable position of falling behind early (which can happen against a team like the Cowboys, which hits hardest in quarters 1 and 2), UMHB won’t have the tools to claw back by the end of 60 minutes.
Pat’s take: No. 7 Central at No. 9 Coe. Must. Stay. Home. Too. Many. Good Games. This is the closest of the great games to me but if I drove four hours (or so) each way to Iowa I would miss being able to follow all of the other good ones. Hoping to set up both screens and see this Wittenberg-Allegheny game on Fox College Sports-Central. Do I get that with the sports pack on DirecTV? Central has a habit of pulling out great games late but Coe has to know that because it played practically nobody in the non-conference schedule, it needs to win this to have a real playoff shot.
Keith’s take: No. 17 UW-Eau Claire at No. 11 North Central. I’m in agreement with Ryan, that Hardin-Simmons looks dangerous, and with Pat that there are more good games than one can watch this Saturday. And since they chose first, that leaves me Blugolds at Cardinals for my GOTW. But it’s worthy, not only as the week’s third clash of top 25s, but as one of the last big inter-conference clashes of 2010 until the playoffs in November. So can we try to extrapolate some meaning from it, with CCIW teams off to a 19-2 start, and the WIAC at just 5-9 but having played No. 2 Mount Union, No. 4 St. Thomas, No. 5 Mary Hardin-Baylor, No. 7 Central, No. 10 Ohio Northern, No. 11, No. 14 Trine, No. 15 Willamette, No. 18 St. John’s and No. 22 Wheaton? Honestly, it’s hard to say. It might just be about how the Blugolds rush offense (175 yards per game so far) deals with the Cardinals’ run D (36/game). It’s North Central’s first big test, if nothing else.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Dickinson at McDaniel. Most years, you’d expect Dickinson to be the top dog in this fight, but 2010 brings a twist with McDaniel being undefeated and Dickinson currently winless. The Red Devils don’t boast any of the obvious strengths they’ve held in the past, but they’re not likely to play into the hands of the Green Terror’s conference-leading run defense. Dickinson can throw the ball well, which means they will still be an offensive threat late in the game, no matter what the scoreboard is showing.
Pat’s take: Washington and Jefferson at No. 12 Thomas More. W&J hasn’t shown much of late and the scuttlebutt might be that Thomas More has left them in the dust, but there’s still a lot of pride left in this program and this is a chance to make a splash again and return to relevancy on the national scene. Three losses in six games isn’t Presidents football.
Keith’s take: Lewis & Clark at Whitworth. Coming off a 63-point Saturday against Pomona-Pitzer, the Pioneers’ confidence might be the highest its been since we I can remember. L&C features the the nation’s sixth-most productive rushing attack at 330 yards per game, with both Joevonte Mayes and Keith Welch averaging more than 130 per. But doing it against a pair of mid-level SCIAC teams isn’t like winning in the NWC. ‘Surprisingly close’ might just mean another touchdown closer than the last three (48-7 in ’07, then 42-7 and 34-7 last year), but when coming from the depths the Pioneers have seen, any step forward is progress.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: None. This might be the first time ever that I’ve said “none” to this question. Aside from the game in Texas I already mentioned up top, I don’t see any teams losing to a lower-slotted opponent this weekend.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Alfred. Springfield has just been too efficient on offense this season and only one game is against an opponent from a bottom-feeding conference. The fact that Springfield took it to Wilkes last week (566 yards, 90 carries) gives the offense a legitimate performance against a representative Division III team. Alfred isn’t in for a rude awakening, because it knows what it’s getting into, but this first salvo in the war for the top of the Empire 8 is going to shuffle the Top 25 a bit.
Keith’s take: No. 12 Thomas More. Even with six teams playing each other in what would be slight upsets at best, and with Montclair State-Morrisville State, Linfield-La Verne and Mount Union-Wilmington on the docket, there are still some distinct possibilities. Chicago might not be a pushover for Wabash, and Allegheny could be the toughest opponent Wittenberg sees until November. Capital could do a number on Wesley. But football, and the pride its players have, is funny sometimes. Just as we start to hand over ‘dominant team in the PAC’ status from Washington & Jefferson to Thomas More, the Presidents could summon an effort that throws it all into doubt again.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Denison. On the standings list, here’s this little undefeated team sandwiched between the NCAC’s power W’s. The Big Red have struggled to land just two winning seasons in the past decade, but here they are, 3-0 and facing a Case team that’s been surprisingly impressive despite the holes left by graduations. I’ll be looking at Denison much in the same way I did with McMurry last week: I’m not expecting a win, but a strong showing will go a long way toward seeing how much this once-lower-rung NCAC team has risen.
Keith’s take: St. John Fisher. When I saw this team play last year, I thought they looked good … probably for this year. So far that’s been true, as they’re the country’s No. 4 scoring offense (49 points is their low game during the 3-0 start). Hobart (2-0) is averaging 36.5 points and five sacks a game, and this marks a test stronger than any the Cardinals have had this season. With a win, SJF could shoot into the top 25.
Pat’s take: Salisbury. This team should already be on your radar, but Hampden-Sydney will be the highest-profile team the unbeaten Sea Gulls have taken on. It might be tempting to think that Salisbury won’t be ready for a close game after beating Christopher Newport by 48 and Husson by, yes, 77, but the Sea Gulls also beat North Carolina Wesleyan 13-7 to open the season. The defense came up with two stops inside the Sea Gulls 25 in the final four minutes to seal the deal. More than 278 total yards will be needed this week, however.
In a game between winless teams, pick a winner in one of them.
Ryan’s take: Hope, against Lakeland Not since 2005 has Hope won a nonconference game. I thought that the Dutchmen were going to get the nonconference monkey off their back in Week 2. I was wrong. If they fall short on Saturday, they’re likely left with another 11 months before the opportunity arises again.
Pat’s take: Anna Maria, against Becker. Neither team’s resume gives it a clear advantage over the other, but I’m picking the Amcats not because of their nickname (AMCAT = Anna Maria College Athletic Team) but because this program is still in search of its first win. Becker wasn’t on the schedule last year, so there’s no history to draw from.
Keith’s take: Thiel, against St. Vincent. It’s been a rough week for the Tomcats, first with the death of freshman defensive end Louis Giuntini, and much less importantly, with a Pittsburgh news organization wondering if they’d lose to their No. 1-ranked high school team. Later in Triple Take we look at situations where a team could lose focus; Thiel’s rough week might have sharpened theirs. It’s not hard to give it all in practice with such a stark reminder that you’re lucky to be playing; I’d go Thiel this week even if the opponent weren’t the Bobcats, 1-31 since reviving football. Both SVU losses are by five, while Thiel’s gained just 183 yards per game (216th of 226 teams recognized in the national stats and with games played) and scored 4.33 points per (224th), so without the emotional factor, it’d be wise to have picked the other way.
As the NESCAC debuts, which game from there are you most looking forward to?
Ryan’s take: Wesleyan at Middlebury. Mostly I’m looking to see how Middlebury quarterback Donald McKillop responds on the field to having lost to graduation three of his five favorite throwing targets. With the ground game missing a key element, too, McKillop will have to lead his team against an opponent it hasn’t faced since 2007.
Pat’s take: Wesleyan at Middlebury. But I’m interested for a different reason, wondering what the first game in the Mike Whalen era is like. The successful Williams coach returned to his alma mater this offseason.
Keith’s take: Colby at Trinity (Conn.) Amherst, as defending champions returning 15 starters, is the team I’m most curious about, but opening up with Bates (1-7, last place last season) won’t tell us much. The White Mules (14 back) and Bantams (15) are among the teams which could push to finish in the NESCAC’s top half, with Trinity among the three traditional challengers.
What team could get caught looking ahead?
Ryan’s take: Endicott. The Gulls are staring down Curry in two weeks, but first they have to line up against 1-2 Salve Regina on Saturday. The Gulls are coming off a 42-point margin win last week, so bottom line will be adjusting to a Salve Regina team that has given up an average of just 12 points per game all year. But the Seahawks’ secondary will be playing on its heels all day against Endicott’s pass game, and a few breaks one way or another could leave the favored Gulls in trouble.
Pat’s take: No. 4 St. Thomas. Coach-speak is all well and good but let’s be honest: After the frustrations of the past two seasons for St. Thomas against archrival St. John’s, what Tommie doesn’t at least have the Oct. 2 date with the Johnnies mentally circled, if not actually physically marked on some form of calendar? This week’s game against Concordia-Moorhead is the definition of a trap game. Oh, and I said this last year too. But it’s still the case.
Keith’s take: No. 22 Wheaton. With a CCIW clash against No. 21 Illinois Wesleyan (off this week) looming, it could be difficult for the Thunder to take Olivet seriously, even under the lights in Michigan. Coaches preach against it, but it absolutely happens.
So, how about your thoughts on this week’s games? What’s most interesting about your team’s game? Give us a comment below.
Alfred · Anna Maria · Becker · Central · Coe · Colby · Concordia-Moorhead · Denison · Dickinson · Endicott · Hampden-Sydney · Hardin-Simmons · Hobart · Hope · Lakeland · Lewis and Clark · Mary Hardin-Baylor · McDaniel · Middlebury · North Central · Olivet · Salisbury · Salve Regina · Springfield · St. John Fisher · St. Thomas · St. Vincent · Thiel · Thomas More · Trinity (Conn.) · UW-Eau Claire · Washington and Jefferson · Wesleyan · Wheaton · Whitworth
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