TAG | Trinity (Conn.)
With an extra week to wait and prepare, Chris Haupt and Widener need a win against Delaware Valley to secure a playoff bid.
Widener athletics file photo
For all the games played in the regular season, those that live as part of storied rivalries are among the greatest.
It’s special for the players, alumni and parents who get to be a part of those traditions. For no matter how bad a season has been, rivalry week offers a chance at a bit of redemption, a chance to play with heart and end the school year – or even a college career – with a smile. From Monon and Cortaca to Bowls and Games, the edge-of-your-seat excitement happens all across the country.
Pat, Keith and Ryan take you into Week 11, with Selection Sunday looming just beyond.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Delaware Valley at No. 9 Widener. There has been no shortage of questions about the Pride’s strength throughout the season. They’ve beaten their three best opponents by only a combined 13 points. And their lesser opponents? Well, those teams have been absolutely pummeled. The Aggies are the last hurdle to Widener’s ride into the postseason, but oh what a hurdle. After a fall from grace with two opening losses, DelVal regained its form and has been more convincing than Widener down the stretch. Both teams are statistically sound, but Widener will want to win this one to avoid an ugly three-way tie for the top of the MAC. Of course, DelVal will want to win to force just such a situation. This will be a conference people could be talking a lot about come Sunday.
Pat’s take: St. John’s at No. 22 Bethel. Once upon a time, St. John’s had beaten Bethel 20 consecutive meetings. But these days, the Royals have the upper hand. Bethel’s playoff hopes are already flagging thanks to the loss to St. Olaf and it can’t afford to lose this game. Meanwhile, St. John’s needs the win to finish with a winning record … and who knows, it might take some extra motivation from the possibility that John Gagliardi might be coaching his last game.
Keith’s take: Adrian at No. 17 Huntingdon. Since I wrote the Around the Nation column largely on the implications of this game, there’s no need to rehash that if you’ve been following along. But I didn’t get into player matchups or X’s and O’s, and there’s something big to focus on here: Adrian is second in the country in scoring defense (10.67 points per game to No. 1 Mount Union’s 3.11) and held five consecutive MIAA opponents in the single digits before Albion scored 19 in an overtime loss last week. Huntingdon scores 39.25 points per game and puts up 417.75 yards (numbers that are just 16th and 54th nationally), with multitalented RB Trevor Manuel guiding the way. Adrian LBs Deonte Bridgman and Hunter Juntunen lead the Bulldogs’ defense, which is adept at stopping the run (1oth nationally) and the pass (fifth). Huntingdon DL D.J. Chappell and Courtney Moss have been spending time in opponents’ backfields. This game is a curiosity because of the mismatch of styles, as well as D-III regions. The MIAA isn’t exactly known as one of D-IIIs top conferences, and Huntingdon, if it wins big by scoring a bunch, will be making a statement for playoff inclusion and for the quality of D-III ball in the deep south.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Maryville at Ferrum. Both teams have a lot to play for here, and it’s rare in recent years for this game to be separated by more than one score. The Scots are trying to secure their first winning season since 2007, and this under the leadership of a first-year coach. Ferrum, on the other hand, could be propelled into the postseason if Christopher Newport suffers an upset loss. Expect this matchup to go down to the bone.
Pat’s take: Denison at Kenyon. Denison has a huge chance to play spoiler here. And who thought we would ever be talking about someone spoiling Kenyon’s playoff chances? Denison’s 3-6 is just as misleading as Kenyon’s 6-3. For two members of the same conference, they have fairly few common opponents.
Keith’s take: Buena Vista at Dubuque. The Beavers, in hindsight, played perhaps the nation’s toughest opening five games (a distinction that previously belonged to Buffalo State). They went 0-5 against four teams that have playoff aspirations (UW-Platteville, Concordia-Moorhead, Bethel and Coe) and Wartburg, allowing 48.6 points per game and losing each contest by between 21 and 51 points. Since, however, they’ve reeled off four wins in varying fashions, and can get to .500 on the season by beating last season’s IIAC champ, who also comes in at 4-5. The Spartans can still wing it, as Sean Anderson averages seven catches a game and Austin Morgan (6.89) is just a shade behind, and you’d expect them — by reputation and name recognition — to run up some high totals against BVU. The Beavers allowed 369 yards and four passing touchdowns against Simpson last week, but they won, 29-27, and are playing to end the season on a high note, while Dubuque is undoubtedly disappointed with its encore.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Waynesburg. One- and two-point wins against teams that are 2-7 don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence, especially when this week’s opponent is veteran power Washington and Jefferson. Top 25 voters (myself included) held off a long time pulling the trigger on the Yellow Jackets because the strength of schedule and margins of victory just didn’t stack up well compared with the rest of the teams being considered. With a loss, Waynesburg could very well be sitting nervously as a 9-1 at-large team on Selection Sunday.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Cortland State. The Cortaca Jug is motivation enough for either team, and Ithaca has had a pretty good season. The Bombers lost each of the past two meetings, including being dominated last year in a 27-3 loss. There seems to be some gamesmanship going on with the status of Ithaca quarterback Phil Neumann as well, but I wouldn’t expect Ithaca to come with anything better than its best possible performance.
Keith’s take: No. 24 Pacific Lutheran. In trying to find a team that isn’t mentioned elsewhere in Triple Take, my options were limited; even more so when look for one that might actually lose. In a game at Menlo, in California’s bay area, the Seattle-area Lutes travel to face a team that’s lost four in a row. The Oaks, a former NWC and D-III member, have faced No. 3 Linfield, No. 6 Wesley and NAIA No. 1 Marian this season, so they’re ready for the kind of athletes they’ll see from PLU. The Lutes are tested as well, and need to win for playoff inclusion (even though Menlo is non-D-III, the at-large bids are so competitive, each team needs everything it can get), so perhaps this is a terrible pick. But what’d you want me to do, suggest Mississippi College would win at No. UMHB? Suggest 0-9 McDaniel would pick off No. 21 Johns Hopkins? I guess I could have picked No. 11 Salisbury to loaf, with playoff spot now in hand, against Regents Cup rival Frostburg State. My bad.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Pomona-Pitzer/Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Both of these teams can’t end the season winless. *Somebody* has to go home happy on Saturday. The Sagehens are riding an unflattering 18-game skid, so I could venture a guess as to which team will come out on top. But if ever there were a time to break the streak, this is it.
Pat’s take: St. Norbert. After a couple of years on the sidelines, St. Norbert is again playing a part in the Midwest Conference race. They could take Lake Forest down on Saturday, but if not, they were here in the end, which is something that would have been difficult to imagine after the opener against John Carroll.
Keith’s take: Louisiana College. Here’s a team I consider in the nation’s top 15, whose playoff hopes are on life support because Pool C is loaded with teams which grade out slightly better on the criteria than the Wildcats. As my eighth team in for seven spots when I ran a quick projection earlier in the week, LC’s hopes are very much alive. I know for a fact the selection committee members are curious about the game against Hardin-Simmons, which brings the nation’s No. 2 total offense (556.56 yards/game) and No. 234 defense (493 yards/game) to Pineville. Here’s the deal: The pressure is on, as it will be in the playoffs, so LC’s start a week early. A win with spotlight on, against this offense, is worth a win over a regionally ranked opponent, plus an SoS boost, which could help the Wildcats get in. They need just one thing to break right — a loss by one of the CCIW leaders, or a result in the NCAC that gives Wittenberg or Ohio Wesleyan the AQ, an Adrian win at Huntingdon — but more than anything, they need to beat the Cowboys, or there’ll be no one to blame but themselves.
Rivalry game you’re most interested in (alma maters excluded).
Ryan’s take: Mount St. Joseph at Thomas More. Remember the last time these two Bridge Bowl opponents met without one of them prepping for the postseason? Me neither. This is where the rivalry lives on the best, in the games in which each team is laying it all out on the field and playing with absolutely nothing to lose. MSJ is 4-5; TMC is 6-3. This is just such a game – the final hurrah for the seniors on both sidelines.
Pat’s take: Union at RPI. This snuck up on me because I wasn’t aware that the Dutchman Shoes game had been moved back to Week 11, which is where it belongs. A rivalry game just isn’t the same in Week 9, where it had been stuck for a while, or Week 6, where it was played a decade ago. For me, this rivalry game is most interesting because I want to see if RPI can continue the success it has had this season. And that success is surprising to me, considering the amount of turmoil the program has been through, including a four-head-coaches-in-15-months span. By the way, of this group, I’m the only one that doesn’t have an alma mater/rivalry game to worry about anymore. ::shakes fist:: Curse you, Georgetown!
Keith’s take: Hanover at Franklin. I had a similar thought about Union-RPI, and I’m glad it, the Bronze Turkey and the NESCAC rivalry games all fall on Week 11. Mostly though, the rivalry games this year are a bit out of the national spotlight. Trinity (Conn.) going for a perfect season against a better-than-usual Wesleyan (5-2) is a big deal, but the Victory Bell game is this year’s biggest. Despite Hanover’s 35-34 loss to Manchester (five straight wins) last week, the Panthers still have a chance to beat their rivals on their home field, win the HCAC and take the conference’s automatic playoff bid. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have been on a tear since an 0-2 start, and have allowed just 23 points over the past five games. Hanover won 15 of 16 from 1989 to 2004, but Franklin — coached by Mike Leonard, a 1984 Hanover grad — has won seven in a row.
Who will have the least momentum going into the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: The NCAC’s tiebreaker champ. While so many other teams out there have clarity on how to get their conference’s automatic qualifier, Wittenberg, Ohio Wesleyan and Kenyon (all with one conference loss) have been bogged down by conference criteria that has been interpreted a dozen different ways by those outside of the NCAC brass. It appears that either Witt or Kenyon would get the AQ, but how grueling it must be to not know over these final two weeks whether you control your own fate. (UPDATE: The NCAC office has made public what would happen in the various scenarios)
Pat’s take: Castleton State. If the Spartans make it to the playoffs, and they very well can beat Mount Ida, they’ll get there without their star quarterback, Shane Brozowski, who broke his leg in last week’s win against Husson.
Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins. Great idea for a question, but my issue with it is every answer that makes sense now — North Central, for example — wouldn’t make as much sense after a win on Saturday puts that team into the playoffs. But I can say that the Blue Jays were once a ball rolling down hill, undefeated, in line for a playoff home game and a second consecutive 10-0 regular season before Franklin & Marshall spoiled it last week. Rebounding to beat McDaniel will clinch the Centennial Conference, and it’s plenty to pump up the players to push hard in Week 10. But it’s also going to be light years away from the type of challenge the Blue Jays get in the first round — against a Salisbury, maybe, or at home against Washington & Lee, as in Pat’s most recent projection. I think I’d rather be going into the playoffs having played my best game against my conference’s best team rather than this.
Which team can alter its fortunes the most?
Ryan’s take: No. 13 Heidelberg. For a team that played Mount Union better than any other this year, Heidelberg could give itself a lot of drive (and maybe a good seeding) heading into postseason if they are able to knock off formerly ranked Baldwin Wallace.
Pat’s take: Adrian. With a win at Huntingdon on Saturday, the Bulldogs, already in as the MIAA champ, could potentially play themselves as high as a possible home game, or at least a winnable road game in the first round of the playoffs. With a loss, the Bulldogs could well find themselves on the short road to Alliance, Ohio, and a date with Mount Union. They will need to be at their most motivated, too, to go down to Alabama and beat a team that is playing for its playoff life. Huntingdon needs this win to get in, but I’d say Adrian needs the win in order to extend its reasonable playoff life.
Keith’s take: St. Olaf. Mostly an afterthought in this week’s playoff chatter, the Oles, with a win at 9-0 St. Thomas, would have closed the season with consecutive victories against regionally ranked opponents, be 8-2 and have an SoS that would get them in the discussion (.515 but bound to rise). So why is nobody talking about the Oles? Well, they allow 211 rushing yards per game, and the Tommies rush for 239 per, for starters. Upsetting the No. 4 Tommies would probably take a combination of great Oles play and lackluster effort from St. Thomas, which makes sense if you think the Tommies are content with just being in the postseason, but not if you believe they’d rather play in December in Minnesota instead of Oregon, Ohio or Texas.
Adrian · Bethel · Buena Vista · Castleton State · Claremont-Mudd-Scripps · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Denison · Dubuque · Ferrum · Franklin · Hanover · Hardin-Simmons · Heidelberg · Huntingdon · Johns Hopkins · Kenyon · Louisiana College · Maryville · Mount St. Joseph · Pacific Lutheran · Pomona-Pitzer · RPI · Salisbury · St. John's · St. Olaf · Thomas More · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Wayneburg · Widener
Kevin Burke and Mount Union are going strong, despite Heidelberg actually scoring this week.
Mount Union athletics photo by JT Higgins
Now at least we know we will have no more than one Purple Power in Salem for the Stagg Bowl, after the elimination of UW-Whitewater from any reasonable playoff hopes with its third overall loss and second regional loss this week. If Mount were to advance, who might join them? And what do the potential No. 1 seeds need to avoid? Keith and Pat talk about it in this week’s Around the Nation Podcast, sponsored by the City of Salem, hosts of Stagg Bowl XL. Tickets on sale now!
As the season winds down, there are just 22 conferences left to have teams clinch automatic bids, so there’s still a long way to go. Not all of them can clinch this week either, but some can, and some teams on byes can actually clinch from home. Plus, as at-large bids go, some teams played themselves out of consideration this week by picking up a second loss, while some two-loss teams actually have strong resumes for consideration.
Pat and Keith talk about a lot of teams this week, including both teams in the Mount Union-Heidelberg game. Check the tags at the bottom of this page to find out who is on the topics list.
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Here’s this week’s D3football.com reports and highlight packages.
And this week’s photo gallery from our friends at d3photography.com:
Adrian · Albion · Amherst · Baldwin-Wallace · Bethel · Coe · concordia-chicago · Concordia-Moorhead · Heidelberg · Hobart · Huntingdon · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Kenyon · Lake Forest · Linfield · Mount Union · North Central (Ill.) · Ohio Wesleyan · Pacific Lutheran · Salisbury · St. Norbert · St. Thomas · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Utica · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington and Jefferson · Waynesburg · Wesley · Wheaton (Ill.) · Willamette · Wittenberg
When Williams and Trinity (Conn.) meet, usually the game has NESCAC title implications, even though it’s always the second game of their season.
Williams athletics photo
Some weeks, our perceptions are shaken; other times, they’re only slightly stirred.
This year, we’ve seen Top 10 teams fall, and many others earn just the narrowest of wins. But that’s not an indictment on the higher-polled team. Rather, it’s a testament to the underdogs’ “leave it all on the field” mentality — that which pushes them forward even when the odds are stacked against them. Isn’t that the heart of competition? Isn’t that the reason the players play and fans cheer on Saturdays? Isn’t that why we love football?
And the best part is that any team, from any conference, can bounce back the following week. Some teams play with the goal of the postseason, but many others play for pride or simply to do better than the year before. Ask undefeateds Ohio Wesleyan and Salve Regina and Whitworth if this was the kind of season they realistically saw ahead of them. Conversely, ask McDaniel, DePauw and St. Vincent if they expected to still be on the hunt for win No. 1 at this point in the year.
There is still lots of time left on the field for teams to reach their goals. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps will walk you through their own unique views of the weekend at hand.
– Ryan Tipps
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Carnegie Mellon at No. 17 Wabash. The Little Giants experienced a fall from grace last week after a surprising loss against Allegheny. Can Wabash rebound in front of its home crowd? Carnegie, which sits undefeated, will provide a much tougher matchup than the Gators were for Wabash, which should give Wabash pause. CMU quarterback Rob Kalkstein leads the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown for more than 1,000 yards in just four games. The Little Giant secondary will have to be on its toes, and the defense will need to showcase its ability to force turnovers.
Pat’s take: No. 4 UW-Whitewater at No. 13 UW-Platteville. At least it better be, since it’s nearly a five-hour drive each way for me. The Warhawks’ struggles on offense were somewhat put behind them last week in a 34-7 win against UW-Stevens Point, putting together three long scoring drives though Lee Brekke was just 12-for-30 passing. Now, UW-Platteville, on the other hand, has averaged more than 53 points against overmatched competition, including a 49-19 win against UW-Eau Claire. If John Kelly can have anywhere near the kind of success against UW-Whitewater as he did against Eau Claire, the Whitewater I saw the first two weeks is going to have a hard time keeping up. The Warhawks may need to make some significant changes on offense.
Keith’s take: Trinity (Conn). at Williams. There’s nothing on the line here but Saturday night pride, and perhaps a shot at the NESCAC title in November. And that’s what makes it so appealing — that and a couple of very good defenses. With no playoffs and little top 25 recognition because they don’t accept bids and start so long after everyone else (it’s NESCAC Week 2), there are but a few opportunities for the spotlight games that bring out the best. The Bantams allowed 120 yards in Week 1, making theirs the nation’s No. 1 defense. The Ephs weren’t far behind, with 149 yards and a No. 3 national ranking. It’s not uncommon for NESCAC teams to rank that high, espscially after one game — Amherst is fifth — but it could make points hard to come by. Williams QB Adam Marske was 22 of 27 for 277 yards in a 41-7 win over Colby. Trinity got 146 yards from RB Evan Bunker in the opener. These two teams, plus Amherst, are your main title contenders here, and someone is going to get eliminated on Saturday. Honorable mention, Elmhurst at No. 11 North Central (see below) and No. 2 UMHB at Sul Ross State.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Spingfield at Union. Averaging nearly 375 yards a game on the ground, Springfield has rightly earned respect for its ground game. But 1-3 Union has been able to limit its opposition to less than half that per outing, and the Dutchmen’s opposition has been more consistently challenging than that of the Pride, which carries a 3-1 record into its second week of conference play.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Bethel at Augsburg. If you didn’t hear me on the Around the Nation podcast this past week, Augsburg quarterback Ayrton Scott intrigues me. He’s a speedy and shifty runner — my only question is whether that’s going to be enough against Bethel, which will feature a much better defense than Hamline did last week. First-year starting quarterback Erik Peterson has completed 74 percent of his passes and throws for an average of 225 yards per game, but Buena Vista and Carleton haven’t provided much competition either.
Keith’s take: Juniata at Johns Hopkins. I’m going way out on a limb in this one, but the Eagles deserve a little notice. They’re predictably 1-3, aren’t outstanding at any one thing and have the recent history that would make Blue Jays players take them lightly. But Juniata lost by just a touchdown to Dickinson and Franklin & Marshall, and led Gettysburg early in a 28-7 loss. With the right combination of Johns Hopkins apathy and continued improved play by the Eagles, including sophomore QB Ward Udinski,who had 371 yards of total offense against Dickinson, this could be a close game into the second half.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 15 Baldwin Wallace. I’ve been high on the Yellow Jackets since the beginning of last year, thinking they’ve been on the cusp of some really great things. A low-scoring overtime win against Muskingum last week, though, has my faith in BW rattled. Opponent Otterbein has yet to earn a blemish this season, but the Cardinals are saddled with a litany of ifs and buts. The Yellow Jackets need to find their momentum soon if they want to be playing deep into November.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Illinois Wesleyan. Going out on a limb here because I don’t think Millikin is actually quite ready to do so this year. I might come back to this in 2013 when it makes more sense, but this is my super upset special for the week.
Keith’s take: No. 11 North Central. I might as well hop all the way on the Elmhurst bandwagon. With the nation’s No. 2 rusher (Scottie Williams, 193 yards per game), No. 2 turnover margin (plus nine) and No. 3 scoring defense (Loras and Chicago were shut out, Trine scored 13), there’s a lot to like. But the Cardinals are at home, and have played a power schedule in the first few weeks. They’ll be ready for Elmhurst. The question is whether the Bluejays redefine the CCIW narrative, or stick to the script.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Widener. I can’t help but think to a game earlier this year, where Wartburg thumped an opponent 73-0. The following week, the Knights failed to score even once against a tougher competition. Coming off a 90-0 win, Widener reminds me of that. The Pride won’t be able to steamroll Lebanon Valley (3-1) the way they have their previous opponents, but a win should help validate Widener’s ranking.
Pat’s take: Lebanon Valley. Sorry, Ryan, I’m going in the opposite direction. A win would definitely validate Widener’s ranking, though, that’s true. Lebanon Valley will be a much tougher opponent than anyone Widener has faced (Widener’s first four opponents are currently 2-12). Lebanon Valley has pulled itself out of the doldrums it was in a decade ago and is now a contender for the conference crown. A win here would secure that.
Keith’s tak: Rhodes. The Lynx have more than just one of D-III’s coolest mascot names. They’ve got wins over Wash. U. and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, and a very respectable 16-2 loss to nationally ranked Birmingham-Southern. Their next three games are on the road, but Macalester and Austin could be easy wins nonetheless. This week at Trinity (Texas), a team coming off consecutive humbling weeks, is the one time before late October we get to see if Rhodes is for real, or just had a fortunate first few games.
Which undefeated team is going to pick up its first loss?
Ryan’s take: Millikin. It’s very possible that the CCIW, which currently has three undefeated teams, will have just one left after the weekend is over. Millikin lines up against Illinois Wesleyan, neither of which have a blemish on their 2012 record. But I like the Titans for this because I like what they bring to the table defensively: seventh in the nation in total defense, allowing just 65 and 135 yards from rushing and passing, respectively. Illinois Wesleyan should be riding high going into the second half of its season, and that moment starts with Millikin.
Pat’s take: Millsaps. I like what Millsaps has done so far this season, don’t get me wrong. But I think the top of this five-team SAA is going to be pretty competitive and all three will take a loss at some point, perhaps two.
Keith’s take: Ithaca. The Bombers put their 229-yard a game defense against Utica’s 459-yard-per-game attack. Andrew Benkwitt is completing six passes per game to Jeremy Meier, and more than three each to Paul Smith, Matt Dunn and Jamie Murphy. As good as the Bombers have been statistically, not many teams have the personnel the Pioneers land.
Team most likely to salvage a bad season.
Ryan’s take: LaGrange. An 0-3 start is not what the Panthers were hoping for, but the USA South slate should be much more favorable than the nonconference opposition, which has combined to go 10-1 this year. Don’t count LaGrange out for a .500 season just yet, and this week against N.C. Wesleyan will be a good tell as to where they could end up.
Pat’s take: DePauw. And there is a lot of salvaging to do for this reeling program. But scoring 28 against Carnegie Mellon is a nice start, and Wash U, which travels to Greencastle, Ind., doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower of the Tartans.
Keith’s take: Redlands. As a playoff team last season, the Bulldogs didn’t expect an 0-2 start. But what’s done is done. The SCIAC slate opens against an Occidental program that’s fallen on hard times, with the 233rd-ranked turnover margin and just 12 points scored. Time for QB Will King, who didn’t start in the opener, to impress.
Which predator is ready to feast on the opposition?
Ryan’s take: The Panthers of Chapman. Chapman will be squaring off against Whittier, and both carry a 1-1 record into the matchup. On the surface, they pair quite well: Both have had high scoring wins against Puget Sound, both had narrow losses to Whitworth and both have pretty impressive statistical rankings because of these games. But Chapman brings a run game that is going to grind the ball and be too much for the Poets to contain.
Pat’s take: The Pirates of Whitworth. I was taught in my high school bio class that humans were the top predator on the planet. Who’s with me? Whitworth has gone 4-0 so far without facing a program really capable of putting up a challenge, and unfortunately, I don’t think Pacific is there either.
Keith’s take: The Lobos of Sul Ross State. They might not beat the No. 2 team in the country, but you can bet A.J. Springer’s gang is going to sling it around, making UMHB’s defense work for its stops. Springer is fifth nationally in passing efficiency and has already thrown 14 touchdown passes
Augsburg · Baldwin-Wallace · Bethel · Carnegie Mellon · Centre · Chapman · DePauw · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Johns Hopkins · Juniata · LaGrange · Lebanon Valley · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Millikin · Millsaps · North Central (Ill.) · Pacific · Redlands · Rhodes · Spingfield · Sul Ross State · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Utica · UW-Platteville · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington U. · Whittier · Whitworth · Widener · Williams
Mike Benderski made the D3football.com Team of the Week for his performance on special teams against Rochester. Will St. John Fisher need similar heroics this week?
St. John Fisher athletics photo
By the end of Saturday, every one of the 239 teams in Division III will have lined up to take a snap this season.
This weekend marks the debut of the NESCAC teams, which don’t play any teams outside the conference, either in the regular season or the postseason. The teams in the NESCAC should have some familiarity across the football landscape, though. Few folks haven’t heard of the storied Amherst-Williams rivalry, dubbed the “Biggest Little Game in America.” Or of the “other Trinity,” the Connecticut-based team that regularly notches 7-1 or 8-0 seasons.
And the, of course for us, there’s the other 200-plus teams worth talking about, from the ones who are still hunting for their first win here in Week 4 to the ones who are hanging onto undefeated seasons – and hope to keep it that way!
Pat Coleman (@d3football), Keith McMillan (@D3Keith) and Ryan Tipps (@D3MidAtlantic) give you a taste of the NESCAC and a full helping from the other 28 conferences in Division III in this week’s Triple Take.
Don’t hesitate to comment below or join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #3take.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Hartwick at No. 10 St. John Fisher. I know we hit on this two weeks ago, but the Empire 8 is truly one wickedly scary conference to play in. Hartwick and SJF are the only 3-0 teams currently in the pack, which makes this the first of many conference matchups where teams will be able to separate themselves from the ravenous bunch. (Sidebar: Don’t be surprised to see next week’s Salisbury/Buffalo State E8 clash as a Game of the Week pick, too.) Fisher has lined up against quality opponents, dealing its first three opponents their only losses of the season. The Hawks, on the other hand, have blown out most of their competition by a margin of 144-62. But those opponents were much weaker than the fare Fisher has lined up against, and that makes me wonder if Hartwick is really prepared for what’s going to come at it on Saturday. Come to think of it, this situation is a good argument for playing tough nonconference games.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Thomas More at Waynesburg. Thomas More was ranked No. 8 last time these teams met, and has gone 2-3 since. The Saints come in at a more realistic ranking this time and have undefeated Waynesburg waiting for them. Both teams have been slow starters so far this season on offense, so look for at least one of these teams to make a bold move early.
Keith’s take: No. 6 Wesley at Louisiana College. It’s almost a defacto playoff game, in Week 4. That alone makes it worth of G.O.T.W. status — Wesley’s loss to No. 2 UMHB means it can’t afford to lose again and expect its usual spot in the playoffs. LC, meanwhile, has to go through UMHB to win its conference, and if it loses, one loss to a team like Wesley is all it can afford. The Wolverines have already played two road games, and two of the top 10 teams in the country, so their stats are skewed toward unimpressive. But if ever Justin Sotillare, Askia Jahad and the offense needs to guide an inspired effort, it’s on a trip to unfamiliar territory, coming off a loss. The Wildcats are known for their passing offense, but it’s actually their pass defense, and overall prowess on that side of the ball — just 400 yards allowed in a 2-0 start — that’s been key so far.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: St. Scholastica at Martin Luther. The Saints are best when they’re able to move the ball with ease via their run game, particularly in last week’s lopsided win over Greenville. But Martin Luther, after three games, has limited opponents to an average of 73 yards a game. If the Knights can neutralize the Saints’ best attack, they might be able to keep this one close.
Pat’s take: No. 6 Wesley at Louisiana College. Every game from here on out, Wesley is fighting for its playoff life, as the NCAA doesn’t take our poll into account when selecting or seeding playoff teams. While Wesley is the superior team on paper, the trip might take a few points out of them. What the Wolverines need is to find their running game and when Louisiana College allows just 100.5 yards per game on the ground, it might not be easy. But neither Webber International nor Belhaven is on the level of a highly ranked Division III team.
Keith’s take: Kalamazoo at Centre. With its first foray into the playoffs last season, Centre has become a nationally known name. Kalamazoo is anything but, but they’ve pulled out three close wins this September, with one in four overtimes. The Hornets’ running game, behind Dimeko Price (105.33 yards per game) and Aaron McGuire (86.67) is humming and confidence is as high as its been. The Colonels have given up 559 rushing yards in the past two games, including 338 in a 34-16 loss at Washington & Lee. Centre definitely needs to get back on track, but if they allow the Hornets to get the run game going, it could be quite the tussle.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 4 UW-Whitewater. I’m not going to lie, I feel like I’m stirring the pot with this one, even though that’s not my intent. Any team lining up against UW-Stevens Point would have its hands full this week — Whitewater just happened to draw that short straw. The Pointers are 1-1, coming off a week of drubbing Dubuque. Their only loss is an eight-point decision to St. Francis, one of the nation’s best NAIA programs. UW-SP has put up some wild numbers on offense, but the key to beating Whitewater will be defense, as Buffalo State showed. The Warhawk throne has been rattled. I’m sure most of you are like me and eager to see how the defending national champions respond tomorrow and through the rest of the season.
Pat’s take: No. 24 Johns Hopkins. Muhlenberg has been quietly dominant in going 3-0, and has outscored opponents 81-7 in the process. The Centennial so rarely has a team run the table the way it did last year. One of these two is likely to win the conference anyway, and I think the Mules are the ones.
Keith’s take: No. 17 Brockport State. Three weeks ago Kean was a top 25 team and Brockport wasn’t yet on the top 25 radar. But the Golden Eagles have started 3-0, and the Cougars 0-2, and here we are. Kean is ranked 210th in the country in total offense, with Brockport 10th, but defensively the Golden Eagles should be more generous than UMHB, which Kean lost to, 34-7, in its last game, two weeks ago. The Cougars have had that time to stew, and to heal up, from their visit to Texas. They led Albright 26-7 in their opener before allowing the Lions to score the final 22 points of the game. Brockport State’s offense might continue to hum, but Kean has far too much talent to sputter as it has for the past six quarters. Plus, as a playoff team last season, the Cougars are at a point where their pride is being tested. Win now, in front of the home crowd, or there’s a miserable season ahead.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Central. The Dutch have to be wondering what to make of this Albion squad, which knocked off Wheaton only to fall to the NATHC’s Benedictine. Central’s been interesting so far this year, having not scored even one first-half touchdown but then having posted 35 points in fourth quarters alone. And we have yet to see any breakout performances — though punter Blaine Forsythe has been doing quite well with ample opportunity. Maybe Central is on my radar for the wrong reasons, but maybe that’s just the nature of the buildup to this year’s IIAC matchups.
Pat’s take: Carnegie Mellon. Or Waynesburg or Muhlenberg, whom I’ve mentioned in previous categories. But Carnegie Mellon is facing DePauw, and while I might pick the Tigers to rally around their new coach and win, I’m not sure I’ll do so against an unbeaten team on a long road trip.
Keith’s take: Huntingdon. I’m curious about how Buffalo State handles success and how St. John’s bounces back from defeat. Endicott, Muhlenberg and Otterbein all interested me this week. But the Hawks bring a 545-yard and 49-point-per-game offense to Hampden-Sydney, which is off to a slow start by its offensive standards, which are similar to Huntingdon’s. But the Hawks have played almost no defense to date (450 yards and 32 points per game allowed) while the Tigers seem to have figured out that being one-dimensional isn’t too productive. The Tigers have a solid pass rush and a decent defense overall. Against Huntingdon, we’ll find out if they’re “good.” Quarterbacks Neal Posey (Huntingdon) and Nash Nance could get to slinging it around the field on Saturday.
From which “direction” do you see bigger things?
Ryan’s take: North Park. OK, we all know that the Vikings don’t fare well against their CCIW brethren. But it’s been several seasons since North Park has started the year 0-2. And last year, they even swept their nonconference slate. This week, they line up against another winless team, Olivet. North Park may not be great, but they’re better than the 0-2 record they bring to the table. Of course, when you give up six turnovers in one game as they did last week, there’s not a lot of wiggle room to succeed.
Pat’s take: Uhh … Birmingham-Southern. But this shouldn’t be a surprise and I’m probably not enlightening too many people with this pick. The most interesting thing here is that this will be the first time that the Panthers have had to leave the state this season.
Keith’s take: Western New England. The Golden Bears lost their opener at Norwich, then responded by outscoring its next two oppoents, 85-24. Nichols is up next, and they’re 0-3 with each loss by at least 23 points. There’s a bad statistical mismatch ahead too. WNEU is the nation’s second-best team in turnover margin, averaging 3.67 more per game than they give to their opponents. The Bison are 229th, turning it over 3.67 times a game more than they generate.
Which team could get caught looking ahead?
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve. Opponent Ohio Wesleyan hasn’t put together a highly commendable season since a 7-3 outing in 2005. But this year, the team has a new coach and, with him, a new offense and new excitement surrounding the program. The last two times these teams played, Case held OWU to just 7 points each outing while piling on 55 and 35 points of their own. That won’t happen this time. OWU is 2-0 so far, and if Case gets too focused on next week’s game against Wittenberg, they just might see themselves with another game in the loss column.
Pat’s take: Lebanon Valley, perhaps. Stevenson might have enough firepower to take the Dutchmen down a peg or two a week before Leb Val hosts Widener. However, after Leb Val’s loss to Lyco last week they might be better focused than to fall into a trap game.
Keith’s take: Wittenberg. Wooster tends not to be an easy win, but the Tigers have two of those so far, and know their season can be defined by games against Case Western Reserve and Wabash the next two weeks. Wooster is good enough to force the Tigers to snap into focus. Wittenberg has been lighting up the skies, passing for 342 yards per game of its 492 offensively. Meanwhile, the Scots have seven sacks in their 1-1 start, and have been solid defensively (36th, at 259 yards allowed per game).
Which NESCAC game are you most looking forward to?
Ryan’s take: Bates at Trinity (Conn.). It’s hard being in someone’s shadow. And while Trinity running back Evan Bunker hasn’t exactly floundered, it will be good for him to have a season all to himself without older brother Eric (from Amherst) competing for accolades. The pair were the conference’s two first-team rushers, tying with 853 yards each last season, and Eric earned the NESCAC’s Offensive Player of the Year honor. You can be sure Evan will want that nod this season, and it all starts in the battle against Bates this weekend.
Pat’s take: Bowdoin at Middlebury. Middlebury should be putting some points on the board this year and I’m interested to see how they start out. McCallum Foote won’t surprise opponents this year but he should be no less effective in his second year, with an extra year of experience reading defenses and understanding the playbook.
Keith’s take: Wesleyan at Tufts. Hear me out here. We already know Amherst, which hosts Hamilton, and Williams, which hosts Colby, are going to be pretty good, as usual. But you never know which NESCAC team is suddenly going to go 6-2. Wesleyan, 4-4 last season, might be a candidate, but has only 11 starters back. Tufts (1-7) has 15. This is the NESCAC game with the most drama potential in the outcome, though conference championship potential is low.
Albion · Bates · Birmingham-Southern · Bowdoin · Carnegie Mellon · Case Western Reserve · Central · Hartwick · Johns Hopkins · Lebanon Valley · Louisiana College · Martin Luther · Middlebury · Muhlenberg · North Park · Ohio Wesleyan · St. John Fisher · St. Scholastica · Trinity (Conn.) · UW-Platteville · Waynesburg · Wesley
Was Redlands stiffed in this week’s regional rankings?
Redlands athletics photo
The Eastern Collegiate, Empire 8, North Coast, Old Dominion, Southern Collegiate and USA South each feature matchups this week involving teams that are undefeated in conference play. That means the stakes are high, and postseason hopes are brimming for players, coaches and fans.
But several teams elsewhere — including powerhouses Mount Union and North Central — are also closing in on the automatic qualifier and can clinch with Saturday wins. There’s no doubt that a clearer view of the playoff landscape will be had by the time the weekend is over.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps take you through some of the big games. We probably aren’t hitting them all, so feel free to weigh in in the comments section. We’re always happy to hear what you have to say, especially if you have your own predictions.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 12 Delaware Valley at Lycoming. There’s more at stake here than the MAC’s automatic qualifier. A Lycoming win can push DelVal into the crowded end of Pool C, and with their standing, the Aggies would be ripe for snagging one of the few at-large playoff spots. So every Pool C contender should be paying attention to this matchup in Williamsport, Pa., hoping for Delaware Valley to give Lycoming its second loss of the season. Both Delaware Valley and Lycoming have hung substantial points on opponents, but what have been impressive are their defenses — and they will be the biggest factors come game time Saturday.
Keith’s take: No. 25 Centre at No. 18 Trinity (Texas) and McMurry at No. 20 Louisiana College. I’m cheating and taking a two-game swing down south. Here’s why: These matchups have conference title (in the SCAC) and playoff (both) implications, the latter of which could be far reaching. A Trinity win could mean a home game against the winner of the other game, and a flight to Mary Hardin-Baylor for someone else. A Centre win might affect someone like fellow Kentucky school Thomas More, or one of the Virginia or Ohio playoff teams. But here are the clinchers: Each team has subtext to its performance. Dennis Dunn came to LC as a nationally known high school coach; the Wildcats are winners, but have yet to visit the playoffs. Centre’s been knocking on the door of the playoffs for years as well, winning as many as nine games and not getting in. Trinity could bid adieu to its conference mates leaving to form the SAA with one last SCAC football title. And McMurry, on the way to D-II, might have its first real taste of D-III success on the way out the door.
Pat’s take: No. 13 Wheaton (Ill.) at No. 6 North Central (Ill.). The Little Brass Bell grew in stature starting in 2005, when the Cardinals actually became capable of winning the game on a regular basis. In this instance, North Central can wrap up the conference automatic bid with a victory. The Cardinals have allowed less than a touchdown per game over the past six contests and Wheaton has had some similar performances of late.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Baldwin-Wallace at No. 2 Mount Union. We all know that a “close game” in Purple Raider Land is relative. Maybe, after I picked Baldwin-Wallace in the preseason to finish second in the OAC, I simply want this game to be close. And “wants” don’t always line up with “realities.” It’s hard to ignore that in four of the past five games, UMU has been held to three points or less in the first quarter (before then laying waste to their opponents). B-W, on the other hand, has been consistent in putting up points early. But none of those B-W games came against Mount, which for 60 minutes, is a whole ’nother beast entirely.
Keith’s take: Alfred at Ithaca. The Saxons lost by 69 to Salisbury three weeks ago, then gave up 54 to Frostburg State. The Bombers eked out a 13-10 win against the Bobcats last weekend, and they only gave up 21 to Salisbury in September. But this seems to be a case where comparing scores will fail us. Both teams bounced back from losing streaks with close wins last week, and have been up and down all season. Add in the need for Ithaca to win their last two games to help their streak of winning seasons hit 40, and we’ve got the recipe for a tight finish.
Pat’s take: St. John Fisher at No. 11 Salisbury. The concept of surprisingly close, you know, is just a measure of a game that might throw a scare into a team, or make fans do a double take at the score. Since Wesley showed the blueprint of how a team can beat Salisbury last week, St. John Fisher has a better chance of keeping the margin of victory down. But do they have the personnel on defense to shut the Salisbury defense down, at Salisbury? I’m thinking not.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 17 Montclair State. The Red Hawks are sandwiched in a stressful part of their season, and a loss means they could be flushing their playoff hopes away. Two weeks ago, Montclair lost to New Jersey, and this week’s Rowan team will bring a tough defense that could catch the Red Hawks off guard, especially if they find themselves looking ahead to next week’s showdown with fellow NJAC frontrunner Kean. It’s a perfect storm, and Montclair doesn’t want to find itself struggling to stay afloat.
Keith’s take: No. 10 Wabash. There’s hardly a game on the board that is both likely and would be a true upset. But since the Little Giants are ranked so highly and Wittenberg is not, and because I’m a glutton for punishment on our message boards, let’s go here. Wabash allowed only 24 points in its first five games, a stat so good I wonder why I’m just now noticing it. Since, the Little Giants might have let their feet off the gas, but no matter. With QB Ben Zoeller passing for 291 yards per game, Wittenberg will be a test unlike anything Wabash has seen so far. But then again, the Little Giants defense, which allows only 74 rushing yards per game, will be like nothing the Tigers offense has seen.
Pat’s take: No. 19 St. Olaf. Alright. I’ll buy one last time into the Johnnie magic concept. After that they’ll have to show me once before I go again. But the Oles haven’t won in Collegeville since 2001, and have lost 10 of 11 at St. John’s. Whether St. John’s recent bounceback is a measure of improved play or catching some easier opponents will be determined Saturday, but the Johnnies need a win to finish with a winning record.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: McMurry. I just added McMurry to my Top 25 ballot last weekend, and lining up against Louisiana College will tell me whether I bet on the right horse. Because, you see, Louisiana College isn’t on my ballot at all, instead hovering just outside at that 26 or 27 spot in my mind. A win here would keep the War Hawks in the running for a Pool C bid. Could they cap their final year in Division III with a playoff run?
Keith’s take: Trinity (Conn.) and Amherst. The big rivalry games for these two teams are next week, but the NESCAC title is on the line Saturday. A little national recognition should be in order for the winner as well, as the Bantams and Lord Jeffs are the No. 1 and No. 5 scoring defenses in the country. Both teams rush for more than 200 yards a game as well, and given that there’s no other way to tell how good they are, this result means everything.
Pat’s take: Louisiana College. Sorry, Ryan, I’m going in the other direction. I think Louisiana College does enough to take McMurry’s aerial attack off the radar and ensure that McMurry’s final season in Division III ends like the rest of its seasons did.
A team that will clinch a share of the conference title on Saturday.
Ryan’s take: Franklin. While clinching a conference certainly means that the Grizzlies have to win against 0-8 Earlham on Saturday, there’s another piece to this puzzle: Hanover must lose. If Hanover loses to Mount St. Joseph, every team in the HCAC except Franklin will have two in-conference losses. That punches the playoff ticket of Franklin and its high-powered offense. So this isn’t really about watching Franklin this weekend, it’s about watching the evenly matched Hanover and Mount St. Joseph square off.
Keith’s take: Dubuque. The Spartans are no one-man gang, not gaining 506 yards per game they aren’t. They’ve thrown 41 touchdown passes; Monmouth and Widener are next best with 31. Their opponent, Coe? It’s the 202nd-ranked pass defense in the country, and No. 158 in pass efficiency defense, which means Dubuque has a golden opportunity to light up the scoreboard and head home as IIAC champions.
Pat’s take: Norwich. And in this case, not just a share, but they’ll be in the clubhouse with a win against SUNY-Maritime. It’s hard to come up with any kind of trend from Norwich’s recent results, so I’m counting on Norwich’s aggressive (by ECFC standards) non-conference scheduling to carry the day.
Which season turnaround has been the most interesting?
Ryan’s take: Albion. It’s tough to fault a team starting 0-3 if those first few games come against the likes of Wheaton, UW-Stevens Point and Division 1-FCS (non-scholarship) Butler. But, wow, how Albion has redeemed itself in conference play. The Bulldogs’ passing offense has become more effective, the run defense has been better able to stop the opposition and, most of all, the team earned itself a spot in the playoffs. And this is without yet lining up against defending MIAA champ Trine, which is sitting with two conference losses already. From 0-3 to conference champ isn’t unheard of, but it definitely says a lot about the team and the coaching staff.
Keith’s take: Defiance. The Yellowjackets opened up with three home games, yet lost their first four overall. They’ve rebounded with four wins in a row, and by beating 2-6 Manchester and 4-5 Bluffton, they can match last season’s 6-4, 6-2 record. A nod here, too, to Christopher Newport, which is playing for the USA South title after a 1-2 start and a loss to a first-year program.
Pat’s take: Baldwin-Wallace. And they’ve certainly trying to impress us, what with that 75-0 win at Wilmington two weeks ago. It’s a far cry from the surprising home loss to Capital back in Week 4, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be enough to carry the day against Mount Union.
Which team will rise in the regional rankings next week, and why?
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney. It’s a tough call in their matchup against regionally-ranked Washington and Lee, but I give the Tigers a narrow nod in this one. And that means H-SC will bump up past the LC/McMurry loser and possibly even leapfrog Thomas More.
Keith’s take: Illinois Wesleyan. It’s subtle, but assuming the Titans beat a struggling Carthage team, they should move ahead of Case Western Reserve. Especially if Wheaton, which lost to IWU, clinches the CCIW title with a win of 15 or more points. The three CCIW teams have strength of schedule numbers and results against each other that make them three of the teams most likely to end up high in the North regional rankings.
Pat’s take: Redlands. They’re incorrectly below St. Olaf this week, in my opinion. Of the criteria, there is nothing in which St. Olaf is better than Redlands. The only way this ranking can be justified is if they ignored the win against a regionally ranked opponent, in North Central. Is the committee’s memory short or was a cross-check missed at the national committee level?
Albion · Alfred · Amherst · Baldwin-Wallace · Centre · Christopher Newport · Defiance · Delaware Valley · Dubuque · Franklin · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Louisiana College · Lycoming · McMurry · Montclair State · Mount St. Joseph · Mount Union · North Central (Ill.) · Norwich · Redlands · Salisbury · St. John Fisher · St. Olaf · SUNY-Maritime · Trinity (Conn.) · Trinity (Texas) · Wabash · Wheaton (Ill.)