TAG | Ursinus
Tevin Mitchell ran for 162 yards and a touchdown for Hardin-Simmons at Linfield. Can he do something similar against another top five team?
HSU athletics photo by McCorklephoto.com
We talk a lot about the scholar-athletes the Division III level — the ones who skillfully balance sports and study, who are held to the same standard in the classroom as every other student and who don’t tweet about being in college for football first and everything else second.
Next week, the National Football Foundation will announce the winners of its National Scholar-Athlete Award, and more than three dozen Division III players are semifinalists. This week in Triple Take, we touch on but three of those many players and their teams, while also giving you prospects for big turnarounds and Top 25 upsets.
With just four weeks of the regular season left to go, here’s what Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps have to say.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 21 Alfred at No. 7 Salisbury. “Pound the rock” will be the mantra of Saturday. Salisbury comes in averaging nearly 284 yards a game on the ground, while Alfred respectably nears that mark with 220. And, predictably, both are great, great, great at stopping a rushing attack. This E8 battle will be won in the trenches, and because each team already has a loss, they’re in danger of being on the precarious playoff bubble should they be defeated a second time.
Keith’s take: No. 10 UW-Oshkosh at No. 5 UW-Whitewater. Oh snap, I’m choosing before Pat this week, out of the traditional Triple Take order. So at least I didn’t have to fight with him over getting to pick this game, because its G.O.T.W. credentials are thick. Best two teams in the strongest conference. The Titans, who have never so much as been to the playoffs, are playing perhaps the biggest game in program history. The three-time defending champions are playing to keep alive their chance to defend: The Warhawks are unlikely to make the playoffs with two losses. It’s not like the Warhawks, with the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense (29 yards/game) and No. 3 overall and scoring defense (211.5 yards, 7.3 points/game) are even playing poorly. And that rush defense matches up with Oshkosh’s strength. The Titans, No. 10 in total offense and No. 12 in total defense, rush for 296 yards per game. We know QB Nate Wara, but maybe we should get familiar with Cole Myhra, Zack Kasuboski and Caleb Voss as well. The best thing for the WIAC is two 9-1 playoff teams, but the Titans don’t care, and will probably have a lot of variety-seeking fans from across the land on Saturday.
Pat’s take: No. 10 UW-Oshkosh at No. 5 UW-Whitewater. Doesn’t matter. Usually we do try to pick three different games but every once in a while the game dictates otherwise. Keith has been down the key battles in this game already so I’ll remind people how this game went down last year: At UW-Oshkosh, the Titans went up 17-10 just before halftime after an 80-yard drive. Whitewater answered near the end of the third quarter to tie it up and rode Levell Coppage hard on a fourth-quarter drive, keeping the ball on the ground for all nine plays, six by Coppage and three by quarterback Matt Blanchard. They settled for a 17-yard Eric Kindler field goal to take a 20-17 lead with 1:18 left. Nate Wara drove Oshkosh into Whitewater territory but his fourth-down pass was intercepted in the end zone by Ryan Wenkman, allowing the Warhawks to hold on for the win. Oshkosh fans may remember what happened the next week (although they may have successfully blocked it out): The Titans lost to UW-La Crosse, 30-24, ending any hope of a playoff bid.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Susquehanna at Ursinus. The Bears have spent the past couple of weeks beating up on the more winless teams in the Centennnial, so it should be a concern that not only are they going up against a team that is more fundamentally solid than the others but also one that allows an average of just 148 passing yards a game. Ursinus will have to find a way to play without its greatest strength.
Pat’s take: Hardin-Simmons at No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor. It will be interesting to see what Hardin-Simmons can do against its longtime conference rival. The Cowboys haven’t beaten the Cru since 2004, but they have been competitive against two Top 25 teams they’ve played this year, including No. 3 Linfield. So even though the Cowboys have been on a losing streak against the American Southwest Conference’s heavyweight, they shouldn’t be intimidated.
Keith’s take: Concordia-Moorhead at Augsburg. I’m violating the spirit of the category here, but I wanted to make sure we acknowledge this game. It’ll be surprisingly low scoring, as the Auggies put up 470 yards and 38 points a game, but face a Cobbers defense that allows just 259 yards and 17.3. Both teams are 5-1 and need this win, to avoid falling further behind Bethel or St. Thomas.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 14 Widener. In facing the only other team with an unblemished MAC record, it should be of very little surprise that the Pride will have its hands full. Lycoming biggest strength is its defense, one that has held its past five opponents to 14 or fewer points each outing. That unit is adept at making plays behind the line of scrimmage, which means the Widener offensive line will need to give quarterback Chris Haupt time to make decisions. Doing so will let the team move the ball and, with a win, move up the rankings.
Pat’s take: No. 12 Illinois Wesleyan. I admit Wheaton (Ill.) is not as strong as it has been in the past, but I think the jury remains out on Illinois Wesleyan at the moment until this game. The six teams the Titans have played so far are a combined 14-24, while the three other contenders in the CCIW are left on the schedule. And as we pointed out in this week’s podcast, IWU hasn’t won at Wheaton since 1996. This could well be the year, but until that happens, I’ll wait and see.
Keith’s take: No. 12 Illinois Wesleyan. I hate to pile on. I very nearly took No. 11 Hobart and No. 17 Rowan here, but I think they each have the defense necessary to hold off high-powered offenses from RPI and Cortland State. Both teams are on the road, making those picks even more intriguing. No. 24 St. John Fisher is on a two-game slide, but so is their opponent, Ithaca. I could have backed Ryan’s pick as well, as Lycoming has a shot. Simpson, Gettysburg and Pacific Lutheran will give top 25 teams a game, but in the end, for reasons explained below under 180, this was the pick I felt most comfortable with. IWU has a great defense as well (No. 8 nationally) but Wheaton (No. 10) can match it, plus it can score. And yes I expect we’ll hear a lot of chirping from Bloomington if the Titans do what they’re supposed to do and play like the No. 12 team in the country. Whatevs. We can dish it out and we can take it.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Chapman. All of the hype in the SCIAC goes to Top 10-ranked Cal Lutheran. But the Panthers have quietly plowed their way to a 4-1 season and stand ready to line up against perennial conference threat Redlands this weekend. With four games to go, Chapman has already tied its win total from each of the past three seasons. Things are looking up for this squad.
Pat’s take: Lycoming. The Warriors and Widener have played some memorable games in the past, including last year, when the Warriors stormed back from a 31-0 deficit to cute the score to 31-28 with 1:56 before an onside kick attempt failed. Keith and I could each regale you with stories of great Widener-Lycoming games we’ve covered in the past. Their meetings haven’t all been stunners, but many of them have. I look forward to another.
Keith’s take: Allegheny. One week they’re beating Wabash, the next they’re losing at Chicago. Both of the Gators’ losses are to UAA teams, which means they’re in control of the NCAC, for now, alongside fellow surprise Ohio Wesleyan. They’re on my radar because they face a serious challenge, at home against Wittenberg, but also because they’re 4-2 with the 229th-best offense in the nation. The Gators, whose defense is top 50 but not putting up carry-the-offense numbers, have somehow managed to keep scores low with a negative turnover margin and an offense that rushes for 115.5 yards a game — and that’s the strong suit (The Gators pass for 114.5 yards per). Are they a team that finds ways to win, or one whose luck is about to run out?
Which National Scholar-Athlete Award semifinalist and his team are you seeing walking away with a win this weekend?
Ryan’s take: Rowan and Chris Popper. Folks are hard-pressed to find years when the NJAC was a cut-and-dried race to the playoffs. The past two seasons, no team has escaped conference play unscathed. Which makes this weekend’s game between Cortland State and Rowan a big one. They represent two of the three teams undefeated in NJAC play, and it would surprise no one if the race to the top got messy. Popper, a senior defensive lineman, will play his role as part of a stout unit that will be called upon to put pressure on the Red Dragons’ quarterback and slow their potent run game.
Pat’s take: Washington U. and Dan Burkett. Although the Wash U offense has struggled this season and Burkett, a senior quarterback, didn’t play in the Bears’ last game, against Wabash, I have to give props to the program, which produced the last Division III winner of this award, Brandon Roberts, in the 2002 season. The name of the trophy was different but the mission of the so-called “Academic Heisman” was the same. The Bears will be at Denison on Saturday, which has its own Campbell Trophy semifinalist: defensive lineman Nat Kell.
Keith’s take: Mount Union and Nick Driskill. I guess it’s a layup, or to stay sport-consistent, a wide-open bomb. We ignore Mount Union so often on the assumption they’re going to win, and the Purple Raiders rarely ever let us down. Still we should point out that Otterbein is the first opponent with a winning record the Mount Union is facing this season, so I expect the unscored upon streak to bite the dust. Driskill — as perhaps the best player on the nation’s best defense — will have a hand in slowing down Cardinals WR Trey Fairchild, and the Purple Raiders win comfortably.
Which team with two or more losses is worth watching?
Ryan’s take: Hardin-Simmons. Count me among the camp always keeping a close eye on the Cowboys. After starting the season with losses against two currently undefeated NWC teams (Willamette and Linfield), HSU has swept through the bottom half of the ASC with ease. But Saturday, with Mary Hardin-Baylor on the docket, marks a return to the caliber of opponent they faced early in the season. The rushing defense probably isn’t strong enough to slow UMHB, so the Cowboys will have to rely on their aerial attack and hope they come out on the right side of a shootout.
Keith’s take: Sul Ross State. Or Louisiana College. Take your pick, since they play each other in Alpine, Texas, and could be fringe playoff candidates despite their five combined losses. The Lobos lost two a pair of D-II teams, which has a minimal effect on D-III playoff positioning, and both teams got blown out by ASC leader and No. 2 team in the country, Mary Hardin-Baylor. LC also lost by a field goal to No. 6 Wesley in a non-conference clash. The Wildcats have put up gaudy offensive numbers in previous seasons the way Sul Ross State is doing now, and it hasn’t served them well enough. Now they’ve got a top 35 defense, and they’ll need it against A.J. Springer, Dominique Carson and the No. 1 offense in the country. The Lobos are a risky bunch though. That top-ranked offense is backed by a defense that ranks dead last — 239th — overall and against the pass. They gain 574 yards per game and allow 575. They surrender more than 50 points more per game than No. 1 defense Mount Union, so LC’s offensive stars, led by RB Ryan Montague, have got to be licking their chops.
Pat’s take: Delaware Valley. Now, perhaps not this week, but don’t write off the Aggies for the MAC title. This week’s home game against first-year program Misericordia will be a walk in the park, but it will be a good respite before the Aggies visit Lebanon Valley next week. If Widener beats Lycoming this week and the teams win through to Week 11, Delaware Valley and Widener will have a winner-take-all game for the MAC automatic bid to close the season.
Which team will turn the biggest 180 from last week?
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport. The Captains stumbled to their first conference loss in two years and in the process gave USA South newcomer LaGrange a great big reason to smile. Averett won’t be stepping off the field in the same kind of happy mood. Expect CNU to loose some heavy artillery as the conference is logjammed with five teams tied at 2-1.
Keith’s take: Wheaton. The Thunder is five points from being unbeaten, but has losses to Albion and Elmhurst. After piling up 596 yards of offense against the Bluejays and turning it over only twice, Wheaton probably still can’t figure out how it lost. By now, it’s over last week and has its focus on No. 12 Illinois Wesleyan, who has played the Thunder to a close game around the 20s (24-19, 29-19 and 20-17) for three consecutive years, winning twice. This time it’s Wheaton’s turn to be the underdog and spring the upset, and the stats and standings here probably belie how close these teams are. The Titans have played great defense to date, but haven’t seen an offense like Wheaton’s.
Pat’s take: Louisiana College. The Wildcats are going to go from scoring three points in Week 7 against Mary Hardin-Baylor to somewhere in the 40s … or higher … against Sul Ross State. Regardless of whether Louisiana College wins, the Wildcats should have a lot more success on offense.
Alfred · Allegheny · Augsburg · Averett · Chapman · Christopher Newport · Concordia-Moorhead · Cortland State · Hardin-Simmons · Louisiana College · Lycoming · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Mount Union · Redlands · Rowan · Salisbury · Sul Ross State · Susquehanna · Ursinus · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wheaton · Widener
Wesley has had the upper hand in the Route 13 rivalry, winning nine of the past 12. But Wesley may be the underdog this year.
Case Western Reserve athletics photo
There won’t be any automatic bids handed out in the Route 13 rivalry between Wesley and Salisbury but there could be plenty of playoff impact. Wesley could find itself far out on the bubble with a loss, while Salisbury’s chance at a top seed hangs in the balance with every game.
Elsewhere, Johns Hopkins could clinch the Centennial Conference automatic bid with a win against Ursinus and Monmouth can clinch the MWC by beating Carroll. Mount Union can clinch the OAC with a win and a Baldwin-Wallace loss to Muskingum. St. Scholastica can clinch the UMAC with a win Friday night and a Eureka loss on Saturday. Thomas More can clinch the PAC with a win and a Waynesburg loss.
Two of Division III’s career records could fall Saturday as well, as Monmouth’s Alex Tanney could break the career touchdowns record of 148 held by Westminster (Mo.) quarterback Justin Peery and Dubuque’s Mike Zweifel is aiming at the all-divisions record for career receptions held by Peery’s teammate, Scott Pingel.
Plus there are only about 110 other games. Chime in about any of them on our live game day chat below or by using the #d3fb hashtag on Twitter.
Manny Sicre got nearly half of his rushing yards in Case’s season opener. The Spartans need to win out to have a shot at the playoffs.
Case Western Reserve athletics photo
The season is getting down to the wire, and conference matchups will be decided with each week that goes by. But individual achievements are on the watchlist as well for Saturday. Career records set at Westminster (Mo.) are threatened by players from Dubuque (wide receiver Michael Zweifel) and Monmouth (quarterback Alex Tanney).
Will they fall? Will the weather wreak havoc? Snow? And what races will get clarity? Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps offer up their thoughts.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 11 Salisbury at No. 7 Wesley. In their first year in the Empire 8, the Gulls have certainly approached things with a take-no-prisoners attitude. How else would you describe posting 65, 69 and 70 points on some of the conference’s best teams? Better than ever, quarterback Dan Griffin is getting the job done both through the air and on the ground, totaling 22 touchdowns this season. And the team is plus-11 in turnovers. But Salisbury hasn’t won the annual matchup against Wesley, the Route 13 Rivalry, since 2004. For all the good that Wesley brings to the table year in and year out, they feel somewhat vulnerable this year. Maybe it’s just hard to get a handle on them since three of their seven games have been against non-D-III schools. Nonetheless, if there’s ever been a time for Salisbury to break its losing streak against Wesley, this year is it.
Keith’s take: Birmingham-Southern at No. 23 Trinity (Texas). Aside from Ryan’s pick, the only meeting of top 25 teams this week, the Panthers-Tigers matchup probably has the furthest-reaching consequences. Not only are both teams in the mix for the SCAC title and automatic bid, but their location and previous results give other teams in the playoff hunt a rooting interest in how they do.
Pat’s take: Rowan at No. 18 Kean. The loss by Montclair State on the scoreboard and the other one under center have opened the NJAC race up even further. It’s going to get nuts from here. So far, it’s hard to say whether Kean’s football program has gotten distracted by the winds swirling around other Kean athletic teams, but even if not, it’s a key game. Both teams need this.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Widener at Albright. With a lot to gain and the potential to still win the conference, Widener could pour it on and run away with this game. But if the Pride get caught thinking too much about the conference showdown against Delaware Valley, Albright may be able to catch them sleeping. Aside from one game this season, Albright plays its opponents competitively, so a one-score game isn’t out of the question.
Keith’s take: Wooster at Hiram. Traditionally a pretty good NCAC program, Wooster might seem from an outsider’s view as the team with a chance to get right against the 1-6 Terriers. But look for a tight finish, mostly because both teams struggle mightily at putting points on the board. Hiram is the 229th-ranked scoring offense in the country at a shade more than 10 points per game and No. 225 Wooster isn’t much better at a little more than 12.
Pat’s take: Carthage at North Park. There’s nothing to be gained by picking North Park to win a CCIW game when it hasn’t since time immemorial (actually 2000). But the Vikings have been competitive more often than not, including a 27-24 loss at Augustana last week. Keith keeps talking about the North Park-at-Carthage game from last year where North Park was competitive. A loss would make it 80 consecutive conference games, by my count.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Kean. It seems a little like Kean’s opponent, Rowan, has flown under the radar this season. Remember last year they were a one-loss team that got snubbed from the postseason while conference-mates Cortland State and Montclair State got to keep playing? This year’s Profs have a lot to be motivated about, and they’re just balanced enough in all facets of the game to keep the opposition guessing. And Kean hasn’t exactly been steamrolling teams this season.
Keith’s take: No. 24 Illinois Wesleyan. This might a week without an upset in the top 25, and this could be a little bit of a reach. But the Titans have to be careful to avoid the hangover that comes from gearing up for a game as big as last week’s clash with North Central, and then the deflating feeling that goes with getting shutout. Millkin hasn’t won since Oct. 1, and if it begins to sniff a chance at victory, IWU’s job is going to get tougher. The Big Blue scores more than 30 points a game, but the Titans are a powerhouse defensively, allowing less than 10.
Pat’s take: No. 7 Wesley. I don’t usually pick ranked games for this, even the home team when higher ranked, but Salisbury is in a good position here to reclaim U.S. 13 for its own and put Wesley deep on the playoff bubble. Salisbury hasn’t been tested in a while but one of the side benefits to the recent blowouts is that they came on the road, where the Sea Gulls couldn’t completely empty the bench because it was left at home. The key players on the two-deep still had a fair amount of playing time. Plus, Salisbury is throwing the ball better than in previous years and that has appeared to be where Wesley struggles defensively.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve. The Spartans line up against their stiffest UAA competition, Chicago, this weekend. For my part, Case hasn’t really been on my radar yet. Their games have been close, and Pool B entry to the postseason is scarcer than ever. But, as noted above, Wesley could pick up loss No. 2 this weekend, which means Case should be determined to finish out 9-1 if they hope to make the playoffs. With the selection committee now able to factor in previous playoff performance, Case is in trouble with its few one-and-dones under their belt. So the Spartans shouldn’t simply be looking to win but rather to win convincingly.
Keith’s take: Wartburg. The up-and-down IIAC needs the annual Knights-Dutch clash to help sort the conference title race out. Central has been hot offensively, scoring 119 points in its past two games, and the Wartburg defense — traditionally a strength — has given up 39 and 38. I don’t know quite what to make of this Wartburg team, even this deep into the season, but I hope Saturday provides the most definitive clue yet.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. The Saints can’t clinch the automatic bid this weekend at the Metrodome unless they win and Eureka also loses to Northwestern, but they are going to be all but assured of winning the automatic bid from the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference with a win against first-year program Presentation.
Which team with a losing record has the most left to play for?
Ryan’s take: DePauw. Any season — no matter humbling or below expectations it is — can be salvaged with a win against a bitter rival, in this case Wabash. That’s three weeks away, which means two more games for DPU to fix what may be broke. The Tigers have not been impressive on offense this year, but last week against Ohio Wesleyan, Drew Seaman strung together a 166-yard, three-touchdown performance. That, folks, amounts to a glimmer of hope for a team that’s 2-4 only one season removed from a SCAC title and a playoff run. A chance to find itself, as well as battle for the Monon Bell trophy, gives DePauw plenty to fight for.
Keith’s take: Pacific. Still looking for the first win since reviving the program, the Boxers are 0-7 and coming off of demoralizing losses of 49-6, 49-7 and 48-6, at Willamette, against Linfield, and at Whitworth. Pacific’s best chance to get over that is by beating another potentially demoralized team, in 0-7 conference foe Puget Sound. The Loggers, whose two wins last season were against Pacific, have given up 450 points and 43 points per game. That’s an opportunity for the Boxers offense to get on track.
Pat’s take: Ithaca. At 3-4, and with Frostburg State, Alfred and Cortland State still to come, the Bombers are in danger of seeing their streak of consecutive winning seasons end at 40. It’s not the longest such streak, obviously, but Ithaca is among the historic Division III football programs for a reason. They need to win all three to keep that streak alive. Central’s streak, formerly the second-longest, ended with a 5-5 season in 2003.
If there were no obstacles, and excluding your game of the week pick, where would you like to be this Saturday?
Ryan’s take: Ursinus at No. 14 Johns Hopkins. I feel like I’m talking about one or the other of these teams almost every week, but if I want to answer honestly, this is the game I want to see. I want to see if JHU is for real this year — as in 2009 playoff-run real. I think they are. JHU can clinch a playoff berth with a win, so there’s plenty at stake for them. Ursinus isn’t the kind of Bears you play dead with though or they’ll eat your team up.
Keith’s take: At Castleton State or Middlebury. I have no qualms going to see the Route 13 rivalry, but if I could be anywhere, Vermont during fall foliage season sounds nice. The Spartans and Panthers are just a 45-minute drive from one another, and the start times are staggered. Castleton plays Gallaudet, and Middlebury faces off with Trinity (Conn.).
Pat’s take: Actually, the game I’ll be at. I feel good about having a chance to be there for history when Dubuque hosts Luther. But more about that in a second.
Do one, both or neither of the Westminster (Mo.) records fall this weekend?
Ryan’s take: One. I think Monmouth’s Alex Tanney will get the two touchdown passes he needs to break the career mark in that category. His team should be able to make short work of Carroll. However, I don’t think Dubuque’s Michael Zweifel gets the 12 catches he needs to set the career catches record. He’ll probably fall three or four catches short of that mark. But look for him to break it in the Spartans’ last game of the regular season on Nov. 5.
Keith’s take: Both. With 123 career TD passes and five in each of the past two games, Tanney seems a sure bet to break through. The Pioneers have the best defense in the MWC though. Meanwhile, Zwiefel has had 17 or more catches for more than 200 yards twice in his past three games, so whopping numbers are normal for him.
Pat’s take: Both. There’s no way Michael Zweifel doesn’t get those receptions this weekend, in the team’s final home game. Remember who the offensive coordinator reports to. He caught 17 passes last week. Twelve catches is merely right at his average.
Albright · Alex Tanney · Alfred · Birmingham-Southern · Carroll · Carthage · Case Western Reserve · Castleton State · Central · Cortland State · DePauw · Dubuque · Eureka · Frostburg State · Gallaudet · Hiram · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Johns Hopkins · Kean · Luther · Middlebury · Mike Zweifel · Millikin · Monmouth · North Park · Northwestern (Minn.) · Presentation · Puget Sound · Rowan · Salisbury · St. Scholastica · Trinity (Conn.) · Trinity (Texas) · Ursinus · Wartburg · Wesley · Widener · Wooster
Louisiana College is looking for a chance to gain some national respectability.
Louisiana College athletics photo
For the first time all season, teams from every conference around the country will be competing. That’s because, on Saturday, we get to welcome teams from the NESCAC to the field. Those 10 schools play only an in-conference schedule.
We’ll take a look at some of them as well as other teams from coast to coast. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps give you the breakdown.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 21 Hardin-Simmons. There’s no question that, on a national scale, this is one of the most anticipated in-conference games each and every season. And HSU is coming off a surprising lopsided loss to Mississippi College last week. If the Cowboys are looking for a game to renew their spirits, this one won’t be it. HSU probably doesn’t have the run defense to stop UMHB’s 271-yard-a-game ground attack. The Cowboys will need a few big plays through the air to win Saturday’s shootout and will need to learn how to better stop its opponents in the red zone.
Keith’s take: No. 8 Thomas More at Washington & Jefferson. There are games matching more exciting teams perhaps, but nothing with more on the line this week. For all intents and purposes, the winner of this game wins the PAC and goes on to the playoffs. That’s how it’s been nearly every year since the Saints joined the Presidents’ conference. The games were 29-21 last year and 14-7 the year before, both in favor of Thomas More but close enough to irk W&J. The Saints bring a 42.5-point-per-game offense powered by RB Kendall Owens into the game, while the Presidents counter with QB Matt Bliss and a defense that’s played well for three games.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Mississippi College at Louisiana College. The Choctaws have to avoid a letdown after their big win last weekend at home against Hardin-Simmons. Meanwhile, Louisiana College is looking for a little respect after a triple-overtime win against NAIA Belhaven and a shellacking of Millsaps last week. The Wildcats offense certainly came alive last week in its second game since the graduation of quarterback Ben McLaughlin and if they can take care of the ball better than Hardin-Simmons last week, they should have a chance to be successful.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Randolph-Macon at Frostburg State. It’s been four years since Frostburg won this matchup, and while the Bobcats have given up a lot of points so far this season, they may be able to zero in on how to stop Macon. That’s because R-MC has been surprisingly one-dimensional this year. Past years showed them to have the most balanced offense in the Old Dominion, but this year, they’ve struggled in the pass game (only 57 such yards last week). Over the past two weeks, R-MC hasn’t been able to really get out in front of its opponents, something that will need to happen to ward off a strong effort by Frostburg late in the game.
Keith’s take: Hobart at St. John Fisher. Hard to know what to make of these upstate New York teams from different conferences. Each is unbeaten, though Fisher’s wins are by 5 and 49 against seemingly the same level of competition. Hobart started out with a 33-9 win at Dickinson. Here’s the deal though: Where they once were near equals, the Empire 8′s reputation has gone through the roof the past five years, while the Liberty League just sent a 5-5 conference champion to the postseason. So you’d expect the top-flight E8 team to put a hurting on the LL team, especially at home, but I see a strong effort from Hobart and a tight finish.
Pat’s take: Coe at No. 10 Wartburg. This game has certainly lost its luster since the season began and now Wartburg has to be considered a favorite, but Coe and senior quarterback Brad Boyle have to sense the opportunity to give their conference title hopes a big boost. The Kohawks also need a win or a surprisingly close performance to remain the No. 2 team in the conference, rather than slipping behind Central and even Dubuque in the IIAC pecking order.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 24 Cortland State. If the Red Dragons hope to rebound after last week’s loss to Kean, now’s the time to do. Though I’m really still waiting to see what Cortland State opponent Rowan is capable of this season. The Profs certainly haven’t yet hit their stride (where’s the offense?), so this game means as much to them as it does to Cortland State staying alive in the playoff hunt.
Keith’s take: No. 17 Wabash. Less a Little Giant dis than it is finally recognizing Dee Brizzolara and the Chicago Maroons. Every few years the UAA pushes out a team that’s playoff-worthy and good enough to beat top 25 teams, and this year’ Maroons have that feel.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Montclair State. I might be guilty of underanalyzing this game, but coming off of last week’s respective games, Buffalo State and Montclair State seem to have differing levels of momentum. I remember a particular Montclair State-Buffalo State we broadcast in 2000 that went to two overtimes — in addition, this was the last season Buff State had a national profile. If the Bengals win this one, they’ll be back on the scene for more than just blowing out Western Connecticut a couple times.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Allegheny. Why? Because I’m impressed the Gators are standing at 2-1 and have found a solid balance of both rushing and passing on offense. They’ve proven in the past two games that they can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but the biggest test by far comes this weekend when they go up against conference kingpin Wittenberg. A good showing here will go a long way, and Witt is not invincible.
Keith’s take: Hampden-Sydney. The Tigers have looked dominant in a 3-0 start, but there are questions about the defense and the level of competition. A trip to Alabama to face Huntingdon (2-1, 37.3 points per game) should give us some answers.
Pat’s take: Dubuque. It’s been a long time since the Spartans beat Central (1987) but this is a good opportunity for Dubuque and the Zweifels. Other than last year, games recently have been close, including the three-overtime classic in 2007.
Which NESCAC game are you most looking forward to?
Ryan’s take: Trinity (Conn.) at Colby. The Bantams are always a part of the NESCAC discussion, and this year, they should be able to harness their offensive strengths to again make a run at the conference title. The NESCAC is a pass-heavy conference, so seeing whether Trinity’s young defensive backfield can slow Colby (and ultimately other opponents this season) will be interesting.
Keith’s take: Williams at Bowdoin. I’ve got the Ephs in the top 25, but I need to see an indication that they deserve it. Just beating the Polar Bears might not be enough, and that’s a shame because any team can look shaky in its opener, and Bowdoin looked improved last season.
Pat’s take: Middlebury at Wesleyan. Having taken a step forward under Mike Whalen, the Cardinals have a change to get this season off on the right foot and perhaps break out of the middle of the nESCAC pack, where they have been the past two years.
Which team could get caught looking ahead?
Ryan’s take: Case Western Reserve. Next week, Case faces Allegheny (who I discussed a couple of questions ago), but this week is Denison, which has proven itself to be a competitor above and beyond years past. The Big Red haven’t played the toughest teams, but they’ve won the past two games by wide margins and played another to within a field goal. The Spartans can’t look past this one, otherwise they’ll find themselves looking back on it next week and shaking their heads.
Keith’s take: No. 16 Alfred. Next week’s clash with St. John Fisher will help determine if the Saxons are headed back to the playoffs, or at least will have a shot at winning the Empire 8. But they have to deal with 2-0 Springfield and the nation’s No. 1-ranked rushing offense (491 yards/game) first.
Pat’s take: No. 3 St. Thomas. The Tommies host St. John’s net week and while I’d like to give Glenn Caruso’s team the fullest benefit of the doubt, they do have to go to Concordia-Moorhead, and it’s not a great trip. The Cobbers are the best team St. Thomas has played so far this season. They might not get completely caught but another slow start like the ones against St. Norbert or UW-River Falls could have greater consequences. In considering this I looked at a whole bunch of teams who couldn’t get caught looking ahead — Mount Union playing Wilmington this week with Ohio Northern next week.
Game most likely to be decided by a 2-point conversion.
Ryan’s take: Puget Sound at Whittier. Both teams pass waaaaaay better than they run the ball. Note to defensive backs: Stay on your heels for the whole 60 minutes. Both teams enter this contest winless, and aside from it likely ending up a close-scoring game, look at it, too, as the last nonconference hurrah for them. Who’s bringing some momentum into conference play?
Keith’s take: Salve Regina at Endicott. Both teams are off to good starts, with the only blemish being Salve’s loss to top-25 Montclair State. When the Seahawks play, points could be scarce, and plus it took a 20-point fourth quarter Gulls rally for a 29-28 victory last year. The only way to top that is to have this year’s game in Newport, R.I. come down to a conversion attempt.
Pat’s take: McDaniel at Ursinus. I suggest this game because it’s likely to be a back-and-forth kind of game, one that could lead a coach to go for two. And the way McDaniel has given up fourth-quarter points, Tim Keating might want to stop the bleeding with a two-pointer.
Allegheny · Buffalo State · Case Western Reserve · Central · Coe · Colby · Concordia-Moorhead · Cortland State · Denison · Dubuque · Frostburg State · Hardin-Simmons · Louisiana College · Mary Hardin-Baylor · McDaniel · Middlebury · Mississippi College · Montclair State · Randolph-Macon · Rowan · St. Thomas · Trinity (Conn.) · Ursinus · Wartburg · Wesleyan · Wittenberg
Brandon James ran for 77 yards in Pacific Lutheran’s opener. Are the Lutes ready to pick up where they left off in 2010?
Pacific Lutheran athletics photo
We’ve seen what teams can do, and some may already be grinding their way into conference play. And, perhaps most exciting of all, upsets happening around the nation have been forcing us to reshape our notions of who will compete and who will get left behind as we inch toward the playoffs.
In each of the first two weeks, a national Top 4 team has been knocked off. Is being that high in the rankings is a curse? If so, that means Mary Hardin-Baylor and St. Thomas, as well as Division III’s reining purple powers, will be fending off the ghosts this week.
Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps bring you an inside look at some of the captivating games taking place tonight and Saturday.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Lebanon Valley at No. 25 Delaware Valley. Recent matchups between these two have been far more lopsided than they should have been, but the Aggies no longer have big-gun quarterback piling up the stats. DelVal is 2-0, but the team’s total margin of victory is 2 points. Lebanon Valley, meanwhile, has been finding the end zone fast and frequently so far in their undefeated debut weeks. The X-factor? It could be penalties. Both teams have lacked some discipline in that category so far this year, with the Dutchmen at six per game and the Aggies at eight per game.
Keith’s take: No. 18 Kean at No. 11 Cortland State. We’ll find out quickly if last week’s big upset was due to Kean being top 25-worthy this season, or Wesley being weaker than normal. Cortland State has played Kean every year since 1996, according to the game notes, but has only lost to the Cougars once, at home in ’09. For Kean, this is as long a road trip as it’ll have in the NJAC, and it’s an opportunity to set up a great season; its next five games are against teams it should beat. Defense will be the key on Saturday; both are opportunistic teams in the turnover battle.
Pat’s take: St. John’s at Concordia-Moorhead. It’s probably been a pretty interesting week for the Johnnies after getting blown out at home by UW-Eau Claire last week. The Johnnies have won five of six in this series and 15 of 18 and coach Terry Horan was a wide receiver for the Cobbers the last time they won at home against St. John’s (1986). Last year’s meeting resulted in 70 combined points (42-28 St. John’s) and 950 yards of total offense.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Mount St. Joseph at Anderson. Despite being a lower-tier HCAC team, Anderson has had a knack for being able to put up some significant points against the Lions. And Anderson has many of its core skill players back to make even more dents in the MSJ defense.
Keith’s take: Pacific Lutheran at No. 19 Cal Lutheran. When those Lutherans get together, things can get out of hand! In all seriousness, PLU doesn’t come in ranked, but it does come in having held Hamline to 144 yards in an opening-game shutout. Cal Lutheran, and particularly Eric Rogers, who scored one touchdown rushing and had another receiving against Linfield in the opener, is more of a threat than anyone the Lutes saw in Week 1. Yet it appears PLU picked up right where it left off after an 8-1 season. Although CLU should be hungry for its first victory, its home crowd might be a little more sparse than usual with the game moved to Moorpark College because construction at the on-campus stadium is incomplete.
Pat’s take: No. 21 Wittenberg at Washington U. It’s a big test for the 2-0 Bears, who have beaten Knox and Rhodes but now face a team that has won 22 consecutive regular season games. If there’s a time for Wash U to knock the Tigers off, it’s this year, with 12 senior starters and seven consecutive home wins. Last year this game was not competitive at Wittenberg, with the Tigers winning 37-7, but the Tigers have also had some close calls on the road in the past season-plus.
Most likely Top 25 to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 12 Ohio Northern. It’s not as if either the Polar Bears (with a win over N.C. Wesleyan) or opponent Otterbein (with a win over Gallaudet) were overly impressive in Week 1. ONU may not be able to slow Ott’s passing game come Saturday, and it’s tough for them to be guaranteed the edge in the turnover battle. Still, the Cardinals should not have been pushed into overtime by Gallaudet, so there are clear flaws to be worked out in that corner, too. Each team has had the past two weeks to make repairs.
Keith’s take: No. 7 Wheaton, by UW-Platteville. There are quite a few vulnerable top 25 teams, but they aren’t facing a real rugged slate of opponents this weekend. Platteville usually fits in the “not rugged” category as well, but after allowing just 6 points in two wins, outrushing UW-Stevens Point and Buena Vista 197.5-66.5, Wheaton could be in for a much tougher game than last year’s 51-20 victory. The game is a night kickoff at Platteville’s 10,000-seat Pioneer Stadium to boot.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Trine, by UW-River Falls. The Falcons were in the game for a half last week against St. Thomas, which isn’t really an indicator of future success, but I believe that River Falls is ready to bounce back at least a little in its first year under coach Matt Walker. Trine has won two games but not in convincing fashion against teams it would normally beat in a convincing manner.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Adrian. It’s been several years since the Bulldogs started a season 2-0. Brandon Miller has proven himself a very capable quarterback, Damon Brown a skilled rusher and the defensive line a stingy bunch. The team’s toughest test of the season comes now against Augustana, whose 0-2 record is deceiving. The Vikings, armed with a pass game that will put a lot of pressure on the Adrian defensive backs, have played two solid teams close.
Keith’s take: St. Vincent. After giving it to FDU-Florham pretty good in a 55-3 victory, let’s see how the Bearcats deal with success. The program has not won consecutive games since its revival, but with trips to Thiel and Geneva (both 0-2) on deck, three in a row is possible. Of course, the Tomcats and Golden Tornadoes are probably licking their chops as well; PAC teams are used to St. Vincent being easy pickings.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Hampden-Sydney. Truth be told, the Tigers should be on your radar already, but wins against the USA South don’t always mean much on the national scene. They have one last USAC opponent this week, Ferrum, then travel to Huntingdon next week.
Which 0-2 team will earn its first win?
Ryan’s take: Franklin and Marshall, vs. Ursinus. Both F&M and Ursinus got the season started on a rough foot. But I think the Diplomats have the ability to do a better job of stopping Ursinus’ balanced but average offense than the Bears do of stopping F&M’s pass-heavy attack. Ursinus has yet to really break out of the middle of the pack in any significant statistical category, showing that the need remains for them to light a spark before they’ll be taken seriously as Centennial competitors. For F&M, it’s all about follow-through. Seven trips to the red zone and only two touchdowns? That has to improve if F&M wants to win some games this season.
Keith’s take: Coe, vs. Simpson. Both the Kohawks and Storm were blown out against a top-five team in Week 1 and lost a close one last week. Coe, ranked in the preseason, comes back home against a team it beat 42-21 last season. Coe has rushed for 206 yards per game and 5 per carry; Simpson allowed 411 and 7.6 against Bethel and could be similarly vulnerable in the ground game this weekend.
Pat’s take: Wooster, vs. Oberlin. Although the Yeomen are 1-0 themselves, with a 42-0 win against Kenyon, Wooster will still have an easier time than it had against Baldwin-Wallace and Wabash to open the season. The Scots will need to do a better job hanging onto the ball, though, having turned it over eight times in the first two weeks.
Which upset winner from last weekend will have the biggest letdown?
Ryan’s take: UW-Platteville. In Wheaton’s opener, the Thunder posted 570 yards. Passing, rushing, it was all good news for this stalwart of the CCIW. After Platteville shocked UW-Stevens Point into a lopsided affair last week, don’t expect Wheaton to be as likely to fall. Platteville’s undefeated season ends here.
Keith’s take: Utica. Perhaps the Pioneers have risen enough and Union has fallen to the point where last week’s 28-27 Utica win is no longer an upset. But this week has letdown written all over it, with a lengthy road trip down to Maryland, where the Pioneers may be walking into a beehive of emotion. It’s Frostburg State’s first home game since teammate Derek Sheely died in the preseason. Fans are asked to wear white. On the field, the Bobcats have looked potent offensively; they racked up 411 yards in a losing effort at Springfield last weekend.
Pat’s take: McMurry. Mary Hardin-Baylor is a much better team than UT-San Antonio, regardless of the number of scholarships either one offers. But the War Hawks shouldn’t be intimidated by anything the Cru throws at them, having gotten knocked around hard by a Top 25 FCS team in Week 1 and having played in front of 30,000-plus in Week 2.
If you were a bird, what kind of bird would you be?
Ryan’s take: A Cardinal from Catholic. For two weeks in a row, quarterback Greg Cordivari has led his offense on last-minute, game-winning drives to usher in a team that’s 2-0 instead of the other way around. Being a CUA fan has been a heart-pounding feat so far this season. Tonight, Carnegie Mellon is on tap.
Keith’s take: A War Hawk from McMurry. I see what you did there. Interesting question. After an 82-6 loss to one D-I-FCS program and a televised win over another last week, I’d be a War Hawk so I can take confidence from that win over UT-San Antonio into the atmosohere under the lights at No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor and see if that helps our team, um, soar.
Pat’s take: Hawk. The one from Huntingdon. This weekend is Huntingdon’s chance to write perhaps the final chapter in the Bible Bowl, a rivalry between the Hawks and crosstown rival Faulkner. An NAIA member, Faulkner is seeing its conference schedule expanded to 10 games next year, and the rivalry needs to go. But the game doesn’t help Huntingdon’s playoff chances anyway, and in addition, Huntingdon has won all four meetings so far.
Adrian · Anderson · Cal Lutheran · Catholic · Coe · Concordia-Moorhead · Cortland State · Delaware Valley · Franklin and Marshall · Frostburg State · Hampden-Sydney · Huntingdon · Kean · Lebanon Valley · McMurry · Mount St. Joseph · Oberlin · Ohio Northern · Otterbein · Pacific Lutheran · Simpson · St. John's · St. Vincent · Ursinus · Utica · UW-Platteville · Washington U. · Wheaton (Ill.) · Wittenberg · Wooster