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Quick Hits Week 4: The big games, upset picks

Like last week there’s one huge game in the rankings and I’ll be there. And this week, it won’t require a boarding pass. Will this one live up to the hype better than last week’s? Our guest is Gene Schatz, a Division III football fan whose son played quarterback at Wesley a few years back. Gene has continued to follow Division III very closely and was at both the Salisbury-Montclair State game and the Wesley-Christopher Newport game last week. That’s dedication, Division III parents! (Photo by Scott Pierson, d3photography.com)

— Pat Coleman

On Saturday, I’d rather be at …

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Keith’s take: Clemens Stadium. No. 4 St. Thomas at No. 6 St. John’s in an idyllic setting. It’ll probably be the best game-watching experience in D-III all season.
ryan-tipps-150x200
Ryan’s take: In Springfield, Ohio, at Bash vs. Witt. Going off-grid with so many other eyes likely on Tommie-Johnnie game.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Collegeville, Minn. There’s a pretty cool game going on up there. What, you’ve heard of it? Never mind.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Tommie-Johnnie. For the third time in 364 days. Collegeville will be boppin’ as the home team tries to prevent a St. Thomas three-peat.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Clemens Stadium. I’ve always wanted to experience the atmosphere at this stadium, especially for this game. Their rankings make this year’s game a bonus.
Guest
Gene’s take: Collegeville, Minn. Would love to see if St. John’s can take the top spot back in the MIAC and break up the purple powers.

Which Top 25 team is most likely to get upset?

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Keith’s take: No. 13 Wabash. Didn’t have the guts to take Baldwin Wallace vs. Mount Union or pick against Cortland for the second week in a row.
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Ryan’s take: No. 11 Johns Hopkins. A solid Muhlenberg is as good a team as any to end JHU’s 29-game conference win streak.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 16 St. John Fisher. Under the assumption a huge Courage Bowl crowd fires up Brockport and the E8 refuses to be so easily predicted.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 13 Wabash. On the road against a Wittenberg team playing with a purpose this season.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 11 Johns Hopkins. Muhlenberg has built up well so far, while the Blue Jays have had some close results. A late score could decide it.
Guest
Gene’s take: No. 14 Delaware Valley. Taking a chance that Albright will live up to the preseason billing.

Who gets a sorely needed win this week?

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Keith’s take: UW-River Falls. Southwestern appears much improved, while the Falcons nearly beat Gustavus and get one more shot before WIAC play.
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Ryan’s take: Bethel. It’s already a big slide fof a once-major power.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Allegheny. Kenyon is 2-1, but that loss is a 45-7 drubbing by Hiram and Allegheny needs this one since they might not win another all year.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Ursinus. Two of the three winless Centennial teams meet when the Bears travel to McDaniel.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: UW-Eau Claire (at Wisconsin Lutheran). The Blugolds, with a 14-game losing streak, have a winnable game in front of them before WIAC play begins.
Guest
Gene’s take: Bethel. Just 3 years ago they went undefeated in the MIAC. Hard to believe they could start the season 0-4.

Name any Empire 8 team which will win on Saturday:

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Keith’s take: Alfred, against Ithaca. All the games are good, but I’ve warmed up to the Saxons, who are averaging 34 points a game and have two road wins.
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Ryan’s take: St. John Fisher. I added them to my Top 25 ballot last week.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Morrisville State. I’ll let the rest of these guys take the easy pick and I’ll move further down the alphabet.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Alfred. The Saxons have been as impressive as anyone in the E8. Alfred hosts an Ithaca team that has one offensive TD in two games.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Alfred. The Bombers can’t find an offensive stride still, while Alfred has scored 30-plus in each of their three games. Advantage: Saxons.
Guest
Gene’s take: Alfred. The Saxons take advantage of a struggling Ithaca offense.

Pick an unranked, unvoted-for 3-0 team that will win this week:

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Keith’s take: Berry, vs. Sewanee. The Tigers have lost their first three games by 21-17 twice and 21-16. So give me Berry, scoring three TDs and winning by four.
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Ryan’s take: Plymouth State, keeping this Cinderella season rolling.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Coe. And Nebraska Wesleyan still won’t have beaten a Division III team since …
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Northwestern. They should beat Martin Luther; the bigger question is, will they allow points for the first time this season?
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Centre (vs. Chicago). It’s revenge for Centre after their 2015 loss to the Maroons in what could be a key SAA matchup.
Guest
Gene’s take: St. Vincent. The Bearcats who have only won more than four games once since bringing the program back look to go 4-0.

Which NESCAC game should I care about?

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Keith’s take: Wesleyan at Tufts. It’s the only game between teams picked to have winning records (both 6-2) in Kickoff, or teams that had them last year.
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Ryan’s take: Wesleyan at Tufts, possibly the day’s most competitive matchup.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Wesleyan at Tufts. Night games in the NESCAC are pretty darn rare, so this could be fun.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Wesleyan at Tufts. Can reigning NESCAC player of the year Chance “the Running Back” Brady start another dominant rushing campaign?
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Colby at Williams. For the start of the Mark Raymond era, as he tries to turn around the Ephs the same way he turned around St. Lawrence.
Guest
Gene’s take: Wesleyan at Tufts. Two teams near the top of the NESCAC last year don’t want to start the season 0-1.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the picks that were prescient, and those that were terribly off base.

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A crack in the purple armor

Well, there you go — a crack in the purple armor favored by UW-Whitewater. This gives hope to a lot of people around Division III, but should it? What have we really learned from this weekend’s games? We look at that story, plus, an extended breakdown of the Linfield Wildcats, after Pat made the trip to McMinnville, Ore. Plus, which are the teams on the rise? What key highlights happened below the radar? Pat and Keith answer those questions, plus hand out their game balls, on this week’s Around the Nation Podcast.

The Around the Nation Podcast is a weekly conversation between Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan covering the wide range of Division III football. It drops on Monday morning weekly throughout the season.

Hit play, or subscribe to get this podcast on your mobile device. 
You can subscribe to the Around the Nation Podcast in iTunes. You can also get this and any of our future Around the Nation podcasts automatically by subscribing to this RSS feed: http://www.d3blogs.com/d3football/?feed=podcast
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Triple Take, Week 4: The first Saturday filled with showdowns

This looks like a great weekend, from top to bottom and start to finish. No. 1 UW-Whitewater won a Thursday-night thriller against NAIA No. 1 Morningside, but the action should continue as St. Thomas and St. John’s threaten to set an unofficial Division III attendance mark, and get a visit from SportsCenter, while Wittenberg-Wabash and Wesley-North Central also mark clashes between top-25 teams.

There’s intrigue elsewhere, and the NESCAC finally joins the party as well. With more than 100 games this weekend and most of D-III’s 247 teams in action, we realize you can’t follow everything. Around the Nation columnist Ryan Tipps, editor and publisher Pat Coleman and I provide our seven-point primers on where to watch for road wins, great finishes and potential upsets.

— Keith McMillan

Game of the week

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No. 5 Wesley at No. 22 North Central. This is a non-conference clash involving two of the most successful programs of the past decade, and each would still be in the same place in its chase of its conference’s automatic playoff spot with a loss. Yet it’s a huge game. It’s the kind players gear up for because they know it’s top competition, and it’s the one they’ll remember years later. It will tell us on the outside a bit about the national picture. Wesley QB Joe Callahan (eight TDs, 0 INTs) is one of the nation’s best. From Jeff Thorne’s comments around the 5:20 mark in NCC’s Red Zone show, sounds like RB Austin Bruenig (who had a long TD run against UW-Platteville) gets first crack at replacing Oshayne Brown, but that several backs will get carries.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: No. 12 St. Thomas at No. 8 St. John’s. There are other great games taking place, but we all know — as does ESPN — that the Tommie-Johnnie game is week’s big dog. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the pick from all three of us.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 1 UW-Whitewater at Morningside and No. 12 St. Thomas at No. 8 St. John’s. One of these games was played before Triple Take was published but both are worthy of separate recognition as the game of the week. For Whitewater, hey, no pressure, but all of Division III’s reputation was riding on your play on Thursday night.

Surprisingly close game

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Misericordia at Stevenson. The Cougars are in their fourth year since starting football, and after a 2-28 first three seasons, the magic is supposed to happen. Instead, 0-3 Misericordia is coming off 37-7 and 28-7 home losses. Stevenson is 3-0 and has had a morale-boosting win over one-time MAC power Lycoming. These are the kinds of games players take easily, and look clear past. They’re young adults and are human; who can blame them? But Misericordia won’t just lay down — they’ve given up only one first-quarter score the past two weeks. It might take some time before the Mustangs pull away in this one.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Trinity (Texas) at Pacific Lutheran. Last year, PLU rolled to the tune of 38-14 on the road, but I think we’re looking at very different teams from both the Lutes and the Tigers in 2015. Trinity seems better poised to pull this one out, but it’s not going to be by the same hefty margins of the past two weeks.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 10 John Carroll at Baldwin Wallace. Honestly, if this game is not surprisingly close, it will be the Blue Streaks’ first game this season that isn’t. I’m holding out for the possibility that John Carroll might approach last season’s performance and be ready to challenge for the conference title at the end of the season, but it’s fair to say they haven’t looked that way so far. Meanwhile, Baldwin Wallace bounced back from the debacle in its opener vs. Bluffton to beat Ohio Northern last week.

Most likely Top 25 team to be upset

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No. 10 John Carroll at Baldwin Wallace. It’s a rare week in that almost every top-25 team (save for Mount Union, Thomas More and Bethel) has a matchup it could lose, and yet it was tough to convince myself of one that fit here. Empire 8 members Utica and Alfred are off to good starts, but Cortland State and Ithaca have played such good competition, it’s hard to pick against them. Centre was a thought. So were Johns Hopkins and Rowan. But they’re all playing too well. John Carroll is the team where the jury is most out. Are they a team that could surpass the Purple Raiders? Or could they lose to a team that lost to Bluffton in Week 2? Consider this a challenge for the Blue Streaks to prove to national onlookers that what they’ve built was more than just lucking into a great quarterback the past few years. The six sacks vs. Heidelberg last week were a start.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: No. 21 Centre, at Chicago. With Rhodes’ unexpected fall last week, Chicago is positioned to be the best challenger to unseat Centre at the top of the SAA — so there’s a whole lot riding on the outcome of this game. Chicago’s new quarterback, Burke Moser, came into the season with minimal collegiate experience but in two games has passed for more than 600 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He has a wealth of receiving targets and veteran defense to help keep him in prime field position to reach the end zone.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 5 Wesley, at No. 22 North Central. We don’t usually pick Top 25 matchups as upset picks but I think this is one where the teams are ranked far enough apart that Wesley is clearly favored, even on the road. I think North Central will bounce back, although I am taking a chance that running back Oshayne Brown will return for the Cardinals. I think there are still some unanswered questions about Wesley and for them to fly halfway across the country and go play a Top 25 team seems to me ripe for an upset.

Pick a team that scores an impressive road win

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: UW-River Falls at Southwestern. Since the Falcons nearly pulled off the upset of the century against UW-Whitewater back in Week 11 of last year, they’ve gone on to do, well, nothing. Opening with two losses and a trip to Texas isn’t necessarily a recipe to get right, but it willc happen this week. Southwestern is all over the board, following a 77-6 Week 1 loss with a 7-6 win against McMurry, and then a 46-37 loss to East Texas Baptist in which it attempted a two-point conversion to tie the game with 2:41 left. But if our conference rankings mean anything, a lower-tier WIAC team should still be able to go to Texas and beat a third-year SCAC program. We’ll be watching intently.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: No. 1 UW-Whitewater, at Morningside. Against who? Morningside is the Iowa team that is currently No. 1 in the NAIA polls. While a Whitewater win against Morningside wouldn’t mean as much in terms of playoffs as a win would against a top Division III team, it’s still going to be a talker. And, best of all, this is a game that everyone in the D-II community (all 247 football-playing teams of us) could band together for in support of our defending national champions. (Note: I typed this item up on Tuesday, and we’ll know by the time Triple Take is published whether I’m right or wrong.)
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Carthage, at Lakeland. The Red Men are going to be hurting for road wins, possibly just wins in general, this season. They were already blown out by St. Norbert earlier this season. It’s a struggling program, but Carthage got better from Week 1 to Week 2 and with another strong performance, a win should be possible here in Week 4.

Pick a game that’s decided in the fourth quarter

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Framingham State and Western Connecticut State. Another week, another MASCAC pick. But these are the two teams most worth watching from the conference, and with the Rams visiting Danbury, we can expect a close finish. The Rams have a great statistical profile: Nine takeaways in three games, 94.6% in red-zone scoring and a time of possession average of more than 35 minutes. QB Matthew Silva is completing more than seven passes per game to both Marcus Grant and Tevin Jones. Western Conn. responds with QB Michael Nicol, who has rushed for 384 yards and five TDs and has passed for 84 and zero. Should be a fun one.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Alfred at No. 24 Ithaca. The Bombers showed last week against Hobart how wicked their defense could be. Now it’s time to prove that they’re not a fluke. Alfred, at 3-0 and a traditionally worthy E8 opponent, is certainly not getting overlooked. This is a stiff September test for both of these squads, and I expect it to be close and still quite a fight in the final period.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Minnesota-Morris at Iowa Wesleyan. In Kickoff, I identified this as the game in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference with pride on the line. Now, Morris has already won a game, vs. Greenville at that, so Morris has already started to defend its pride this season. IWC broke into double digits last season after scoring nine and six points in their first two games. These two teams with really small rosters will be on somewhat more equal footing than they often have been.

The NESCAC makes its fashionably late entrance this weekend. Give us any prediction.

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: One of the Maine teams wins its opener. All three are at home. The best bet is Williams at Bowdoin, since a Bates win over Amherst or a Colby win over Trinity would be a major shock. Both the Ephs and Polar Bears were 2-6 last season and return a modest number of starters (15 and 13). But Coach J.B. Wells built a winner at Endicott, and has a chance to begin his tenure at one of the NESCAC’s traditional also-rans with a win.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Hamilton beats Tufts. Hamilton will break its 20-game losing skid. The Continentals line up against Tufts, and it will largely come down to which team’s quarterback will be able to play well and command the offense better. Tufts’ Alex Snyder, the preseason’s projected starter, has some experience under his belt but he definitely had some kinks that needed ironing out. For Hamilton, Chase Rosenberg is likely back for his third year leading the team under center, but there has to be some hesitations since Rosenberg has yet to get a win under his belt.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: LaDarius Drew’s return won’t be enough for Wesleyan. Having one of the premier running backs in the conference return from an injury which kept him out in 2014 will definitely boost the Cardinals’ prospects this season, but not in the opening week vs. Middlebury. The Panthers, on the other hand, might run the table.

They’ll be on your radar

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Elmhurst at Simpson. As the kind of programs who wouldn’t surprise us by challenging for their conference title, or finishing 7-3, 5-5 or 3-7, this is an intriguing Bluejays-Storm matchup. Simpson gave up two long TD catches to Artie Checchin and then a 14-play scoring drive just before the half against Elmhurst’s conference rival, Illinois Wesleyan. Was that just a game that got away or a throughly deserved 49-7 butt-whipping. Elmhurst’s early 31-17 win over Loras looks better as the Duhawks pile up yards and points, but I still don’t know what to make of the Bluejays.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: The Heidelberg at Ohio Northern game. I haven’t been particularly shy that I’m shaky on every OAC team below Mount Union. This is not the season we’ll have a stellar No. 2 OAC team shine in the postseason. I think John Carroll is down, Heidelberg is already 0-2, and last week Ohio Northern lost to Baldwin Wallace, which has its own W-L baggage. The Student Princes and Polar Bears are meeting for pride as much as anything else at this point, and last year’s 69-52 outcome leaves us wondering if we’ll see some defense emerge this time around.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: The St. Norbert-Illinois College game. St. Norbert doesn’t play Monmouth in the course of the regular Midwest Conference schedule, so this is one of the best analogies we have this season for a potential Midwest Conference championship game preview.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the picks that were prescient, and those that were terribly off base.