Tyre Coleman needs one sack to move into sole possession of second place all-time in the history of the NCAA tracking stats, and 4.5 to move into a tie for first. (Hobart athletics photo)
Consider for a moment the quality of the 16 teams remaining in the postseason. Nine of them are still unbeaten, and six of the other seven teams have one loss. Together, the teams who will take the fields on Saturday have experienced defeat just nine times, with one of the losses coming to a scholarship-level team and another coming against Mount Union, which is one of the 16 teams still alive.
Saturday’s road teams — the ones which the bracket-makers consider the underdogs — will include Linfield and St. John’s, the past two programs other than Mount Union or UW-Whitewater to win Stagg Bowls. The field still includes both the Purple Raiders and Warhawks, all eight No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, and the top 11 teams in the D3football.com top 25, as well as 13 of the top 14.
In other words, this is the best of the best. The one drawback to having such an expansive playoff is that eight very good seasons come to an end this week. But they do so having satisfied the competitive urge, going against the best the 244-team division has to offer. And the eight that move on to the quarterfinals do so knowing they had to pass pretty serious tests, for the most part, to move on.
The purpose of Triple Take this week is to set the national expectation. We know most folks don’t have the time or inclination to follow all 16 of these teams, or really develop an idea of what we’re in for Saturday. It’s a much more difficult week to forecast than last, but publisher Pat Coleman, national columnist Ryan Tipps and I take a crack at this week’s scores. If you see something on Saturday that runs contrary to the picks you see below, realize you are witnessing history in the making.
— Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: UW-Whitewater 28, Wabash 14
Ryan’s take: UW-Whitewater 31, Wabash 14
Pat’s take: UW-Whitewater 38, Wabash 14
Consensus: Unanimous. We’ve each got the Little Giants scoring a couple touchdowns, making the giants of Division III fight for their pass into the next round.
Keith’s take: Wartburg 31, St. John’s 17
Ryan’s take: St. John’s 21, Wartburg 20
Pat’s take: Wartburg 31, St. John’s 17
Consensus: Split decision. Ryan’s got the Johnnies pulling some upset wizardry in Waverly. Pat and I see the same two-TD margin for the Knights.
MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR QUADRANT
Keith’s take: Widener 38, Christopher Newport 28
Ryan’s take: Widener 41, Christopher Newport 24
Pat’s take: Widener 35, Christopher Newport 14
Consensus: Unanimous. We aren’t expecting these guys to need late field goals to decide it this week.
Keith’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 28, Linfield 27
Ryan’s take: Linfield 38, Mary Hardin-Baylor 34
Pat’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor 27, Linfield 24
Consensus: Split decision. Although we all agree that two of the legendary programs in D-III should be engaged in a down-to-the-wire affair.
Keith’s take: Wesley 59, MIT 7
Ryan’s take: Wesley 48, MIT 3
Pat’s take: Wesley 55, MIT 7
Consensus: Unanimous. On a day of competitive games, we see this as a mismatch.
Keith’s take: Johns Hopkins 28, Hobart 21
Ryan’s take: Johns Hopkins 28, Hobart 24
Pat’s take: Johns Hopkins 31, Hobart 20
Consensus: Unanimous. In a clash of 11-0 teams, we expect the Blue Jays to eke out a road win, likely because the Statesmen have been cutting it close lately. Their past three wins are by 2, 5 and 7 points.
MOUNT UNION QUADRANT
Keith’s take: John Carroll 35, Wheaton 24
Ryan’s take: John Carroll 31, Wheaton 24
Pat’s take: John Carroll 30, Wheaton 26
Consensus: Unanimous. The predictions, made separately with no knowledge of the others, look fairly similar. Expect one of the day’s best games.
Keith’s take: Mount Union 38, Washington and Jefferson 20
Ryan’s take: Mount Union 45, Washington and Jefferson 17
Pat’s take: Mount Union 42, Washington and Jefferson 20
Consensus: Unanimous. Not expecting the Presidents to be completely blown away like most early-round Purple Raider opponents are.
We invite you to add your predictions and reasoning in the comments below, or tweet at us at @D3Keith, @NewsTipps and @d3football. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Mondays, where Pat and Keith review the picks and the most recent round of playoffs.