We’re under a week from Selection Sunday. Only seven automatic bids are still up for grabs, and most will be really hard to pry away from the favorites. But what if both Washington & Jefferson and Case Western Reserve run the table? What if Widener upsets Delaware Valley? What if (insert your scenario here)? You can find out more in this week’s D3football.com Around the Nation podcast.
We started our deep dive into the playoffs on last week’s edition and we know we had a lot of new listeners — now we have to really talk about some of the automatic bids. Some conferences have pretty interesting races here in the final two weeks of the regular season and Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan look closely at the PAC, where two teams could finish unbeaten and never play each other, along with the NACC, NCAC, NJAC and the American Southwest Conference. Plus, even though this never has any playoff relevance, Pat and Keith debate whether you can rank a NESCAC team in the Top 25.
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.
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Last week was such a great one in Division III that it might be hard to follow, but we will do our best, since there are quite a few great games and some really intriguing ones on tap. Our guest prognosticator this week is Mary Hardin-Baylor fan Chad Hammonds, someone who follows UMHB very closely and knows that in order to be a fan of a top team, you need to know a little bit about the rest of the country, since you could be playing them in Week 12, 13, 14, etc. (Photo by Joe Fusco, d3photography.com)
— Pat Coleman
Which game is your game that’s a must-watch this week?
Keith’s take: No. 11 Wheaton at No. 6 North Central. Loser could make the playoffs, but within 500 miles of WIAC, MIAC and OAC, you want as high a seed as possible.
Ryan’s take: No. 3 UMHB at No. 16 ETBU. One of these sets of initials will earn an exclamation point on the season.
Pat’s take: No. 11 Wheaton at No. 6 North Central. You can almost never go wrong with this game — it’s a rivalry that has blown up in the past decade.
Adam’s take: No. 11 Wheaton at No. 6 North Central. We’ll finally find out what kind of team the Thunder is.
Frank’s take: No. 3 UMHB at No. 16 ETBU. ETBU needs to prove itself as better than the team that lost by 47 last year. Their playoff lives depend on it.
Chad’s take: No. 3 UMHB at No. 16 ETBU. Scotty Walden has the Tigers flying high. Can the Tigers take their outright conference hopes a step further, or will the Cru continue their dominance?
Which Top 25 team is most likely to get upset?
Keith’s take: No. 13 St. John Fisher or No. 23 Alfred. The two best teams in the Empire 8 face Utica and Cortland, respectively, and neither has been defensively smothering.
Ryan’s take: No. 22 Hendrix. I’m not sure I’d put money on this happening, but Berry is as tough as they come in the SAA.
Pat’s take: No. 21 Dubuque. A little far for me to drive this weekend but I will be paying attention to their game vs. Coe.
Adam’s take: No. 21 Dubuque. Can Coe make it two wins in a row over ranked conference opponents?
Frank’s take: No. 13 St. John Fisher. Fisher’s defense has begun to struggle. This game will be a track meet on enemy turf — and Utica likes the spoiler role.
Chad’s take: No. 22 Hendrix. This game has playoff ramifications. Can the anchor of the DLine for Berry stop the dual threat of Winn and Millsap?
Predict the winner in a game between unbeaten conference opponents.
Keith’s take: Mary Hardin-Baylor beats East Texas Baptist. I wouldn’t be surprised if the teams combine for 80 or 90 points.
Ryan’s take: Wittenberg over Denison. Next.
Pat’s take: UW-Whitewater over UW-La Crosse. It’s been a great start to the season for La Crosse, but they’re not ready to pick off the Warhawks.
Adam’s take: No. 15 Wittenberg stays unbeaten by handing fellow NCAC unbeaten Denison its first loss of the season.
Frank’s take: No. 6 North Central. I grabbed a coin. I flipped it. North Central was heads. Heads it was. This is a tremendous game with so much on the line.
Chad’s take: Besides the Cru, I have to go North Central over Wheaton. The home night game in Naperville and the 28th defense will prove too much for the Thunder.
The Centennial Conference is back after its midseason break. Pick an upset.
Keith’s take: I’ll take 0-5 Ursinus to win at Juniata. The Bears held one-touchdown leads with 7 and 4 minutes left in its past two games.
Ryan’s take: Susquehanna over Moravian. Even 1-1 the last two games, the River Hawks have shown they’re trending upward.
Pat’s take: Ursinus over Juniata. It does seem like Ursinus is playing better the past two weeks and if forced to pick an upset, this is the one.
Adam’s take: Ursinus finally gets in the win column by knocking off Juniata.
Frank’s take: McDaniel (at Franklin & Marshall). McDaniel can put up points, making me believe they’re not a one-hit wonder. With a rested defense, F&M might struggle.
Chad’s take: Susquehanna over Moravian. The River Hawks were left with a sour taste in their mouth after that close loss two weeks ago. They’ll look to bounce back here.
Who bounces back from a noteworthy loss?
Keith’s take: UW-Oshkosh has to bounce back. UW-Stevens Point is 4-1 and trailed UW-Platteville by only four in the second half last week.
Ryan’s take: Trinity (Texas). Southwestern won’t get a repeat of a conference win, at least not this week.
Pat’s take: DePauw. Allegheny is improved but is still a cure for what ails you in the NCAC. Just need to show up to play after losing to Witt last week.
Adam’s take: Concordia-Moorhead, which suffered a whirlwind of emotions. They have to move forward against a surprisingly 4-1 Hamline team.
Frank’s take: 25 Salisbury (at William Paterson). The NJAC woke up once Paterson beat Montclair. Salisbury knows another loss spells playoff doom. This won’t even be close.
Chad’s take: Oshkosh looks to prove that they deserve a second shot at UWW in the playoffs, and to do that, they must bounce back at Stevens Point.
Which of the 3 winless SCIAC teams finally gets a W?
Keith’s take: Whittier can hardly score, and Occidental allows more than 30 per game. So that leaves La Verne, which looked bad in its past two but hung with Whitworth in Week 2.
Ryan’s take: Occidental. Despite being winless, they’ve at least been putting points on the board.
Pat’s take: Occidental. Once upon a time, picking Whittier over Pomona-Pitzer would have been a no-brainer, but Oxy-ULV is the only viable option here.
Adam’s take: If Occidental’s defense can step up, the Tigers have enough offense to get a win and keep defending conference champion La Verne winless through five games.
Frank’s take: Occidental (at La Verne). So, I grabbed that coin again… And then, I looked at offensive output for both teams (since they’ve both faced routs) and gave the advantage to Oxy.
Chad’s take: Occidental. The Tigers will go into La Verne and pick up the much needed win.
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.