Triple Take: Getting to their goals

Williams' Sam Krieg
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

Triple Take: Driving the season home

Washington and LeePlayoff roads are being paved across the country as we enter Week 10.

We’ve seen the landscape change over the past two months. There have been break-downs and wrong turns by many along the way, but others have found the route to be direct and relatively free of bumps.

Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps present their latest gridiron map to help you navigate your way through Saturday.

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 North Central at No. 15 Wheaton.
There’s barely anything that needs to be said about the magnitude of this matchup. Not only have both teams spent most of the season in our Top 25, they are currently in the first and second spots on the NCAA regional rankings. That means the winner could nab a top seed come playoff time. And what’s not to love about two teams that average 426 and 415 offensive yards per game in one of the country’s toughest conferences.
Pat’s take: No. 25 Wabash at No. 9 Wittenberg. The regional rankings make it fairly clear this is a playoff elimination game, as neither is in line for an at-large bid. Wittenberg’s Ben Zoeller leads Division III in passing efficiency, while Tyler Burke has made just two starts after the Little Giants lost Chase Belton. Burke threw two picks against Oberlin after coming off the bench but has gone 36-for-63 in his two starts. This game doesn’t have the luster I’d hoped for when I booked my flight a few months ago but the NCAC title is still on the line. (If it wins, Wittenberg would still have to beat Wooster next week to stay out of a three-way tie scenario.)
Keith’s take: No. 13 Wartburg at No. 17 Central. Here, and in No. 19 Hampden-Sydney at Washington & Lee, are third leg of the triangle games. And ones we’ve been waiting on for weeks. While the Tigers need to win to force a showdown with Randolph-Macon next week, in the IIAC, Coe has already beaten Central (37-28 in Week 4) and Wartburg has beaten Coe (31-21 in Week 7). Both the Knights, who can win the IIAC outright, and the Dutch, who can force a three-way tie, rush for more than 200 yards per game and have held four oppoents under 10 points. Rushing and defense as the formula for a November win in Iowa makes sense, but something has to give when the Central (75 rush yards allowed per game) and Wartburg (108) rushing defenses face the opponents’ ground attack.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Redlands at Whittier.
The 6-1 Bulldogs won’t get off easy against the 2-5 Poets. This could get interesting because, statistically, the teams cancel each other out on several fronts, most notably with Redlands’ passing attack and Whittier’s run game. That could mean that the team with the most dynamic plays or that commits the fewest turnovers (something that works against Whittier) will be the team that can walk away the victor.
Pat’s take: No. 1 UW-Whitewater at UW-Oshkosh. UW-Oshkosh struggled a little bit on the road at UW-Eau Claire last week but the team with the toughest schedule, at least anecdotally, in Division III, won’t be intimidated by a home game against the top-ranked team in the country. The Titans represented themselves well against No. 2 Mount Union back in Week 2. The difference: UW-Whitewater will be tougher on defense and knows what its run game is all about, where the Purple Raiders didn’t have that figured out in their opener. Still, I expect a game that’s less than four touchdowns.
Keith’s take: Louisana College at McMurry. This matchup of the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 passing offenses might be surprisingly close for those who’ve followed from afar. Since the Wildcats started 1-3 and McMurry has put up big numbers against the ASC’s big-name opponents, the latter has garnered most of the publicity. But since LC has won four in a row, both teams are 5-3, pass for more than 380 yards per game and more than 13 yards per completion. LC’s Ben McLaughlin leads the nation in total offense, as does the team, because they also rush for 140 yards per game. McMurry’s Jake Mullin, he of the two seven-TD games, has passed 330 times with just two interceptions. With 53 (LC) and 45 (McM) touchdowns on the season, if this one is close, at 45-44, that would seem about right. Surprisingly close would be 14-13 or 24-21.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 2 Mount Union.
Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t bet much more than a nickel on this happening. But Baldwin-Wallace has been a team that has surprised a lot of folks this year since its lackluster debut against Wooster. And B-W can probably be seen as one of the two or three teams this season with a chance at knocking off The Machine in the regular season. We saw against Marietta that while Mount still earns our utmost respect, this year’s team is young — and it has weaknesses and inconsistencies. In B-W’s stronger years, they’re often able to play Mount close. I’m interested about what can happen in a year when the Yellow Jackets are up and the Purple Raiders are (relatively speaking) down.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Hampden-Sydney. I don’t think I’m surprising anyone in suggesting that Washington and Lee could well win this game on Saturday. While W&L could well have snuck up on Randolph-Macon, they haven’t snuck up on anyone since. And with a playoff bid on the line, one would have to expect (hope?) that more than 780 show up in Lexington this time around. The challenge for Hamdpen-Sydney will be getting the ball back. W&L held the ball for more than 40 minutes last week at Catholic (although the Generals haven’t dominated time of possession nearly as much in any other game this season).
Keith’s take: No. 10 Thomas More. No. 5 North Central, No. 9 Wittenberg and No. 13 Wartburg could all lose, but it’d be tough to classify those as upsets. If Waynesburg, even at 6-2, pulled the stunner against the Saints, it would definitely be one. Thomas More leads the PAC in nearly every statistical category and gave up 45 points — total — in five October games. If Yellow Jackets quarterback Brad Dawson, the PAC passing leaader, is outstanding and the rest of the team realizes what’s at stake — a Week 10 win against Thomas More and one in Week 11 against Washington & Jefferson would make Waynesburg a playoff team — it could happen. It’s unlikely, but some years, once November arrives, surprises are sprinkled across the national playoff picture.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Kean.
The Cougars have not fared well against the trio of NJAC powers, but they’ve had a lot of success plowing through the middle of the conference pack. This week they take on 4-4 New Jersey before hitting the road and becoming Wesley’s last obstacle to a likely No. 1 seed. It’s also easy to get excited to see Jason Gwaltney in his final two regular season games. The running back may not be at West Virginia anymore, but he is still the kind of player who makes an impact on the field. This year, he’s averaging 161 yards a game — which, by the way, puts him third-best in the country in that regard.
Pat’s take: Hanover. Look for the Panthers to continue Mount St. Joseph’s season of struggles and set up a Victory Bell showdown with Franklin in Week 11 that is for a little more than pride and a trophy, namely, the HCAC title.
Keith’s take: Case Western Reserve. Before last week’s 24-20 loss at Chicago, folks were considering the Spartans a lock for a Pool B playoff spot. Now they might not even win the UAA. Back at home against Wash. U., CWRU is on display. If the team has enough heart, and plays well, we’ll see a bounce back. The Bears are 6-2 and riding a five-game win streak that includes a victory against No. 25 Wabash.

A team that will clinch a share of the conference title on Saturday.
Ryan’s take: No. 14 Trine.
The way Trine has been, erm, thundering through its conference slate, I don’t see anything short of another MIAA title coming to fruition. This week, Kalamazoo will be on the receiving end of a team that has averaged 45 points a game this season. Kzoo’s record isn’t where they’d probably like it to be, but they do have a solid passing attack that could make a dent against Trine. However, the Hornets’ strength on offense is also the Thunders’ strength on defense. That should be a good test for Trine ahead of Albion and a likely playoff run around the corner.
Pat’s take: No. 6 Mary Hardin-Baylor. The hardest part about playing Sul Ross State is getting to Alpine, Texas. UMHB should be on our Pool A list by about 4:45 ET on Saturday. But not back on campus before midnight.
Keith’s take: St. Norbert. The also-rans of the Midwest Conference had a prime opportunity to crack the dominant hold the Green Knights and the Monmouth Scots have had on the top spot for most of the past decade, as each team lost early, and lost again in October. But despite a three-point Week 2 defeat at Beloit and a one-point setback in Week 6 against Illinois College, St. Norbert is atop the MWC again, because everyone else has at least three conference losses. And with the Green Knights playing their season straight through with no bye, a home win against Lake Forest on Saturday will wrap up a conference title and a West Region playoff game at somewhere other than St. Thomas, which played in DePere in Week 1. Not bad for going 7-3; two years ago, that was good enough for third place behind Monmouth and Ripon.

Which season turnaround has been the most interesting?
Ryan’s take: Washington and Lee.
The Generals started the season 1-2, a record that seemed to indicate that W&L was on track to match the 4-6 seasons of 2008 and ’09. What has emerged is a season that’s a lot more special than those. A win against Hampden-Sydney would send W&L, which is rooted in an ODAC-record-setting ground attack, back to the playoffs for the first time in nearly half a decade. A loss, though, doesn’t count them out yet either because H-SC still has to play one-loss Randolph-Macon, which W&L beat earlier in the year. With how good both the Tigers and Generals are, there’s nothing certain about the results come Saturday. And the fact that both are in such enviable positions of being in control of their playoff destinies is exciting to watch unfold.
Pat’s take: Muhlenberg. After a 3-7 season last fall, and Johns Hopkins, F&M, Ursinus and Susquehanna entering the season with reason to be seen as Centennial Conference contenders, the Mules weren’t given much thought. Although they gave up a lot of points (by Muhlenberg standards) early in the season, the defense has been more locked in of late and should give Ursinus plenty to think about on Saturday.
Keith’s take: St. Lawrence. Either way you qualify turnaround — from a rough start to this season, or reversing a program’s poor history — the Saints fit. Under former Ithaca defensive coordinator Mark Raymond, St. Lawrence lost its first three games of the season, but has since won four of five — the same number of games it won the past two full seasons — to take control of the Liberty League race and put itself in position for a playoff spot.

What team not in the playoff hunt has a lot to gain?
Ryan’s take: Susquehanna.
Any way you cut it, the Crusaders will have had the steepest dropoff, record-wise, of any 2009 playoff team. Their new conference, the Centennial, has not been kind to them. They went 1-8 on that front and haven’t had a win since the second week of September. We talk a lot about moral victories. Toppling former league-mate WPI on Saturday would certainly fit that bill.
Pat’s take: Wilkes. Following last week’s big home win against Lycoming, the Colonels have a chance to finish the season 7-3 by winning out and earn a trip to an ECAC bowl game, which would have to be pretty satisfying after a 1-2 start.
Keith’s take: Pacific. The Northwest Conference had not been kind to the Boxers, in their first season of the program’s revival after a two-decade absence. In a three-week stretch of October, Pacific lost by 48, 62 and 52 points. The past two games, a 24-12 defeat against Whitworth and a 42-31 loss to Puget Sound, aren’t wins, and got closer late in the fourth quarter, but they weren’t 50-point losses either. At 0-7, the Boxers aren’t going to be the champions of anything, but finishing strong, against top 25 Pacific Lutheran Saturday and Menlo next week, will get the ball rolling toward a crucial offseason of program-building.

Triple Take, Hump week

Conference races are at full steam, unbeaten teams are still falling at a good clip, and players are beginning to get glimpses of the playoff pastures on the horizon.

St. John Fisher, BorumIt’s Week 6, the midpoint of our 11-week regular season.

So much happened on the field last Saturday that we’re left to pick up the pieces and make sense of what’s to come. That’s what we’re here for, after all. It’s done in the Around the Nation podcast, it’s done again for the national and regional columns, and to cap the week, it’s broken down for you here in Triple Take.

Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps crunch the numbers before predicting how they will all add up this Saturday.

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney at Bridgewater.
Going off script from the Top 25 a bit here, but last week, we saw the first of the ODAC’s four undefeated teams fall. This week, we’ll see yet another. The Tigers have been uncaged all season, with quality wins against Averett, N.C. Wesleyan and Salisbury. The Eagles, however, have reached 4-0 in less convincing fashion and will need their defense to step up if they don’t want to get clipped. This week we will see clarity in the highly balanced ODAC. To top things off, Bridgewater’s Stone Station, one of the best tailgate crews in the country, will have their grills fired up and ready to go.
Keith’s take: No. 23 St. John’s at Bethel. The buildup to the Tommie-Johnnie game would have almost lead you to believe the MIAC is a two-horse race, with one having fallen a step behind. Yet the Royals are unbeaten, have always given St. John’s fits and have a 16-14 loss in 2009 that ended on a 49-yard field goal to avenge. Bethel brings into the clash the nation’s third-best run defense (36 yards/game, while the Johnnies rush for 189 per). There are no clashes of ranked teams this week, but this game comes as close as any.
Pat’s take: No. 7 North Central at Augustana. Augustana has quietly put together a strong early season. The loss in a close game to Central is a “good loss” by all accounts, although last week’s last-minute win against Millikin nearly derailed this showdown. So far the Vikings have performed pretty much as one would have expected against their schedule; this game will tell whether they will contend for the CCIW title.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: McMurry at Sul Ross State.
The Lobos are 1-2, yet still average 468 yards per game. That barely seems plausible. We’ll see how that figure stacks up once they go against 3-2 McMurry, a team that has blown out weak competition and has a statistically stout defense. To win, that defense will have to do something few teams have been able to do this year: get pressure on Sul Ross State quarterback Monty Morales.
Keith’s take: SUNY-Maritime at Castleton State. Each side is suddenly winning more than expected. The Privateers (5-0) are harboring playoff hopes and Castleton (2-2) seems uninterested in being a second-year program happy the losses aren’t worse. As the last two teams unbeaten in ECFC play, each 2-0, Saturday’s winner gets the conference lead and a chance to begin polishing its resume for an at-large playoff selection (no ECFC automatic bid yet). So there’s plenty reason to believe this could be a shootout. Here’s another: SUNY-Maritime rushes for 329 yards per game, fifth best nationally. The Spartans pass for 335 a game, sixth nationally.
Pat’s take: No. 17 UW-Eau Claire at UW-Platteville. The Blugolds have had a tendency to drop a puzzling game over the past years (2007 and 2008 vs. UW-River Falls, for example). Teams know not to take anyone in the WIAC lightly, but perhaps Eau Claire might get caught with an eye ahead to next week’s game against UW-Whitewater and take a little while to put the Pioneers away.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 St. John Fisher.
Fisher’s offensive balance will likely present a mighty challenge for opponent Ithaca on Saturday. But the Bombers have been playing well enough to stand at 4-1, and if they harness their ability to force turnovers (plus-10 on the season), they will be a threat.
Keith’s take: No. 13 Ohio Northern. Capital’s given up 92 points the past two weeks. ONU scored none last week against No. 2 Mount Union. Could be a recipe for a get-right game (see below), since the Polar Bears will be expecting to score early and often. But if it doesn’t start off well, ONU might begin to press. And bad things happen when teams press, or worry too early in the game about the score.
Pat’s take: None. At least, not other than the aforementioned St. John Fisher. I pondered the likelihood of Whittier taking down Cal Lutheran, and I look forward to the Bethel-St. John’s game but not sure Bethel winning would be much of an upset other than in the eyes of our poll.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Oberlin.
At 3:50 last Saturday afternoon, just seven points separated the Yeomen from a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in more than 50 years: beating Wittenberg — let alone a Top 10-ranked Wittenberg. Suddenly we’re apt to stand up and take notice of Oberlin’s game against undefeated Case Western Reserve. I don’t know that the Yeomen could pull off the upset, but last week’s result suggests it’s possible. To top it off, just two weeks ago, Oberlin set a school record with 622 yards of offense in a game. It’s been a few years since we saw an Oberlin team this good.
Keith’s take: LaGrange. The trip to Trine (Georgia to Indiana) is a rare distance for a D-III road game, and it’s an odd time for a non-conference clash, at least for the team here who’s in a conference. The Panthers, who are making their fourth consecutive road appearance,have shown some flashes, including in a win against Millsaps, so I’m curious how they stack up with Trine, which might be rising higher in the poll than its competition to date (5-13 combined) should warrant. A solid double-digit win for Trine would draw virtually no attention nationally, which is probably fine by the Thunder.
Pat’s take: Bethel. The Royals’ non-conference schedule didn’t show much, with wins against Simpson and Concordia (Wis.) not proving much. (Simpson’s 1-4 start doesn’t help Bethel one bit.) Victories at Carleton and St. Olaf are a little more telling, but hosting St. John’s this week will finally give the voters the info they need to do something with Bethel.

Which of last week’s big showdown winners will struggle the most with its Week 6 opponent?
Ryan’s take: Franklin, who is hosting Rose-Hulman.
The Grizzlies are coming off of steamrolling conference rival Mount St. Joseph. This week, Rose may not pose the challenge they did last year, when they were one of only two teams in the HCAC to beat Franklin, but Rose does have a solid corps of linebackers to keep the Grizzlies honest in the run game. Franklin will be forced to pass, something they admittedly do quite well.
Keith’s take: No. 20 St. John Fisher, who is hosting Ithaca. If only because the Cardinals are the from last week’s dozen ATN-worthy clashes who has a tougher opponent this week.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Cal Lutheran, at Whittier. Whittier is just 1-2, but played Occidental competitively last week and Cal Lutheran isn’t the same team that beat Linfield, not without Daniel Mosier, who ran for 202 yards against the Wildcats but has left the team for personal reasons.

Which team is going to rebound the best after suffering its first loss of the year last week?
Ryan’s take: Ohio Northern.
We’ve known for a long time that Mount Union can make even great teams look like JV squads. After getting shut out by The Machine last week, the Polar Bears are going up against Capital. Capital may not be as strong or as intimidating as in other recent years, but a win over Capital still means something. And it will give ONU the right kind of momentum before hosting Baldwin-Wallace on Oct. 16.
Keith’s take: Mount St. Joseph. So much of football is psychological, and the mind matters beyond the three hours of game time on Saturday. The Lions were humbled against Franklin, and if there’s one good thing that can from from getting your butts whipped, it’s that it ignites the competitive spirit. I’d be stunned if MSJ didn’t have one of its best weeks of practice this week. That’s bad news for host Defiance.
Pat’s take: Illinois Wesleyan. Keith mentioned the concept of the “get right” game earlier and nothing fits the bill like a home game against North Park. We’ll have to wait until next week when the Titans host Elmhurst before we really learn how Illinois Wesleyan bounces back from the loss to Wheaton.

Which game will be least like last year’s matchup?
Ryan’s take: Lycoming at Albright.
The Warriors have shed their dreary 2009 image and are able to pound the rock time and time again. This year they punish defenses; last year produced little more than a tickle in that regard. Albright, on the other hand, is playing better than I expected they could without some of last year’s playmakers, but it’s unlikely they’ll cruise to the 26-7 victory we saw last season. Hitch yourself to the Lycoming wagon on Saturday.
Keith’s take: Union at Hobart. Usually a matchup with playoff and top 25 implications, both teams have a loss, are coming off underwhelming games and need to win to keep pace in the competitive-by-default Liberty League. The Statesmen are coming off rare consecutive losses.
Pat’s take: Mississippi College at No. 5 Mary Hardin-Baylor. Last year, the Cru scored a season-low 14 points as the Choctaws beat them 17-14. The Crusaders might not have all of their questions answered but they are certainly putting points on the board this season, and if you like to play the comparative scores game, Hardin-Simmons lost to UMHB 42-28 but beat Mississippi College 45-10.