TAG | Wooster
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
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
“Long” as in a long season is ahead of us, and we’re just getting started.
And we’re willing to bet that most of you have been looking forward to this moment for eight months or more. We hope that our publication, Kickoff 2011, gave you your “football fix” over the past several days. (If not, there’s still time to buy it and get an insider’s look at all 239 teams.)
From now until the Stagg Bowl, Triple Take will be a weekly forecast for the Saturday ahead. Three members of the D3football.com staff — Executive Editor Pat Coleman, Managing Editor and National Columnist Keith McMillan and Senior Editor and Mid-Atlantic Columnist Ryan Tipps — will go through a series of questions to help readers gauge what to expect on game day. We’re thinking aloud, of sorts. And in many cases, we’ll take you beyond the Top 25 teams and perhaps highlight some sleepers that weren’t otherwise on your radar.
For Week 1, here are some of the most interesting matchups nationwide:
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 10 Coe at No. 16 Hardin-Simmons. Two of the best teams from two of the best conferences in the country. That should say a lot right there. But truth be told, Coe should be near unstoppable most of this season. Any team in the country would be envious to have the kind of returning players that the Kohawks have, and with some gaps for HSU to fill (superstars at quarterback and wideout are gone), this is Coe’s game to lose.
Pat’s take: Trinity Bible at Presentation. It’s not going to be a particularly pretty game, this we know, but it will be the first Division III home game in South Dakota and Presentation might well start its football life off 1-0.
Keith’s take: No. 4 North Central at Redlands. Remember that the Bulldogs were 8-1 last year, a record that almost always gets a team in the playoffs. There are 18 starters back from that squad, though longtime quarterback Dan Selway is not one of them. Likewise, the heart of North Central’s third-best-in-the-nation defense from last year, linebacker Matt Wenger, is gone. But 15 Cardinals starters return. So we’ve got two loaded teams, and the favorite has to travel 1,750 miles from the Chicago area to the L.A. area – flights are rare for D-III teams – for a 7 p.m. PDT kickoff under the lights at Ted Runner Stadium. Heck yeah it’s a game of the week!
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: N.C. Wesleyan at No. 14 Ohio Northern. In their short history, the Bishops have been known for taking on some of the best teams they can get their hands on in non-conference play: Wesley, Hampden-Sydney, Salisbury. The list goes on, and in an era when every loss can become a compounded postseason strike against a playoff-worthy team, the Bishops are putting risk ahead of caution. Even after losing some key starters, it’s rare when they don’t come out swinging. ONU, on its end, has long been a top-tier OAC team, but they have to replace an All-Conference quarterback, rusher and receiver. That’s a hard feat to overcome.
Pat’s take: East Texas Baptist at No. 3 Wesley. I’d like to put this in the next category down but Wesley has too many weapons and is too good defensively. The Wolverines faced a dual-threat quarterback from the ASC last season in LiDarral Bailey and bottled him up (86 yards of total offense). Sed Harris seems to be a similar threat. The only question is if Shane McSweeny, who is returning from injury, can’t connect with a new receiving corps. Justin Sottilare, who led the Wesley offense to the national semifinals last year, disappeared from the Wolverines’ roster sometime this week.
Keith’s take: No. 23 UW-Stevens Point at Willamette. The Bearcats scored 33 unanswered in last season’s 33-14 season-opening win in Wisconsin, partially because the Pointers had no answer for Willamette’s Fly offense. UW-SP lost star wide receivers Jared Jenkins and Anthony Aker, and they travel to Oregon. They’re the ranked team, but I’m not sure they should be expected to win. And yet, I doubt there’s another blowout here, because defenses tend to perform much better after players and coaches have had a look at a specialty offense.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Wittenberg. Most of the Tigers’ recent games against Capital were just plain ugly. That’s not to say such a result will happen again this time, but there are some definite kinks to be worked out before they can find success. It’s been more than a decade since Witt beat an OAC team — and working against the Tigers is that they are not the same team that ended 2010.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Rowan. My gut wants me to aim a little higher, such as the No. 14 spot or even the No. 3 spot, but I can’t pull the trigger. This was a close game last year at Rowan and although Rowan certainly got better over the course of the season, Lycoming peaked earlier. But in this battle of two proud programs, I take the team that won the 1998 semifinals in this rematch. One other note: Rowan played just one game on grass all of last year, beating 2-8 Brockport State. And yeah, Ryan, I’ve been to a Capital-Wittenberg game and it wasn’t pretty. But that was a long time ago.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Wartburg. There’s every reason to like the Knights, who were 10-1 last season with a scoring defense and takeaway margin in the top 10 nationally. They beat their Week 1 opponent, Monmouth, 27-7 last year, and the Scots’ star quarterback, Alex Tanney, played the whole game. So as both teams return 18 starters, it doesn’t seem logical to use Tanney’s return as a reason to think the Knights are in danger. And yet I’m going to do it. Tanney got hurt after throwing one pass in Game 2 against Grinnell, and there’s something that burns inside a player to excel when the game is taken away unexpectedly. All five offensive linemen from last year are back to give Tanney time to throw, and he’s as dangerous as any quarterback in Division III. Wartburg lost to St. Norbert in the 2009 opener, so an upset defeat against a top-shelf MWC team is totally foreseeable. If the Knights aren’t on their game Saturday, it’s likely.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Centre. You can bet that the Colonels want to avenge their 1-point loss to Hanover last year. And in a season where they might be the favorites to win the SCAC, it’ll be interesting whether they can start and stay strong through their nine-game schedule.
Pat’s take: UW-La Crosse. My only question is, will it be enough? The Eagles have the pieces to perform admirably against UW-Whitewater in the season opener but must play the Warhawks twice this season and Mary Hardin-Baylor. Throw in UW-Stevens Point and they could be the best 6-4 or 7-3 team in Division III.
Keith’s take: Salve Regina. If you read Kickoff, you might have noticed my unhealthy obsession with the NEFC’s Seahawks. Union comes to Rhode Island for the opener trying to erase memories of a rare bad season (2-7). There’s a bigger NEFC game in Week 1 too (Framingham State at Endicott), but I’m eager to see if in Year 2, the defensive-minded Bob Chesney begins to field a team that can score as well as it can slow others from scoring.
Which Thursday or Friday night game would you like to attend?
Ryan’s take: Baldwin-Wallace at Wooster. I’m sure that the Yellow Jackets would just like to forget that the last two games of 2010 even happened. And here’s their chance. I’ve pegged B-W to be the No. 2 team in the OAC this year, but I also think that Woo has an upset or two in them this fall. It probably won’t happen in Week 1, but down the line, they will sneak up on somebody.
Pat’s take: Dubuque at Augustana. This should be a nice shootout of passing offenses, with the Spartans and Mike Zweifel leading the way. The schools are not that far apart and it’s a Thursday night game, under the lights. If it weren’t a six-hour drive from here I’d go myself, but I’ll settle for live video.
Keith’s take: Adrian at Husson. I’m curious about McMurry, which is transitioning out of D-III, playing at Stephen F. Austin, but I still think I’d rather go see a Michigan-based D-III team play in Maine. There’s something unique when teams who move in different D-III circles get together. I’d appreciate both the travel opportunity and the chance for us D-III nerds to evaluate conferences against one another.
Which 2010 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. Few things might be more intimidating than starting a season against the big dog of the MAC, Delaware Valley. It’s not an impossible game (the Mules do have players such as All-American linebacker Pat McDonough to prop them up), but most people would probably hitch their wagon to Del Val in this situation.
Pat’s take: St. Lawrence. The Saints open with Utica after they lost every non-conference game they played last year, including a 31-13 decision to Utica later in the season, when youth is less of an excuse.
Keith’s take: St. Norbert. I guess this is a cop-out, because of course it isn’t easy to play the No. 5 team in the country out of the gate. I actually applaud the Green Knights for scheduling tough openers, and this isn’t the first time. They’ve won the non-conference game, gone 9-1 and missed the playoffs, then gone 7-3, won the MWC and gotten in. But still, if they lose the opener, they have to hope it prepared them to win the conference, because two-loss teams are always on shaky playoff ground.
Whose long losing streak is likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Guilford’s, against Greensboro. I mentioned this in my Around the Mid-Atlantic column this week, too, but I think that because the Quakers have a new coach, they also have a new reason to be excited. This week’s opponent is crosstown rival Greensboro, and Guilford’s new coach, Chris Rusiewicz, is bringing a fresh, defensive approach to a team that has lost 11 games in a row. Rusiewicz has made several changes on defense and already understands his players’ strengths and weaknesses. He’ll do a good job of playing to the strengths.
Pat’s take: Thiel’s, against Marietta. The Tomcats finally showed some signs of putting things together down the stretch after a dismal beginning to the season that also had an emotional component following the September death of freshman defensive lineman Louis Giuntini. And to those at Frostburg State and who knew and loved Derek Sheely, our condolences.
Keith’s take: Olivet’s, against Cornell. Or maybe I have that backwards. Okay, fine, someone’s long losing streak is ending here; the Comets’ 27-game streak or the Rams’s 11-game streak. Both teams have second-year coaches and most of their starters back, which isn’t always a good thing if you lost all 10 games. It’s impossible to have a read on a team before they’ve played a game. But Olivet’s at home, so I’ll give them the edge.
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Augustana · Baldwin-Wallace · Capital · Centre · Coe · Dubuque · East Texas Baptist · Guilford · Hardin-Simmons · Lycoming · Marietta · Muhlenberg · N.C. Wesleyan · Ohio Northern · Presentation · Rowan · Thiel · UW-La Crosse · UW-Whitewater · Wesley · Wittenberg · Wooster
Coach Eric Hamilton, left, always seems to have his team up for archrival Rowan.
They always say that the records go out the window during a rivalry game. Players and coaches handle the emotions — and the pressures — of a rivalry differently. The teams aren’t the same as in other games; they have a unique fire inside them. They’re not always playing to go on to next week; more than ever, they’re playing for now.
The last weekend of the regular season plays host to rivalries across the country. Most people know the biggest ones: Williams/Amherst, Wabash/DePauw, Cortland State/Ithaca, Hampden-Sydney/Randolph-Macon. But there are many that are laced with history and excitement that deserve pomp as well: Muhlenberg/Moravian, Thomas More/Mount St. Joseph, Salisbury/Frostburg State, among others.
Throw down the gauntlet and pick up your spirits. Rivalry week is here. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps bring you the forecast to those types of games and more in the culmination of the regular season.
Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Willamette at No. 19 Pacific Lutheran. Going into this weekend, the national landscape is still dotted with several one-loss teams (PLU included). Willamette’s chances for a Pool C bid are remote with two losses under its belt, but stranger things have happened when the NCAA gets its mitts on the criteria. And who knows how many teams will be in contention after Saturday afternoon. That leaves us with two teams, coming from the ultra-competitive Northwest Conference, having a lot at stake. Plus, it should be fun to see the collision between PLU and WU, which have scored 265 and 350 points, respectively, this season.
Pat’s take: No. 9 Wittenberg at Wooster. Wittenberg has played quite well at home, rather poorly on the road. Wittenberg’s home slate was relatively soft until this past week: Olivet, Ohio Wesleyan, the Wash U team which had lost at Rhodes the week before, Hiram and Kenyon. Then there was Wabash. Is that a new trend? Good year for the Tigers to have six games at home and four on the road, but Wittenberg will need this particular road victory in order to clinch the NCAC title.
Keith’s take: Wash. U. at Chicago. Though having in the neighborhood of a dozen teams still in pursuit of a bid in Pool C bid in Week 11 isn’t all that abnormal, having so many Pool B teams alive for a playoff spot is. Usually the three spots are all but wrapped up by now. The winner of the game between the Bears and Maroons will be put side-by-side with Salisbury for the third Pool B spot, making this the week’s best matchup of even teams with playoff implications.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: No. 9 Wittenberg at Wooster. Against decent teams this year, the Scots really haven’t won big nor have they lost big. And with a chance to force a three-way tie in the NCAC, Wooster has a lot to be playing for. What needs to happen? Wooster needs to improve its defense, especially its secondary, if it hopes to have a slice of the NCAC title pie. Big games can do crazy things to teams, and if Witt wants its ticket punched, it will have to earn it.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Montclair State at William Paterson. Based this off of last week’s closer-than-expected Montclair State-Brockport State. The Pioneers have had a bit of a bad stretch of late, but they’re at home, and needing a win to finish the season at .500.
Keith’s take: No. 13 Wartburg at Simpson. Teams with their playoff spots clinched already worry me. It’s important to remember even if you’re in the field of 32, you’re still playing for a potential home game and a better matchup. But unless it’s stressed to them, college kids aren’t always tuned in to such minute details. And every year some team plays its way out of a good situation in Week 11 and gets sent on the road to a powerhouse instead. With one of the nation’s best scoring defenses (No. 11, 11.11 points per game) against one of the worst scoring offenses (No. 218, 13.67), there’s no reason Wartburg, which plowed through its six of its first seven opponents but has beaten the past two by single digits, should lose. But human nature might make it a more difficult win than it would seem.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 17 Cal Lutheran. In recent years, Cal Lutheran and Occidental have traded wins when they’ve played each other. Not that that’s any real indicator of 2010, when the Kingsmen have a huge win on their resume, but it’s just something to keep in mind. If Cal Lutheran’s secondary doesn’t stay on its toes, it will get shredded by Luke Collis and his receivers. A win is crucial for the Kingsmen because they certainly want to soak up some momentum going into the postseason — especially if they’re going to be forced into a rematch with Linfield.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Pacific Lutheran. Both teams are motivated, we get that. PLU needs the win to stay in the playoff hunt, while Willamette … well, the Bearcats could be in the discussion if enough teams lose, I suppose. But I am looking at this game because I think Willamette has been pushed back under the radar a little unfairly considering their resume this season: two “good” losses and a pretty good road win as well.
Keith’s take: No. 7 Hardin-Simmons. The Cowboys are very deserving of a Pool C bid, especially if they take care of business against 6-3 Louisiana College, a team I thought might have a chance to play its way in in Week 11 way back in Kickoff. HSU is 26th in the country in pass efficiency defense, and it should be able to match up against the nation’s most prolific passing attack and No. 3 scoring offense (LC throws for 387 yards per game and scores about 46 points). But even with the Cowboys being able to match that (304 and 45) and playing to keep postseason hopes alive, the potential here for a shootout makes it a more likely place for an upset than most.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Louisiana College. Starting the season 1-3, the Wildcats fell from the broader public discourse early in the season. But at 6-1 in the ASC, they are clearly in the conference’s top tier this season. And they’re coming off a dramatic late-game win against McMurry before hosting Hardin-Simmons this Saturday. HSU is looking to pick up a playoff spot, but LC is ready to spoil that effort and have sole control of No. 2 in the conference. Averaging 385 yards a game, LC’s Ben McLaughlin is the ASC’s most prolific passer. He has just 12 interceptions in over 400 attempts and has connected for scores 37 times.
Pat’s take: Christopher Newport. With the Captains hosting Methodist and already holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over North Carolina Wesleyan, it seems like a foregone conclusion that CNU will be returning to the playoffs. And although they’ll be 6-4, they’ll have cover from St. Lawrence, which will be 5-5 at best, possibly 4-6. Frostburg State is a bad loss back on Week 3, but there haven’t been any other bad losses and four consecutive wins on top of it.
Keith’s take: St. Lawrence. They’re going to make the playoffs yet finish with a losing record. I’d be willing to bet the just-less-than-500-miles-to-Alliance Saints are going to Mount Union next Saturday for a first-round exposure to what a serious D-III playoff team looks like. So the least St. Lawrence can do is beat WPI on Saturday and go in at 5-5 with its heads held high and its confidence up so that it can at least buy into the dream in Ohio, even if it will be hard for the rest of us to do so.
Rivalry game you’re most interested in (alma maters excluded).
Ryan’s take: Randolph-Macon at Hampden-Sydney. For the first time since 2006, both of the teams in The Game don’t have a shot at going to the postseason. One of them does, however: H-SC. The Tigers can’t win the Old Dominion’s automatic qualifier, but they have some quality wins that will put them in good shape for Pool C contention. While H-SC averages over 420 yards of offense a game, turnovers have been a dangerous Achilles heel for the team. And what’s the story with R-MC? The Yellow Jackets saw their star fade when they lost their fifth-year starting quarterback midway through October. At this point, pride is the biggest thing on the table for them. A worthy goal, to be sure.
Pat’s take: No. 20 Rowan at TCNJ. TCNJ put up a surprise against Kean last week, winning 7-0, holding Jason Gwaltney under 100 yards rushing. Eric Hamilton didn’t win 200-plus games for nothing and don’t expect TCNJ to come out with anything less than everything it’s got against its archrival. This game was good when played on a Friday night, but it belongs in Week 11 and the NJAC should do everything it can to keep it there.
Keith’s take: Hanover at No. 24 Franklin. Victory Bell rivalry game makes it worth watching alone. But put the HCAC title and automatic bid on the line, and ratchet up the excitement to fever pitch. It’s simple, some are going to respond to the pressure, some might wilt under it, and perhaps if most on both teams rise to the challenge, you get a game for the ages, and the winner gets at least one more week of season.
Who will have the least momentum going into the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: No. 6 Mary Hardin-Baylor. Lack of momentum won’t necessarily be a reason to pick against them when they (presumably) rematch Hardin-Simmons next weekend, but the Crusaders have played their last two games against teams that combine to be 3-15. And UMHB hasn’t been challenged in the least. Saturday, they face off against Texas Lutheran, whose 4-5 wouldn’t be so bad until you realize that they’ve lost three of their last four games, getting crushed in those losses. UMHB had better be ready to step up its game once Round 1 rolls around if it hopes to make it to Round 2.
Pat’s take: St. Lawrence. Regardless of what happens Saturday.
Keith’s take: Coe. There are the games competitors look forward to because they know their best effort will be required, and then there are the ones against 0-9 teams. Cornell might give a better than ‘just playing out the string’ effort for its longtime rival, but Coe should be pulling its starters out early in the second half. And while it’s good to get out and stretch your legs, the Kohawks are going to have to play someone like St. Thomas or Bethel next week. Saturday probably won’t much resemble that.
Which team can alter its fortunes the most?
Ryan’s take: Centre. The fortunes in question may be long-term. There were high expectations of the Colonels at the beginning of the season, but hiccups from the outset cast a lot of shadows over this team. The offense has just a few seniors in its ranks; the defense, though, is another story. Lots of starters will be graduating. Going up against 3-6 LaGrange, one of the best things Centre can do is make sure that younger defenders see some time on the field. Next year doesn’t have to be another middle-of-the-pack season.
Pat’s take: Hanover. There are a couple of good answers but I think the best ones in terms of playoff hopes come from the teams that could basically snipe a conference title here at the end of the season. Or snooker, as Keith referred to it on the podcast this week. We can’t say Hanover hasn’t been on the radar this season, because we did think they would take an incremental step forward this season, but this is a team that’s one step away. A win Saturday takes them from last year’s 3-7 to the playoffs.
Keith’s take: Trine. The Thunder could wrap up a 10-0 season and a likely first-round home game with a win over MIAA foe Albion. A loss to the Britons gives them the automatic bid, then sends Trine into the muck: The group of 10 or so one-loss teams who will be hoping their combination of strength of schedule and wins over regionally ranked opponents gets them an at-large bid. Trine has very little to go on there, so they either win and get in and maybe host the Hanover/Franklin winner, or finish an otherwise great season with a thud.
Cal Lutheran · Centre · Chicago · Christopher Newport · Coe · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · Hardin-Simmons · LaGrange · Louisiana College · Mary Hardin-Baylor · New Jersey · Occidental · Pacific Lutheran · Randolph-Macon · Rowan · Simpson · St. Lawrence · TCNJ · Trine · Wartburg · Washington U. · Willamette · Wittenberg · Wooster
Kentel Noel and Christopher Newport still control their own destiny.
CNU photo by Heidi Naylor
So much to talk about this week and we didn’t even get to it all — we try to keep the podcast under an hour and almost did so this week. But not quite.
Let’s run it down for you.
- Six conferences yet to be decided
- Three could end up in three-way tiebreakers
- Pool B took another blow. Who gets those bids?
- Are those new faces or just bad teams in the playoffs?
- How did W&L and Muhlenberg sneak up on everyone?
- Pat and Keith talk about their trips to Wittenberg and Muhlenberg
- Rivalry games still have a lot to play for
That just about covers it. All that and yes, more, in the Around the Nation podcast.
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Albion · Benedictine · Case Western Reserve · Chicago · Christopher Newport · Cortland State · Defiance · DePauw · Endicott · Franklin · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · HCAC · Maine Maritime · MIAA · Montclair State · Muhlenberg · NCAC · NEFC · NJAC · North Carolina Wesleyan · Rowan · Salisbury · St. Lawrence · SUNY-Maritime · Trine · Ursinus · USAC · Wabash · Wartburg · Washington and Lee · Washington U. · Wesley · Wittenberg · Wooster