Triple-take for Week 4

We’re going to take a bit of a different route here and in future weeks in our preview of the upcoming weekend’s games. Each week, Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan will give their take on what some of the big upcoming games are by category, joined by a rotating commentator.

It’s a triple-take on the weekend games, for the price of one. Well, for the price of none, since it’s free! Deputy Managing Editor Gordon Mann joins us for the first run-through.

Game of the Week
Gordon’s take: No. 24 Montclair State at No. 7 Wesley. The Red Hawks showed they have the defense against Wilkes and offense against Springfield to make this very interesting.

Keith’s take: No. 24 Montclair State at No. 7 Wesley. And not just because it’s Saturday’s only matchup of top 25 teams. Both the Red Hawks and Wolverines scheduled aggressively to begin the year, and Saturday’s winner will continue working on an impressive playoff resume, whether the eventual bid comes in Pool A (Montclair), B (Wesley) or C (Montclair).

Pat’s take: No. 6 St. John Fisher at Ithaca. This recent rivalry has taken on even more intrigue after Ithaca’s surprising loss last week at Hartwick. St. John Fisher has never won at Ithaca but did go to overtime there two years ago and lost by one in 2003. So it’s not like the Cardinals haven’t been able to compete there.

Surprisingly close game
Keith’s take: Union at Rochester. This might be surprisingly close, but not in the way we expected preseason as both have struggled to 0-2 starts. Neither the Dutchmen nor Yellowjackets have been within 16 points of a win, but with a clean Liberty League slate, the playoffs are still in sight for Saturday’s winner. (RPI and Hobart also face off in LL action.)

Pat’s take: Tri-State at Franklin. It might not look like it on paper, teams that were 2-8 and 9-1 last year, but Tri-State has bent and not broken so far in starting 2-0. Franklin will make that defense break a few times but shouldn’t run away with it.

Gordon’s take: No. 17 Wartburg at Luther. No. 17 Wartburg at Luther. Look beyond the Norse’s record (0-2) and you see a team that has played two Top 25 teams very tough. Plus, it’s a rivalry game.

Most Likely Top 25 Team to Lose
Pat’s take: No. 12 Ohio Northern vs. John Carroll. The OAC teams battling for second place and a shot at a Pool C playoff bid behind Mount Union are hard to separate at this point of the season. This is the first time two of the contenders meet.

Gordon’s take: No. 18 Springfield at Alfred. The Saxons can score and contain a running attack, the right recipe to beat the Pride.

Keith’s take: No. 17 Wartburg at Luther. Wartburg’s visit not only brings out the “throw out the record books” quality of a rivalry game, it also features a Norse group which is 2-10 in its past 12 games but has six losses by one score (eight points or fewer). Luther has pushed Top 25 St. Olaf and Central to their limits already, and while Wartburg comes in off two very convincing wins, the Norse might finally catch a break in a close one.

Quickest Game
Keith’s take: Muskingum at No. 1 Mount Union. Some might take less time, but Muskingum at Mount Union might be “over” the quickest. The Muskies aren’t just playing the nation’s best team, they’re doing it on the road, under the lights (7 p.m. kickoff). Good luck.

Gordon’s take: Plymouth State at Mass-Dartmouth. Among the nation’s leaders in rushing yards, Plymouth State averages 65 rushes per game. The Corsairs’ pass-to-rush ration is more than 2:1.

Pat’s take: Ferrum at Shenandoah. Which is a shame, because these teams might not get to enjoy another win this season, so the winner would really want to savor the moment. The teams are 1-2 in the USA South in rushes but seventh and eighth in total offense.

Fantastic Finish that Won’t Be Topped
Gordon’s take: RPI at Hobart. The Statesmen have already had two exciting finishes. They’ll have another with RPI in town.

Pat’s take: Husson at Hartwick. Last year, Husson led 20-0 after three quarters only to see Hartwick quarterback Jason Boltus and running back Lindy Crea hook up for three touchdowns, the final one capping an 80-yard drive with 1:46 left. But Hartwick, which had already had an extra point blocked, missed wide right and Husson won 20-19. You know Husson wants this game so it can play the comparative scores game and claim it could therefore beat Ithaca.

Keith’s take: Carleton vs. Bethel. Offensive lineman Matt Topeff’s fourth-quarter TD pass propelled Carleton to a 17-14 upset over playoff-bound Bethel last season, but the Knights went on to lose six of their final seven. They’ve started 2007 with a pair of convincing wins and probably won’t have to lateral to a lineman with a nice spiral to generate the game-winning play this time. But with St. John’s next, the Knights can’t afford a Royals defeat.

Stepping Stone Game
Pat’s take: Randolph-Macon at Catholic. A matchup with a history of competitive games has a little extra riding on it this year. The winner will guarantee its best season in some time. Catholic is looking for its fourth win, a total it hasn’t seen since 2002, while Randolph-Macon is looking for win No. 3, best since 2004.

Keith’s take: Widener at No. 21 Rowan. The loser will still have a chance at an automatic playoff bid, but with each Philadelphia-area team at 1-1 already, a win will boost confidence heading into conference play, especially if the Profs get a big game from freshman quarterback Tim Hagerty.

Gordon’s take: Hampden-Sydney at Guilford. Both teams need to start the ODAC season with a win, particularly the Tigers who get rival Bridgewater (Va.) next.

Team That Will Be On Your Radar
Keith’s take: Guilford. We know the Quakers have offense (55.7 points per game), but can they muster some defense against Hampden-Sydney, a team equally capable of putting up points (35.0 per so far)?

Gordon’s take: No. 21 Rowan. How will freshman quarterback Tim Hagerty do in his first start against a tough defense in a game with a lot of emotion?

Pat’s take: Elmhurst. Just in time for next week’s game against Carthage, which is not only the CCIW opener for the Bluejays but an early make-or-break type of game between two teams hoping to make a dark-horse conference title run.