Triple-take: Too many to count

Keith McMillan and I and a guest each week run down the games to watch in several categories — some you may recognize, some we just made up last night. But this is just the start of the conversation, as we open up the Daily Dose for your thoughts and comments.

This week’s guest is Jason Bowen, who covered the ACFC for’s Kickoff 2007 and has a lot of experience with the four Top 10 teams squaring off this week: UW-Whitewater, Mary Hardin-Baylor, Salisbury and Wesley.

Continue along with us here on the blog and on the message boards on game day, especially if you can’t make it to a game yourself, and then we’ll be back Monday with our weekly podcast, wrapping up the previous weekend’s action.

Game of the Week
Pat’s take: Principia vs. Trinity Bible at the Metrodome. This will be over before this blog gets posted, most likely, since it starts at 9 a.m. ET, but this game literally makes the season for someone. Trinity Bible is 0-8 and not a Division III member, while Principia is 1-7, came into the season ranked last in our Kickoff ranking of all Division III teams. Principia’s only win is against Trinity Bible. In fact, Principia’s only wins in its past 24 games are against Trinity Bible. You get the picture. This is their championship game, even if it’s for ninth place in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.

Keith’s take: No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 3 UW-Whitewater. How kind of you, Pat. I, however, can’t look past a pair of top-three teams in a non-conference game this late in the season, with the nation’s top rushing attack taking on perhaps the best rusher. The winner here becomes my favorite to appear in the Stagg Bowl against Mount Union, although I fully recognize that someone else might have a remarkable postseason run in them, or that injuries could change things.

Jason’s Take: No. 9 Salisbury at No. 10 Wesley. No game this week has bigger ramifications for Pool B and possibly Pool C playoff bids than this one. Salisbury can virtually wrap up a bid and the ACFC championship with a win in this one. For Wesley, this game is a must win, since a second regional loss leaves the Wolverines on the bubble. Having watched every game in the series since 1993, the stakes have never been higher. Wesley has defended Salisbury’s option run-game, which ranks second nationally this season, well over the past five seasons. If the Wolverines tackle well, the Sea Gulls are going to have to make some plays down the field in the pass game to keep rolling up the points. Salisbury ‘s pass game, when they use it, has been very efficient (just one interception and six touchdowns in 71 attempts) this season. Gull backup quarterback Bobby Sheahin, a Maryland transfer, could play a big factor if Salisbury gets down early. After turning the ball over 16 times in the first four games, the Wesley offense has given it up just four times in their last four. Wesley’s run game is probably better than it was during the past two seasons ,when they advance to the semifinals, behind a rapidly improving offensive line and Mike Pennewell. Quarterback Jason Schatz continues to mature and is managing games well and making big plays more down the field to burners Larry Beavers and Michael Clarke. Salisbury’s 3-5-3 defense gave the Wolverine offensive some problems last year, holding them to a regular season low 13 points. Rain is in the forecast in Dover, so turnovers could tip the scales in this one.

Surprisingly close game
Pat’s take: Wilkes at King’s. Sure, Wilkes was in the MAC title hunt six days ago, and King’s is winless, but King’s can’t stay winless forever, right? Right? The Monarchs have been on the doorstep the past three weeks and will break through against their crosstown rivals.

Keith’s take: Loras at Dubuque. I took a crosstown rivalry too, and not because Pat and I misunderstood “surprisingly close.” The Spartans, after losing to Central last week in three overtimes, losing IIAC championship and playoff hopes in the process, could come out flat before putting up the winning score late.

Jason’s Take: No. 1 Mount Union at No. 12 Capital. Nobody has seen the Purple Raiders more in the past couple of seasons than the Crusaders, who have been dropped by their OAC rival four times during the past two seasons. The regular season games have been blow outs, but the Crusaders have lost by just three in both playoff losses. After a tough loss to Otterbein last week, Maybe Capital bounces back when least expected.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset
Pat’s take: No. 11 Alfred. This shouldn’t be taken as a huge knock on Alfred. Hobart just seems to be firing on all cylinders this month. They’ve scored 41 or more the past four games — against admittedly lesser competition, but at least they have seen the north side of 40 before, which they may well need against Alfred’s 42.7 points per game.

Keith’s take: No. 14 Occidental. The Tigers like to flirt with disaster a couple times a season on the way to the playoffs, and one of these days that habit might bite them. They’ve already done it this year, blocking a PAT with 4:38 left to hold off Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (now 1-5) and they trailed Pomona-Pitzer (2-4) at halftime last week. Cal Lutheran’s shown signs of getting it together, so maybe this is the week. And if it isn’t, well heck, three-fifths of the top 25 are playing ranked opponents or someone against whom a loss might not be considered an upset, so there wasn’t much to choose from.

Jason’s take: No. 20 Muhlenberg vs. Dickinson. The Mules have been impressive on defense this season posting four shutouts and seven straight wins, but this is the time things usually get crazy in the Centennial Conference. Dickinson (6-1) is well-coached fundamental football team with some playmakers back from last year’s playoff team with their only loss coming to Hopkins by three.

They’ll be on your radar
Pat’s take: Dickinson. This gets harder and harder each week — I mean, shoot, how can a team get onto the radar in Week 9? By winning at an undefeated team’s home field, I’m guessing. Dickinson’s performance last year in the playoffs — even in a 49-21 loss at Wesley — was the Centennial’s best NCAA playoff performance since 2003, when Muhlenberg scored 20 points at Christoper Newport, then a third-year program.

Keith’s take: Washington U. The Bears control their playoff destiny and are a major factor in Pool B, but with a showdown against unbeaten Case Western Reserve looming next weekend, they’d better not get caught looking ahead. Carnegie Mellon, 11-1 and UAA champ last season, won’t go down easily. Three of their four losses are by three points or fewer, and they shut out Chicago on the road in their UAA opener last weekend. Given that Wash. U. has three road games to get them to 9-1 and into the postseason (most likely), I’ll be watching how they start the stretch run.

Jason’s take: The winner of the Delaware Valley/Widener game. Both teams stumbled early, but have rebounded to post unbeaten records in the MAC. The winner will get a shot at the conference crown in the coming weeks against Albright.

Total rushing yards and score in the UMHB/UWW game
Pat’s take: 580 and 31. There’s lots of focus on last year’s performance by the UWW defensive line but not a lot of attention paid to the fact that UMHB returns every offensive lineman from that game’s two-deep while the Warhawks’ defensive front lost three of its four starters, including the Defensive Player of the Year, Ryan Kleppe. UMHB will be able to get its yards, about 360 of them, while UWW will garner the other 220. And 14 of the points.

Keith’s take: 500 and 45. I can’t expect defenses of this caliber to each give up 300 yards rushing, so I aimed a little lower than Pat. The focus here will clearly be on the rushing offenses, but I don’t see a defensive battle like last season. If Josh Welch or Danny Jones can make plays for his team in the passing game, we could see one or the other open up the scoring. 45 points could come in many forms. I doubt we’ll see 42-3, but 31-14 is just as possible as 24-21.

Jason’s Take: 400 and 38. I’ll have to credit two good defenses in holding down the rushing totals a bit here. Justin Beaver will get his yards and so will Thrasher and Daniels. I have to agree with Keith that the key will be big plays in the passing game. UMHB’s defense will attack, attack, attack, like no other. The Warhawks will have to attack right back. The pressure is on Danny Jones. He will have to stand up against the pressure and get the ball down field to Neil Mrkvicka on the post off of play action like Wesley did the last couple years with Chris Warrick. I understand the Crusaders have a big receiver at 6-foot-7 now, but I still think they are in trouble if they have to play catch up with that run, run, run offense. I like the balance in the Whitewater offense and the fact that the are at home. Should be a great game.

Least interesting game between Top 25 teams
Pat’s take: No. 1 Mount Union at No. 12 Capital. I just don’t see it being anything other than a blowout. Hard to believe otherwise.

Keith’s take: No. 25 Cortland State at No. 18 TCNJ. Not because it won’t be close, but because these two teams might settle for a grind, and unless you appreciate the finer points of defense or a field-position game, ‘least interesting’ might end up describing the 13-9 slugfest it becomes.

Jason’s take: No. 19 Trinity at No. 24 Millsaps. Just because I had to pick one. I haven’t seen Trinity play since the late 90’s at Lycoming and I don’t know that much about Millsaps except that they got beat by three touchdowns by Carnegie Melon in last year’s first round. Both probably won’t fare well in a first round match against Mary Hardin-Baylor in the playoffs.

Game Day from Minneapolis

Yes, game day on a Friday morning. And you have to be a real football junkie to take in five games in one day, even if you don’t have to move to do it.

Such is the UMAC’s Dome Day, a five game cross-divisional event held in the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Games start at 8 a.m. local time, and even Keith and I won’t be taking in all five. We leave that to Ryan Coleman, who’s coordinating photo efforts to shoot all five games for the league and shooting more than a few frames himself, we’re sure.

I’m standing on the sidelines with my laptop, jotting down thoughts between plays as Principia, which we ranked No. 238 out of 238 in Kickoff during the preseason, plays Trinity Bible, a non-Division III team that plays in this league, a non-Division III league at least for football terms. Principia has about 32 players in uniform this morning, with Trinity Bible about the same.

Already so far, both teams have passed up chip shot field goals, while Trinity Bible is 1-for-2 … in an ugly manner … on extra points. Such is the state of special teams at this level. The crowd is a little low but it’s early. Principia ran a fake punt from inside its 15 on fourth-and-16 and gained 15 yards, leading to Trinity Bible’s first score. It’s been an eventful first quarter-plus.

We’ll check back in throughout the day with observations from the booth and sidelines as the weekend gets started a little early.