ATN Podcast: What conferences are rising?

Every preseason we rank the conferences for Kickoff, and while the rankings are based mostly on last season and a little on projections, as games get played things tend to change.

It’s clear the MAC is moving back up the conference pecking order. Delaware Valley has forced its way into the lead story twice in three weeks, something which we would rarely do in September. But who is falling based on the first four weeks?

Delaware Valley posed an interesting conundrum, too, in a week without many upsets, in forcing its way into the Top 25. So Keith and I discuss that, some other teams that could get in, games that are getting onto the radar and falling below them, and more in this week’s Around the Nation podcast.

Happy Monday morning, everyone. Listen in while you’re doing your TPS reports and try not to think about the economy.

Gameday: Must win already?

It seems strange to say that already, but two teams who went deep in the playoffs last year need wins today.

Unranked Bethel has two loses and needs a win at Concordia-Moorhead to avoid falling out of the MIAC race early. That’s just one of several intriguing games, including St. John’s trying to bounce back against Gustavus Adolphus and St. Olaf and Augsburg dueling to keep their undefeated stature.

No. 11 St. John Fisher starts conference play in the Empire 8 hosting No. 16 Ithaca. The Bombers might need this game more psychologically given how the Cards have beaten them recently, but the Cards need this one to control their own playoff destiny. If they lose here, do you like their chances to run the table, including beating No. 6 Salisbury? Me neither.

Check out the scoreboard and the post pattern pages for the MIAC and Empire 8, particularly the latter. I guarantee they will keep you updated and entertained.

Triple Take: It’s Guru Bowl Week!

Before Pat and Keith were ever colleagues at, they were on opposite sides of Catholic/Randolph-Macon clashes, at about the time when the two teams began to have thrilling enough games to begin calling it a rivalry. That must have the boys a little giddy this week, so for our weekly Triple Take look at highlights from Saturday’s lineup, we brought in the steady hand of Around the mid-Atlantic columnist Ryan Tipps. Because someone’s got to give some serious analysis while the jokesters yuk it up.

Game of the Week
Ryan’s take: No. 6 Salisbury at Delaware Valley.
The last time the Aggies played at home, they felled one of D-III’s predicted titans of 2008. That team, Wesley, also happens to be the biggest conference rival of Salisbury. When it comes to using a common opponent to predict the strength of teams, it doesn’t get any more straight-forward than this. At stake for Delaware Valley is proof that it could be the biggest threat to the rest of the MAC teams. For Salisbury, at stake is one of seven crucial regional games that will go a long way toward a fragile Pool B bid.
Keith’s take: No. 16 Ithaca at No. 11 St. John Fisher. We try not to double up picking the same game, but I think this is pretty obviously the G.O.T.W. for Week 4. I mentioned it a bit in Around the Nation, but otherwise Pat can do the heavy lifting …
Pat’s take: No. 16 Ithaca at No. 11 St. John Fisher. Ithaca does seem a little bit more put together at this point but with Dan Juvan playing on a bad right ankle and wearing a protective boot this week, plus St. John Fisher having the home field, I think that levels things out a bit. Plus, repeat after me, there’s no love lost when these two teams met. That’s from our Sportscaster Clichés 101 textbook. Bet you thought I was going to say something about throwing out record books. Hah! Not that predictable.

Surprisingly close game
Ryan’s take: Gettysburg at Muhlenberg.
The Bullets’ 0-3 record is highly deceiving. Muhlenberg is ranked fifth in the country, but Gettysburg has been playing good teams with surprising intensity. Gettysburg traded last year’s running shoes for this year’s throwing arm, but whether that can penetrate the Mules’ stout defense is the biggest question mark.
Keith’s take: WPI at RPI. I never get this category right, but it’s about highlighting a good game, not me being right. Worcester Polytech has given up just 17 points in the two wins since their five-overtime opener against Mass-Dartmouth. RPI is heading into Game 3 of a nine-game slate and has one fewer game under its belt. If both defenses are playing as well as they have been (WPI allows 250 yards per game, RPI 272), it should be a good one.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Franklin at Trine. The MIAA has gone a long time between signature wins — in fact, I can’t name one at the moment. But Trine has looked good so far and Franklin has drifted up fairly high in the rankings, especially for an HCAC team.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset
Ryan’s take: No. 17 Cortland State.
Armed with a budding star in freshman quarterback Thomas D’Ambrisi, Kean is in prime position to play the spoiler in the NJAC. The Cougars’ first upset starts here.
Keith’s take: No. 6 Salisbury. I don’t have high hopes for anyone playing a top 25 team this week, but Delaware Valley will come in confident and well-rested after knocking off then-No. 3 Wesley two weeks ago. With the extra week to practice stopping the option and attacking the 3-3-5, the Aggies could pull it off.
Pat’s take: No. 19 Millsaps. Does Rhodes have the defense to slow down the Majors’ offense? Perhaps not, but with Millsaps outscoring opponents 39-9 this year and Rhodes’ defense having allowed just 14 points this season, repeat after me, something’s gotta give. That’s our second sportscaster cliché for the day. Thanks for playing!

They’ll be on your radar
Ryan’s take: Christopher Newport.
A delayed opener, an uneasy team and a top 10 opponent. Last week the Captains were two steps behind in a three-step race. This week, against Wilkes, will be a better and more balanced showcase for CNU with conference play on the horizon.
Keith’s take: Catholic. At 3-0 and quietly poised to contend in the wide-open ODAC, the Cardinals must defeat Randolph-Macon, which has become quite a rival. The teams haven’t had a game decided by more than 10 points since 2003. R-MC has struggled, leaving an opening for CUA to be the team to push defending champion Hampden-Sydney.
Pat’s take: Wooster. Although, the Scots should be already, even before the trip to Denison. They’re 2-0 and have outscored opponents 47-8.

Which of last week’s West Region upset victims bounces back the strongest?
Ryan’s take: St. John’s.
The Johnnies won’t nail a lopsided victory, but they will gain confidence — and maybe a better understanding of their quarterback situation — against the currently undefeated Gusties.
Keith’s take: St. John’s. Sorry to be a copycat, but the Johnnies don’t lose often, and rarely twice in a row. Gustavus might give St. John’s a run, but I’d be surprised if it were a tight game in the final minutes.
Pat’s take: Central. Albion has won three of its past 13 games, prime for a Central get-well card.

Which long losing streak ends this week?
Ryan’s take: North Park.
Dating back to last season, the Vikings have limped through 10 straight losses entering their game against Benedictine. North Park’s most apparent weakness is defending the run. But the team’s solid pass defense should match up well against the Eagles, who have gained almost twice as many yards throwing the ball this season that they have running it.
Keith’s take: Cornell. I’m reaching, but eventually the Rams have to catch a break, right? After 22 IIAC losses in a row, maybe No. 22 Wartburg comes in riding high after the Central win and gets caught napping. By a score of 22-21. This is the topsy-turvy IIAC, after all, it’s not impossible.
Pat’s take: Buffalo State. There just aren’t many long losing streaks left, as Keith pointed out in Around the Nation. I’m going to cast my lot with the Bengals, who have lost eight in a row in heading to Western Connecticut. The Bengals did roll up 278 yards on the ground in a 42-32 loss to TCNJ this past week.

Who wins the Guru Bowl? That would be Pat’s alma mater (Catholic U.) at Keith’s alma mater (Randolph-Macon).
Ryan’s take: Randolph-Macon.
It’s certainly hard to ignore a Catholic team that is undefeated and at the opposite end of the conference ladder as R-MC. Both teams are more balanced offensively than they have been in past years, but it’s the Yellow Jackets that have a more threatening defensive secondary and should be able to rein in Catholic quarterback Keith Ricca’s well-defined receiving corps.
Keith’s take: Catholic. Darn. I already said I’d be watching Catholic. Of course I’m pulling for Randolph-Macon. I mean, not professionally, just personally. Well, maybe I could make a case for professionally, since R-MC bouncing back after a rough start would make them a compelling team to follow. I’ve been following this rivalry for a lot of years now, and it tends to alternate years. So my “pick” is based on that. Plus, it makes me appear really fair and balanced!
Pat’s take: Catholic. I have to take this, right? Make sure to tell the guys to remember John Butler knocking down a pass at the end of the game to win in 1994, or Bob Frole pulling down a two-point conversion to tie the 1995 game 50-50.