OK, you know what? We’ve got pride here at D3football.com, but not that much pride. We’ll trot out the ‘turning point’ thing once again, because heck, that’s what Saturday is in more places than not.
In a week where No. 1 plays No. 4 and can hardly garner the hype befitting such a matchup (Hey Purple Raiders, any kind of drama you can provide would be appreciated), we at least were able to bring you a No. 1 (or No. 4) expert from Ohio to help prime faithful readers for what to expect. Mark Grossman does color for Mount Union’s radio broadcast, and has an uncanny feel for the Ohio Athletic Conference.
So without further ado, Mark, publisher Pat Coleman and columnist Keith McMillan point you towards Triple Take, Turning Point Saturday Style:
(yes, we’ll make it stop)
Game of the Week
Mark’s take: No. 4 Capital at No. 1 Mount Union: This one is easily the game of the week, and in my opinion, the regular season game of the year! I expect this game to be a real dogfight like the recent playoff contests that Mount won by three points (34-31 in ‘05 and 17-14 in ‘06), not the 37-0 Mount win last season. And even last season’s rout is very misleading as Capital’s defense held MUC in check better than anyone last year (including Whitewater), to the tune of only 286 yards on a picture-perfect fall afternoon. The problem last season for Capital was an injury-riddled offense capped by no Marty Assmann at quarterback and no Derick Alexander at wide receiver. Both are now healthy for the nation’s fourth-ranked offense and are joined in the backfield by a 220-poiund running back (Dominic D’Andrea) averaging over five yards a carry. So expect some fireworks against a young Raider defense that returns only two starters (Daryl Ely at cornerback and Joe Millings at defensive end). Mount Union counters with Division III’s best backfield tandem in all-American tailback Nate Kmic and quarterback Greg Micheli, but little else experience-wise. But if you need a foundation to build on, coach Larry Kehres couldn’t ask for more than the NCAA’s fifth all-time leading rusher and a quarterback that is as dangerous with his legs as he is his arm. In the end, I expect the two-headed monster of Kmic and Micheli to be the difference in another OAC classic battle as the Raiders make the plays in the fourth quarter to win 34-24.
Keith’s take: Occidental at No. 18 Redlands. OK, wow. Well, you don’t dial up a guest expert to talk about what he doesn’t know about. I think I was pretty clear in Around the Nation that there are a dozen or so big games this week, but forced to choose, I’d go way out west and stay up late for Tigers-Bulldogs. Chose it by a hair over St. Norbert-Monmouth, and here’s why: If Mount Union or Capital have their one bad Saturday this week, either could recover. But the SCIAC and MWC don’t churn out playoff teams in pairs. If there’s a single game for all the chips (or marbles, if you prefer), these are them.
Pat’s take: Lebanon Valley at No. 13 Delaware Valley. At least, it should be closer than last year, a 49-13 loss. Unlike a Mount Union game, this actually has a chance of being close. Lebanon Valley beat Wilkes for the first time in 16 years last week and is plus-6 on turnovers this season while leading the MAC in total offense. And it’s not like Delaware Valley hasn’t played some exciting games already this season.
Surprisingly close game
Mark’s take: No. 9 UW-Eau Claire at UW-La Crosse Eau Claire might be ranked No. 9 and La Crosse might be 0-4, but I have a hard time believing that the Eagles are really as bad as their record indicates. I don’t expect UW-L to win, but history says most WIAC games are tight on the scoreboard.
Keith’s take: Birmingham-Southern at DePauw. Staring at a date with No. 19 Trinity (Texas) next week, will the Tigers be able to put aside last week’s 55-13 thrashing at Millsaps and be sharp against the Panthers? DePauw didn’t look like a conference champion or playoff team last week, but it’s not far fetched to envision a three-way tie atop the conference if everything breaks right. I could see a sluggish start and a game closer than the Tigers would like.
Pat’s take: East Texas Baptist at No. 16 Hardin-Simmons. ETBU had a respectable showing at St. John’s and has won three games against the bottom teams in the American Southwest Conference, but will need to find the holes in the Cowboy defense.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset
Mark’s take: No. 6 Wheaton The D3 poll loves the undefeated Thunder and has yet to give the 3-1 Vikings a single vote, but I think these two traditional CCIW powers play a close one. Much was made of Augie’s offseason ditching of the venerable Wing-T, but the Vikings continue to move the ball on the ground, averaging 200 yards per game, which is only 18 yards per game behind league leader Wheaton. Defense was the biggest reason Augie struggled to finish 5-5 last season (17.6 points per game allowed), but the â€œDâ€ looks to be solved as they have surrendered only 6.3 a game so far. Only a 13-9 loss to UW-Platteville ,in which the Vikings outgained UW-P 349 to 218, keeps this from being a matchup of unbeatens.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Case Western Reserve. So many top 25 teams are playing quality opponents, it would be hard to call their losses upsets. In the case of Case (oh, shut it), Wooster is easily the most accomplished opponent it’s faced so far. The Scots are giving up just eight points a game, and the Spartans have had little go wrong while averaging more than 48 points per game, with just three total turnovers. If Wooster’s defense causes a little frustration early, perhaps it becomes a situation where the Spartans — thinking they must remain perfect to stay in the Pool B playoff chase — begin to press, and instead unravel.
Pat’s take: No. 18 Redlands. The Bulldogs will need a better performance from Steve Smith, who completed 13 of 24 passes for 156 yards and was picked off twice in his first start in relief of Dan Selway. Selway is out with a broken foot. Occidental is a few steps up from La Verne. The Tigers have had three weeks to game-plan, coming off a bye and a 38-0 blanking of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
They’ll be on your radar
Mark’s take: Carleton. The 4-0 Knights have already matched their highest win total of any season in the past decade, but we still don’t know that much about them. Their Week 2 win versus Bethel caught my attention at the time, but Bethel is slogging along at 2-3 and hasn’t looked good doing it. This is the Knights’ week to prove they’re no fluke, when they host No. 22 Augsburg (4-0). Win this one and they’re in the Top 25 and well on the way to staking a claim to a playoff spot, as surprising as that sounds.
Keith’s take: Curry. Already looking like the class of the NEFC and with their biggest challenge, Plymouth State, still a couple weeks away, it’s easy for pollsters to lose the Colonels among all the big games and tight races. After a pair of less-than-convincing 7-point wins early, Curry has pulled away from its past three opponents, showing the form, especially defensively, of a team that warrants top 25 consideration.
Pat’s take: Kean. The Cougars are playing well and could hang in there a game behind Cortland State in the NJAC the rest of the season. Kean lost to Cortland 32-28 last week but has running back Jared Chunn seemingly coming into his own, averaging 156.2 yards per game, and Tom D’Ambrisi completing 68 percent of his passes with just two interceptions. Kean hosts Montclair State to close the season, a game that could well have playoff implications.
Of the conference races with Turning Point games, which one will be the most complicated?
Mark’s take: The logjam at the top of the Empire 8 is the easy choice, but I’m going to go with the MIAC. Two of the historic bottom feeders in the MIAC (Augsburg and Carleton) have surprisingly sprinted to two-game leads over conference giants St. John’s and Bethel, but the conference race is a long way from being over. Neither has played the Johnnies yet, nor Concordia-Moorhead (2-0 in-conference), so it’s very conceivable the MIAC champ could end with two losses and not be decided until the final week.
Keith’s take: The MAC. I agree, Mark, picking the Empire 8 was as easy as a 1-yard plunge. (If anyone mentions the Philadelphia Eagles, I swear I’m quitting the site.) The NFL team in Southeastern Pa. is actually a pretty good model for how I feel about all eight teams in this conference. With traditionally strong Wilkes bringing up the rear, and traditionally weak FDU-Florham looking plenty competitive (all four games decided by a TD or less), every MAC team looks talented enough to beat another, but it’s anyone’s guess if they’ll follow through. There have been five different MAC champions (all teams still in the conference) the past six seasons, which is just enough to make you wonder if this race will be undecided even after we figure out where Pa.’s 21 electoral college votes are going.
Pat’s take: The IIAC. I mean, let’s face it, at the end of Saturday either Loras or Buena Vista is going to be the unbeaten conference leader. That’s just bizarre. Wartburg still has a role to play in this race, as does Coe, which had Loras beat in Week 4.
Who will score more points, Hartwick or Linfield, Montclair State and Cortland State combined?
Mark’s take: Wow, this is a tough one. I’m going with the trifecta of Linfield, Montclair and Cortland simply because Hartwick faces an Alfred team that has been playing decent defense.
Keith’s take: The Trio. I’ll be making the six-hour drive to Cortland on Saturday morning (yes, Pat offered to have me fly this week; no, I did not book my plane ticket in time), and if somebody red doesn’t finish a few red-zone trips with touchdowns, I might strap on a helmet and pads and break out the ol’ free safety forearm shiver.
Pat’s take: Hartwick. Because it’s fun to consider the possibilities and I’m not convinced the teams that Alfred has shut down so far are all that. Jason Boltus is one of the premier players in Division III and Hartwick scores in bunches whenever he plays.
Wooster and Occidental are unbeaten and have a combined zero Top 25 votes. Will either of them get votes after this weekend?
Mark’s take: No, because they’ll both lose this week. Wooster barely beat 0-4 Earlham last week and only Denison by 11, whereas Case Western Reserve drilled Denison by 31. Expect the Scots first loss to come with a resounding â€œthudâ€ at CWRU. Occidental’s first three opponents are a combined 2-10, making the Tigers’ road trip to Redlands (3-0) a significant upgrade in competition. While Redlands’ opponents haven’t been much better (3-8 overall), they’ve looked better than Occidental and are at home. Go with Redlands to down Occidental.
Keith’s take: Yes. But now that I said that, does that mean I have to vote for one of them next week just to be right?
Pat’s take: Yes. If either of them plays close against their ranked competition they have a chance to slide onto a ballot somewhere, perhaps in where the loser of Augsburg/Carleton or St. John Fisher/Salisbury drops off.