Triple Take: Be careful of hangovers

Get your minds out of the tailgate area and back on to the field. We mean be wary of coming off a loss and limping out of the blocks in the following week’s game. Capital, Wittenberg and UW-Eau Claire all need to avoid that, and Gordon Mann, Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan give you their thoughts on which team won’t be able to.

The trio also kicks in three suggestions for Week 8’s most significant matchup and let you know which conference has no ranked teams but a good shot at playoff success. And as always, once the guys are finished rambling, feel free to chime in yourselves in the comments area below.

Game of the Week
Gordon’s take: No. 16 Willamette at No. 23 Linfield
The winner of this game wouldn’t officially punch their playoff ticket for at least another week, but they will have that ticket firmly in hand. Both have picked up the pace offensively, even without the lopsided wins over Lewis & Clark. Can the Bearcats (264 rushing yards per game) keep their ground game churning against Linfield (92 rushing yards per game allowed)?
Pat’s take: No. 22 Delaware Valley at Lycoming. The games get ratcheted up a level when there’s no hope for an at-large bid, and that’s what we have here. Plus, add in the traditional grind-it-out aspect of the MAC and the fact that you have the last two MAC dynasties taking the field
and it should be entertaining.
Keith’s take: No. 7 North Central at No. 4 Wheaton. You guys are drunk. I hear you, the losers of your games won’t have quite the playoff shot that the Cardinals or Thunder will retain, but still … We’ve got the Little Brass Bell rivalry, a pair of undefeated top 10 teams and what’s sure to be a raucous Wheaton crowd for the 7 p.m. CT kickoff.

Surprisingly close game
Gordon’s take: Millikin at North Park.
NPU has the longest running conference losing streak at 57 games and this is the best chance to stop it. Both teams are winless in CCIW play and the Vikings host this year. Plus, they have showed some offensive spunk, scoring more points than the average opponent against No. 4 Wheaton (Ill.) and No. 7 North Central (Ill.).
Pat’s take: Catholic at No. 18 Hampden-Sydney. Because I’d like to pick this game in the next section down, but I don’t think I honestly can. So all I can say is that it might be closer than expected.
Keith’s take: Ohio Northern at John Carroll. We understood when the Polar Bears lost to North Central, Mount Union and Otterbein, teams that are a combined 18-0. But since a stunning home defeat against Muskingum, Ohio Northern outscored Heidelberg and Marietta 69-0. It might not mean they’re recovered enough to beat 5-1 John Carroll, but the Polar Bears at least have enough of their mojo back to keep it respectable.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset
Gordon’s take: No. 22 Delaware Valley.
The MAC race is wide open, but home-field advantage has been a pretty good predictor of who wins. Set aside games involving King’s and the home team is 6-3 so far. This will be the first time most of the Aggies play in Williamsport and the Warriors have outgained their opponent every game this season.
Pat’s take: No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor. I think we should favor the Crusaders in this game. And I think they will struggle at NAIA Southern Oregon, with the long trip, a team less experienced in making these road trips and a running back corps decimated by injury.
Keith’s take: No. 14 Trinity (Texas). Only because I’ve booked a five-segment round-trip to San Antonio next week for the Tigers’ matchup with Millsaps. And backed out on plans to go to the way-too-early-this-year Dutchman’s Shoes Game at RPI to make it happen. So it’ll be just my luck for Sewanee to swoop in and spoil the unbeaten-on-unbeaten action. (The Majors are off this week, for what it’s worth)

They’ll be on your radar
Gordon’s take: Frank Wilczynski.
The junior quarterback for Rowan (remember them?) already set the school record for quarterback rushing touchdowns in a season (eight). He’s also thrown 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions. The Profs play Buffalo State this week before starting a three-game stretch against Kean, Montclair State and New Jersey that could put Rowan back in the NCAA postseason.
Pat’s take: Plymouth State. I think there’s a chance that Curry’s long NEFC winning streak ends right here.
Keith’s take: St. Scholastica. I’ve got to boost the power source to get the radar to reach Duluth, but it’ll be worth it if Division III’s newest team can get its first win. The Saints were an overtime away from winning at Macalester two weeks ago. They’ll be hosting Trinity Bible, which is coming off a win against Minot State-Bottineau, and playing at Public Schools Stadium.

Which team has the biggest hangover from last week’s loss; Capital, Wittenberg or UW-Eau Claire?
Gordon’s take: Wittenberg.
Capital has a home game against a ranked opponent and UW-Eau Claire can point to last season as evidence that there’s still a thin Blugold chance they make the NCAA playoffs by winning out. Wittenberg has neither as they head east to Carnegie Mellon with two losses after last week’s heartbreaker against Wabash.
Pat’s take: Capital. The Crusaders have struggled with their crosstown rivals even when they’ve had good years. Otterbein is a little better now and just as motivated as they always are. The Cardinals need this win because it doesn’t get any easier, with Mount Union and John Carroll yet to come.
Keith’s take: Wittenberg. The Tigers, who lost in painful fashion to a competitive rival, and had their playoff and conference title chances sink with it, have the most reason for a hangover. But there’s nothing like a televised game (at Carnegie Mellon on ESPNU) to get players to snap into it, so the hangover might not preclude Wittenberg from winning.

Which lost-its-luster game would you just as soon avoid?
Gordon’s take: St. Norbert atRipon.
If we’re talking strictly in terms of postseason implications, Guilford/W&L is slightly less relevant since Hampden-Sydney needs one win and Monmouth needs two clinch their automatic bids. But, given the chance, I’d enjoy seeing Josh Vogelbach and the Guilford offense at work.
Pat’s take: Guilford at Washington and Lee. I would’ve pictured this game with an impact on the race for the ODAC crown. Instead, it’s the only conference game this week that doesn’t involve a team within one game of the lead in the loss column.
Keith’s take: St. Thomas at Carleton. It’s not so much that I’d want to avoid this one. But if I were planning to catch a Carleton game, I’d be crossing my fingers that the Knights can make it to Nov. 8 (Week 10) at Concordia-Moorhead without picking up a second MIAC loss, and hoping the Cobbers do the same. That way we can at least have a tidy conclusion to a seven-way race.

Which conference without a team ranked in this week’s poll will go deepest into the playoffs?
Gordon’s take: The MIAC.
It has to be someone in the West, right? I could see the MIAC rep getting a favorable match-up with the MWC or the IIAC champ. Pencil UW-Whitewater in as the top seed and a NWC/SCIAC first round match-up. Otherwise that region looks pretty open.
Pat’s take: The NESCAC. Matchups may dictate otherwise but I can see it likely that every one of the conferences currently without a ranked team goes one-and-out. So here’s a chance for the NESCAC to tie for first.
Keith’s take: The MIAC. Gordon stole my answer and my reasoning. A low seed in the North is going to get a game at Mount Union or Wabash or Wheaton/North Central. Oooh, fun. In the South, enjoy your trip to Muhlenberg, or maybe Millsaps. You get the point. It’ll be a low-seeded team out of the East or the West, perhaps a No. 7, that springs an upset or two. And although MIAC teams have been beating up on each other, it doesn’t seem like whoever lasts longest will be worse for the wear. This is also the year for the MWC champ to make its move.