ATN Podcast: Sold or not sold?

By this point in the season, it’s hard to call teams flukes, and teams that have gone above and beyond what we expected of them have to be dubbed something else, perhaps surprise teams.

If you’ve played three or four games and are undefeated, that’s one thing. If you’ve knocked off a team that was believed to be better than you are, that’s what makes you a surprise.

But can we believe in you? That’s another question. Most of these teams have yet to play the best team on their schedule. How will they hold up as the road gets tougher? That’s what Keith McMillan and I tackle in this week’s Around the Nation podcast. We look at more than a dozen teams with the goal of answering one simple question: sold or not sold?

One team we didn’t touch on in the podcast is St. Norbert. I would have to go with not sold, for the moment, waiting for the Monmouth game on the road to find out more. Hopefully Keith will weigh in in the comments section.

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Game Day live: From the desk

There’s nothing I love more about this job than calling play-by-play of a Division III football game. I grew up loving sports on the radio, and living in Ypsilanti, Mich., as an impressionable youngster, I got to listen to Detroit Tigers legend Ernie Harwell call baseball games on WJR.

If I’m not broadcasting, I like being on the sidelines taking pictures, as it gets me right up close to the action. Not taking pictures? In the press box watching the game. But when I’m doing that, I’m distracted by the other 100 games going on the same day.

This week, none of that — I’m at home. I’ve seen five games through the first three weeks of the season and this is how I keep the peace with my family. It’s time to sit back and watch things unfold from the newsdesk here in Minneapolis. So I’ll have multiple live stats windows open, as many video streams as our crappy Comcast bandwidth will allow, and will follow live audio, Twitter and any other updates that are available.

In short, I’m like you are, today, if your team is on the road and you’re not there. Expect lots of updates. Ryan Tipps is at Gettysburg-Muhlenberg and we have photographers out in the field as well.

By the way, you’d hear a little of Ernie Harwell in every football or basketball broadcast I do. When you hear me rattle through that copyright/disclaimer at the end of the game, that’s verbatim what I heard him say at the end of every broadcast from about 1979 to 1983. Harwell is 91 now, recently revealed he has cancer and is on a bit of a farewell tour. Bless him.

Triple Take: Guru Bowl (and other tales)

Last year, few may have foreseen that Randolph-Macon’s win over undefeated Catholic would help jump start a turnaround and an eventual trip to the playoffs for the Yellow Jackets, which began the ‘08 season 1-2. With the Yellow Jackets in the same position, and Catholic at 0-3 so far, both teams are looking for a little extra spark this year. Will it be Pat’s alma mater (CUA) or Keith’s (R-MC) that’ll earn the bragging rights come Saturday? See what we think below, plus our games of the week and possible upsets.

— Ryan Tipps

Game of the Week

Ryan’s take: No. 9 Ohio Northern at No. 18 Otterbein. No question about the magnitude of this one. I think the Polar Bears come away with a convincing win.

Keith’s take: Wilkes at Christopher Newport. It doesn’t quite have the cache of a normal game of the week since neither team is ranked, but it’s a non-conference matchup of potential conference champions, and it’s not an easy call as to who’ll win.

Pat’s take: Trinity (Texas) at Millsaps. I envision a hard-fought game that comes down to a desperation play on the last snap of the game, one that makes highlight reels for years. What, that story line has already been done? Crap.

Surprisingly close game

Ryan’s take: Frostburg State at Widener. Last year’s matchup wasn’t out of reach for the Bobcats, and freshman signal-caller Phoenix Butler-Poole has almost 700 yards passing despite the team’s 0-3 record. Defense will be a clear and present concern if the underdogs expect to be able to stand up to a Pride team that has opened with a tough schedule that would make many other teams blush.

Keith’s take: No. 20 Ithaca at Utica. After the Pride’s respectable showing at RPI (a 17-14 loss), I’ll be eager to see what happens when they play a good team on their home turf. Was last Saturday a fluke or a warning shot?

Pat’s take: Kean at No. 7 Cortland State. Although, this will be an interesting matchup since both may well be without their best offensive player. Kean lost Jason Gwaltney in the second quarter of its season opener against Delaware Valley and he hasn’t played since. Cortland State quarterback Dan Pitcher tore his Achilles’ tendon last week against Rowan and is done for the year.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset

Ryan’s take: No. 22 Trine. This may be the easy pick. The Thunder’s win against Manchester was too close for comfort, and tackling Franklin on the road will be harder than anything Trine has seen this season. Plus, Trine doesn’t quite have the firepower to exploit Franklin’s defensive shortcomings.

Keith’s take: No. 4 Wheaton. It’s dangerous to go this far out on the limb, reaching all the way up the top 25 when there are so many lower-ranked teams to choose from. But Hope, 0-3 after a loss to Illinois Wesleyan by a field goal, and both Carthage and UW-Eau Claire by a touchdown, the latter by a 52-45 score in two overtimes … don’t the Flying Dutchmen eventually have to catch a giant sleeping and steal an upset?

Pat’s take: No. 15 Central. Although the recent years’ trend for the Dutch would mean they’re more likely to pull out a last-minute win by the skin of their teeth, like they did earlier this month against UW-Stevens Point and multiple times during their recent run of Iowa Conference titles. Coe is 3-0, with a signature win in its opener, 9-7 against Augustana. The Kohawks didn’t look impressive on the scoreboard against Luther last week, winning 19-6, but gave up its only touchdown after consecutive fair-catch interference penalties wrapped around a short punt gave Luther the ball at the Coe 28.

They’ll be on your radar

Ryan’s take: Muhlenberg. I’m sort of cheating with this pick because I will be heading up to Pennsylvania to see the Mules play this weekend. Nevertheless, the team — which held close to Wilkes in Week 1 and later went on to beat Union — has had a surprisingly strong start despite losing its star passer and rusher to graduation. The Mules’ Saturday opponent, Gettysburg, is also much better than its 0-3 record would suggest.

Keith’s take: Millsaps. Not sure what to make of the Majors’ tight games against Mississippi and Austin. Hosting Trinity should tell us if they’re going to contend for a playoff spot. I’d like to get the same insight from Concordia-Moorhead at Bethel and ONU at Otterbein, while we’re at it.

Pat’s take: Wittenberg. Perhaps the Tigers should be on the radar already, after crushing Olivet and Wash. U. by a combined total of 83-6. But it’s hard to tell how much of that is Wittenberg and how much is Olivet (which also lost to Concordia-Chicago) and Wash. U. (which also lost to Greenville). Ohio Wesleyan is winless but has at least been competitive against reasonable teams.

As the NESCAC teams debut, what will be the most noteworthy thing to come out of the conference this weekend?

Ryan’s take: Donald McKillop’s performance. As NESCAC teams go, McKillop’s Middlebury has a favorable opening draw against Bowdoin in which to showcase his return. After an ‘07 season in which the quarterback passed for almost 1,400 yards, he followed that up in ‘08 with 1,940 yards in just six games amid an injury. Expect him to post big numbers again this year right out of the gate.

Keith’s take: The performance of the road teams. You have to go back to Bowdoin’s 6-2 year in 2005 to find a team other than Trinity, Williams, Amherst, Middlebury or Tufts that’s finished above .500 in the NESCAC. Those five are on the road Saturday against Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Bowdoin and Wesleyan, respectively. Each road team travels out of state, making one of its longest trips of the season. Any home team that emerges victorious on Saturday could put us on the trail of the conference’s surprise this season.

Pat’s take: Not sure, but at least we can watch. The games are all early in the day and three of them are on live video, so what we don’t know now we have the ability to find out pretty soon.

Which conference clash mentioned in the ATN Podcast will have the biggest “wow” factor: Coe at Central; Ohio Northern at Otterbein; or Hardin-Simmons at Mississippi College?

Ryan’s take: Coe at No. 15 Central. Both teams are ones that I’ve kept a strong interest in. Both are good, and both have a shot at making the postseason via Pool A and C bids. Coe has had close but quality wins so far, while Central has put last year behind it and already knocked off a high-ranked UW-Stevens Point team. The winner will be in the Iowa driver’s seat.

Keith’s take: Hardin-Simmons at Mississippi College. The Cowboys’ Justin Feaster tried to play through his shoulder sprain for part of last week’s loss to Louisiana College. If he can somehow gut it out again this week, he’d be part of a clash of two of the South Region’s best quarterbacks. The Choctaws’ Adam Shaffer has passed for 753 yards and nine touchdowns in three games.

Pat’s take: No. 9 Ohio Northern at No. 18 Otterbein. The wow factor will be, I think, Ohio Northern’s dominance. Otterbein starting quarterback Jack Rafferty injured a finger in last week’s win against Muskingum and sophomore Austin Schlosser is slated to get the call.

Who wins the Guru Bowl between Pat’s alma mater (Catholic) and Keith’s alma mater (Randolph-Macon)?

Ryan’s take: Randolph-Macon. I picked R-MC last year against the odds, and, with them having found a solid solution to the run game, I think they’re the smart choice this year as well.

Keith’s take: Randolph-Macon. I’m not sure I’m thrilled about the whole “Guru Bowl” concept — and to be clear, no one but Triple Take really calls it that. The Jackets and Cardinals have a nice rivalry, but does it really deserve this much attention? Either way, my alma mater is going to win. Because I said so.

Pat’s take: Randolph-Macon. I’m not afraid to admit when my alma mater is not so good. I’m never blindly loyal. I think the Cardinals will figure it out soon but completing less than 50 percent of their passes and 6 for 34 on third down isn’t going to get the job done.