While Keith is off climbing South America’s five highest peaks, swimming with sharks off the Yucatan Peninsula, dog sledding in the Northwest Territories, or doing whatever else he may like to do on vacation, Deputy Managing Editor Gordon Mann is going to help us break down the Allhallows Eve matchups for this week’s Triple Take. Regional rankings are out, and only 32 teams can be in. Some teams are in for treats, while others are certain to get tricked.
Game of the Week
Ryan’s take: No. 11 Washington and Jefferson at No. 20 Thomas More. This is a game I’ve been looking forward to with curiosity for much of the season, primarily because I’ve been unconvinced as to how good the Presidents are this year. I’ve looked on Thomas More considerably more favorably throughout the past two months, and with both teams able to rest their laurels on their rushing offenses and defenses, it’ll be interesting to see how much of this comes down to the muscle in the trenches.
Gordon’s take: Rowan at Kean. These two teams have spent several weeks drawing a very bright line between the title contenders and the lower level teams in the NJAC. Now they put aside those impressive margins of victory in what could be a very entertaining match up. Which quarterback will lead his team to victory — Profs scrambler Frank Wilczynski (243 total yards per game, 11 touchdowns) or Cougars gun slinger Tom D’Ambrisi (222 passing yards per game, 14 passing touchdowns)?
Pat’s take: No. 2 UW-Whitewater at UW-Stevens Point. Do you think Whitewater got a little extra incentive this week? Whitewater lost to Stevens Point last year, costing it the WIAC’s automatic bid to the playoffs a second-round home game. And now, this week, Whitewater learned that it was the fourth-ranked team in the NCAA’s West Region rankings. So I am not picking this necessarily as a great game on the field, so to speak, but a showcase for what Whitewater can do.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Franklin at Rose-Hulman. No team in the HCAC may be in as good a position as the Engineers to put the brakes on Franklin’s passing game. And if Rose can keep the Grizzlies out of the red zone, they have a chance to make their five-touchdowns-a-game average really count.
Gordon’s take: No. 23 Delaware Valley vs. King’s. The Aggies defense has been very stingy, surrendering just seven points total to Wilkes and Lycoming. But Wilkes-Barre has always been a tough place for Del Val to play, plus the Aggies will be without senior quarterback Mike Isgro who is battling a sore shoulder. Instead junior Mark Hatty will get his first career start against a Monarchs squad that just missed beating Lycoming and hung in against Albright.
Pat’s take: Salisbury at No. 3 Wesley. I suspect Salisbury is only playing for Eastern Shore pride, perhaps an ECAC bowl game. The Sea Gulls don’t have enough firepower to get through the Wesley defense and hang with the Wesley offense, at least not on paper. But they’re rivals, after all … and can’t things happen in those games? Right?
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 9 North Central. What more talked about kink in the CCIW hose would there be than for Illinois Wesleyan to bring together all the pieces and pull out the upset against North Central? Will the Cardinals be complacent after winning big last week against Wheaton? I doubt it, but Aaron Fanthorpe will need to be on target for the full 60 minutes because few teams can exploit turnovers the way Illinois Wesleyan has been able to this season.
Gordon’s take: No. 21 Occidental. The Tigers should be favored at home playing Cal Lutheran with a chance to take a strangle hold on the SCIAC. But they were at home last week, too, when they narrowly beat winless La Verne 14-13. The Kingsmen would still have to get by Redlands if they can pick up the road win here, but I like CLU to add some Hollywood level drama to the conference race.
Pat’s take: No. 24 Alfred. With injury questions about No. 1 quarterback Tommy Secky, who didn’t get out of the second quarter, I’d think that Rochester has a shot. The Yellowjackets are 3-4, but have only been blown out once, losing tight games to St. John Fisher, Union and Susquehanna while beating RPI and WPI.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Salisbury. I haven’t decided whether this is a team that’s down and out, or just down. The Gulls are 2-2 against Division III teams, and all register as either quality wins or understandable losses. But with Wesley on tap for tomorrow, it’ll be important to know which Salisbury team is going to show up and whether this defense-heavy squad can come close to slowing the Wolverine machine.
Gordon’s take: No. 2 UW-Whitewater. Okay, it’s not that the Warhawks are off anyone’s radar. Nor do I think they’ll lose to UW-Stevens Point, despite the Pointers’ upset last year. But I’ve been as indecisive as Brett Favre at an offseason press conference on whether Mount Union or UW-Whitewater should be No. 1. This game will give us a point of comparison for the Warhawks similar to what we already have for Mount Union in its wins over Capital and Ohio Northern.
Based on preseason expectations, which team are you most surprised/impressed with to see in the regional rankings? And how will they fare Saturday?
Ryan’s take: The three MAC representatives. I hope I’m not stepping on Gordon’s turf too much here, but I couldn’t help but register the fact that last year, only one MAC team made an appearance on any of the regional rankings, and that was Albright at the very end of the regular season. It seemed like the polish had tarnished on the proud conference. This year, though, has marked an impressive resurgence for the conference top to bottom, going 16-8 in nonconference play, and getting three teams (Albright, Delaware Valley and Lebanon Valley) in the debut regional rankings. And come Saturday, all three should emerge winners.
Gordon’s take: No. 7 Otterbein. In the preseason I thought the Cardinals could be good, but probably not good enough to distinguish themselves from the talented scrum of OAC teams sitting behind Mount Union. And certainly not good enough to be ranked second in the first North region rankings. Otterbein needs one more win to equal last year’s 8-0 start with the trip to Alliance still looming on Nov. 7. The Cards will get it emphatically against Marietta (2-5).
Pat’s take: Coe. Although I seem to be typecasting myself as the West Region guy these days with this pick. Coming off a 4-6 season last year, the Kohawks were an afterthought in my projection of the IIAC race, but a Week 1 win against Augustana, and then a Week 7 win at Wartburg changed that. Coe shouldn’t have a problem at 2-5 Loras.
Which relatively new program has the best chance at a win this week?
Ryan’s take: St. Vincent. It wasn’t so long ago that the Bearcats were an easy win even for a team like Gallaudet, which was coming to the varsity level after years of club play. At 0-8, St. Vincent still isn’t a success story in the grand scheme of things, but a narrow 21-7 loss to W&J just two weeks ago suggests that they’re moving in the right direction. And both of the next two games (against Thiel and Bethany) are squarely in the “winnable” category.
Gordon’s take: Castleton State. The Spartans head to Becker which has scored more than one touchdown just once all year, a 62-39 loss to Maine Maritime. Castleton State has put some points this year and should be focused on this road game as a chance to notch its first win over a non-first year team. If the Spartans can go 3-6 in their first season, that’ll be a nice feather in their helmets when they recruit against the other very young programs in New England.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica. Yeah, West guy. The Saints play Eureka on Friday in the Metrodome as part of the expanded UMAC’s Dome Day. I’d like to say Anna Maria, which hosts Gallaudet, can finish off its inaugural season with a win, but the Amcats have only been competitive against Castleton State.
Which conference without a team ranked in this week’s poll will go deepest in the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: Centennial. With four teams tied at the top, the team to get the automatic qualifier is still very much an unknown — and a Pool C isn’t out of the question either. But what I’ve seen of the Centennial teams is that when they’re healthy and on their game, they’re to be taken seriously. The conference this year is a classic beat-each-other-up scenario, leaving teams to easily fly under the radar. But that doesn’t mean they can’t drop some bombs on opponents into Round 2.
Gordon’s take: Essentially we’re looking for a surprise team who might be able to get two wins, and definitely one, in the playoffs. The East is definitely the easiest place to do that, provided a team can avoid getting shipped to Mount Union. There’s room for an unranked team to get a favorable first round draw and surprise a playoff newbie, like Alfred or Albright, at their place in the second round. So let’s go with the NJAC.
Pat’s take: The Liberty League. If Union wins, I figure there are plenty of opportunities for the Dutchmen to get a first-round game against a beatable opponent. I don’t see that for the HCAC, SCAC or some of the other leagues that don’t have any ranked teams.