Triple Take, Hump week

Conference races are at full steam, unbeaten teams are still falling at a good clip, and players are beginning to get glimpses of the playoff pastures on the horizon.

St. John Fisher, BorumIt’s Week 6, the midpoint of our 11-week regular season.

So much happened on the field last Saturday that we’re left to pick up the pieces and make sense of what’s to come. That’s what we’re here for, after all. It’s done in the Around the Nation podcast, it’s done again for the national and regional columns, and to cap the week, it’s broken down for you here in Triple Take.

Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps crunch the numbers before predicting how they will all add up this Saturday.

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney at Bridgewater.
Going off script from the Top 25 a bit here, but last week, we saw the first of the ODAC’s four undefeated teams fall. This week, we’ll see yet another. The Tigers have been uncaged all season, with quality wins against Averett, N.C. Wesleyan and Salisbury. The Eagles, however, have reached 4-0 in less convincing fashion and will need their defense to step up if they don’t want to get clipped. This week we will see clarity in the highly balanced ODAC. To top things off, Bridgewater’s Stone Station, one of the best tailgate crews in the country, will have their grills fired up and ready to go.
Keith’s take: No. 23 St. John’s at Bethel. The buildup to the Tommie-Johnnie game would have almost lead you to believe the MIAC is a two-horse race, with one having fallen a step behind. Yet the Royals are unbeaten, have always given St. John’s fits and have a 16-14 loss in 2009 that ended on a 49-yard field goal to avenge. Bethel brings into the clash the nation’s third-best run defense (36 yards/game, while the Johnnies rush for 189 per). There are no clashes of ranked teams this week, but this game comes as close as any.
Pat’s take: No. 7 North Central at Augustana. Augustana has quietly put together a strong early season. The loss in a close game to Central is a “good loss” by all accounts, although last week’s last-minute win against Millikin nearly derailed this showdown. So far the Vikings have performed pretty much as one would have expected against their schedule; this game will tell whether they will contend for the CCIW title.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: McMurry at Sul Ross State.
The Lobos are 1-2, yet still average 468 yards per game. That barely seems plausible. We’ll see how that figure stacks up once they go against 3-2 McMurry, a team that has blown out weak competition and has a statistically stout defense. To win, that defense will have to do something few teams have been able to do this year: get pressure on Sul Ross State quarterback Monty Morales.
Keith’s take: SUNY-Maritime at Castleton State. Each side is suddenly winning more than expected. The Privateers (5-0) are harboring playoff hopes and Castleton (2-2) seems uninterested in being a second-year program happy the losses aren’t worse. As the last two teams unbeaten in ECFC play, each 2-0, Saturday’s winner gets the conference lead and a chance to begin polishing its resume for an at-large playoff selection (no ECFC automatic bid yet). So there’s plenty reason to believe this could be a shootout. Here’s another: SUNY-Maritime rushes for 329 yards per game, fifth best nationally. The Spartans pass for 335 a game, sixth nationally.
Pat’s take: No. 17 UW-Eau Claire at UW-Platteville. The Blugolds have had a tendency to drop a puzzling game over the past years (2007 and 2008 vs. UW-River Falls, for example). Teams know not to take anyone in the WIAC lightly, but perhaps Eau Claire might get caught with an eye ahead to next week’s game against UW-Whitewater and take a little while to put the Pioneers away.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 St. John Fisher.
Fisher’s offensive balance will likely present a mighty challenge for opponent Ithaca on Saturday. But the Bombers have been playing well enough to stand at 4-1, and if they harness their ability to force turnovers (plus-10 on the season), they will be a threat.
Keith’s take: No. 13 Ohio Northern. Capital’s given up 92 points the past two weeks. ONU scored none last week against No. 2 Mount Union. Could be a recipe for a get-right game (see below), since the Polar Bears will be expecting to score early and often. But if it doesn’t start off well, ONU might begin to press. And bad things happen when teams press, or worry too early in the game about the score.
Pat’s take: None. At least, not other than the aforementioned St. John Fisher. I pondered the likelihood of Whittier taking down Cal Lutheran, and I look forward to the Bethel-St. John’s game but not sure Bethel winning would be much of an upset other than in the eyes of our poll.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Oberlin.
At 3:50 last Saturday afternoon, just seven points separated the Yeomen from a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in more than 50 years: beating Wittenberg — let alone a Top 10-ranked Wittenberg. Suddenly we’re apt to stand up and take notice of Oberlin’s game against undefeated Case Western Reserve. I don’t know that the Yeomen could pull off the upset, but last week’s result suggests it’s possible. To top it off, just two weeks ago, Oberlin set a school record with 622 yards of offense in a game. It’s been a few years since we saw an Oberlin team this good.
Keith’s take: LaGrange. The trip to Trine (Georgia to Indiana) is a rare distance for a D-III road game, and it’s an odd time for a non-conference clash, at least for the team here who’s in a conference. The Panthers, who are making their fourth consecutive road appearance,have shown some flashes, including in a win against Millsaps, so I’m curious how they stack up with Trine, which might be rising higher in the poll than its competition to date (5-13 combined) should warrant. A solid double-digit win for Trine would draw virtually no attention nationally, which is probably fine by the Thunder.
Pat’s take: Bethel. The Royals’ non-conference schedule didn’t show much, with wins against Simpson and Concordia (Wis.) not proving much. (Simpson’s 1-4 start doesn’t help Bethel one bit.) Victories at Carleton and St. Olaf are a little more telling, but hosting St. John’s this week will finally give the voters the info they need to do something with Bethel.

Which of last week’s big showdown winners will struggle the most with its Week 6 opponent?
Ryan’s take: Franklin, who is hosting Rose-Hulman.
The Grizzlies are coming off of steamrolling conference rival Mount St. Joseph. This week, Rose may not pose the challenge they did last year, when they were one of only two teams in the HCAC to beat Franklin, but Rose does have a solid corps of linebackers to keep the Grizzlies honest in the run game. Franklin will be forced to pass, something they admittedly do quite well.
Keith’s take: No. 20 St. John Fisher, who is hosting Ithaca. If only because the Cardinals are the from last week’s dozen ATN-worthy clashes who has a tougher opponent this week.
Pat’s take: No. 22 Cal Lutheran, at Whittier. Whittier is just 1-2, but played Occidental competitively last week and Cal Lutheran isn’t the same team that beat Linfield, not without Daniel Mosier, who ran for 202 yards against the Wildcats but has left the team for personal reasons.

Which team is going to rebound the best after suffering its first loss of the year last week?
Ryan’s take: Ohio Northern.
We’ve known for a long time that Mount Union can make even great teams look like JV squads. After getting shut out by The Machine last week, the Polar Bears are going up against Capital. Capital may not be as strong or as intimidating as in other recent years, but a win over Capital still means something. And it will give ONU the right kind of momentum before hosting Baldwin-Wallace on Oct. 16.
Keith’s take: Mount St. Joseph. So much of football is psychological, and the mind matters beyond the three hours of game time on Saturday. The Lions were humbled against Franklin, and if there’s one good thing that can from from getting your butts whipped, it’s that it ignites the competitive spirit. I’d be stunned if MSJ didn’t have one of its best weeks of practice this week. That’s bad news for host Defiance.
Pat’s take: Illinois Wesleyan. Keith mentioned the concept of the “get right” game earlier and nothing fits the bill like a home game against North Park. We’ll have to wait until next week when the Titans host Elmhurst before we really learn how Illinois Wesleyan bounces back from the loss to Wheaton.

Which game will be least like last year’s matchup?
Ryan’s take: Lycoming at Albright.
The Warriors have shed their dreary 2009 image and are able to pound the rock time and time again. This year they punish defenses; last year produced little more than a tickle in that regard. Albright, on the other hand, is playing better than I expected they could without some of last year’s playmakers, but it’s unlikely they’ll cruise to the 26-7 victory we saw last season. Hitch yourself to the Lycoming wagon on Saturday.
Keith’s take: Union at Hobart. Usually a matchup with playoff and top 25 implications, both teams have a loss, are coming off underwhelming games and need to win to keep pace in the competitive-by-default Liberty League. The Statesmen are coming off rare consecutive losses.
Pat’s take: Mississippi College at No. 5 Mary Hardin-Baylor. Last year, the Cru scored a season-low 14 points as the Choctaws beat them 17-14. The Crusaders might not have all of their questions answered but they are certainly putting points on the board this season, and if you like to play the comparative scores game, Hardin-Simmons lost to UMHB 42-28 but beat Mississippi College 45-10.