Triple Take: Back-loaded battles

Matt Behrendt made a splash when he came in off the bench at quarterback for UW-Whitewater last year vs. UW-Oshkosh. This year he’s the starter.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

We can count on one hand the number of weeks left in the regular season. And there’s still a lot shaping up, with power conferences such as the OAC, CCIW and WIAC on the verge of decisive stretches that pit their undefeated teams against one another.

Regional rankings will also be here soon, which will provide our first glimpse of which teams could be among the highest seeded in the postseason and which are positioned best for the coveted five — or four…no, wait, five — Pool C bids. (Listen to this past Monday’s Podcast to see what that last sentence was all about.)

For Week 8, Pat, Keith and Ryan again bring you their Saturday predictions:

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 10 Wheaton at No. 20 Illinois Wesleyan.
Perhaps one of the biggest specters hanging over this game is some of the claims that these two ranked opponents haven’t played anyone spectacular enough to boost them into the spots that they are at in the poll. Take out Hope, and IWU’s opponents are 4-27; Wheaton sits better in that regard but still lacks a marquee win. While on similar paths to this point, both teams are almost statically identical in total offense and defense. For one of them, that has to change after Saturday.
Pat’s take: No. 7 UW-Whitewater at No. 9 UW-Oshkosh. If I hadn’t spent 14 hours on the road last weekend, I’d be making the nine-hour round trip to see this game. Whitewater coach Lance Leipold referenced this game last week as being the first time in years that Whitewater has had to go play at the WIAC champ, rather than being the conference champ. While I am not sure that has as much of an effect, what I do believe is that with so many freshmen on the two-deep, this is a test that a significant number of Warhawks have not faced to date.
Keith’s take: No. 17 Pacific Lutheran at No. 21 Willamette. There are three clashes of top-25 teams this week, all in conferences with three contenders. I had a feeling the guys would leave me this game, but it’s actually got the most on the line. The WIAC, CCIW and OAC all have three top-25 teams who are unbeaten and have yet to play each other. The NWC on the other hand, already had its matchup between No. 2 Linfield and PLU, a 29-0 win that was 7-0 entering the fourth period. With five four five bids available for runners up in automatic qualifier conferences, PLU can’t afford another loss. For the 5-0 Bearcats, it’s the first of three consecutive home games against NWC rivals who also have five wins. Playing PLU (5-1), Linfield (5-0) and Pacific (5-1) could vault Willamette into the top 10, knock it from the playoff picture entirely, or something in between. There’s no game in the nation on Saturday with more at stake than this one.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: King’s at Delaware Valley.
The Monarchs will need to shore up their pass defense if they want to have a chance against DelVal, but the Aggies, despite a 5-1 record, hasn’t exactly been knocking it out of the park week in and week out. There’s room for an opponent to sneak in a quick score here and there, which could keep King’s spirits up longer than expected in this one.
Pat’s take: King’s at Delaware Valley. Even if Ron Garrett doesn’t score a defensive touchdown in this game, King’s has been putting up some points lately and could keep this game close, especially if Aaron Wilmer again doesn’t play for the Aggies.
Keiths take: Kings at … Nah, just kidding. Redlands at Chapman. From a national name-recognition standpoint, Redlands (3-2) is a perennial SCIAC title contender and has been a playoff participant or caught on the outside looking in enough times to be known. Plus, the Bulldogs opened the season against ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor at Pacific Lutheran. Chapman on the other hand, probably isn’t known outside Southern California, for football at least. That can change over the back half of the season, and the 5-0 Panthers, who are averaging more than 52 points a game, are the nation’s most efficient passing team and are 25th in rushing offense, can get themselves on the national radar and in the playoff discussion with a win. I’d still favor Redlands, based on the level of compeition faced so far, but either way, it should be close.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 6 Hobart.
If the Statesmen have a weak spot — big “if” — it is likely in defending the run, which happens to give RPI an opening this week. The Engineers have been all over the board with their committee of rushers, and a good day combined with a bit of an “X” factor at quarterback (senior quarterback Jesse Maynard stepped in during the second quarter last weekend against Rochester and finished with 180 yards and a touchdown through the air) will give RPI a big lift.
Pat’s take: Nobody. Unless you want to count No. 22 Concordia-Moorhead vs. Augsburg. That’s the most likely one I can conceive of. Also possible that No. 24 Salisbury or No. 25 St. John Fisher lose, but not sure those would particularly be upsets.
Keith’s take: No. 25 St. John Fisher. Yeah, so what, I’m picking a 5-1 team to “upset” another 5-1 team. Like Pat said, there aren’t a whole lot of upsets to be had here. Especially with six off the board in top-25-on-top-25 action. Actually, Augsburg is kind of intriguing. They’re five points from being unbeaten, with losses to No. 4 Bethel and No. 23. Ithaca, however, is 15th in the nation in run defense at 88 yards per game, which plays into the idea they’ll have a chance against the Cardinals’ offense, which is averaging 35 points and 444 yards a game, 155 of it rushing.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: DePauw.
Yes, my alma mater’s rival. As a fan, I want them to start every regular season 9-0 — and finish it 9-1. As a journalist, I’m more detached than that. The Tigers are in a stretch of good playing, with two wins after starting the season 0-4. This week is 0-7 Allegheny, followed by 3-3 Wooster and 2-4 Hiram. If DPU keeps playing like they are, they could come into the Monon Bell Game a respectable 5-4. Let’s call this “They’re on my long-term radar.”
Pat’s take: Merchant Marine. And about time, too. Glad these guys are finally getting back on the field. Hopefully their one week boot camp gets them back in playing form.
Keith’s take: Chicago, playing at Pacific. The Maroons and Boxers don’t have much in common, save for a seven-letter, geographically-based school name. But this late non-conference matchup has playoff implications. Chicago, with a win, improves to 6-1 and needs only to sweep its three UAA rivals, the teams it knows best, to likely secure a Pool B playoff spot. Meantime, the Boxers, who are a game behind Linfield and battling PLU and Willamette in the NWC, can’t afford to stumble here if they want to have a serious shot in Pool C.

A pass-heavy pick.
Ryan’s take: Centre.
The Colonels (with quarterback Heath Hayden’s 1,800-yard season to date) lining up against Rhodes will be one of the better contests of the weekend, especially outside of the Top 25. Both teams are 5-1 with losses to Washington U., and both live in a Pool B conference, where a second loss likely means the difference between watching a game on Nov. 23 from the field or watching it on streaming video.
Pat’s take: Worcester State. (vs. run-heavy Western Connecticut). Western has put a ton of points on the board the past three weeks and Worcester State could well keep up with the Colonials.
Keith’s take: Texas Lutheran. QB Brent Peavy and the Bulldogs are No. 2 in passing offense behind LaGrange, at 379 yards per game for the team and 356 for Peavy. I’m sure they’ll pile up more yards this week against Missisippi College, although I’m not totally convinced they’ll win. The Choctaws, after scoring just 33 points in starting the season 0-3, have rebounded with three straight wins, scoring 34 or more each time. And of course, they’ve done it by rushing for 156 or more yards each time, and getting their run game going, which makes picking them a bad fit for this category. So The Fighting Peavies it is!

A run-heavy pick.
Ryan’s take: Salisbury.
The Gulls have clearly inserted themselves back into the national discussion by knocking off St. John Fisher last week and remaining undefeated in conference play. While giving up 35 points to a team like SJF is understandable, what has defined SU’s wins this year isn’t just their nearly 300-yard-a-week run game but also a defense that has been able to keep opponents out of the end zone, especially if they can slow down the opponent, extend the drive and not get burned by big plays.
Pat’s take: Hobart vs. RPI. Hobart averages 286.6 yards per game on the ground while RPI averages 192.2. In addition, the games average about 2 hours, 25 minutes long. (Not based on actual stats.)
Keith’s take: Wartburg. The matchup against Dubuque is a contrast; The Knights are perfectly balanced, at 21o rushing yards per game and 217 passing. The Spartans are 280/125, and at 7.5 yards every time they throw and close to 14 every time they complete a pass, why run? Wartburg must keep it on the ground to control the tempo of the game, which has first-place implications in the IIAC. Meantime, Simpson travels to Coe, and with one IIAC loss, the winner keeps pace with the Wartburg-Dubuque loser, a game behind the winner.

A defense-heavy pick?
Ryan’s take: No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor.
I don’t think there’s hardly anyone out there who wouldn’t take the Crusaders against Hardin-Simmons, but since this category is about defenses, I’m interested to see the final scoreboard and how well UMHB’s defense handles the wicked attack of the Cowboys. Only once this year has HSU failed to break 30 points, and the team’s wins have been in the 50s and 60s range. But that game in which they were held to their lowest point total was against Linfield, so Saturday gives us a chance to measure the Wildcats and the Crusaders thanks to a common opponent. And for those of us voting in the Top 25 and just trying to figure out nationally how teams stack up, the Cru’s defensive outing tomorrow is going to be telling.
Pat’s take: Wesley. My defense-heavy pick includes a pick-heavy defense. With 17 picks in seven games, the Wolverines will go up vs. Menlo, which has thrown six all season.
Keith’s take: Let me just cheat and take a look at these total defense rankings. Okay, No. 1 Mount Union, No. 2 John Carroll, No. 3 UW-Whitewater, ho hum. No. 4 Wabash, No. 5 Hampden-Sydney, No. 6 Linfield, No. 7 St. Thomas. Wait, what!?! Hampden-Sydney? Home of  offensive guru Marty Favret and D-I transfer quarterback Nash Nance? The team known for being at the top of the total offense numbers is allowing only 231 yards a game, has held every team but Catholic to 17 or fewer and this week plays 2-4 Shenandoah, which is 154th in the country in scoring offense and 155th in total offense. Which is great because I think the Tigers should come into the Randolph-Macon game on Nov. 16 8-1 and overconfident, and have their dreams crushed by the 8-1 Yellow Jackets. Oops, did I actually type that?

3 thoughts on “Triple Take: Back-loaded battles

  1. I can’t remember a time when two of us independently picked the same surprisingly close game. Eeenteresting.

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