Triple Take: Rivalry week 2013

The Hampden-Sydney/Randolph-Macon game always draws a crowd. This year it’s also a winner-take-all game for the ODAC title.
Hampden-Sydney athletics photo

If you’ve never been affiliated with a school that has an intense, no-love-lost rivalry, you’re missing out on one of the sweeter things in life. Because when game time comes, there’s something absolutely all-consuming about how you feel about your team and what you’d like to do to those on the “other team.”

Many teams will be feeling that this weekend, capping the season against their archrival. And if the playoffs are not on the horizon, Week 11 can spell one last chance to make the season memorable by taking home the Bridge Bowl Trophy or Monon Bell or Cortaca Jug or Regents Cup or any of the many other prizes out there.

This week highlights the rivalries, but there’s more to this week than that. With Selection Sunday coming up, there’s so much to play for.

Here’s what Pat, Keith and Ryan have to say about that:

Game of the Week
Ryan’s take:
No. 9 John Carroll at No. 1 Mount Union.
Not sure that any explanation is needed here.
Pat’s take: Ditto at ditto. If I weren’t just coming back from a business trip overseas for my job, I’d hop back on a plane to Alliance. What, there’s no such thing as Alliance International Airport?
Keith’s take: No. 9 John Carroll at No. 1 Mount Union. This is one of four head-to-head Week 11 games with the conference championship on the line. The other three (Albion at Hope, Salve Regina at Endicott and Hampden-Sydney at Randolph-Macon) are more winner-take-all; the victor gets the conference title and accompanying automatic bid to the playoffs, and the loser collects equipment. JCU and UMU are both in the postseason no matter what happens, as far as I’m concerned. They’re also Nos. 1 and 2 nationally in total defense, with neither allowing 193 yards per game. But here’s why it’s G.O.T.W.: Mount Union lost to Baldwin-Wallace in 1994 and Ohio Northern in 2005 … and that’s it when it comes to OAC losses in the past 20 years. And that includes plenty of OAC teams who have gone on to win in the playoffs, including a 2002 John Carroll team quarterbacked by Blue Streaks head coach Tom Arth. They got “sent East” and went to the final four. The JCU-UMU winner might be “sent East” again. And there’s a real chance that winner might not be Mount Union.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Louisiana College at Hardin-Simmons.
I wanted to use this opportunity to point out of many scoring trains that can be misleading as we weigh teams. While LC is the clearer big dog at 6-3, compared with a sub-.500 HSU squad, the Cowboys just finished blasting Texas Lutheran 73-44, a 29-point margin that was unexpected against a TLU team that beat LC by 10 points the week prior. Maybe HSU’s recent hardships will hold it back; maybe they’ll motivate the team. That may be the hardest factor of all to consider.
Pat’s take: Catholic at Bridgewater (Va.). Catholic dominated Bridgewater in the years before joining the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and ran the table in 1999, its first year in the league. But the Cardinals haven’t often been close since, not even winning in 2008 when a home victory vs. the then-3-6 Eagles would have meant Catholic’s return to the playoffs. Catholic hasn’t beaten Bridgewater since 1999, but with a win, the Cardinals could finish with a winning mark for the first time since that ’08 season.
Keith’s take: Mount St. Joseph at No. 25 Thomas More. The 8-1 Saints are in a predicament, and there’s two ways they could handle it. The ideal way is the horse blinders way — focus on themselves and nothing else. Thomas More is staring dead at the prospect of finishing 9-1 and being left out of the postseason entirely, given that they’re the one-loss team in Pool C with the sixth-best playoff resume — and that doesn’t even consider the handful of two-loss teams with a chance to leapfrog them. Their Pool A automatic qualifier hopes are still alive if 7-2, 5-2 Waynesburg wins at 7-2, 6-1 Washington & Jefferson. Thomas More’s PAC schedule is done at 7-1, and they play non-conference rival Lions in the Bridge Bowl. That game starts a half-hour earlier than the one in Washington, Pa., so if the Saints are distracted, either by hopes of the postseason or updates from elsewhere in PAC country, they could lose sight of what’s right in front of them. The 6-3 Lions are good enough this season to make it a contest for longer than it needs to be..

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 19 Millsaps.
Realistically, this is a game that could go either way. Millsaps needed OT to beat Center last week, and Rhodes is a team that’s six points away from being undefeated this season. The Lynx aren’t currently in the regional rankings, but knocking off third-place Millsaps is the only way they could ever hope to leap into the playoff picture.
Pat’s take: No. 18 Heidelberg. The final test of how far Heidelberg will fall in its three-week season-ending gauntlet is this Saturday’s game at Baldwin Wallace. BW is 6-3 and almost won all the games it was supposed to, an Oct. 5 game at Otterbein being the exception. Heidelberg looked alright at home vs. Mount Union and looked awful at John Carroll next week. There’s nothing to make or break for Heidelberg anymore, just pride on the line.
Keith’s take: No. 6 Bethel. I wouldn’t necessarily pick the Royals, fourth on my top 25 ballot, to lose. But the category is “most likely,” and a game at 7-2 St. John’s represents, say, a 35% chance of defeat. Add in that Bethel has already clinched the MIAC title and is the playoff AQ (40%), and the game represents whatever sliver of hope the Johnnies have of making the postseason (45%) and I’m willing to believe it could happen. One side will feel the ‘season-is-over-today’ urgency and have one of D-III’s largest and rowdiest home crowds at its back.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Alfred.
With the six teams ahead of the Saxons in the regional rankings on track to get either Pool A or Pool B bids, that puts Alfred first at the table in the East Region for an at-large spot — if they beat St. John Fisher. As was noted in the regional rankings blog post, Alfred and SJF are tied in the regional committee’s eyes in the seventh position. Someone will have to win; the other will have to fall.
Pat’s take: Kalamazoo. The Hornets are trying to win a sixth game for the first time in a decade; Kalamazoo last went 6-4 in 2003 and you’d have to go back even further to find an instance in which they won four MIAA games. Olivet got the big news and noise for starting off 4-0 but Kalamazoo is a game ahead of the Comets in the conference standings. Meanwhile Olivet is trying to win a seventh game for the first time since the 2004 season.
Keith’s take: Everyone … but also No. 10 UW-Platteville at No. 8 UW-Oshkosh. I honestly wanted to get a mention of Merchant Marine, which is 4-3 and 1-2 since the shutdown, going to St. Lawrence, which is looking for a rare seven-win season, somewhere. But honestly I’ll be paying far more attention to the game in Wisconsin that features a probably Pool C playoff spot on the line.

Rivalry game you’re most interested in (alma maters excluded).
Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney at Randolph-Macon.
As the non-Beltway Virginian of the Triple Take crew, I should pick The Game, right? I’m sure I don’t have to, but I definitely want to. As has happened often since 2007, the winner of this matchup gets the Old Dominion’s automatic qualifier to the postseason. It’s a thrilling finish to a typically chaotic conference race — it’s #ODACtion at its best! (That’s for you, Adam Turer.)
Pat’s take: Rowan-TCNJ. This game is often played on a Friday night, although admittedly, it’s often earlier in the season. I think it’s fair to call these two archrivals, even if in some given years their respective games with Montclair State might draw more notice. This one has NJAC title implications and a lot of New Jersey attitude involved as well. Another NJAC team’s game could certainly be mentioned here, too, as Cortland State could play spoiler.
Keith’s take: Cortland State at No. 20 Ithaca. What a terrible year to say “alma maters excluded.” And for the record, Pat is from Minnesota and I’m from New Jersey by way of Massachusetts, but we each have lived around the Beltway. And somehow I ended up in Virginia and at Randolph-Macon. Anyway, by now you’ve probably realized if you’ve come to this blog post looking for deep analysis of the Cortaca Jug game, you’re in the wrong place. I’m interested because the Bombers have shot up my top 25 ballot and were a surprise winner of the Empire 8. The atmosphere when they play Cortland State might exceed what they see in a playoff game, so I’ll be interested to see how they respond. But I’m interested in every rivalry game, from Lawrence at Ripon (120th meeting) and Monmouth at Knox (125th meeting) to Widener at Delaware Valley, a Keystone Cup rivalry clash that has much less impact on the MAC title than many would have thought a month or two ago.

Who will have the least momentum going into the playoffs?
Ryan’s take: Rowan.
The Profs are probably the conference leader that is hardest to get a handle on. A loss to Morrisville State, beating Wesley and barely edging Cortland State and Kean leave a few head-scratchers about what this team will do come playoff time — assuming they beat TCNJ and get to the postseason. Anything short of a dominating performance against the Lions might leave Rowan’s playoff confidence a little shaky, especially since at 8-2, they’d likely be going on the road as a lower-half-of-the-bracket team.
Pat’s take: Maryville. That’s as I project them to lose at Huntingdon on Saturday. I’d have picked this as my Top 25 upset pick above but in all honesty, I do not see it as much of an upset. Huntingdon was a young team this season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go out strong, even though they lost their opportunity at a share of the conference crown and an automatic bid by losing to Methodist last week.
Keith’s take: Wesley. I feel like I burned the games I wanted to write about in all the wrong categories this week. Bethel-St. John’s could have been the rivalry and Thomas More could have been the top 25 team most likely to lose. Ithaca was probably the best candidate for going in with least mo’, since they’ve clinched already and play a rivalry game against a 5-4 team that put up 62 points last week. Ah well. Wesley shouldn’t have much trouble with Alfred State, which has been shut out in three of its four games against Division III teams this season. And even though the Wolverines would likely be pumped to get in, and are feeling themselves a bit after a win over inaugural-year FCS UNC Charlotte, one has to reach back to Oct. 19 to find the last time it played a big game against a D-III team, and Oct. 5 for the last time it won one.

A cougar, a panther and a tiger walk into a bar…..
Ryan’s take: The Cougars of Misericordia.
Misericordia plays FDU-Florham, the only other team in the MAC that hasn’t won a conference game. Despite being winless, the Cougars’ second season has been largely successful in building off of last fall, with a quarterback in Jeff Puckett who not only has shown competence in the role but also flashes of brilliance as a dual-threat rusher and passer. Misericordia will get this win, and it will end the season on the highest of notes after 19 straight losses dating to the start of 2012.
Pat’s take: The Tigers of Iowa Wesleyan. In fact, their season is over, so they could well walk into a bar at any moment. But this young team, which lost a bunch of members from last year, when they were a scholarship program in the NAIA, has a long row to hoe. They matched our modest expectations for them, finishing at the 2-8, 2-7 in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, that we projected in Kickoff 2013. IWC started the season with 56 players, surely ended with many fewer, and has to hit the recruiting trail and the weight room in force this offseason.
Keith’s take: The Panthers of Chapman. I count eight Panthers in D-III (remember this silly ATN about team names?), but at least two (Middlebury, Greenville) have finished their regular seasons, and there aren’t many playing big games this week. Chapman hosts preseason SCIAC favorite Cal Lutheran in one, although Redlands has already clinched the conference title and automatic bid. The Pool C prospects are slim even if the Panthers finish 8-1 — a tenth game against a West contender would have helped. If nothing else, the Panthers have made an, er, name for themselves this season. They rush for 248 yards per game, and are the fourth-most efficient passing team in the nation behind QB Michael Lahey.

Lastly, even though the regular season is drawing to a close, keep checking back here on Fridays. For Triple Take, we’ll predict the scores of every playoff game.

4 thoughts on “Triple Take: Rivalry week 2013

  1. What…not even a small mention of NY’s oldest rivalry game , the 111th meeting for the Dutchman Shoes! The first time since at least 1979 that both Union and RPI come into the game with losing records…So I understand! but maybe highlights will make SportsCenter again this year.

  2. I don’t want to sound like Rodney Dangerfield but isn’t this the 4th time this season one of you has picked Bethel as most likely to get upset?

  3. dlaurion: We can’t both believe the MIAC is one of the strongest conferences in Division III and simultaneously believe none of the MIAC teams are capable of knocking off Bethel.

  4. @pat

    I think that’s a fair point. And in Keith’s defense, he also said he could have written about Bethel v. SJU in the rivalry section. Which I think is a very fair assessment of how this game as evolved. It’s definitely taken on that tone in the era. And he said it wasn’t him picking the upset as much as recognizing it’s possible.

    What I found interesting was Keith’s subjective analysis of the likelihood of a St. John’s victory. He’s got the game at 55/45 in Bethel’s favor. That’s a pretty tight probability line. I think the fact Bethel knows they’re playing for a 1 seed and home field has to factor in as well. That, and Bethel *enjoys* playing at SJU. They’ve got a great stadium and the game always brings in 8-14k in the stands. But Bethel will have a big chunk of those fans. I don’t think the atmosphere negatively affects Bethel.

    What was intriguing was how Keith’s take compared to the totally objective number crunching of Massey, that has Bethel as a 94% probability of victory! The true probability has to be in between 94 and 55 imo.

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