Around the Nation Podcast 215: Three weeks to Selection Sunday

Well, there were some interesting losses and some unexpectedly narrow wins on Saturday. While that didn’t change the playoff picture as much as it changed the Top 25, there were still some key changes. There’s one team out there specifically that has to feel much better about its playoff chances after this week, and Pat and Keith talk about that and more in the latest Around the Nation Podcast.

So, with Wesley dropping out of the picture, who’s next up? There are plenty of possibilities, plus Frostburg State still has Salisbury to play, and Frostburg didn’t exactly look like world-beaters on Saturday. You can hear Bobcats coach DeLane Fitzgerald’s reaction on this edition of the pod, then find out where they ended up on Pat and Keith’s Top 25 ballots. Plus, what team do Pat and Keith make up the vast majority of the votes for? All those nuggets are in this pod, plus game balls, the off-the-beaten-path highlights and everything you’ve come to expect from our Monday wrapup podcast.

That and more in the latest Around the Nation podcast. The Around the Nation Podcast is a regular conversation between Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan and guests covering the wide range of Division III football.

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Photo: Devin Limerick gave John Carroll the lead for good on a fourth-quarter touchdown run. (Photo by Tara Byrne for John Carroll athletics)

Theme music: DJmentos.


Quick Hits Week 4: Unleashing the Cougars

The crew is picking the Cougars to make some noise this week, as well as the Colonels, while everyone has their eyes on the clash in the OAC. Our regular crew is Keith McMillan, Ryan Tipps, Pat Coleman, Adam Turer and Frank Rossi. Our sixth spot goes to a guest each week, and this week’s is Greg Thomas, Wabash fan and regular contributor.

— Pat Coleman

Photo: Centre athletics photo of Andre Evans and Luc Gendreau by Cheyenne Bunner

Which game is the Week 4 game of the week?

Keith’s take: No. 15 John Carroll at No. 1 Mount Union. More on the line in SAA, CCIW & CC, more talent here. Ninety and 110 points over two games, so best D wins.
Ryan’s take: No. 15 John Carroll at No. 1 Mount Union. I think JCU is a bit high in the poll, but I’m game to be proven wrong.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 15 John Carroll at No. 1 Mount Union. As said on the podcast, only wish it were later in the season.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 15 John Carroll at No. 1 Mount Union. The only game between ranked opponents; a heated rivalry between the two best teams in one of the nation’s best conferences.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 15 John Carroll at No. 1 Mount Union. No way to buck the trend here, even if voters have JCU higher than I do (20). To me, Mount Union punches its playoff ticket with a win here.
Greg’s take: No. 15 John Carroll at No. 1 Mount Union.It isn’t too early to call this a de facto OAC championship game. The Streaks pose the last legitimate threat to Mount Union until late November.

Which Top 25 team is most likely to get upset?

Keith’s take: No. 24 Franklin & Marshall. If the Diplomats survive Susquehanna, they’ve got Muhlenberg and Johns Hopkins next.
Ryan’s take: No. 22 Wheaton. Millikin has been my sleeper team since the preseason. Here’s their first big test.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 20 RPI. There’s less of a chance for any losses this week, but Keith shamed me into having to pick someone.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 17 Berry. The Vikings keep proving me wrong, but a road game at Centre is yet another stiff SAA test. Win this, and I won’t pick against them again.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 17 Berry. Centre has been beating opponents handily, but Berry has not for the last two weeks. At Centre, this almost feels like a “gimme.”
Greg’s take: No. 17 Berry. Centre is red-hot and the Vikings are going on the road to play under the lights. This one has upset warning signs all over the place.

Who will allow more points this week than they have all season? (NESCAC excluded)

Keith’s take: Augustana. IWU put up 31 on UW-La Crosse and 24 on Wheaton, so I think they can surpass 7 here.
Ryan’s take: Belhaven. The Blazers haven’t yet faced an opponent as skilled at finding the end zone as ETBU.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Grinnell. With 20 points allowed in two games, the Pioneers travel to St. Norbert.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Augustana. The Vikings have allowed just seven points, but face IWU, which has averaged 27.5 points per game against stiff competition.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Texas Lutheran. 14 points in two games. And then UMHB comes to town, having scored 159 points to two games. Actually, this is the “gimme” pick.
Greg’s take: Texas Lutheran. The question here is really when UMHB eclipses TLU’s season points allowed total of 14. I say by the end of the first quarter.

Which game are you following that nobody else on this panel is following?

Keith’s take: Albright at Widener. Teams that haven’t been so low as .500 since 2010 come in each 0-3. Somebody wins.
Ryan’s take: Carthage at Washington U. Last week was tough, but I’d like to see how the Bears perform in Game 2 of their new conference.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Dean vs. Becker. Dean isn’t eligible for the playoffs yet, but their 0-3 is better than Becker’s 0-3.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Augsburg at St. Olaf. The Oles could improve to 4-0, equaling last year’s win total. The program won just six games total from 2013 through 2016.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Lycoming at FDU-Florham. In fact, I’ll be in attendance. Hear more about this game from me in today’s ATN Podcast.
Greg’s take: Carthage at Washington U. After a respectable CCIW debut against North Central, I’m curious to see if the Bears can get a league win against a team that took UW-Oshkosh to the wire.

Neither Kean nor Minnesota-Morris has scored this season. Who will score more this week?

Keith’s take: Minnesota-Morris. It’s a coin flip. Both Cougars offenses might get right against an 0-3 opponent this week.
Ryan’s take: Kean. The Cougars’ first two opponents were much tougher than Southern Virginia will prove to be.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Kean. I wrote this question to have no easy answer and then spent way too long trying to pick a set of Cougars.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Kean. Southern Virginia is 0-3 and has allowed 27.3 ppg. The Cougars will finally get on the scoreboard and maybe even the win column.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Kean. But this may be by a whisker, with both playing winless teams.
Greg’s take: Kean. This question is for the really serious D-III die-hards.

Which unlikely 3-0 team falls to 3-1 this week?

Keith’s take: Millsaps. Against 2-1 Sewanee. Even the “surprise” 3-0 teams (Marietta, Kalamazoo, St. Olaf) weren’t “unlikely,” so it was either this or Rowan.
Ryan’s take: Rowan. Against a ranked team like Frostburg, the Profs will fall.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Marietta. The stadium might not be underwater but ONU will slow right by the Pioneers.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Rowan. The Profs have to face No. 6 Frostburg State on the road. The Bobcats will be hungry to get back to dominating opponents.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Ursinus. After Moravian was side-swiped by Johns Hopkins, the Greyhounds will race circles around Ursinus on Saturday.
Greg’s take: FDU-Florham. A surprise leader of the MAC, the Devils’ bid to go 4-0 for the first time since 1988 (yes I did Google that) gets denied by Lycoming.

We invite you to add your predictions in the comments below. Download the Around the Nation podcast on Fridays, where Pat and Keith review the Quick Hits that were prescient, and the Quick Misses that were terribly off base.

Triple Take: Conference clashes underway

In 2005, Kyle Gearman shocked Concordia-Moorhead with a 74-yard touchdown catch with under 30 seconds left. SJU hosts the Cobbers this weekend.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

Almost every team in an automatic-qualifying conference will have a conference game under its belt by the end of the weekend.

For those teams off to a rough start in nonconference action, now is the time to refocus and use what was learned in previous weeks to try to make a mark in conference play and reach for the AQ. For many, it is, or was, a new beginning to the season.

So which teams can turn things around, and which ones are out to prove that they’re more than just their nonconference record? Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps walk you through some of the best this weekend has to offer.

Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Hope at Illinois Wesleyan.
I’m veering off the Top 25 pack a bit this week, but both teams are undefeated, with the Titans getting a fair number of votes in the poll. More significantly, though, is that each of these teams have been putting up some wild numbers against the competition, with neither team scoring fewer than 37 points in their five combined victories. And no opponent has been within 20 points at the end of four quarters. What does this mean? Well, each team is facing its stiffest test of the season, and this could be a breakout moment for one of them.
Keith’s take: No. 11 Wesley at Birmingham Southern. This is the first time in the history of Triple Take I’ve filled out all the below categories first, while skipping over Game of the Week to come back to it. It’s that kind of week. I nearly went with Cortland State at St. John Fisher or Pat’s game below in this slot, but it’s been a long time since the Wolverines were beaten so thoroughly in a regular season game, and the fate of the top 25 and Pool B rests on how they respond. B-SC is 3-0 and along with Huntingdon and Louisiana College is a deep south team that’s had its shot to beat the Wolverines but hasn’t been able to close the deal. All three of those teams are in the ‘can win 7-8 games and occasionally make the playoffs’ tier, and B-SC is the latest to get a chance at national recognition. The host Panthers have a shot because they can score — 143 points in three wins — but they’ve only been able to outscore in 2013 — they’ve allowed at least 32 points in each game, and Wesley brings a caliber of athlete B-SC hasn’t faced since a 26-17 loss in Delaware last season.

Hope has started off 3-0, but faces a more significant test this week in Illinois Wesleyan.
Hope College photo by Tom Renner

Pat’s take: Concordia-Moorhead at No. 21 St. John’s. This series has had a recent history of tight games and dramatic finishes. And St. John’s has had a particularly recent history of both, having won its three games this year by a TOTAL of eight points. All the signs point to a great game. Will it be a letdown for the Johnnies after the big win last week?

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Washington at Centre.
The Colonels are riding a three-game win streak, while the Bears are just 1-2. However, WashU hasn’t let opponents get out of reach (and that includes UW-Whitewater), and that striking distance could work out to their benefit. Centre has a defense that can be taken advantage of at times, and WashU can be in the game if they spot those times.
Keith’s take: Olivet at North Park. The more I looked at the slate, the more I found games I want to be tight but I think are going to be surprisingly not close (like Illinois College at Ripon, Montclair State at Rowan, or Williams at Trinity, Conn.). The Comets are 3-0, the Vikings 0-2. But Olivet is new money — at 1-39 the previous four seasons, they aren’t used to going on the road and winning. North Park (7-31 from 2009 to 2012) earned its only win last season, 46-21 in Michigan. This time around Olivet is making the three-hour bus ride to Chicago, and North Park is coming off a bye week.
Pat’s take: Stevenson at No. 22 Delaware Valley. Pretty sure Stevenson has never started a season 4-0. Stevenson had only won four games in the entire history of the program before the season started. I could consider picking this game in the next category down, as well. If you haven’t paid that close attention the first couple of weeks this year, you might get caught unaware of where the Mustangs have come, and there are enough questions about the Aggies to give one pause, that’s all.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: None.
On paper, this appears to be an easy week for the Top 25, as long as one of the teams at the top doesn’t get caught sleeping….
Keith’s take: No. 16 Johns Hopkins. Since it wouldn’t be much of an upset if Concordia-Moorhead beat No. 21 St. John’s or Lycoming beat No. 24 Widener, I’ll ride the Mules. The Blue Jays are still favorites, and for the upset to happen, Muhlenberg would have to figure out how to score on Johns Hopkins, which has given up no more than 14 points in each of its three games. The Mules have hung a 59 and a 58 on the score board this season, but against its only quality opponent, they scored 21 (in a loss to Franklin & Marshall).
Pat’s take: No. 11 Wesley. This probably comes from seeing the Wolverines dismantled by Mary Hardin-Baylor last week, but I’m a little concerned about Wesley in this key Pool B clash. Without the diversity on offense … or even a lot of success last week, Wesley looked a little ordinary and could be in trouble this week.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: East Texas Baptist.
If you read this week’s Around the South column, you know that ETBU has been lighting things up through the air, with a nation-leading 435.5 yards per game passing. However, the opponents from the Tigers’ first two games are currently winless. Not so with Saturday’s opponent, Willamette. The Bearcats gave up a lot of points in their wins, so ETBU (which posted 50-plus in its two outings) might be able to run away with this one. Let’s just see which quarterback they use most.
Keith’s take: The Cleveland area. My friends Lacy and Kipp are heading to Cleveland for other sporting events this weekend, and asked me a few weeks ago how good the Otterbein at John Carroll game would be, since they were going to go. That, plus a tweet that noted that No. 1 Mount Union and No. 2 Linfield will be playing on miles apart on Saturday, got me intrigued. Someone interested in seeing a bunch of competitive D-III teams on one day — a WesleyDad of the Midwest, as it were — could catch six without leaving the Cleveland area. Linfield is at Case Western Reserve at noon, Muskingum is at Baldwin-Wallace at 2 p.m., and then the aforementioned Cardinals face the Blue Streaks at 7 p.m., which leaves just enough time for dinner in between Games 2 and 3.
Pat’s take: Huntingdon. Yeah. I’m a week late to this party. Keith was all over this last week. Struggling Ferrum makes the trip to Alabama for the first time to see the Hawks and I don’t expect the southern hospitality to extend between the lines.

Which team could get caught looking ahead?
Ryan’s take: Wooster.
Hiram is coming off its first shutout win in nearly two decades, and Wooster has Wabash on the horizon in Week 5. The Scots would do themselves a favor to make sure they focus on the task at hand rather than the beast that lies beyond.
Keith’s take: No. 10 Pacific Lutheran. The Lutes’ game at Linfield is by far the most compelling matchup of Week 5, and of the other teams that have big games next week, most don’t have games they could possibly lose this week. There’s Wesley, which plays Birmingham Southern and then Huntingdon, but after being humbled more or less in consecutive weeks, there’s no way they look ahead. I don’t expect PLU to lose, but it’s all I got.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Pacific Lutheran. The Lutes travel to UW-Eau Claire, a team St. Thomas beat 52-7. Pacific Lutheran has Linfield next week. That, plus the trip a little over halfway across the continent could spell trouble for Pacific Lutheran if not handled well.

Which undefeated team is going to pick up its first loss?
Ryan’s take: Merchant Marine.
While the Mariners are an impressive 3-0, they’ve hardly been getting in the victory column in convincing fashion. And that bodes poorly when lining up against a Top 10 team like Hobart.
Keith’s take: Juniata. So far the Eagles are one of my favorite stories of the season, so if they win at Franklin & Marshall, I will eat crow for all the long-suffering Juniata fans. The Diplomats — I couldn’t decide if they were historical peoples, a joke you’ll understand in a few paragraphs — are 1-2, but nearly won the opener at defending ODAC champion Washington & Lee, and beat Muhlenberg before losing at Ursinus. So the slate is a little tougher than what Juniata has faced so far — Thiel, Dickinson and Gettysburg are 2-7, and the records coming in could be misleading. It’s about to get real for Ward Udinski and the Eagles anyway; If they win at F&M, they should enjoy it. Johns Hopkins, Ursinus and Muhlenberg are the next three opponents.
Pat’s take: UW-Stevens Point. A trip to North Central isn’t really a good sign the way things are clicking for the Cardinals right now. North Central has run through the middle-to-bottom of the WIAC the past couple of weeks and there isn’t much reason to think this will be different.

Which historical peoples is most intriguing?
Ryan’s take: The Pioneers of Grinnell.
Grinnell is hunting for its first win and is clearly not the same kind of team offensively in the wake of injured quarterback Sam Poulos. Last week, especially, the defense was tasked with keeping the team in its game against MWC leader Lake Forest, and the unit was largely successful – evidence of how senior-laden the team is on that side of the ball. If the Pioneers can manage a game when both sides are clicking, they can log wins this weekend against Beloit and onward through the season.
Keith’s take: The Saints of Thomas More. One of my favorite parts of Triple Take each week is scrolling down to see what Ryan has picked as the last question. Waynesburg’s visit to Kentucky is intriguing because the Yellow Jackets, 3-0 this season, have won 14 of their past 15 games. But during that stretch, they haven’t had to win a big game on the road. Muskingum, Bethany, Geneva and Thiel were all three-win teams last season, St. Vincent was 0-10 and the Yellow Jackets’ road win this year was at 1-2 Frostburg State. Thomas More is 2-0, back in the top 25 and hasn’t surrendered a point. So for both sides it’s the first test of how legitimate a contender each will be, and the winner gets a leg up in the PAC title race.
Pat’s take: The Colonials of Western Connecticut. I’m very interested to see how the Colonials do against Framingham State. Western Connecticut has started the season 2-0, but has done so against teams that were a combined 3-17 last season. Here they’ll take on the MASCAC favorite and we’ll find out how close Western is to actually contending for the MASCAC title. We already knew they would be competitive in the new league, where they were not competitive in the NJAC. But while Rowan held Melikke Van Alstyne to 63 yards, Western Connecticut may not be so lucky.