ATN podcast: A week for the rest of us

The first night home game in Brockport State history was memorable for more than the large crowd and lights.
Brockport State athletics photo by Matt Yeoman

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The games involving the elite teams were generally snoozefests, blowouts without much to write home about. Thankfully, it was a week in which there were some great stories to talk about elsewhere, however, including some involving teams which are playoff contenders and others who might have just had their big moment for the year. Pat and Keith talk about some of the interesting stories in this week’s Around the Nation podcast.

The Around the Nation podcast is our weekly discussion of what went down and what’s about to happen.

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The tags below include the schools we talked about. Also, we’re bringing back your first look at the Postgame Show, with your D3reports and team interviews and highlight packages:

Triple Take: Off and running

When game time is so near you can almost smell the food from the concession stand and hear the cheerleaders’ voices, and all you want to know is who’s supposed to win, Triple Take arrives.

Let us introduce you to our weekly forecast, a Friday morning staple on the Daily Dose. We bring it to you a day early to celebrate the Sept. 2 kickoffs. In Triple Take, three panelists think aloud, asking some key questions and providing some insight into the national landscape. The Top 25 is certainly a factor, but we like to go beyond football’s upper echelon and talk about some games that might otherwise fly under the radar.

The weekly contributors are Executive Editor Pat Coleman, Managing Editor and National Columnist Keith McMillan, and Senior Editor and Mid-Atlantic Columnist Ryan Tipps.

Here now are our picks for great matchups, upsets and much more:

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 15 Hardin-Simmons at Whitworth.
I think that this is going to be the kind of year the Cowboys were supposed to have in 2009. Justin Feaster is back under center, and standout receiver ZaVious Robbins returns, too. Add that to the nearly full slate of returning offensive hardware, and the 10 opponents on the schedule better watch out. To kick things off, HSU goes up against Whitworth, a top-notch Northwest Conference team that prides itself on defense. Notable, too, is that memories of HSU’s second-half comeback in 2009 will certainly be haunting the Pirates.
Keith’s take: Lycoming at Rowan. Just a dozen years too late. It would have been a monster clash if this series had started when both were Eastern powerhouses and Stagg Bowl contenders playing just nine games a season. So what makes it a GOTW in 2010? Urgency. If Hardin-Simmons or UW-Stevens Point or St. Thomas lose one of this week’s sexier matchups, a perennial conference champ awaits in a game that could revive the season. The Warriors and Profs, however, face multiple roadblocks along their AQ path. Rowan is unlikely to get through Montclair State, Cortland State and Kean unscathed, so a non-conference win is crucial.
Pat’s take: No. 18 Willamette at No. 16 UW-Stevens Point. I got an e-mail from one Willamette fan who was sure that if St. Thomas was No. 5, then Willamette must be in the Top 10. If that’s true, they’ll have to prove it the first two weeks. There’s no shame in being No. 18, you know, especially out of 238. Like being No. 9 or so in Division I FBS.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 22 Mississippi College.
Since 2000, the Choctaws hold a 5-4 advantage in the Backyard Brawl rivalry with Millsaps. And like many great rivalries, the emotion of the day can make for some unique outcomes. Both teams are fairly balanced on what they bring back, so even if this isn’t an upset situation, it should be great matchup.
Keith’s take: No. 15 Hardin-Simmons. Not because I don’t think the Cowboys will be good. In December, they might be the last team from Texas standing. But we’ve seen HSU fly to the Pacific Northwest early in the season and take one on the chin more than once. Whitworth is no easy W on any field, and flying to Spokane can’t be much help.
Pat’s take: None. I just can’t say I have a strong feeling about any of these teams losing this week. I would throw a shout-out to St. Norbert opening its new stadium with a home game against No. 5 St. Thomas but if St. Thomas can win handily at Monmouth it should be able to do the same at St. Norbert.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Susquehanna at Moravian.
Last year, these two teams were separated by a hefty six wins. But don’t expect Moravian to chuck in another 24-0 loss to its new conferencemate, Susquehanna. This year will certainly be a rebuilding one for the Greyhounds, but expect them to make every effort to take advantage of the five All-Conference players that the Crusaders lost from last season.
Pat’s take: John Carroll at Case Western Reserve. Here’s a backyard brawl without the fancy promotional graphics between these two Cleveland schools which were separated by light-years figuratively over the past four years. But I think the gap will be a lot narrower this time around and Keith and I ended up ranking them very close together in Kickoff. Alright, I promise, last Kickoff sales pitch.
Keith’s take: Bridgewater (Va.) at St. Vincent. The Bearcats, since reviving their program, are just 1-29.  They were outscored by 20 points per game in 2009 and didn’t keep one closer than 13 points. But everything sets up for SVU to make this interesting: They host, the coaching staff came from Bridgewater and knows the Eagles’ style as well as anyone, and most importantly, there are finally seniors who have played four seasons for the Bearcats on the roster.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Averett.
The Cougars are in a nice position to reclaim the conference glory that escaped them after the 2006 season. Since that season, which saw Averett 30 minutes from a playoff berth, they’ve been 0-10, 4-5 and 7-3. This season marks a good opportunity to be at the top of the USA South pack — but that also means opening against the ODAC’s defending champion Hampden-Sydney. A win here would be telling for the rising Averett squad.
Keith’s take: Illinois Wesleyan. I’m as curious about the Titans as any team in the country this year. Just three offensive and four defensive starters return from a playoff team that represented one of Division III’s top half-dozen conferences in the playoffs last year. Is IWU deep enough as a program to stage a repeat? We’ll find out on its visit to Hope, a program many a Midwestern power has cut its teeth on en route to the playoffs.
Pat’s take: Massachuetts Maritime. That’s if Nathan Sherr can come anywhere close to the production he put up at running back last season, where he ran for 525 yards in a little over two games. The Buccaneers open up Thursday night against SUNY-Maritime.

Which 2009 playoff team is going to end up wishing it had a Week 1 bye?
Ryan’s take: No. 17 Monmouth.
The Scots should walk away with a win on Saturday, but it will be hard-fought, and they’ll likely have their cage rattled a time or two. The last three times these teams have met, Wartburg has walked away with a trio of wins, including one that sent them to the NCAA Regional Finals. Monmouth has a lot of weapons, but Wartburg is also readied for battle.
Keith’s take: No. 3 Wesley. There are at least four top 25 teams who deserve to be called on the carpet for less-than-aggressive Week 1 scheduling. If you’ll be disappointed if you don’t win by at least 30, then you know who you are. The Wolverines, on the other hand, are likely either going to have their game canceled or are going to have to travel over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the remnants of a hurricane to get drenched in a game they could very well lose. A bye sounds better than either of those options.
Pat’s take: No. 8 Wittenberg. Sorry if this comes off as a little harsh, but opening against an 0-10 team playing its first game under a new coach might be good prep for playing Kenyon, Hiram and Oberlin, but not for playing Wabash or a playoff team. Plus, it will end up being a big drag on their strength of schedule. And yes, I was already thinking about that in July.

Which conference will have the most impressive non-conference win?
Ryan’s take: The Centennial, thanks to Ursinus.
Albright certainly took a couple of hits in the skill positions, but it’s hard to erase their 2009 Cinderella story from people’s memories. Conquering them would give Ursinus a morale boost and a lot of momentum early on, even if Albright’s star doesn’t wind up burning as brightly this year.
Keith’s take: The Heartland, by Mount St. Joseph. Opening with a win against a team that changed coaches mid-summer following a 1-9 season isn’t generally the stuff of legends. But for the HCAC, a conference still clamoring for respect, a win against Wilmington is a win against a team from a D-III power conference in the OAC.
Pat’s take: The ODAC, with Hampden-Sydney. I think the Tigers are a little stronger than we give them credit for entering their opener with Averett. How many times has a Marty Favret offense plugged in another quarterback and been off to the races? I remember worrying about a Favret offense once. That was 1998, however.

Whose long losing streak is most likely to end?
Ryan’s take: Bluffton’s.
Sure the Beavers are riding a 17-game losing streak and coming off a year where they really couldn’t get much offensive momentum going — but in that regard, it’s easy to wonder whether opponent Kalamazoo (sans Brandon Luczak) will either. To top it off, Kalamazoo was the last team that Bluffton beat, dating to 2008.
Keith’s take: Puget Sound’s. The Loggers haven’t won since 2008, and they’ll trot out a new coach (Jeff Thomas) and the new energy that usually accompanies one. Energy alone doesn’t win games, but established programs playing debuting expansion teams — Pacific, in this case — usually do.
Pat’s take: Mass-Dartmouth’s. How Mass-Dartmouth went from 6-4 to 0-10 is a bit of a surprise. I don’t think they go back to 6-4 or even 4-6, but a home game to open against Fitchburg State is an opportunity to end an 11-game losing streak.