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Quick Hits Week 2: Titanic games on tap

This week we’ve got our eyes on two big games featuring midwestern Titans, plenty of contests with titanic travel, a throwback Texas showdown, and a huge game between East region powers.

Our regular crew is Keith McMillan, Ryan Tipps, Pat Coleman, Adam Turer, Frank Rossi and Greg Thomas.

— Greg Thomas
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com

Which game is the Game of the Week?

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Keith’s take: No. 22 Wesley at No. 13 Delaware Valley. Even though I get all googly-eyed when Linfield and UW-Oshkosh visit the East Coast, I got assigned Wesley-Del Val for the podcast, and it holds up as GOTW.
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Ryan’s take: No. 14 Illinois Wesleyan at No. 23 UW-La Crosse. The Eagles are certainly happy to already have a game under their belt, but I’m not sure they have to tools to slow IWU’s skilled returning offense.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 14 Illinois Wesleyan at No. 23 UW-La Crosse. Losing this game last year derailed IWU’s postseason hopes, while UWL can solidify contender status with another W.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 22 Wesley at No. 13 Delaware Valley. The Wolverines are back in the Top 25. Now, they have a chance to show that they are back in contention as one of the top programs in the nation.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 22 Wesley at No. 13 Delaware Valley. With Brockport’s loss, and with RPI facing a strong WPI team this week, the winner of this game could be considered the front runner of the East Region.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: No. 14 Illinois Wesleyan at No. 23 UW-La Crosse. The Eagles upset the Titans last year, a loss that ultimately cost IWU a spot in the playoffs. There is little reason to believe that the stakes won’t be similar this time around.

Which Top 25 team is most likely to get upset?

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Keith’s take: No. 21 Wabash. Susquehanna beat No. 7 Johns Hopkins last year, which takes a savvy pick out of the “upset” category. The Little Giants could struggle against UW-Stevens Point though.
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Ryan’s take: No. 7 Johns Hopkins. It happened last year against Susquehanna, and the River Hawks already have debuted strong this season. (Apologies for the earlier typo, River Hawks!!)
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 9 Hardin-Simmons. The game with Trinity (Texas) last year was a two-point game until the final 60 seconds and Trinity looks to be just as strong, if not better than 2018.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 9 Hardin-Simmons. The Cowboys haven’t lost a non-conference regular season game since 2014. Trinity (Texas) is a program on the rise and gave the Cowboys a battle last season. This would be Jerheme Urban’s signature win as head coach of his alma mater.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 19 RPI (at WPI). Yes, Coach Isernia, I’ll bring the thumbtacks for your bulletin board. WPI’s record-sized senior class wants a signature win to go out on; this could be it.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: No. 9 Hardin-Simmons. A lot has to go right for Trinity to pull this off, but Jerheme Urban has been steadily building his alma mater back into a player in the South region. Knocking off the Cowboys would be the perfect springboard into SAA play.

Which team debuting this week will most wish they played in Week 1?

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Keith’s take: No. 14 Illinois Wesleyan. While this week’s opponent, No. 23 UW-La Crosse, was busy battling it out with Concordia-Moorhead, the Titans were doing who knows what.
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Ryan’s take: No. 21 Wabash. The Little Giants will need its veteran defense to really shine to help avoid the tension of last year’s narrow contest against UW-Stevens Point.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 21 Wabash. UW-Stevens Point had a quality first-week performance in a loss at No. 17 John Carroll, so the Pointers will definitely have a leg up on the Little Giants.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: DePauw. The Tigers are eager to wash away a disappointing 4-6 season marked by narrow defeats. Traveling to face a 1-0 Central team is their first chance to avenge one of those losses, but it won’t be easy.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Massachusetts Maritime. SUNY-Maritime won in a huge late comeback last week, giving the Privateers important momentum heading into this rivalry game.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: No. 21 Wabash. The Little Giants have a tricky road trip up to UW-Stevens Point this week. The Pointers pushed Wabash in Crawfordsville last year without the benefit of one game head start.

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

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Keith’s take: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at Northwestern (Minn.). The Stags lost in Washington last week, but hit the road again, and should bring back a W this time.
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Ryan’s take: Hampden-Sydney at Christopher Newport. Two Virginia teams (and past state powers) that faltered in Week 1 are sure to be looking for the right footing this time around.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Catholic at Georgetown. The last time these teams played, I was a senior in college and a pretty crappy broadcaster to boot. I won’t be there on Saturday, and neither will be TE Jim Opfinger, who had a huge game against the Hoyas.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Rose-Hulman at Rhodes. It’s the Fightin’ Engineers’ only non-conference game against a team without a national championship pedigree and realistic 2019 Stagg Bowl aspirations.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Montclair State at Salve Regina. Both teams were surprise losers in Week 1. They both need momentum before conference plays begins. This could be a close game.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: Aurora at Elmhurst. In this game featuring two first year head coaches, I want to see if last week’s points avalanche is going to be the norm for Don Beebe’s squad or if Jeff McDonald’s Blue Jays can slow them down.

Which team will be a surprising 0-2?

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Keith’s take: Bridgewater State. The Bears might still be contenders once MASCAC play begins, but they got roughed up by the Empire 8’s Morrisville State last weekend and go to St. John Fisher.
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Ryan’s take: George Fox. The Bruins came out flat last week — slow to score and stuggling to step up on defense. Against a team like Alfred that shut out its first opponent, that kind of play spells trouble.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Bridgewater State. The Bears have had some wild swings in won-lost record in recent seasons and with a 32-point loss to Morrisville State in Week 1, it might sound reasonable to expect a loss at St. John Fisher on Saturday..
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Misericordia. The Cougars shocked the world with an 8-win campaign in 2018. Losses to McDaniel and Lebanon Valley to start 0-2 would be more in line with the program’s historic struggles.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Framingham State. The Endicott win last week was unexpected, and Brockport needs a rebound. That ends up making the two-time reigning MASCAC champs 0-2.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: Ohio Northern. Muskingum shouldn’t be a big problem for ONU, but the Polar Bears have a lot of things to correct from their Week 1 loss at Denison.

Which region wins the East vs. West games?

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Keith’s take: West. I’ve got Linfield over Rowan, Alfred over George Fox, and UW-Oshkosh edging Salisbury to break the tie.
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Ryan’s take: East gets the majority, with Linfield being the West’s bright spot.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: West: Linfield over Rowan, UW-Oshkosh over Salisbury, but Alfred beats George Fox to avoid the sweep.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: West. Alfred notches a win for the East over George Fox. Linfield evens the score for the West by defeating Rowan. In what should be the marquee Week 2 game between unranked opponents, UW-Oshkosh squeaks past Salisbury.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: East. (Salisbury, Alfred, Linfield).
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: East. I’ll take Linfield to win at Rowan and Alfred to defeat visiting George Fox. Salisbury holds serve at home against UW-Oshkosh to give the East a 2-1 series win.

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.

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Around the Nation 218: The bid-clinching has begun!

Yep, three teams have clinched their automatic bids to the NCAA Division III football playoffs, with 23 more to go, plus five true at-large bids. And it’s those at-large bids which will receive a ton of attention … first off, because they’re the most difficult decisions the committee will make, and secondly, because those teams are going to be candidates to get a first-round home game, and perhaps win a game or two.

Who played their way into consideration? Who played their way out? Which teams are being set up for multiple home games in the tournament, should they win out? Plus, how did Pat and Keith deal with this weekend’s losses on their Top 25 ballots? Who had amazing games that were just a bit under the radar? Which conference has games that just aren’t competitive at all? And everyone’s favorite backup quarterback wasn’t a backup this week.

Plus game balls, the week’s interesting stats and more in the latest D3football.com Around the Nation podcast. The D3football.com Around the Nation Podcast is a regular conversation between Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan and guests covering the wide range of Division III football.

Hit play, or subscribe to get this podcast on your mobile device.
Full episode:

You can subscribe to the Around the Nation Podcast in iTunes. You can also get this and any of our future Around the Nation podcasts automatically by subscribing to this RSS feed: http://www.d3blogs.com/d3football/?feed=podcast

Link: NCAA Division III playoff criteria, from our FAQ
Link: Playoff primer podcast (No. 216, with committee chair Jim Catanzaro)

Photo: St. John’s, UW-Whitewater and Berry athletics photos

Theme music: DJmentos.

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Triple Take Week 4: A mix of wackiness and rivalries

Chapman goes on the road to face a team that put up a ton of yards against a fellow SCIAC school last week.

Chapman goes on the road to face a team that put up a ton of yards against a fellow SCIAC school last week.

By the first week of October, almost everybody is playing conference rivals weekly. Which leaves this weekend, the last in September, as the last time we see so many matchups against non-Division III teams like Bacone (mmm, Bacone) and Southwestern Assemblies of God (or as I like to refer to them, SWAG). This week is also one of the last for halfway-across-the-country non-conference games like Pacific at Chicago, or Pacific Lutheran at Trinity (Texas).

Of course, some Tommies and Johnnies will spend Saturday acting like anything but saints when they face their most disliked rival. And whether you’re celebrating your stadium’s 100th birthday or just hoping a few hundred fans are in the stands, Triple Take cares. Pat, Ryan and I look at all 244 teams and highlight the Week 4 games (besides yours, of course) worth paying attention to.

— Keith McMillan

Game of the week
Keith’s take: No. 17 Ithaca at Alfred. Assuming Pat plays the faithful Minnesooooootan, and takes Johnnies at Tommies, I find myself in New York for an Empire 8 clash. I bombed my Bombers pick last week, and at 2-0 with one dicey win and one dominant one, Ithaca hits the road for 3-0 Alfred. The Saxons have scored 34, 34 and 29, but last week, the Bombers barely allowed an inch for Hartwick’s offense to maneuver. In a conference where St. John Fisher, Salisbury, Brockport State and others plan to contend, wins are at a premium.
Ryan’s take: No. 14 Johns Hopkins at Muhlenberg. The Mules have flown a bit under the radar while building toward their 3-0 record, but they’ve been anything but quiet in doing so. While I understand Muhlenberg’s opponents aren’t the year’s most notable bunch, Muhlenberg has been appropriately convincing in its victories, with the narrowest margin being 34 points in a shutout of Wilkes. This will likely be the Blue Jays’ stiffest test untilNov. 22.
Pat’s take: St. John’s at No. 10 St. Thomas. Make fun all you want but this game will have more people in attendance than the other two combined. Last year, St. Thomas was coming off a Stagg Bowl appearance and two wins by a combined 77-14 score before the rivalry reminded us that anything can happen. St. John’s took a 14-11 lead at halftime and intercepted Matt O’Connell twice in the second half, then dodged a bullet when the Tommies’ kicker missed a short field goal at the final gun. So after that … we’re back in anything-can-happen mode.

Surprisingly close game
Keith’s take: Baldwin Wallace at No. 8 John Carroll. This is a bit of a stab in the dark, since the Blue Streaks could not be coming off a more dominant performance against Heidelberg. After games like those, it’s human nature to start feeling yourself — you get really confident until you have reason not to be. John Carroll has to guard against overconfidence, and Baldwin Wallace has to get theirs back after allowing the game-winning touchdown with nine seconds left in a 37-35 loss to Ohio Northern. Both teams are among the nation’s top eight in time of possession (36 minutes plus), so something has to give there. John Carroll is the national leader in getting off the field on third downs, and I think after a few quarters of even play, they turn it on for the home crowd under the lights and pull away.
Ryan’s take: Averett at LaGrange. The Cougars have been all over the place in how well they do against the pass – they gave up big against Randolph-Macon but held Maryville to small numbers (the ground game from the quarterback was a whole ‘nother story). LaGrange likes to throw the ball; with Graham Craig under center, who wouldn’t want to play that out? Yet the Panthers’ 2-1 record is deceitful since every game has been achingly close. If Averett can contain an offense that appears to be one-dimensional (much like the team did against run-heavy Washington and Lee), then this will be a close one.
Pat’s take: Chapman at Whitworth. A SCIAC contender and an unbeaten team, just like you would have pictured it in, say, 2010. Whitworth has done it against three lower-level west coast teams and now Bryan Peterson, who threw for nearly 600 yards last week after only getting the start because of injuries, has to try to do it against a team which held Linfield to 21 and is one of the SCIAC favorites.

Most likely Top 25 team to be upset
Keith’s take: No. 16 Pacific Lutheran. It’s the Lutes’ second game and Trinity’s fourth. That’s really my only reason. Well, that and the other choices stunk. The Tigers (1-2) haven’t played all that well, but they’ve played, and early in the season, that seems like a big deal. The game is in Texas, and PLU’s nice fourth quarter helped it to a 35-28 home win over Cal Lutheran in Week 2.
Ryan’s take: No. 19 Ithaca. No. 19 Ithaca. There are a lot of teams in the top-notch Empire 8 that could dethrone one of the undefeateds, but pitting two with perfect records is cause to pay attention. Alfred has been giving up a lot of points this season, and the team is going to do the most damage if it can find a way to clamp down on defense. Ithaca, in turn, will succeed if it keeps doing what it’s been doing on the field.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Heidelberg. Ohio Northern might be able to break through in this game. If not, they might be able to keep it close. If not, well, it won’t be the first time I’ve picked Ohio Northern erroneously in the past decade. I like ONU in this matchup because of the opposite directions of the teams’ momentum.

Which winless team gets its first victory?
Keith’s take: Cortland State. Nobody in D-III has been harder-luck losers in their first two games, when the Red Dragons, trying to run out the clock in Week 1, ran backwards and put Buffalo State in range for the tying field goal with 1 second left. In Week 2, down three and on the 1-yard line vs. Brockport, the game ended with a false-start penalty and 10-second runoff. With a week off to forget about that, the Red Dragons head to Morrisville State, which scored two TDs in last week’s opening 16 minutes against St. Lawrence, then was blanked the rest of the way.
Ryan’s take: Kalamazoo. I picked Benedictine in Kickoff to perform better this season than it is, and because the squad has stumbled each week, we’re now staring down a game between two winless teams. K-zoo has faced decent opposition as a whole, and the Hornets have shown that they are more able to hang with the team on the other sidelines. The Eagles competition have been good (their opponents are a combined 8-1), but nothing says trial by fire like K-zoo’s game against Wheaton. I think the Hornets will be better prepared for this one.
Pat’s take: Alfred State. And for Alfred State, this would be its first win against a Division III school, as the Pioneers host Castleton State on their homecoming weekend. Alfred State won one game that counts last year, vs. Apprentice School.
Who it won’t be: Concordia-Chicago. The Cougars were scheduled to play Maranatha Baptist this week, but the Sabercats were unable to keep the contract because of injuries. And by NCAA rules, this is a no-contest, not a forfeit, so CUC remains winless.

Which team plays like animals this weekend?
Keith’s take: The Bantams of Trinity (Conn). You might have to be smart enough to get into a NESCAC school to know that bantams are a small variety of chicken. Williams’s Eph mascot is a purple and yellow cow, so an animal wins either way. In this year’s installment of a game that used to be the non-rivalry highlight of the NESCAC schedule, Trinity’s rushing attack — 289 yards in the opener, including a 25-134-3 line from Chudi Iregbulem — scores the first points on Williams this season, and then some.
Ryan’s take: The Panthers of Middlebury. No way Middlebury isn’t going to slough off the turnovers of its debut last weekend, get its claws out and start down the path toward a 7-1 season. Colby’s offensive line better be ready to protect against a big rush.
Pat’s take: The Muskies of Muskingum. Problem is, fish aren’t particularly well-suited to play football, and I think the Crusaders of Capital are in best position to take this game.

State your case for a state school, or one with a state in its name
Keith’s take: Illinois College. St. Norbert may well win this MWC clash, but since Norbachusetts isn’t a state, and I already burned up “Cortland State,” allow me to use the Blueboys to highlight this matchup. Simply, IC scored 42 points after halftime of its last game. SNC allowed 45 unanswered last time out, including 42 in the middle quarters. Neither team won, or played last week. So they’ve had plenty of time to get their defenses right. The Blueboys bring in the nation’s No. 1 offense, led by quarterback Michael Bates, at 682 yards a game, but stats are easily skewed this time of year. St. Norbert DL Austin Prusha has seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks already, but almost all of that came against Carthage, not North Central.
Ryan’s take: Brockport State. The first half wasn’t pretty last week for the Golden Eagles, but adjustments after the break proved somewhat successful against St. John Fisher. It’s something to build one after being stacked against a Top 10 team. This week, Utica is riding an undefeated streak and will be stiff competition. But I don’t see Brockport giving as much ground to the Pioneers and should come away with the win.
Pat’s take: Delaware Valley. As our former USA Today colleague, Devin Clancy, would say, “Alfred isn’t a state!” So I can’t use that team here. That being said, I like Del Val’s chances in this game that I basically see as a toss-up. Definitely not your average unbeaten vs. winless matchup. Del Val has enough diversity on offense to get it done, but the question will be whether it can stop Leb Val.

They’ll be on your radar
Keith’s take: Chicago. The best defense in Chicago isn’t the Bears. Relatively speaking, anyway. The Maroons are 3-0 and allowing 160 yards per game, best in D-III. Pacific, 0-2 by a total of seven points, was pretty solid itself defensively last week at Dubuque, allowing just 321 yards and 16 points. Before we start crowning these descendants of Stagg worthy of making the playoffs, let’s see how they fare in this midseason stretch. After Pacific and before their three UAA rivals, they face Rhodes, Trinity (Texas) and Bethel. With a good performance in that stretch, and a Pool B playoff spot awaits.
Ryan’s take: Centre. I thought last year was going to be the Colonels’ season to make the playoffs. Though they finished a respectable 7-3, it wasn’t playoff-worthy. They lost some skill players and a good chunk of their defense, but they are off to a 3-0 start nonetheless. Like last year, Washington U. is Game 4 and threatening to derail the perfection they’ve had so far. Getting over this hump will go a long ways toward potentially rolling in to November undefeated and making a case for a Pool B spot.
Pat’s take: Carroll. Sticking with the C’s here for a very much under-the-radar 3-0 team in the Midwest Conference that defeated Lake Forest last week, facing 2-0 Monmouth. The secret? The return of is-he-playing-or-isn’t-he Lamont Williams, who has alternately been in and out of the Pioneers’ preseason roster over the past couple of years. He scored three second-half touchdowns in last week’s victory.