Quick Hits Week 8: Tricks, Treats, and a Top 25 Texas Showdown

This week’s main event features a top 25 showdown in Belton with major ASC and playoff implications. Our panel has thoughts on that one, which other top 25 teams have spooky matchups, and which other games around the country may treat D3 fans.

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

— Greg Thomas
Hardin-Simmons athletics photo
by Scott Burkhalter

Which game is the Game of the Week?

Keith’s take: No. 15 Hardin-Simmons at No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor. No. 15 Hardin-Simmons at No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor: Even with some luster off this after the Cowboys’ early-October loss, it’s still matchup of juggernaut offenses.
Ryan’s take: No. 15 Hardin-Simmons at No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor. It was my conference GMOY pick in Kickoff, though the Cowboys’ blemish adds significantly to its playoff stakes.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 15 Hardin-Simmons at No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor. If this is a chance UMHB gets upset, it not only upturns the poll, but also the ASC AQ race.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 15 Hardin-Simmons at No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor. One of this season’s greatest mysteries lies in Belton. This is the biggest test for the Cru this season, and how they respond will set the tone for the remainder of the 2019 season.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Keith talked me out of picking Ohio Wesleyan at Hiram on the ATN Friday Podcast. So I guess I’ll have to pick No. 15 Hardin-Simmons at No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor instead.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: UW-Oshkosh at UW-La Crosse. Probably an at-large eliminator for the loser, while the winner will stay alive in the WIAC and take their swing at Whitewater in November.

Which Top 25 team is most likely to get upset?

Keith’s take: No. 17 Chapman. Mostly because Cal Lutheran is 3-3 with three one-possession losses and can probably keep this one close to the end too.
Ryan’s take: None. I looked long and hard at several games, but any underdog will really have to catch lighting in a bottle to come away with a W this week. I can’t pull the trigger on any of them.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: No. 19 Cortland. If St. John Fisher could play Ithaca that closely, and Cortland wasn’t able to put Morrisville away until late and was nearly doubled in yardage by Alfred…
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: No. 20 Susquehanna. This feels like the week of “none” but the Centennial has been chock full of upsets this season, and an Ursinus win would also shake up the Pool C picture.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: No. 13 Wesley (vs. Montclair). I explain what’s at stake and how it can happen on today’s Podcast.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: No. 19 Cortland. There were some red flags from the Red Dragons last week where a couple of special teams scored bailed out a rough offensive effort. This week Cortland goes on the road to a St. John Fisher squad that can put up major points.

Which one-loss team has its postseason hopes dashed?

Keith’s take: Also Hardin-Simmons.  Sorry.
Ryan’s take: Denison. Last year’s playoff run won’t repeat itself, and I’ve seen how well Witt can play with its back against the wall.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Hardin-Simmons. Even if we have reason to question the UMHB O, the D can get the job done.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Denison. The Big Red, one of four teams tied at the 4-1 logjam atop the NCAC, travel to Wittenberg. The Tigers keep their playoff hopes alive while dashing Denison’s.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Wilkes (at Misericordia). Wilkes ran into a buzzsaw last week but still has a very remote chance for a playoff berth — until Misericordia QB Brady Williams continues to dazzle Saturday.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: No. 15. Hardin-Simmons. The Cowboys have their backs against the wall, but on the road for UMHB’s homecoming is about the worst possible spot to have to play a must win game. The Texas pod gets sorted out before Round 1 this year.

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

Keith’s take: Texas Lutheran at Sul Ross State. The Bulldogs look to win their sixth straight in the only game that kicks off after 4 ET; the other panelists will be on dates or doing things besides staring into a laptop screen on a Saturday night.
Ryan’s take: Texas Lutheran at Sul Ross State. While the ASC’s traditional big dogs battle it out this week, TLU has a tough one against a rising SRSU to stay in the playoff hunt.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Transcendental at Rare font-Bud-Ships. Listen to the pod to crack the code.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Bridgewater at Washington and Lee. The Eagles are the most impressive unranked unbeaten, in my opinion. The alma mater could throw a wrench in the ODAC race by unseating the Eagles. I’d be there if I didn’t have other, not so D-III plans on Saturday.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Dean at Gallaudet. If Dean wins, the ECFC AQ would go to a team no better than 4-4 or 6-4 (and potentially worse). It might force the NCAA to re-evaluate football playoff access with so few at-large berths left.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: Mt. St. Joseph at Rose-Hulman. But for a brazen Braden Smith two point conversion in Terre Haute, this would be a game between undefeated HCAC squads. Hanover is still going to have a say in how this league turns out, but the winnowing of contenders starts here.

Which WIAC game will be the closest?

Keith’s take: UW-Oshkosh at UW-La Crosse. They haven’t looked like the title contenders we expected, but they do look like they’d battle one another tough.
Ryan’s take: UW-Oshkosh at UW-La Crosse. Hopefully, the Eagles’ defense tightens down after last week.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: UW-River Falls is only 47 miles away, but the Stevens Point-Stout game will have a closer score.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: UW-Oshkosh at UW-La Crosse. The teams have each played three one-score contests this season. The Titans have more riding on this one, while the Eagles try to play spoiler at home. I’ll set the line at UW-Oshkosh -4.5, for entertainment only.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: UW-Oshkosh at UW-La Crosse. I see defenses digging in enough to keep scoring reasonable and close in a game between two strong teams.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: UW-Stevens Point at UW-Stout. Going with recent history here, this series has been decided by seven points or less for six years running.

Pick a team that wears orange and black to win on Halloween week.

Keith’s take: Lewis and Clark. These guys will make easy picks, but yours truly is leaning on a squad that’s allowed 134 points in its past to games to beat Willamette (which has allowed 136).
Ryan’s take: Hendrix. For someone like me who’s color blind, even locating a team with those colors is a win.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Hendrix. Austin will be shooting at the walls of heartache.
Adam Turer
Adam’s take: Ohio Northern. The Polar Bears face winless Capital. The Crusaders have been outscored by an average of 59.7 to 4.5 points per game, the worst margin in all of D-III. That’s scary.
Frank Rossi
Frank’s take: Hendrix (at Austin). I figure the easy choice is ONU over Capital — but when have I ever picked the conventional option? If you don’t believe me, see my Stagg Bowl sideline outfits from the past three years.
Greg Thomas
Greg’s take: Hendrix. The Warriors have had a tough couple of weeks in the SAA, but get back into the win column this weekend at Austin.

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.


Around the Nation Podcast 208: Going for 2

We love a gutsy call. Sure, our job isn’t being put on the line when a coach makes the decision to go for two at the end of a key game, but this is Division III — the coach’s job isn’t really on the line on one play call. We love a little gamble, especially when it pays off. Whether you call a Philly Special (or something that looks similar but fools the broadcaster) or something else, rolling the dice and getting it makes for a great highlight. So, for Marietta and Simpson, which chose to go for two, or Wittenberg, which had no choice, it was a big Week 5, and Pat and Keith honor that by going for two with the Around the Nation Podcast.

Plus, the Little Brass Bell went back home with the team it came with, nobody was trapping Mary Hardin-Baylor or Hardin-Simmons, UW-Whitewater wore UW-La Crosse out and just maybe The Streak is in play this year. Teams mentioned: Denison, Wittenberg, Simpson, Wartburg, Marietta, Ohio Northern, Wheaton, North Central, Hardin-Simmons, Mary Hardin-Baylor, UW-La Crosse, UW-Whitewater, Linfield, Whitworth, Muhlenberg, Franklin & Marshall, St. Thomas, Concordia-Moorhead, Case Western Reserve, Illinois Wesleyan, Susquehanna, Dickinson, Greenville, Westminster (Mo.), Dubuque, Loras, Wisconsin Lutheran, Rockford, Methodist, Huntingdon, Wesley, Southern Virginia, Martin Luther, St. Scholastica, Brockport, St. John Fisher, Worcester State, Fitchburg State, Louisiana College, Sul Ross State, Millsaps, Husson, SUNY-Maritime, FDU-Florham, Misericordia, Dean, Finlandia, Olivet, Moravian, Gettysburg.

That and more on the 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. 

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:

Photo: Video frame grab of Simpson’s two-point conversion to win the game. Note that this frame isn’t intended to try to show whether he got a foot down inbounds, but to show that the line judge is in a better position to make the call than any of us are.

Purchase Football For a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL from Amazon (and gets a buck or so in the process).

Triple Take: Going down the rabbit hole

From a huge rivalry game to a couple of stellar Top 25 matchups, there’s no shortage of things to keep an eye on this week among Division III’s elite.

But if you read our Around the Region columns and listen to the ATN Podcast, you already know how deep the rabbit hole goes with all the stories, teams and players that make up small-college football. There so much more going on than what will fit in this Triple Take space, but Pat Coleman (@d3football), Keith McMillan (@D3Keith) and Ryan Tipps (@NewsTipps) break down the week ahead and some of the games that are on our radars.

Game of the Week.
Ryan’s take: No. 5 Wesley at No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Two Top 5 teams. Perennial deep playoff runs. History of great clashes. New UMHB stadium. New Crusader starting quarterback. Wolverines coming off hail mary win. Saturday under the lights. Pick your reason why this game will be exciting. There’s no wrong answer.
Keith’s take: No. 5 Wesley at No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor. Given that I already wrote about that here though, perhaps some fresh thoughts on No. 22 Cal Lutheran at No. 3 Linfield will suffice? Pacific Lutheran rushed for 234 yards against CLU last week, and Linfield ran for nearly 300 against Hardin-Simmons, including more than 150 from quarterbacks. The Kingsmen, tied at 24, couldn’t get off the field during PLU’s game-winning drive. Linfield might keep it on the ground at key times and eke out yet another win over its class-of-the-West-Coast rival.
Pat’s take: No. 5 Wesley at No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor. Normally we try not to repeat games but let’s be honest, this is it. Once upon a time the Tommie-Johnnie game could have measured up or Linfield-Cal Lutheran, but not this year.

Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Sul Ross State at Trinity.
It’s a bit hard to get a handle on the Lobos since they have yet to take the field against a D-III opponent. Their ability to get a rushing game going against the Tigers’ mid-range run defense will be the key to Sul Ross getting points on the board and staying in this one.
Keith’s take: Louisiana College at Huntingdon. If it was billed as top-level ASC team against team picked to finish middle of USAC, it might sound like it won’t be close, but this will be. The Wildcats and Hawks are each off to very good starts (Huntingdon won 35-7 at ASC member Mississippi College on Sept. 14, and LC has two wins over NAIA teams). The Wildcats dominated Webber International statistically last week, but needed to cap a 16-play drive with the game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds left, partially because 12 penalties for 171 yards set them back. Huntingdon had eight penalties of its own, and completed just 15 passes last week, so unless both teams clean up their acts, the game could stay close because both sides’ miscues keep the other in it.
Pat’s take: Redlands at No. 11 Pacific Lutheran. This game will not be as far apart as a game between a near-Top 10 team and a team not quite receiving votes would expect to be. Both teams have been tested early, and Redlands could well be up to the task.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 23 Baldwin Wallace.
I could see the Yellow Jackets’ game against John Carroll coming down to which offense has the ball last. Both teams put up some wild offensive stats in their first games, and Baldwin Wallace has the most to lose as the team surely has its eyes on a conference prize if Mount Union shows any bit of vulnerability in the next few weeks.
Keith’s take: No major upsets. Wesley and Cal Lutheran won’t count as upsets if they lose to higher-ranked top-25 teams. I’m intrigued by Redlands at No. 11 Pacific Lutheran, Albright hosting No. 21 Delaware Valley and the two top-25 games involving OAC teams, but I wouldn’t pick them in writing.
Pat’s take: No. 21 Delaware Valley. You’d have to believe that Albright is gong to come out more than a little fired up and focused after losing to Stevenson last week and putting the Mustangs … say, on the radar. Albright might not win the MAC this season, but they’re talented enough to knock off a contender, especially one coming to Reading.

They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Stevenson.
The Mustangs are carrying a solid opening set into this Friday night matchup against FDU-Florham. I’ll be interested to see how well they can hang onto the ball after Florham showed last week that it likes to pressure teams into making turnovers. The Devils edged out TCNJ in a low-scoring game thanks primarily to forcing five of them. Stevenson, in only its third year, could prove this week and in the next couple that it is a team ready to contend.
Keith’s take: Ohio Wesleyan. Two of last year’s surprise teams, not just in the NCAC but nationally, meet this week when Kenyon hosts the Battling Bishops. OWU would seem to have the edge, with a week off since its season-opening win over Bluffton and the Lords coming off a 25-15 loss at Earlham in which they gained only 221 yards. With both teams playing Wabash and Wittenberg this season, I’m looking for something to indicate whether QB Mason Espinosa and OWU will be a contender for a conference title. Hey, let’s keep it in the NCAC …
Pat’s take: Hiram. No, seriously. Readers of Kickoff know why I say so — they have a transfer quarterback who played at Notre Dame … even if it is the Division II school in Ohio. Rob Partridge is listed as a freshman in the Terriers’ stats, but don’t let that fool you: He’s actually a senior. And with that experience, he’s going to have Hiram in a lot more games than it would have been in last year. If he plays, that is, since he didn’t finish last week’s game at Denison.

Which 0-2 team will earn its first win?
Ryan’s take: Kean.
While the final score last week appears to have been a thorough beating at the hands of Mary Hardin-Baylor, it belies the closeness of the matchup at halftime, when UMHB had just a 3-0 lead. The Crusaders, of course, made adjustments under center and elsewhere, and took off from there, but the fact that Kean was able to hang with such a good team for such a long time and force a couple of turnovers has to give them confidence going up against Endicott this week.
Keith’s take: Salisbury. The Gulls might take the frustration of losing to two top-25 teams by a total of 10 points out on N.C. Wesleyan. It’s a new season and all, and a fresh coaching staff for the (other) Battling Bishops, but Salisbury won 69-6 at home last year.
Pat’s take: Susqhenanna. In a matchup of 0-2 teams, I take Susquehanna over Dickinson. It’s puzzling how poorly Dickinson has been playing so far this season, while Susquehanna has at least looked decent in one game, at Merchant Marine in the season opener.

Which team is far topping your expectations?
Ryan’s take: Juniata.
You have to go back at least a decade to find a season in which the Eagles have started 2-0. And while coach and Juniata grad Tim Launtz showed last season, in his sophomore year at the helm, that he is serious about turning the team around, he’s following through with that goal splendidly this fall. The next couple weeks could be bumpy for Juniata, with Gettysburg this week then Franklin and Marshall and Johns Hopkins, but there’s a lot for these players to be happy about. Junior quarterback Ward Udinski has 634 passing yards in just two games, with more than 100 yards rushing. This is a team that could sneak up on some of the top teams in the conference if they let their guard down.
Keith’s take: Olivet. I listed a handful of mildly surprising 2-0 teams in Off the Beaten Path, and the Comets get more acknowledgement here not just for winning at Wilmington and then beating Wisconsin Lutheran so far. It’s that there’s no reason it should stop. This week’s opponent, Rockford, is 0-2 and 2-30 since the start of the 2010 season, and 0-2 North Park and 0-2 Alma follow.
Pat’s take: Emory and Henry. So far, at least. Not just beating Ferrum, but crushing them, and then beating Maryville as well. Even though the ODAC has generally owned the USA South in recent years, that’s a convincing butt-kicking of the Panthers. And even though E&H generally beats Ferrum soundly in Emory, it’s still a bit of a surprise to me because I was thinking E&H was on a bit of a downslide.

Color me red.
Ryan’s take: Olivet.
This is another one of those teams that could fall under “far topping my expectations,” but since their uniforms are Scarlet, I get an opportunity to talk about them in this category instead. The Comets have already notched their best season in years. And with Rockford and North Park over the next two weeks before MIAA play begins, it’s no stretch to think Olivet could be 4-0 and looking to rattle some conference cages behind Braden Black at quarterback and his go-to receiver, Dan Hugan. The weakness in their armor, though, is the pass defense (statistically 211th in Division III), which will need to improve if Olivet hopes to take this success to the next level.
Keith’s take: Bates. Hey Ryan, my bad for using Olivet, didn’t know you’d be shooting stars down here when I wrote that. (See what I did there?) Maybe I should have given 2-0 Hope some love instead. The good folks in Michigan will appreciate the Olivet nods, but anyway, Bates … So yeah, the NESCAC gets underway this week, and the Bobcats get conference favorite Trinity right off the bat. I’m responsible for a portion of the Bantams’ also receiving votes in the top 25, so I’m not picking Bates so much as I’m watching to see signs that last year’s 5-3 season was no fluke. Jeff Hetzel and Damon Hatheway were high on Bates in Kickoff, and assuming that quarterback battle is settled, we’ll get an indication of whether that 6-2 prediction could be on the money.
Pat’s take: UW-River Falls. After a close loss to St. John’s and a non-embarrassing loss to No. 2 St. Thomas, it’s time for UW-River Falls to hit the road. While that involves something different than the first two games at home did, I think River Falls will be just a bit on the rise this season.