Triple Take: Let’s get this 2015 thing started

It’s been a long time since we last saw a Division III game that counted. The Stagg Bowl was way back on Dec. 19, a mere 258 days ago. It’s been a longer wait for the 240-odd teams whose seasons ended before Salem, and still longer for McMurry, which returns to D-III after leaving following the 2011 season. Belhaven comes over from NAIA, and has never played a D-III game; Neither has Finlandia, which plays its program’s first game Saturday against Alma.

There are six Thursday night games, 12 on Friday and 92 on Saturday. Subtract the seven non-D-III opponents, and 195 of the record 247 teams that will play D-III football this season are in action on opening weekend.

Enjoy it. Whether you’re playing, watching or involved in game day some other way, it’s a three-hour break from everything else in the world. It’s a chance to see old friends and make new ones, to watch some players dig deep and pull out something from inside that they didn’t even know they had. It’s a chance to watch student-athletes who won’t forgo the first part of that deal.

I played tackle football for 13 consecutive seasons, between Pop Warner in Somerville, Mass., high school in Runnemede, N.J. and at Randolph-Macon in Ashland, Va. In that picture below, which was taken in one of my first seasons writing for, I’m 23. Which reminds me that I’ve now not been playing football for more consecutive autumns than I played. All of which is to say, this weekend, if you’re a player, coach, parent or fan, take it all in and savor it. It goes by quickly. Teams only get eight to ten game days a season, unless they play really well and advance through the playoffs. But as those accustomed to playing 15 weeks would tell you, greatness happens one game at a time (a UW-Whitewater standard) and starts with respecting your opponent (something I’ve heard more than once at Mount Union).

Respect the game. Enjoy it. Savor it. Finally, it’s back.

— Keith McMillan

Triple Take is our weekly predictions column. Typically it appears on Friday morning, but with games kicking off on Thursday night, we’re presenting it a few hours early.

Game of the week

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No. 19 St. John Fisher at No. 23 Thomas More. You can’t really go wrong with a clash of ranked teams to kick things off. There’s lots to see here; The Saints (that’s Thomas More, not the school with ‘Saint’ in its name) opened with Wesley last year and stood up to the national power in a 35-21 loss. This game will be a challenge as well, and maybe one the Saints can pull off on the way to a PAC title. But TMC will have to do it without graduated All-American running back Domonique Hayden. SJFC is among the best in an expanded Empire 8, and the Cardinals will have a rough game nearly every week. They can’t afford to start 0-1.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: No. 10 Wabash at Hampden-Sydney. As a Wabash grad, I’m coming out of the Triple Take gate playing the homer card. Wabash will probably be a better team than it was in 2014; Sydney is projected to be down a little. But that doesn’t take away from the quality of this matchup. As I talked about last year in my preseason Around the Nation column, the meeting between them is historic, as Wabash and H-SC are the only two D-III schools that abide by an all-male classroom atmosphere. And this is the first home-and-home series between them on the gridiron. I had talked with coaches and administrators at the schools as far back as 2008 about something like this taking place, and I’m excited that their enthusiasm translated into reality. Last year finished with a 34-21 Wabash win in Indiana. Kudos to both schools for putting a challenging nonconference game on their schedules. (Also, this is where I’ll be spending opening weekend.)
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Rowan at No. 12 Widener. There are a lot of good games this week, right out of the chute. I like this one, in part because it’s now Rowan’s only non-conference game, and I wouldn’t mind at all if these teams played every year. There’s reason to have at least a couple of questions about Widener this year, based on who graduated, but I’ll also be intrigued to see how Rowan’s retooled offense works out. Goodbye spread, hello power offense. Should be interesting. Rowan would like nothing more than to slip back across the Commodore Barry Bridge with a signature win.

Surprisingly close game

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: MIT at WPI. The Engineers … oh wait, they’re both Engineers. MIT had a magical undefeated season last year, but they pulled out multiple close wins, and that will be difficult to replicate, especially with five of the first six games on the road. I think they do it once more in this Week 1 Friday nighter, even though Zach Grasis and WPI will grind it out and make MIT earn it.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Mount St. Joseph at Augustana. I’m not ready yet to buy into this Lions team as being one of the better ones of recent years — we’ll see in a few weeks if they’re competing for the HCAC’s title. They lost a lot of starters and will have to break in a new (potentially young) quarterback. Last year, Mount St. Joseph showed no mercy against Augustana, being up 37-17 going into the fourth quarter before surging to a 58-25 win. Augustana has a new coach and is tailoring its offensive approach, giving them room to put more points on the board this time around.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Alma at Finlandia. I mean, Finlandia isn’t surprisingly close to anyone in a geographic sense. Alma is the closest in-state rival and the Scots will still need to take a seven-hour bus ride to get to Finlandia. (I’m closer and I live two states away.) I’m hoping for a good game in Finlandia’s first-ever football game. A win might be too much to ask for but Alma (six wins in four seasons) hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire of late.

Most likely Top 25 team to be upset

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No. 12 Widener, against Rowan. Considering Thomas More over St. John Fisher would be fudging, this is the only logical option. The Profs bring back their star on offense, might find a role for a former star from Lafayette, and will take a short trip over the bridge, possibly bringing along the support a home team would have. Rowan isn’t favored against a Widener team that was in last season’s final eight, but they have a shot.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Bethel. There’s not much jumping out in the inaugural week of college football as a safe — or even likely — bet for this category. Bethel graduated its conference MVP-winning quarterback, so if there’s ever going to be rust on the wheels that a team like UW-Stout could exploit, it’s going to be in Week 1.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: None. And considering this is the first week, and the first-week poll always has the most questions, that’s saying something. I’ve mentioned Widener above and there’s another team out there who tends to struggle with its Week 1 opponent but honestly, they always win when I pick against them so it’s time to stop trying. Chalk in Week 1.

Which team that finished strong in 2014 is going to have the biggest Week 1 letdown?

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Curry. The Colonels won their final three after an 0-7 start, but it was slightly misleading, because two of the wins were against 1-9 Nichols and 3-6 Maine Maritime. To start 2015 off right, Curry must win under the lights on Friday night at Bridgewater State, which brings back seven on each side of the ball from a 5-5 team. The Colonels have about the same number of starters back, and the benefit of unfamiliarity; The schools, not far from one another in Massachusetts, south of Boston, did not play last season.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Rowan. The Profs ended the last regular season with three straight wins, a share of the NJAC conference title and a trip to the playoffs. But also like last year, they’ll kickoff another season going up against Widener. The thoroughly battle-tested Pride are shaping up to be just as formidable as they proved to be in 2014, and the Profs are going to have a tough go of it right from the start.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Morrisville State (vs. St. Lawrence). This is the week we’ll get to find out how much of the Mustangs’ 2014 surge was the Lemar Johnson show. Meanwhile, St. Lawrence has legitimate reasons to think it can contend for the playoffs, and not in a 5-5, manage-to-snag-the-automatic-bid way. SLU slipped early last season but isn’t likely to let that happen again.

Which lopsided matchup would you most like to be more competitive?

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: No.13 Johns Hopkins at Randolph-Macon. In Week 1 last year, my alma mater was a seven-win team with its star quarterback back, going up to face the perennially ranked Blue Jays. They lost, 42-3. The quarterback is now a member of the coaching staff. And Johns Hopkins is still ranked 13th. Do I need more than that?
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Guilford at Greensboro. I’m certainly not begrudging Guilford for stepping up its game and showing on the field that it is ready and determined to make a playoff run this fall. But this crosstown rivalry represents something more than just a W or an L for the teams — it’s also charity event known as the Gate City Soup Bowl. People who come get their admission fee waived if they bring canned goods to donate. Success of the food drive means getting people to the stadium; getting them to the stadium means presenting them with an exciting game to watch. Guilford has owned most of the history of this series, capped with last year’s 52-0 victory. It would be fun to see these two teams grind out a close matchup in this 19th meeting, but I fear that may not come to pass.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Bethany at No. 2 Mount Union. I mean, just for variety’s sake. Let’s see the new Mount Union offense put through its paces for more than a couple of quarters. Not expecting anything outlandish, but wouldn’t it be nice to see the Machine need to disengage the cruise control?

Pick a color: Green or yellow

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: Yes. We’ll be watching to see if Illinois Wesleyan (green) is a CCIW challenger, in its opener against usually-the-class-of-the-HCAC Franklin (yellow). Since I’m supposed to choose, give me our preseason No. 59 IWU, with its eight returning starters on offense and nine on D, in a mild upset over No. 50. Kickoff projected the Titans to go 8-2 off a 4-6 2014.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Green, of Belhaven. Good riddance to the NAIA and welcome to Division III! And, of course, welcome back to D-III Coach Mumme. It’s likely the Blazers will begin their tenure here with a win.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Green. With St. Norbert, under a new coach again, its third in three years, hosting Carthage, which has fallen so far that they’re a unanimous pick to finish behind North Park, the CCIW’s doormat of the decades.

They’ll be on your radar

Keith McMillan
Keith’s take: McMurry. Both teams in the St. Lawrence-Morrisville State game intrigue me, but since Pat touched on that one above, and Ryan mentioned Belhaven, let’s go with the War Hawks. I’m curious about what kind of team they’ll field after recruiting scholarship athletes in Texas for a few years, only to lose some of them when they moved back to a non-scholarship model.
Ryan Tipps
Ryan’s take: Stevenson. The Mustangs made some noise en route to their best performance in the MAC ever. But can they sustain having improved their record so drastically? Moreover, can they really make the surge count and compete for a title spot (or at least a Pool C bid)? The opener against N.C. Wesleyan is winnable, but it’ll be more challenging this year to put up 40 points like in 2014.
Pat Coleman
Pat’s take: Delaware Valley. Also green, and yellow (OK, really it’s gold). And those things I said about what Widener lost over the offseason go triple for Del Val, which lost an NFL prospect wide receiver, one of its best-ever quarterbacks, and basically starts over in terms of returning starters. But Montclair doesn’t have the type of offense that will let them run away and hide from people, so I expect the Aggies to hang in this game and keep it close longer than one might otherwise expect from them this season. Should be an interesting year in Doylestown, Pa.

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

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.

Triple Take: Some still to debut

Squaring off against teammates during camp is one thing, but one of the most interesting things to watch is a team’s improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, after it gets that first real game under its belt. Do these squads have an advantage over teams that are debuting this week? Many would argue so, and there’s certainly some evidence of it in past seasons.

But, of course, there’s more to it than that. Below, check out who Pat, Keith and I are keeping an eye on this week:

Game of the Week
Ryan’s take: No. 4 Hardin-Simmons at Linfield.
For the Cowboys, the wear and tear of a long road trip could be balanced by the one game they already have in the bank, compared with their debuting opponent. Last week, HSU proved its determination and what kind of team it has the potential to be once all elements on offense, defense and special teams come together. I never take a Northwest Conference team for granted, but with as much as HSU has going for it, I hope this is a more balanced pick than my choice for last Saturday’s Game of the Week.
Keith’s take: No. 7 UW-Stevens Point at Central. The bigger names will be in Oregon, and a nod to the Cowboys and Wildcats for keeping their high-profile series going. The Pointers’ visit to Pella, Iowa however might tell us more about where this season is headed. UW-SP got a early-season test against a quality Division III opponent, something that seems difficult for WIAC schools to do. If they show well, they could be a team that defeats Whitewater again. Same with Central, national observers want to see if this is a team that will regain its place among IIAC contenders (likely) and cause trouble in the West Region playoff picture.
Pat’s take: No. 18 Montclair State at Wilkes. This is especially for those who like defense. It’s the third year in a row the teams have played and nobody has scored more than 14 points in either of the two previous meetings. Wilkes set the tone with a 14-12 win against Muhlenberg in Week 1 and is trying to shake off back-to-back 4-6 seasons after going 11-1 in 2006.

Surprisingly close game
Ryan’s take: No. 8 Ithaca at Union.
The Bombers can’t let their 45-0 drubbing on St. Lawrence get to their heads. In almost every category, Union will be an improvement over Ithaca’s Week 1 matchup — and if Matt Scalice & Co. can’t put the brakes on Hobart rusher Chris Coney, points will start racking up fast.
Keith’s take: Cal Lutheran at Willamette. Just because they’re fuming from last week’s upset, don’t think the Bearcats win easy. The Kingsmen have to travel from Malibu up the coast to Oregon, but they’re bringing 18 starters on the trip, including quarterback Jericho Toilolo. A seven-win team last season, Cal Lutheran will throw a scare into Willamette.
Pat’s take: Buffalo State at St. John Fisher. If it were a game of fan morale, I would suspect Buffalo State wins in a blowout. But Fisher is the better team on paper and is playing at home. I just don’t think they are going to handle Buff State the way they should. Fisher still wins but … it’s surprisingly close.

Most likely Top 25 team to get upset
Ryan’s take: No. 17 Hobart.
Here’s another team that will get dogged by the fact that it is debuting against a tough opponent that already has a game — and a win — under its belt. The Statesmen’s defense will have to play one of its best games of the season against the 1-2-3 punch of Mitchell, O’Connor and Lord, which will feel more like a 7-8-9 punch by the time the day is over.
Keith’s take: No. 11 St. John’s. It’s never wise to go against the Johnnies, but if they needed 14 points in the final 8:38 to get past UW-River Falls in Week 1, we’ve got to assume UW-Eau Claire — four spots higher in the WIAC preseason poll and three more wins last season — will be more trouble. Not that football usually goes as you’d expect. The Blugolds took a 14-0 lead nine minutes into their opener against NAIA Bethel (Tenn.) last week and went on to win, so the Johnnies don’t even have the ‘played one more game’ advantage.
Pat’s take: None. I think Franklin will struggle, but losing to Butler wouldn’t really be an upset in my mind. Well, maybe Montclair State. Or Wheaton. Or St. John’s. But I don’t have that lock feeling about any of them the way I did last week.

They’ll be on your radar
Ryan’s take: Grove City.
The Wolverines went toe-to-toe with possibly the Centennial’s best team last week, even leading by a hair early in the fourth quarter. With Carnegie Mellon on tap for Saturday, Grove City has another chance to showcase its massive multi-pronged offense — only this time for a win.
Keith’s take: Curry. Mostly because I’ll be there. But also because the NEFC (whose schedule also features Endicott playing RPI, Coast Guard taking on rival Merchant Marine and Fitchburg State introducing Anna Maria to the world of established Division III programs) is gaining in stature and has a MAC contender (Widener) coming to Milton. Play tough opponents and we will come.
Pat’s take: Beloit. The Buccaneers won’t end up being contenders in the Midwest Conference, to be sure, not ahead of Monmouth and St. Norbert, but Beloit is keyed on this week’s game against Carroll. Beloit lost 10-0 on the road last year, a game which kept the program from its first winning season since 2002. But Beloit at 2-0 for the first time this century? Could happen.

Team playing its opener you’re most curious about
Ryan’s take: No. 16 Wabash.
Yeah, I’m playing the homer card, but for good reason: The Little Giants had some key holes to fill this year on the defensive line and will be going up a Denison team that ran for 275 yards in its opener. Not to mention that as Wabash itself tries to establish a ground game, it will face two solid linebackers in Bill Aukerman and Taylor Dlouhy — with the Little Giants possibly being forced into a more one-dimensional offense with the pass.
Keith’s take: No. 5 Wheaton. Eager to see how the Thunder perform against Bethel for a few reasons. First, a top-half CCIW team vs. top-half MIAC team is usually going to be a good game. Second, we hear change is afoot at Wheaton, although we’re sworn to secrecy until Saturday afternoon. Third, after Ohio Northern upset conference rival North Central — not to mention the apple cart — the Thunder is playing for CCIW pride. A win probably makes Wheaton the highest-ranked conference team until at least the Augustana game Oct. 10.
Pat’s take: No. 7 UW-Stevens Point. Did the Pointers save all their emotion for the UW-Whitewater game last year and forget to play the rest of the season? They needed overtime at home to beat Oshkosh, beat Eau Claire by one and then lost at home to Wartburg. They do have 17 starters back, including 10 on offense, but they could stand for that offense to be a little more effective, especially on the ground.

The MAC and MIAC are undefeated; which of these two conferences comes closest to maintaining that torch in Week 2?
Ryan’s take: The MAC.
There isn’t a game on this week’s schedule that isn’t winnable, but the tough slate (including Curry, Montclair State, Alfred, Rowan) should be worth a lot of recognition and prove that the conference is again ready to be mentioned among the nation’s big boys. A 6-2 outing is more likely, but an 8-0 result isn’t out of the question.
Keith’s take: The MIAC. I realize this goes against the St. John’s pick above, but I also realize how Ryan carefully worded the question. “Comes closest” … I honestly see the MAC struggling with a slate of Montclair State, Rowan, Curry, Alfred, Kean, Springfield, Western Connecticut and Ursinus more than the MIAC against its nine opponents.
Pat’s take: The MAC. The MIAC has at least four very losable games and probably only three locks. If Gustavus Adolphus, St. John’s, Bethel and Augsburg all win, I’d be surprised.

Which potential shootout will tally the most points from its two teams combined?
Ryan’s take: Gettysburg at Hampden-Sydney.
In Week 1, these two teams combined for 97 points and 1,199 yards. And the teams they earned those stats again hardly qualify as pushovers. The Tigers should emerge from this OK Corral the victors, but it won’t be easy.
Keith’s take: Carthage at Hope. If you’re looking for fireworks, one could do worse than a game that ended 70-46 last season. The Red Men have quarterback Evan Jones back under center, while the Flying Dutchmen have a new QB, but eight other offensive starters back and a game under their belts.
Pat’s take: St. Scholastica at Maranatha Baptist. What? Ryan took the obvious answer already. But a young program against a undermanned but spirited program could be quite entertaining.