2015 NCAA Division 3 National Championship Preview
We have reached the pinnacle of the 2015 NCAA Division 3 football season with the Stagg Bowl on Friday, December 18. St. Thomas (MN) and Mount Union will meet to decide the National Champion. The game can be seen on ESPNU at 7 PM Eastern Time. An updated bracket can be found here via the NCAA website.
We have made predictions in each round of the Division 3 playoffs with a 14-2 record in the opening round, 6-2 in the second round, 3-1 in the Quarterfinals, and 2-0 in the Semifinals. That brings us to an overall record of 25-5 entering the Stagg Bowl.
Below is the 2015 NCAA Division 3 National Championship Preview and Prediction.
St. Thomas (MN) Road To Salem
Round 1: Defeated La Verne 57-14 at home
Round 2: Defeated St. John’s (MN) 38-19 at home
Quarterfinal: Defeated Wabash 38-7 at home
Semifinal: Defeated Linfield 38-17 at home
St. Thomas (MN) Tommies Preview
Both teams played all four prior playoff games at home while this game will be held in Salem, Virginia. Both teams has dominated in those four games as well with St. Thomas posting big wins over St. John’s (MN), Wabash, and Linfield all by three or more scores.
St. Thomas has been strong on both sides of the ball. On offense, they have a pretty balanced attack as they average 258 yards on the ground and 271 through the air. That has allowed the offense to put up over 52 points a contest and over 25 first downs per game. The red zone offense is incredible and lethal with 86 trips to the red zone with 69 conversions and 64 touchdowns. The offense is 50% on third down conversions (96 of 191), but they are also not afraid of going for it on fourth down. The Tommies have gone for it 48 times, converting 32 of those (67%).
Senior quarterback John Gould has not put up gaudy at only 204 yards passing per game, but he can get the job done through the air. He has thrown for over 230 yards five times this season. He has completed 60.6% of his passes going 177 of 292 for 2,851 yards with 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He will need to be smart with the ball against a high quality defense like Mount Union.
The running game goes through Jordan Roberts who has amassed 1,957 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground. He showed some signs of being nicked against Linfield, but he still managed to rush for a season high 256 yards in the Semifinal victory. When he needs to be spelled, Jack Kaiser will come in. Kaiser has 405 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. Roberts will be the focus for the St. Thomas offense and the Mount Union defense.
The go to receiver for the offense is Nick Waldvogel with 64 catches for 798 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, look out for tight end Charlie Dowdle on the big play. He has more yards and touchdowns with nearly half as many catches. Dowdle has 37 grabs for 811 yards and 9 touchdowns. Jack Gilliland has 24 catches for 447 yards and 4 touchdowns while Ryan Bradley has 22 catches for 412 yards and 6 scores. There are plenty of options in the passing game for Gould and that does not even include Roberts out of the backfield.
The St. Thomas defense is stout giving up less than 227 yards per game (82 rushing and 145 passing) and only 9.9 points per contest. The Tommies have recovered 23 fumbles and have 12 interceptions. The defense has allowed only 44 conversions on 189 attempts (23%) while allowing only 23 total red zone opportunities in 2015. They have allowed a total of 15 scores on those 23 opportunities.
Steve Harrell is the leading tackler for St. Thomas at 84 while Tim McClanahan has recorded 73 stops. The sacks are disbursed evenly with Jesse Addo atop the charts at 8.5, but Harrell is close with 8, Anthony King-Foreman has 7.5, and Ryan Winter has 6.5. Jordan Young has 4 interceptions in the secondary to lead the team while McClanahan has recovered 3 fumbles. The front seven will need to be strong against Mount Union’s running game as well as their dual threat quarterback.
Paul Graupner is the kicker and has only attempted 12 field goals on the season. He has connected on 8 of those (67%) with a long of 51.
Mount Union Road To Salem
Round 1: Defeated St. Lawrence 55-23 at home
Round 2: Defeated Albright 66-7 at home
Quarterfinal: Defeated Wesley 56-35 at home
Semifinal: Defeated Wisconsin-Whitewater 36-6 at home
Mount Union Purple Raiders Preview
Mount Union did not have any trouble in their first two games with easy wins against St. Lawrence and Albright. Wesley was tougher while Mount Union won comfortably by three scores, but more impressively, they stymied the Warhawks of Wisconsin-Whitewater after giving up the first 6 points and winning 36-6.
Like St. Thomas, Mount Union has been dominant on both offense and defense. The offense puts up 53.6 points per contest and racks up 556 yards a game. The rushing attack is excellent at 318 yards a game while the passing game averages 238 a game. Mount Union is 86 of 171 on third down (50%) and has had 96 red zone opportunities. This is where they really dominant their opponents as they have scored touchdowns on 72 of those trips (75%) and 82 scores overall (85%).
Taurice Scott is the dual threat quarterback for Mount Union. He has thrown for 3,139 yards (65.7%) with 41 touchdowns against only 5 interceptions. He is also the second leading rusher at 800 yards and 12 touchdowns on 107 carries with just one fumble lost. Scott does not make a lot of mistakes, which means the Tommies will have a tough time forcing turnovers.
The rushing attack will lean on Logan Nemeth in addition to Scott. Nemeth has 1,737 yards and 27 touchdowns on 228 carries. Another threat is Bradley Mitchell who has 776 yards and 9 touchdowns on 121 carries. The duo of Nemeth and Scott is bad enough, but Mitchell can pick up chunks too when Nemeth is resting.
Tim Kennedy is the top receiver for Mount Union with 80 catches for 978 yards and 5 touchdowns, but Roman Namdar is close in yardage at 976. Namdar has 59 catches and 19 touchdowns to go along with those 976 receiving yards. Another receiving threat is Jordan Hargrove with 46 catches for 704 yards and 7 touchdowns on the season.
Mount Union’s defense has been incredible, as usual for this program. They allow only 188 yards per game with 44.5 on the ground and 143.8 through the air per contest. The defense has surrendered only 7.5 points a game including posting six shutouts and 11 games in which they have allowed 7 points or less. As a team they have recorded 64 sacks, recovered 14 fumbles, and intercepted 16 passes.
Alex Kocheff leads the team in tackles at 81 from his defensive back position while Tom Lally has 74 tackles from the defensive line. Lally also leads the team in tackles for loss (23.5) and sacks (18), which means he will be a focal point for the St. Thomas offensive line. Mike Furda 15.5 tackles for loss as well as 11.5 sacks. Louis Berry leads the team in interceptions with four despite having limited playing time while Nick Rodriguez has three.
Jake Antel does not have to kick a lot of field goals due to the offense’s incredibly efficiency, but he has converted 11 of his 16 attempts with a long of 44 yards.
St. Thomas has been here before as recently as 2012 when they lost to Mount Union 28-10. Mount Union has been here a lot in the last 20 years. They have made 10 straight Stagg Bowls and 17 of the previous 19 editions. In the last 19 years, Mount Union has won 10 National Titles, but have not won since that 2012 game against St. Thomas.
Both have similar styles in that they like to run the ball, but can have success passing. They also both have strong defenses that do not give up a ton of points either. Despite the stingy offenses, there should be some scoring done by both teams even if it is not done in bunches. Expect a lot of running between St. Thomas’ Jordan Roberts and Mount Union’s Logan Nemeth.
We will take Mount Union and their offense to get the job done as well as doing enough to stop the St. Thomas offense (Jordan Roberts as well). Mount Union takes this game 31-24 to win their 11 Stagg Bowl and first National Championship since 2012.