2016 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Round 1 Predictions

Wisconsin-Platteville is a surprise entrant in the 2016 Division 3 Football Playoffs. How will they fare? (Photo Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Platteville Athletics)
Wisconsin-Platteville is a surprise entrant in the 2016 Division 3 Football Playoffs. How will they fare? (Photo Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Platteville Athletics)

2016 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Round 1 Predictions

With teams now known for the 2016 Division 3 Football Playoff, it is time for predictions. A total of 16 games will be played in Round 1 and there are some great storylines to watch in both the opening round as well as throughout the entire Playoffs.

A prediction for all 16 games will be provided below and we will go game-by-game in each quadrant. We will start in the upper left quadrant (Mary Hardin-Baylor) and work around the bracket.

Mary Hardin-Baylor Region

Redlands (8-1) at Mary Hardin-Baylor (10-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Redlands will make the trip to Texas for this game and they get a brutal draw. We will not spend much time focusing on this game because Hardin-Baylor will be too much. They have the better offense and better defense. The Crusaders should cruise in this game and we will call for them to win 49-17.

Linfield (8-1) at Hardin-Simmons (9-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

The NCAA Committee decided to split the Texas teams (Mary Hardin-Baylor and Hardin-Simmons) and that meant there would be some road trips. Linfield got the short end of the stick in that regard, but this will be one of the marquee matchups this week.

The quarterbacks will be the guys to watch in this game. Linfield’s Sam Riddle has thrown for 2,714 yards (66.1%) with 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Hardin-Simmons is led by Ryan Breton who has thrown 2,470 yards (66.8%) with 22 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. It sounds obvious to say the quarterback that makes the fewer amount of mistakes will probably lead their team to victory, but that is especially important in the Playoffs.

Both teams have a common opponent this year that is within this region: Mary Hardin-Baylor. Linfield lost 66-27 while Hardin-Simmons lost in a close 20-15 battle. This will probably be a close game and we will go with Linfield to win this 34-31 on the road.

Huntingdon (9-1) at Wheaton (IL) (9-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Huntingdon will be making the trip from Montgomery, Alabama all the way to Wheaton, Illinois. Huntingdon will bring a balanced offense with them as their passing (284.5 yards per game) and rushing (282.8 yards per game) are nearly identical.

The Huntingdon offense will run into the stingy Wheaton defense that only allows 14.2 points per game and 255.1 yards per game. Their rushing defense gives up a paltry 46.5 yards per game and that might spell trouble for the Hawks.

We will take Wheaton to win this game at home 31-10 and they will have a chance at revenging their lone loss in 2016 to North Central in the second round.

Rose-Hulman (8-2) at North Central (10-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

This will be a challenging game for Rose-Hulman because of how complete North Central is. The Cardinals have the better offense and defense while quarterback Broc Rutter has thrown for 2,716 yards (66.8%)  with 34 touchdowns against 4 interceptions. We will take North Central to win 45-17 to move on to round 2.

Alfred Region

Bridgewater State (8-2) at Alfred (10-0)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Bridgewater State started 0-2 with losses by a combined 5 points. They reeled off 8 straight wins while five of those games were decided by 8 points or less. Alfred started with a 35-28 win over fellow D3 Playoff participant Husson and ended the season with a victory over bubble team St. John Fisher 38-17 to win the Empire 8.

Both teams are pretty similar on defense giving up less than 300 yards a game, but the offenses are bit different. Bridgewater State is not as polished in the red zone scoring only 27.4 points per game compared to Alfred’s 37.6 points per game.

Alfred’s three-headed rushing monster of quarterback Tyler Johnson (789 yards and 19 touchdowns), Maleke Fuentes (793 yards and 5 touchdowns), and Casey Bright (767 yards and 3 touchdowns) will be tough to stop. We will take Alfred to win this game 38-20.

Husson (9-1) at Western New England (10-0)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Husson’s lone blemish was to Alfred on the road as mentioned above and since then they have been dominant. Their closest margin of victory in their 9 game win streak was 14 points and their average margin of victory was 28.1 points.

Western New England had a really good season as well and they also blew out most of their opponents. Their season finale 36-29 win against Coast Guard was the lone game decided by less than double digits.

Husson’s run defense has been incredible this year giving up 28.7 yards per game. Their total defense has been just as incredible giving up 162.2 yards per game, but they will be challenged by Western New England’s offense that averages 251.7 rushing yards per game and 460.5 total yards per game. Western’s Nick Connell has 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground so if he can get going, the Golden Bears have a good shot at winning.

We are going to go with the road team, Husson, to win 24-17 this game and advance to the second round.

Mount Union (9-1) at Hobart (9-1)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Another surprise from the Committee was putting Mount Union on the road to start the Playoffs. Their lone blemish was the shocking season finale loss at home to John Carroll 31-28. Hobart lost 21-17 on the road to RPI on October 8, but bounced back to win their final 4 games.

Given how dominant Mount Union has been in the Playoffs it is difficult to pick against them. And we will not be doing that here. The Purple Raiders bounce back from their loss with a crushing 41-13 win over Hobart.

Randolph-Macon (9-1) at Johns Hopkins (10-0)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Randolph-Macon has the better defense here giving up 11.5 points per game and 281.6 yards per game compared to Johns Hopkins’ 18.5 points per game and 358.8 yards per game allowed. However, the offensive advantage goes to Hopkins with 43.4 points and 521.1 yards per game compared to Macon’s 31.2 points and 402.2 yards per game.

Hopkins will be tested by Macon’s top running back Tre Frederick who has rushed for 1,345 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hopkins will want to stop him because that will force Macon to throw the ball and they are not particularly stellar at that. Macon averages just 178.6 yards per game and Joseph Vairo has 1,276 yards (61%) with 10 touchdowns against 8 interceptions on the season.

Hopkins will rely on quarterback Jonathan Germano who has thrown for 2,820 yards (65.7%) with 26 touchdowns, but has also thrown 12 interceptions. Germano can run the ball as well with 383 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing, but the top back is Ryan Cary with 904 yards and 14 touchdowns this year.

We will take Johns Hopkins to squeeze this win out at home 27-24. The run game and turnover battle will be key here. The downside to winning this game? You are likely to face Mount Union in the second round.

St. Thomas Region

Northwestern (MN) (9-1) at St. Thomas (10-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Northwestern is making their first ever Division 3 Playoff appearance and they are treated to a road trip to the 2015 National Runners Up, St. Thomas. The good thing for Northwestern is they will not have to face workhorse Jordan Roberts who was so instrumental to the Tommies in 2015. He graduated, but the offense is still potent.

The Tommies average 48.3 points and 474.2 yards per game. Alex Fenske will lead the offense while the duo of Tucker Trettel (771 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns) and Josh Parks (673 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns) will lead the ground game. The defense will be tough to score on as well giving up 12 points per game, 213.5 yards per game, and only 65.1 yards rushing per game.

For Northwestern, the game will be an uphill battle. They do not have enough offense to get the points needed as they average 324.8 total yards per game. The defense was good this year giving up 11.8 points per game and 325 yards per game, but the Tommies offense is above and beyond anything they have seen this year.

We are going with St. Thomas to win this one 56-7 as they look to take their season to the final step and win the National Championship.

Monmouth (10-0) at Coe (10-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

This looks like a pretty evenly matched game. Both teams can put up points and play some good defense. The offenses have good running backs and quarterbacks who do not turn the ball over a lot.

Monmouth will be led by quarterback Tanner Matlick who has thrown for 2,322 yards (73.1%), 27 touchdowns, and only 3 picks this year. Running back DeAndre Wright has gained 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Monmouth has only turned the ball over 9 times in 2016.

Coe has a pretty good duo of their own in quarterback Gavin Glenn (2,244 yards with 64.1% completions, 24 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions) and running back Trevor Heitland (1,619 yards and 13 touchdowns). Hietland is also a threat out of the backfield with 33 catches for 438 yards and 5 touchdowns. In Coe’s three closest games this year (Wartburg, Central, and Dubuque), he had at least 200 yards in each game and finished with 630 yards and 3 touchdowns over those contests.

This game may come down to defense and Monmouth holds the advantage here. They have allowed only 8.4 points and 199 yards per game compared to Coe’s 16.9 points and 302 yards per game. This will be a close game and we will take Monmouth on the road 27-24.

Wisconsin-Platteville (8-2) at St. John’s (MN) (9-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

This is another big first round matchup and the WIAC’s third tournament team is on the road. Platteville’s two losses were to Whitewater and Oshkosh by a combined 15 points. St. John’s lost to St. Thomas 33-21 in their only blemish.

Platteville will rely on their senior quarterback Tom Kelly who has thrown for 2,727 yards (59.1%) with 36 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. If he is on the same page with receivers Quinn Buschbacher (73 catches for 688 yards and 8 touchdowns) and Dan Arnold (58 catches for 1,108 yards and 15 touchdowns) the Pioneers will be tough to beat.

St. John’s will be reliant on their rush game, but there is not one player that will be the main focus. They will use a committee of players to get the run game going, but it is hard to argue with the results: the Johnnies average 231.8 yards per game on the ground.

St. John’s would like to stop the run and they have the stronger defense, but they have not faced a passing attack like this. Platteville will give up yards, but this may go down to the last drive. We will take Platteville to win 30-27.

Washington U. (8-2) at Wisconsin-Oshkosh (9-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Washington had double digit losses to Centre and Case Western at home Reserve during the regular season. Meanwhile, Oshkosh came up a field goal short in their 17-14 loss at Whitewater.

The defense for Washington is not particularly good giving up 30.9 points per game and 503.4 yards per game. The rushing game for Oshkosh should have a field day as they average 265.1 yards per game and Washington surrenders 242.6 per game. We are going with Oshkosh to win big 66-10 and easily make the second round.

John Carroll Region

Olivet (9-1) at John Carroll (9-1)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Olivet was obliterated by St. John Fisher on the road 52-10 while John Carroll lost at Oshkosh 33-14 on the road. Both of those games were in the opening week and both teams went on 9 game winning streaks to end the season. John Carroll ended the season with the massive upset of Mount Union on the road 31-28 that set off a chain of events not seen in recent years (Mount Union on the road to start the playoffs and various streaks ended).

This game favors John Carroll mainly because they have the better defense giving up 12.4 points and 225.7 yards per game. Olivet has a mediocre defense that gives up 24.7 points per game and 324.7 yards per game. They have a good rush defense at 64.8 yards allowed per game, but remember their game against St. John Fisher. Olivet gave up 281 yards on the ground and 492 yards of total offense.

It may be the same thing this week and we will call for John Carroll to win this game 59-13.

Stevenson (9-1) at Wesley (8-2)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

 Stevenson’s lone blemish came at home to Wilkes 38-35 when they surrendered 536 yards of offense and their own offense went 4 of 15 on 3rd down. Wesley had a rough start to the season with losses to Delaware Valley (21-14) and Christopher Newport (42-28) in the first three weeks. They rebounded to win the final seven games and most of those were blowouts.

Stevenson does not have an overwhelming offense as they put up 360.7 yards per game, but do score 36.7 points per contest. Dan Williams has 2,146 yards (63.6%) with 24 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. If Devonte Williams (549 yards rushing with 4 touchdowns) is running the ball well, the Mustangs have a good chance in this game. The defense gives up 317.5 yards per game and 17.1 points per game. They will be tested by Wesley’s offense.

Nick Falkenberg has taken over the last three games at quarterback for Wesley and the offense has been spurred by it. He has thrown for 863 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in the last three games. Receivers Bryce Shade (49 catches for 927 yards and 8 touchdowns) and Alex Kemp (46 catches for 770 and 10 touchdowns) will get the bulk of looks from Falkenberg. Jamar Baynard has run for 924 yards with 14 touchdowns and he will need to help the passing game out with some solid rushing yardage.

Wesley is favored here and we will take them to win in a close game 28-24. They will do enough on offense (and defense) to pull out the victory and reach the second round.

Wittenberg (9-1) at Thomas More (9-1)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Wittenberg lost to Denison on the road 24-21 midway through the season, but their following four games were impressive as they won every game by 30+ points and had an average margin of victory of 39 points. Thomas More lost their opener at Franklin 43-39, but won the next 9 games.

Wittenberg has a bend, but do not break defense giving up 9.6 points per game and 310.6 yards per game. They will be fully stretched by Thomas More’s offense that puts up 517.9 yards per game and 42.8 points per game. Jake Kennedy has thrown for 2,059 yards (60.7%) with 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions as well as running for 489 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground, but he will need someone to step up on the offense to help out. It may take a combination effort of Deshawn Sarley (679 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns) and Nick Kendall (494 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns), but Kennedy needs help.

Thomas More has a potent offense that will rely on a four man rushing crew: CT Tarrant (1,064 yards and 16 touchdowns), Hjavier Pitts (740 yards and 6 touchdowns), Luke Zajac (481 yards and 6 touchdowns), and quarterback Brenan Kuntz (367 yards and 3 touchdowns). Kuntz can also sling the ball with 2,396 yards (56.9%) with 25 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Wittenberg’s defense has allowed only 69.6 yards rushing per game this year while Thomas More’s worst rushing performance was a 186 yard effort in the season finale against Thiel. They won that game 63-16 with Kuntz throwing for 345 yards with 3 touchdowns and no picks.

We will take Thomas More to win this game thanks to their offense. They will do enough rushing to get past Wittenberg 31-27.

Lakeland (7-3) at Wisconsin-Whitewater (10-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Lakeland has faced a UW system school this season in Platteville and it ended terribly as they lost 56-0. Lakeland finished with 160 yards of total offense, threw 3 interceptions, and had 5 fumbles (lost only 1).

Whitewater will cruise in this one and the only real question is will Lakeland put up points against a WIAC team in 2016? We think not as the Warhawks will have their way in a 63-0 win.


Below are all the teams picked to win by region.

Mary Hardin-Baylor Region

Mary Hardin-Baylor, Linfield, Wheaton (IL), North Central

Alfred Region

Alfred, Husson, Mount Union, Johns Hopkins

St. Thomas Region

St. Thomas, Monmouth (IL), Platteville, Oshkosh

John Carroll Region

John Carroll, Wesley, Thomas More, Whitewater

Check back next week for the Round 2 predictions for the 2016 Division 3 Football Playoffs