The final eight teams in the 2016 Division 3 Playoff bracket look like those you would have predicted a couple of weeks ago. The blue bloods like Mount Union and Whitewater are still alive as are some other strong teams. An updated bracket can be found here.
Below are predictions for each of the four games in the Quarterfinal round and we will go by quadrant starting with Mary Hardin-Baylor. In the opening round, we correctly predicted 12 of the 16 games while we went 6-2 in the second round with our predictions.
Mary Hardin-Baylor Region
Wheaton (IL) (11-1) at Mary Hardin-Baylor (12-0)
Game Time: 1 PM Eastern
Wheaton (IL) opened playoffs with an easy 45-10 win at home against Huntingdon. Their second-round matchup was against archrival North Central (IL) on the road and it came down to the fourth quarter. The Thunder were tied at 14 until a field goal in the first minute of the final frame put them up for good 17-14. A soul-crushing 70-yard drive resulted in a Sola Olateju 15 yard touchdown run and a 24-14 lead. Olateju added another rushing score as Wheaton won 31-14.
Mary Hardin-Baylor opened their playoffs with a 50-28 win over a pesky Redlands team. Their second-round opponent was Linfield at home, but the Crusaders were too much on defense. They did not allow an offensive score and held Sam Riddle to 236 yards passing on 26 of 41 and picked him off twice. Blake Jackson accounted for 314 yards of total offense with 2 touchdowns while Markeith Miller had 88 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. MHB won 27-10 with Linfield getting their lone touchdown via a 75-yard punt return from Kennedy Johnson.
Both defenses are stingy. Wheaton allows 13.8 points per game while MHB allows 14.5. Wheaton allows 56.9 yards rushing, 207.2 yards passing, and 264.1 total yards per game. MHB allows 72.7 yards rushing, 224.8 yards passing, and 297.4 total yards per game.
Which offense will get their running game going? Or will it come down to the better passing attack? In a close battle, we like Mary Hardin-Baylor to emerge the victor 17-14. The winner of this game faces Mount Union or Alfred in the Semifinals.
Mount Union (11-1) at Alfred (12-0)
Game Time: 12 PM Eastern
Mount Union played at Hobart in the first round and needed 17 points in the final 17 minutes to pull away for the 38-21 win. In the second round, they needed a fourth-quarter touchdown with Dom Davis hitting Jared Ruth for 30 yards. That gave them a 28-21 lead, which was the eventual final score, but the defense made several stops after the score to preserve the win.
Alfred needed overtime to win their opening-round game at home against Western New England 30-24. After an interception in the first part of OT, Tyler Johnson’s 2-yard plunge gave them the 6 point victory. Alfred needed two red-zone stops (including one on the goal line) to hold on for a 30-24 win at home against Western New England in the second round.
It is very strange to say this, but Mount Union will play their third consecutive road game in the playoffs. To be frank, this Mount Union team has not been dominant in either game, but this time of year dominance does not count, only wins do. And the Purple Road Raiders know how to win in December.
Against JHU, Mount Union put up 381 yards of offense, which was their third-lowest output all season (359 versus John Carroll and 373 at Ohio Northern). In their last four games, the yards per rush has not eclipsed 5.0. The running attack, which has not been bad, will be the key for the offense. The better they do, the better this offense will perform.
For Alfred, if one part of the offense is not efficient, the other part will pick up the slack. Against Bridgewater State, the rush offense had 229 yards with just 176 through the air. Against Western New England, it was the opposite story with 287 yards passing and only 121 yards on the ground. The entire offense will need working against their toughest opponent of the season in Mount Union.
Alfred allows 97.3 yards per game, but have allowed 100 yards in seven different games. This feels like another Mount Union road victory because they are the better team and have too many weapons on both sides of the ball. Alfred will be hyped for this game, but Mount Union wins 31-17. The winner of this game will play the winner of the Wheaton at Mary Hardin-Baylor game.
St. Thomas Region
Wisconsin-Oshkosh (11-1) at St. Thomas (MN) (12-0)
Game Time: 1 PM Eastern
Wisconsin-Oshkosh opened with an easy 49-13 over Washington University with 410 yards rushing including 204 from Mitch Gerhartz. In the second round, Oshkosh had another good game on the ground with 332 yards and it was Dylan Hecker with 198 yards and 3 scores. The Titans allowed just 56 yards passing and 222 yards of total offense in their 31-14 win over St. John’s (MN).
St. Thomas had an easy opening game over Northwestern (MN) 43-0 with 455 yards of offense and a balanced attack. The defense allowed just 162 yards of total offense including 36 on the ground (1.4 yards per carry average). The second round was a breeze as well with a 55-6 crushing of Coe. The offense put up 605 yards with Alex Fenske throwing for 229 and 3 touchdowns, Tucker Trettel rushing for 102 yards and a score, and Josh Parks rushing for 99 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most impressively, St. Thomas held Trevor Heitland to just 43 yards on 24 carries.
This game is all about the rushing offense of Oshkosh that averages 282.8 yards per game against the St. Thomas rush defense that allows just 61.9 yards per game. The Titans have a lot of different rushing options with Hecker (967 yards and 15 touchdowns), Devon Linzenmeyer (735 yards and 10 TDs), and Gerhartz (445 yards and 3 TDs).
In Oshkosh’s games against their two toughest opponents, Whitewater and Platteville, the Titans were able to get the ground attack going and averaged 5.8 yards per game.
St. Thomas has been stout against the run this year, but there was one game in particular where they struggled. That was against Concordia-Moorhead when they allowed 272 yards on the ground and 6.5 yards per carry. The Tommies won barely won that game 23-20 after losing the lead and then getting it back all in the final 30 seconds.
This will be a battle in the trenches. Which line can win the battle upfront and control the game? We like Oshkosh to have success in this game, with a lot of rushing attempts from both teams, but not much scoring. We will take the Titans to win 16-13. The winner of this game faces the winner between John Carroll and Wisconsin-Whitewater.
John Carroll Region
John Carroll (11-1) at Wisconsin-Whitewater (12-0)
Game Time: 1 PM Eastern
John Carroll strolled in their opening round win over Olivet 37-12 thanks to 262 yards and 4 touchdowns passing from Anthony Moeglin. The second round was nail-bitter as they had to go to double overtime to win 20-17 over Wesley. Moeglin’s 14-yard pass to Anthony Leonetti gave them the win. The defense held Wesley to 170 yards of total offense and kept Jamar Baynard in check with 62 yards on 19 carries.
Wisconsin-Whitewater handled Lakeland in the first round 45-27. They had a balanced offensive attack and put up 485 yards with Josh Ringelberg rushing for 142 yards and 3 scores. In the second round, it was Ringelberg again that led the offense with 146 yards on the ground, but the defense was suffocating giving up just a field goal and a fourth-quarter touchdown to win 37-9.
The Whitewater offense will come down to the rushing attack of Drew Patterson (1,044 yards and 15 TDs) and Ringelberg (307 yards and 3 touchdowns), who has come on quite nicely in the Playoffs. That duo will be supplemented by quarterback Cole Wilber who has 1,752 yards (56%) and 10 touchdowns (6 picks) this season.
The one area that is of concern for Whitewater is the pass defense. We mentioned it last week and it never materialized for Wittenberg as Whitewater allowed only 189 yards through the air and intercepted 3 passes. The Warhawks have allowed an average of 290 yards per game in the air. Can Anthony Moeglin take advantage of the secondary? He will need to play mistake-free as he did against Mount Union (18 of 33 for 239 yards and 3 touchdowns), but that has not been the case in the playoffs where he has thrown for 5 interceptions in two games.
John Carroll will need to play a complete and mistake-free game to beat Whitewater. We are going with Whitewater to win this game 30-21. The winner of this game will play either Wisconsin-Oshkosh or St. Thomas (MN).
The four predicted winners of the quarterfinal matchups are Mary Hardin-Baylor, Mount Union, Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Check back next week for the predictions for the semifinals of the 2016 Division 3 Football Playoffs.