The 2016 Stagg Bowl is nearly here. Two teams remain after an exciting 2016 Division 3 Football Playoff. For the first time since 2004, neither Mount Union nor Wisconsin-Whitewater will be playing in the Stagg Bowl. That game was won by Linfield 28-21 over Mary Hardin-Baylor, a team that will appear in this year’s edition.
The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh will meet Mary Hardin-Baylor to decide this year’s Division 3 National Championship. This game will take place from Salem Stadium in Salem, Virginia on Friday, December 16. The game can be seen on ESPNU starting at 7 PM Eastern Time.
Through four rounds, our predictions have gone 22-8. Below are the links to our predictions for the previous rounds along with the record for that round.
Below is the 2016 Division 3 National Championship Game preview and we will also provide a prediction for this matchup.
Wisconsin-Oshkosh Road To The National Championship
First Round: Defeated Washington U. 49-13 at home
Second Round: Defeated St. John’s (MN) 31-14 at home
Quarterfinals: Defeated St. Thomas (MN) 34-31 on the road
Semifinals: Defeated John Carroll 10-3 at home
Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans Preview
Wisconsin-Oshkosh went 9-1 in the regular season with their lone blemish being a 17-14 loss at Wisconsin-Whitewater. Their rushing attack led them to easy wins in the first two rounds (371 yards per game) over Washington University and St. John’s (MN). The passing attack led the team in the Quarterfinal against St. Thomas (MN) with 237 yards while the defense forced 8 turnovers. Surprisingly, they only won by a field goal 34-31.
The Semifinal game versus John Carroll was a defensive slugfest. The Titans gained just 214 yards of offense with 133 coming on the ground. A Brett Kasper bootleg was the lone touchdown, and the difference, in the game. All 13 points from both teams came in the second half and the Oshkosh defense forced three interceptions out of Anthony Moeglin.
The Titans have a potent run-first offense. They average 454.3 yards per game with 263.9 yards on the ground and 190.4 yards through the air. They have averaged 38.3 points per game this season. Brett Kasper is not an overwhelming presence throwing the ball, but he is effective. He has thrown 2,404 yards (60.5%) with 19 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. In the Playoffs, he has thrown for 607 yards (55.4%) with 6 touchdowns against just 1 interception and 5 sacks taken. It may be up to his arm if the Titans are to win this game.
The Titans will be using the running back duo of Dylan Hecker and Devon Linzenmeyer for their ground assault. Hecker has rushed for 1,113 yards with 16 touchdowns and averages 6.4 yards per carry. After missing the Washington U. game, Hecker has rushed for 344 yards and 4 touchdowns in the last 3 games. Linzenmeyer has 848 yards and 10 touchdowns with an average of 7.6 yards per carry. He has played in all four Playoff games and has 261 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Kasper will have several different receivers to throw to. Dom Todarello has 40 catches for 532 yards and 6 touchdowns, but he may also see some carries. He has 29 rushes for 294 yards on the season. CJ Blackburn has 30 catches for 383 yards and 2 touchdowns while Sam Mentkowski has 23 catches for 424 yards and 4 touchdowns. Mentkowski had a big game against St. Thomas with 7 catches for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns. Could he or another receiver be needed to be the difference in this game?
The defense for Oshkosh has allowed 269.1 yards and 12.9 points per game. They allow 160.1 yards passing and 109 yards rushing per contest. The Titans are led by the formidable linebackers Reese Dziedzic, Steve Forner, and Branden Lloyd, who are 1-2-3 in tackles with 87, 61, and 60, respectively. The Titans have 23 sacks this year with Lloyd leading the team at 5.5 and also leads the team in tackles for loss with 11. Forner is second with 8 tackles for loss while Dziedzic has 7, which is third on the team.
Mary Hardin-Baylor may not want to throw in the general vicinity of Johnny Eagen. He has 8 interceptions on the year and Cole Yoder is second with 5. The defense overall has forced 40 turnovers (26 picks and 14 fumbles recovered).
Turner Geisthardt has an average of 40.2 yards per punt from 49 boots. 16 have landed inside the 20-yard line and only 1 has been blocked. The field goal duties will fall to Eli Wettstein. He has gone 16 of 22 on field goals (73%) with a long of 50 yards while making 62 of 67 extra points (93%).
Mary Hardin-Baylor Road To The National Championship
First Round: Defeated Redlands 50-28 at home
Second Round: Defeated Linfield 27-10 at home
Quarterfinals: Defeated Wheaton (IL) 38-16 at home
Semifinals: Defeated Mount Union 14-12 at home
Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders Preview
A 10-0 regular season allowed Mary Hardin-Baylor to hold de facto home-field advantage throughout the Playoffs until the National Championship game. They opened with a 50-28 win over pesky Redlands and then shut down Linfield’s offense in a 27-10 victory. Their Quarterfinal game was against Wheaton (IL) and the 38-16 scoreline does not represent how defensive the game was. It was 10-3 in favor of the Cru at the half before a punt blocked recovered for a touchdown and an interception for a touchdown made it a two-score lead. A couple of big offensive plays in the final 17 minutes made a 24-16 game look a lot more comfortable than it was.
The Semifinal game versus Mount Union was a gritty contest. The Cru led 7-6 at halftime, scored a late third-quarter touchdown, and then needed to hold on. They allowed a touchdown to the Purple Raiders but stopped them on the two-point conversion before Ajay Fanene stopped Mount Union on their final offensive possession with an interception on a screen pass. To cap it off, the Cru decided to throw a fake punt pass on fourth and four to ice the game.
MHB averages 49.4 points and 483.3 yards per game on offense in a balanced attack. They gain 237 yards per game through the air and 246.3 on the ground. The offense will run through Blake Jackson who can hurt defenses with both his arm and feet. He has thrown for 3,111 yards (66.2%) with 35 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He also has 785 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing this season. In the Playoffs, Jackson has thrown for 809 yards with 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions while rushing for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Jackson’s backfield partner is Markeith Miller, who has rushed for 1,472 yards with 20 touchdowns and an average of 7.3 yards per rush. Miller has 444 yards and 6 touchdowns in the Playoffs but was held in check against Mount Union to the tune of 28 yards on 18 carries.
The receiving unit has four different options for Jackson. T.J. Josey is the leading receiver with 50 catches for 1,006 yards and 8 touchdowns. He too was held down against Mount Union with only 2 catches for 2 yards. Bryce Wilkerson has 47 grabs for 651 yards and 9 touchdowns, DeNerian Thomas has 42 catches for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns, and Wykeyhe Walker has 38 catches for 501 yards and 7 touchdowns.
The defense allows just 14.4 points and 294.1 yards per game. The rush defense is stingy allowing 76.6 yards per game while the pass defense allows 217.4 yards per game. Keith Reineke leads the team in tackles with 112 and Baylor Mullins is not too far behind at 93. Five different players have at last 10 tackles for loss led by Teidrick Smith with 22.5. Smith also leads the team in sacks with 14.5 while Haston Adams and Ajay Fanene both are tied in second with 5.5 sacks.
Baylor Mullins leads the team in interceptions with 6 while Raylon Hickey has 4 and four other players have 3 each. The defense has 45 turnovers this year with 32 interceptions and 13 fumbles recovered.
Mullins doubles as the punter as well and he has averaged 35.5 yards per punt (48 punts) and has pinned 23 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. John Mowery is the field goal kicker, but he is shaking making just 8 of 15 with a long of 42 yards.
Neither team has ever won the Stagg Bowl and only Mary Hardin-Baylor has previously played in a Stagg Bowl (2004). This year’s edition feels like a very defensive game. Both teams like to run the ball, yet both teams want to stop the run on defense. This game will come down to which team avoids the mistake. A missed open-field tackle, a fumble, an interception, or a dropped catch could be the difference.
We are going with Wisconsin-Oshkosh in a defensive slugfest 16-13 to win the 2016 NCAA Football Division 3 National Championship.