Tag Archives: Division 3 Football

Mary Hardin-Baylor Wins Hard-Fought National Championship

Mary Hardin-Baylor Wins Hard-Fought National Championship

In their second trip to the NCAA Division 3 National Championship in school history, Mary Hardin-Baylor came away with their first title after defeating Wisconsin-Oshkosh 10-7. The Crusaders dominated the game offensively, but the scoreboard did not reflect that.

In a gritty, defensive struggle for much of the game, it was Mary Hardin-Baylor’s defense that came up with the biggest play at the biggest time. Matt Cody’s interception at the UMHB 27 yard line with 35 seconds left extinguished any hope of an Oshkosh comeback.

The bulk of the scoring came in the first quarter. Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s best offensive drive of the game was on their first drive when they marched 64 yards for a touchdown. Dylan Hecker’s two yard rush put them up 7-0. The Crusaders responded with an 8 minute drive and got on the board with a 22 yard field goal from John Mowery.

The Titans had a great scoring opportunity after Blake Jackson threw an interception. They opted to go for it on fourth and ten at the UMHB 25, but failed to convert. The Crusaders responded with another good drive and it was Jackson punching it from a yard out to make it 10-7. The Titans had another chance to get points on the board, but Brett Kasper threw a pick near the end zone with his receiver well-covered. It was Jaedon Johnson who intercepted the ball and the Cru ended the half with a kneel down.

Oshkosh opened the second half with another drive deep into UMHB territory, but they failed to convert on fourth and two as Hecker was stopped for a loss. Just one play later, the Titans got the ball back after a lost fumble by Markeith Miller. The Titans only went backwards and did not threaten to score after the fumble.

Mary Hardin-Baylor had a chance to make it a double digit lead, but Jackson lost a fumble on his way to the ground at the Oshkosh 6 yard line. The Cru had a chance late in the game to force the Titans to need a touchdown for the win, but a missed 19 yard field goal by Mowery gave the Titans one final life line.

The Titans drove slowly and methodically down the field. A pass interference call against UMHB put Oshkosh at the 35 yard line. After three straight incomplete passes, it was Kasper who threw his second pick to Cody and give the title to the Cru.

Blake Jackson was a one man crew throwing for 171 yards on 16 of 27 passing along with 119 yards and a rushing touchdown on 28 carries. He did have an interception and a lost fumble, but he picked up the slack for Markeith Miller, who was held in check (11 yards on 9 carries). The Crusaders had 332 yards of total offense, 19 first downs, and converted 11 of 18 third downs.

Wisconsin-Oshkosh was held to 215 yards on offense and just 30 yards rushing. Coming into the game, the Titans averaged 264 yards per game on the ground. Dylan Hecker was held to 29 yards on 13 carries (had the lone touchdown for the Titans) while Devon Linzenmeyer had 3 yards on 9 carries. They averaged 1 yard per carry (29 carries) had 12 first downs, and went 8 of 17 on third down. Brett Kasper threw for 185 yards on 20 of 33, but also had 2 interceptions.

The Mary Hardin-Baylor defense deserves a ton of credit for their performance. Holding a potent rushing attack like Wisconsin-Oshkosh to 30 yards is impressive. That is a large reason why the Cru won their first Division 3 Football National Championship.

2016 NCAA Division 3 National Championship Preview

2016 NCAA Division 3 National Championship Preview

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.

First Round Predictions (12-4)

Second Round Predictions (6-2)

Quarterfinal Predictions (3-1)

Semifinal Predictions (1-1)

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 homefield 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 score line does not represent how defensive the game was. It was 10-3 in favor of the Cru at 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 yard 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.

Prediction

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.

2016 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Semifinal Predictions

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2016 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Semifinal Predictions

The 2016 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoffs have reached the penultimate week. Four teams remain as they vie for a spot in the Stagg Bowl. Both games will be played on Saturday, December 10 and can be seen on ESPN3. An updated bracket can be found here.

We correctly predicted 12 of the 16 first round games and then went 6-2 with our second round predictions. In the quarterfinals, we selected three of the four winners to make our playoff record 21-7. Below are the predictions for the two semifinal games in order of kickoff time.

John Carroll (12-1) at Wisconsin-Oshkosh (12-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

John Carroll opened the playoffs with a straightforward 37-12 over Olivet at home. It was not perfect, but Anthony Moeglin threw for 262 yards with 4 touchdowns and a pick. The second round game was also at home and they needed overtime to dispatch Wesley 20-17. Moeglin’s 14 yard pass to Anthony Leonetti ended the game and put the Blue Streaks in the quarterfinals.

John Carroll had to go on the road to face Wisconsin-Whitewater in the quarterfinals and they were impressive. They put up 17 points in the third quarter to take a 24-7 lead they were not close to relinquishing after that spurt. The defense allowed only 228 yards of offense to Whitewater and picked off Cole Wilber twice in the 31-14 win.

Wisconsin-Oshkosh started with an easy 49-13 win over Washington University after rushing for 410 yards of offense. The second round was closer as they won 31-14, but they put up big yards on the ground again (332). Their quarterfinal matchup was against St. Thomas (MN) on the road, a team that was the national runner up in 2015.

The rushing yardage dropped to 169 yards for the Titans, but they forced 8 (!) turnovers. They intercepted Alex Fenske 5 times and recovered all 3 fumbles they forced (including one by Fenske). It was a surprisingly high scoring games given the stingy defenses, but the Titans won 34-31 with Brett Kasper throwing for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns (no picks).

If this matchup seems familiar that is because these two schools met the opening week. That day, it was all Oshkosh as they built a 27-0 lead and cruised to a 33-14 victory. The Titans held John Carroll to 94 yards in the first half and their intensity on defense allowed them to build a sizable lead. Little did many people know (or even think) that game was a preview of a national semifinal later in the year.

Will we see a repeat of the week one game? Sure, it is possible, but this John Carroll team is different now. They are full of confidence after defeating both Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater on the road in the span three weeks. And who could blame them?

This feels like a defensive, grind it out battle. John Carroll has not allowed more than 230 yards in any of their playoff games (193.7 yards per game average). The offense is not overwhelming, but they are efficient in getting touchdowns in the red zone. They have scored 39 times in the red zone on 52 attempts this year. 36 of those scores went for touchdowns. They will need to convert those opportunities against Oshkosh.

Speaking of Oshkosh, they were taken out of their element against St. Thomas, yet still won. They had more passing yards than rushing yards for just the third time this year. The previous two? At Eau-Claire (48-13 win) and John Carroll opening week.

The Oshkosh offense has many options on offense: Brett Kasper (2,323 yards with 19 TDs and 6 picks) throwing the ball or a trio of runners in Dylan Hecker (1,039 yards and 16 TDs), Devon Linzenmeyer (806 yards and 10 TDs), and Mitch Gerhartz (455 yards and 3 TDs). John Carroll will have to stop all of them to win.

The ultimate question is who wins? The team that is very hot (John Carroll) or the team that has homefield advantage and won the earlier matchup (Wisconsin-Oshkosh)? We will go with John Carroll, the hot team, to win 20-17 to make their first Stagg Bowl.

Mount Union (12-1) at Mary Hardin-Baylor (13-0)

Game Time: 4:30 PM Eastern

Mount Union started the playoffs at Hobart and they had to fend off that pesky foe with the final 17 points of the game. Dom Davis threw for 321 yards with 1 touchdown and no picks in the 38-21 win. The second round game was at Johns Hopkins and the Purple Raiders trailed 21-7 before scoring the final 21 points to win 28-21. Mount Union forced two turnovers and a fourth down stop on Johns Hopkins’ last three drives to seal the victory.

The quarterfinal matchup was their third straight road game and the offense exploded. Dom Davis threw for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns along with 108 yards and another score on the ground. Bradley Mitchell rushed for 123 yards and 3 touchdowns on 15 carries in his first 100+ yard game since October 15. There were also defensive (Elijah Berry) and special teams (Brian Groves) touchdowns in the 70-45 route at Alfred.

Mary Hardin-Baylor started with 50-28 win over Redlands though they needed a big final 20 minutes to put them away. Blake Jackson had 392 yards of offense and four total touchdowns in the victory. The second round game was a 27-10 win over Linfield in an impressive defensive performance. They intercepted Sam Riddle twice and held him to 236 yards on 26 of 41 passing. They also held the Linfield offense from reaching the end zone as the lone touchdown allowed was a 75 yard punt return.

The Crusaders faced Wheaton (IL) in the quarterfinals and they had another strong defensive performance. They had a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown and a 32 yard pick six by Raylon Hickey. They also forced two other picks and held the Thunder to 22 yards rushing on 26 carries. Markeith Miller had 142 yards and 1 touchdown rushing for Mary Hardin-Baylor.

This game is all about Mount Union’s rushing attack against Mary Hardin-Baylor’s defense. Mount Union averages 265.7 yards per game on the ground and they averaged 7 yards per carry against Alfred. That was their highest YPC average since their 66-7 demolition of Otterbein (6.6 yards per carry that game). The Cru allow 68.8 yards per game rushing and have only allowed more than 100 yards four times this year. Bradley Mitchell has 1,475 yards and 20 touchdowns this year, but he will have to play his best to help this offense move the ball.

If Mount Union is forced to throw, they better be careful because the Cru have intercepted 29 passes this season. Dom Davis has 2,080 yards passing (65.6%) with 21 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. Arguably his worst game was against John Carroll (31-28 loss) when he threw for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns, but had 2 interceptions, completed only 19 of 39 passing, and took 7 sacks. If he has to pass a lot, he will need to be smart by throwing the ball away instead of forcing passes and taking sacks.

Mary Hardin-Baylor on offense will be a force to stop, but if any team can do it, it would be Mount Union. Blake Jackson has thrown for 2,952 yards with 34 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. He also has 708 yards and 9 touchdowns rushing while Markeith Miller has run for 1,444 yards and 20 touchdowns. T.J. Josey is the top receiver with 48 catches for 1,004 yards and 8 touchdowns, but Bryce Wilkerson (43 catches for 612 yards and 9 TDs), DeNerian Thomas (42 catches for 362 yards and 4 TDs), and Wykeyhe Walker (32 catches for 436 yards and 6 TDs) will see some passes thrown their way.

Mount Union’s defense allows 300.2 yards per game and just 66.8 yards per game on the ground. They have forced just 24 turnovers, however, they have recorded 51 sacks and 7 defensive touchdowns this year. They will need to keep both Jackson and Miller in check if they are to win their fourth straight playoff game on the road.

If Mary Hardin-Baylor is to defeat Mount Union, this is the perfect time, right? This is not the strongest Mount Union team and, more importantly, they get Mount Union at home after three straight road playoff games. This is THE time for the Cru to get back to the Stagg Bowl for just the second time in school history (2004). But this is Mount Union. There is a reason they have played in 11 straight Stagg Bowls: they are really good. Every. Single. Year.

It is tough to go against the defending champions, but we will. We like Mary Hardin-Baylor to win 31-28 and reach the Stagg Bowl for the first time since 2004. However, we know that going against Mount Union is a dangerous proposition and they could easily make this prediction look foolish.

Check back next week for a preview of the 2016 Stagg Bowl.

2016 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Quarterfinal Predictions

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2016 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Quarterfinal Predictions

The final eight teams in the 2016 Division 3 Playoff bracket look like those you would have predicted a couple 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.

Alfred Region

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 up front 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 like 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).

Picks

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.

2016 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Round 2 Predictions

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2016 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Round 2 Predictions

A wonderful opening round of the Division 3 Football playoff has been completed and the field is down to 16 teams. Those teams will play this weekend in the second round for the right to be in the Quarterfinals. An updated bracket can be found here.

Below are predictions for each of the 8 games and we will go by quadrant starting with Mary Hardin-Baylor. In the opening round, we correctly predicted 12 of the 16 games.

Mary Hardin-Baylor Region

Linfield (9-1) at Mary Hardin-Baylor (11-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Linfield went to Texas in the opening round and defeated Hardin-Simmons 24-10. They shut down Hardin-Simmons’ run game allowing only 15 yards. Sam Riddle threw for 367 yards with 1 touchdown with 11 completions to Reed Peterson for 207 yards and 1 touchdown. Linfield now has to go back to Texas for the third time this season.

Mary Hardin-Baylor was given fits at home from Redlands, but a strong fourth quarter saw them pull away for a 50-28 win. MHB put up 595 yards of offense, but had three turnovers (one fumble returned for a touchdown) and also gave up a kickoff return to Redlands. The duo of Markeith Miller and Blake Jackson put on a running clinic with 186 yards and 153 yards, respectively.

This is also a rematch of a game earlier this season. MHB thrashed Linfield 66-27 with 552 yards of offense including Jackson passing for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 interception (98 yards rushing as well) and Miller rushing for 165 yards and a touchdown on only 6 carries. The Crusaders had 2 defensive touchdowns and a kickoff return for a touchdown that really crushed Linfield’s hope.

This game has a different feel to it than what we saw in September. Mary Hardin-Baylor rushed for 335 yards that day, but after seeing what they did last week to Hardin-Simmons does this seem like the same Linfield team? The Crusaders will certainly get their rushing yards, but how high will that total be?

One last thing to consider: Linfield has gone on the road to Mary Hardin-Baylor the last 2 seasons in the playoffs and won both times. Last year it was a 38-35 win and in 2014 they won 31-28. Looks like another thriller this year and we will go with Mary Hardin-Baylor to win 41-38.

Wheaton (IL) (10-1) at North Central (11-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Another game, another rematch for this region. We will get to that in a second, but let’s start with the first round games. Wheaton handled Huntingdon 45-10 at home thanks to 2 non-offensive touchdowns and a passing touchdown in the span of 4 minutes in the second quarter. Andrew Bowers threw for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 of 18 passing. Stone Watson rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries.

North Central cruised in their opening round game at home 41-7 over Rose-Hulman. Broc Rutter threw for 299 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions on 21 off 33 passing. The defense was stingy giving up 210 yards (103 passing, 107 rushing).

Now back to the rematch. In the pivotal game of the CCIW season, North Central defeated Wheaton 35-25 at home. The Cardinals built a 24-5 lead in the third quarter, but withstood a furious rally from Wheaton and to win the CCIW Title.

That game was dominated by the passing attacks. Wheaton’s Andrew Bowers went 15 of 31 for 241 yards with a touchdown and an interception. North Central’s Broc Rutter went 23 of 39 for 238 yards with 3 touchdowns and no picks. Wheaton had 108 yards rushing compared to 56 for North Central.

This looks like another even matchup between these two rivals. The rush defenses are stellar so it may be another game that is won by the better pass defense and pass offense. In the interest of full disclosure, yours truly is a graduate of North Central and going with them to win 28-21.

Alfred Region

Western New England (11-0) at Alfred (11-0)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Western New England had a big fourth quarter to pull away from Husson for a 44-27 victory. They scored 20 points including two rushing touchdowns from Dante Aiken. Alfred needed a 2 yard overtime touchdown run from Tyler Johnson to defeat Bridgewater State 33-27.

Both teams will use the rushing attack to get their offense going. WNE averages 248 yards per game (had 211 versus Husson) while Alfred averages 244 yards per game (had 229 versus Bridgewater State). Will it be Nick Connell and Aiken for Western New England or Johnson and Casey Bright for Alfred? We are going with Western New England to take this game 34-31.

Mount Union (10-1) at Johns Hopkins (11-0)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

The unusual sight of Mount Union on the road to start the Playoffs was met with the unusual sight of seeing the Purple Raiders tied late in the third quarter. Mount Union responded with a 17 point burst to win 38-21. Dom Davis threw for 321 yards and a touchdown while Bradley Mitchell (90 yards) and Jawanza Evans-Morris (76 yard) both had 2 rushing touchdowns.

Johns Hopkins took a 21 point lead after 15 minutes and went on to win 42-21. Jonathan Germano went wild throwing for 418 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 picks. Luke McFadden had 11 catches for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns.

JHU will want to get that passing attack going and they average 341 yards per game while UMU allows 195 yards per game. The one key will be limiting the interceptions as JHU has thrown 17 of them on the season. If you want to beat a team like Mount Union, you cannot turn the ball over. Both teams also lose fumbles quite often: 8 on the year for JHU and 11 for Mount Union.

This does not feel like the same Mount Union team we have seen in year’s past. That is clear from them having to go on the road in the Playoffs. Still, it is hard to go against the Champs and we will take Mount Union to win a high-scoring thriller 45-41.

St. Thomas Region

Coe (11-0) at St. Thomas (MN) (11-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Coe had a very interesting first round game against Monmouth. They won 21-14, but quite frankly it should have not been that close. They forced NINE turnovers. NINE!! Five interceptions and four fumble recoveries and yet they only won by a touchdown. Maybe that is more of a testament to Monmouth and their defense. It is worth noting that Trevor Heitland ran for 251 yards and a touchdown on 50 carries.

St. Thomas had a strong performance giving up only 162 yards of offense to Northwestern (MN) in their 43-0 win. The offense put up 455 yards with 206 yards and a touchdown from Alex Fenske along with multiple contributors in the rushing attack.

This game comes down to Heitland versus the Tommies defense. They allow 62.5 yards per game on the ground and Heitland could easily top 100 or 150 yards this game based on the volume of his carries. However, the defense will need to produce turnovers like last week to create short field and limit offensive possessions for St. Thomas. That is a tall task here and we will take the Tommies to win 41-17.

St. John’s (MN) (10-1) at Wisconsin-Oshkosh (10-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

What an incredible game the Johnnies played in last week against Wisconsin-Platteville. They needed a last second touchdown by Dusty Krueger to win 32-31, but did he get in? Or was he stopped? The refs said he was in and that is all the St. John’s fans care about.

Oshkosh was not involved in anything remotely close to that. They just obliterated Washington University 49-13 with 608 yards of offense with 410 coming on the ground. Mitch Gerhartz had 204 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Brett Kasper threw for 192 yards and 3 touchdowns with no picks.

Last week, St. John’s survived the Platteville passing attack (held Tom Kelly to 217 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception). This week it is the rushing attack of Oshkosh that averages 278.3 yards per game with many different options to lead the attack. The Johnnies defense gives up only 63.1 yards per game on the ground.

The Johnnies will try a balance attack against the Oshkosh defense that gives up 265.4 yards per game (95.4 rushing and 170 passing). It is hard to ignore Oshkosh against Playoff teams in 2016 as they are 3-1 with their lone loss to Whitewater 17-14 on the road. The Johnnies will play this game close, but we like Oshkosh to win 28-20.

John Carroll Region

Wesley (9-2) at John Carroll (10-1)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Wesley took care of a stubborn Stevenson team in round one 38-17. Jamar Baynard had 265 yards and 3 touchdowns on 36 carries while the offense put up 540 yards of offense. John Carroll strolled past Olivet 37-12 with 4 touchdown passes from Anthony Moeglin (262 yards and 1 pick). The defense allowed only 188 yards to Olivet including 46 on the ground.

This game will come down to Wesley’s offense against John Carroll’s defense. Nick Falkenberg has thrown for 1,456 yards with 15 touchdowns, but also has 8 interceptions this year. Four of those picks came in two of the last four games: Montclair State and Stevenson. Baynard will need to get things going on the ground so the Carroll defense is not teeing off on his quarterback.

We like John Carroll to prevail here in a 31-21 win. Their defense will stop the Wesley attack and the offense will be able to move the ball.

Wittenberg (10-1) at Wisconsin-Whitewater (11-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Wittenberg needed four overtimes to defeat Thomas More 33-30 in what was a battle of field goal kickers in the extra periods. Jake Kennedy had 293 yards of total offense while the defense withstood two 130+ yard rushers to win. Whitewater looked on their way to an easy victory after taking a 28-0 lead, but Lakeland was pesky and did not go quietly. Whitewater won 45-27, but looked mortal at times giving up 366 yards including 339 yards through the air.

What is interesting about this game is that Wittenberg can have success against Whitewater’s pass defense. Whitewater allows nearly 300 yards per game through the air, but Wittenberg prefers a more balanced attack (185.3 yards per game rushing and 225.3 yards per game passing). If Wittenberg puts more of a burden on Jake Kennedy’s shoulder, they could make this a good game.

We like Whitewater to come out on top here, but if they are getting burned in the pass game and have a lot of turnovers, it will be a lot closer. Whitewater takes this game 48-25.

Picks

Below are all the teams picked to win by region.

Mary Hardin-Baylor Region

Mary Hardin-Baylor and North Central

Alfred Region

Western New England and Mount Union

St. Thomas Region

St. Thomas and Wisconsin-Oshkosh

John Carroll Region

John Carroll and Wisconsin-Whitewater

Check back next week for the Quarterfinal predictions for the 2016 Division 3 Football playoff.

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.

Picks

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

2016 Division 3 Football Playoff Bracket Announced

Mount Union, pictured above winning the 2015 Stagg Bowl, will have a new hurdle in 2016: Starting the playoffs on the road. (AP Photo).
Mount Union, pictured above winning the 2015 Stagg Bowl, will have a new hurdle in 2016: Starting the playoffs on the road. (AP Photo).

2016 Division 3 Football Playoff Bracket Announced

The 2016 Division 3 Football Playoff Bracket has been announced and there are some surprises. The field of 32 will begin playing on Saturday, November 19 with 16 games and it will conclude on Friday, December 16 with the Stagg Bowl. The entire bracket can be found here via D3Football.com.

We mentioned surprises and the biggest two are Mount Union going on the road right to Hobart as well as the two Texas teams (Mary Hardin-Baylor and Hardin-Simmons) NOT meeting in the first round. That means the NCAA will be paying for three flights (Huntingdon will also be going on the road) in the Mary Hardin-Baylor region because of the 500 mile rule. The latter is a very pleasant surprise.

There were also 3 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference teams to make the field with Whitewater, Oshkosh, and Platteville. John Carroll, the upset winners over Mount Union, were awarded with one of the top seeds in the tournament and will face Olivet at home to start the playoffs.

The 32 teams are comprised of 25 conference winners and 7 at-large teams. The conference winners are listed below with the conference on the left and winner on the right.

Centennial

Johns Hopkins

CCIW

North Central

ECFC

Husson

E8

Alfred

HCAC

Rose-Hulman

IIAC

Coe

LL

Hobart

MASCAC

Bridgewater State

MIAA

Olivet

MAC

Stevenson

MWC

Monmouth

MIAC

St. Thomas

NEFC

Western New England

NJAC

Wesley

NCAC

Wittenberg

NACC

Lakeland

NWC

Linfield

OAC

John Carroll

ODAC

Randolph-Macon

PAC

Thomas More

SAA

Washington U.

SCIAC

Redlands

UMAC

Northwestern (Minn.)

USAC

Huntingdon

WIAC

UW-Whitewater

The 7 at-large teams were Mary Hardin-Baylor (Pool B), Mount Union (Pool C), Wisconsin-Oshkosh (Pool C), Wisconsin-Platteville (Pool C), Wheaton (IL) (Pool C), St. John’s (MN) (Pool C), and Hardin-Simmons (Pool C).

Below are the matchups for the entire bracket and they are broken down by each region. The top team in each quadrant will be used for each region.

Mary Hardin-Baylor Region

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

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

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

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

Alfred Region

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

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

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

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

St. Thomas (MN) Region

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

Monmouth (IL) (10-0) at Coe (9-1)

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

Washington University (8-2) at Wisconsin-Oshkosh (9-1)

John Carroll Region

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

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

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

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

 Predictions for each of the Round 1 games can be found here. In 2015, we went 26-5 with our playoff predictions.

Mount Union Overcomes Slow Start To Win 2015 Stagg Bowl

Mount Union Captured their 12 National Championship on Friday Night with a 49-35 win in the Stagg Bowl over St. Thomas (NCAA.com Photo)
Mount Union Captured their 12 National Championship on Friday Night with a 49-35 win in the Stagg Bowl over St. Thomas (NCAA.com Photo)

Mount Union Overcomes Slow Start To Win 2015 Stagg Bowl

Mount Union trailed 14-0 with 11 minutes to play in the second quarter, but ripped off 49 points in the final 37 and a half minutes to win 49-35. Logan Nemeth ran for 220 yards and 2 scores as the Mount Union offense put up over 500 yards despite a blustery and chilly night in Salem, Virginia. Mount Union captured their 12th Division 3 National Championship and first since 2012.

St. Thomas struck first with a 24 yard touchdown pass from John Gould to Charlie Dowdle. It was originally called incomplete, but a review overturned that call and made it a touchdown as Dowdle pinned the ball against his helmet and had a foot in bounds. Mount Union could not get much going on offense as they failed to move the ball past their own 45 yard line in the first quarter.

The Tommies made it 14-0 with 11 minutes to play in the second quarter by going for it on fourth and goal from the one. Jordan Roberts was able to power his way in for the score and put the Purple Raiders on the ropes early, but they responded with a scoring drive. Some good passing from Taurice Scott and nice catches by his receivers led to a touchdown pass. Scott hit a wide open Lane Clark for a 7 yard touchdown pass.

After forcing a three and out, the Mount Union offense needed only three plays to tie the game at 14. Scott hit Roman Namdar in the back of the end zone from 29 yards out to make it 14 apiece, a score that would hold through halftime.

 The scoring came fast to start the second half with St. Thomas scoring on a fourth and 2 pass from Gould to Nick Waldvogel who was able to get behind the safety for the 58 yard touchdown. Mount Union need only four plays to respond with Scott connecting with Clark again from 14 yards. This time, Clark bobbled the ball twice before hauling it in for the touchdown. The first play from scrimmage for St. Thomas resulted in a lost fumble by Waldvogel that was recovered by Mount Union at the Tommies’ 39 yard line.

A pass by Scott to Braeden Friss for 13 yards was followed by three straight runs from Bradley Mitchell including the 6 yard score to make it a 28-21 game. After another three and out, Mount Union was in business after a 42 yard run by Nemeth. The drive was capped off by a nice 18 yard touchdown run from Scott to make it a two score game in favor of the Purple Raiders.

St. Thomas needed a scoring response and they got it in a strange fashion. After a holding penalty, they were faced with a first and 20 and gave the ball to Waldvogel on a rushing play. Waldvogel fumbled again, but the ball bounced right in front of quarterback John Gould who picked it up and sprinted 56 yards to the end zone and a 35-28 deficit. The Tommies had a chance at the end of the quarter for possibly more points, but opted to fake the 49 field goal attempt despite having the wind at their back and needing 12 yards. Mount Union was all over it as Dowdle gained only three yards.

Mount Union took advantage of the missed field goal by driving 71 yards for a touchdown capped off by Logan Nemeth’s first score of the game. The defense forced a three and out and Nemeth scored his second rushing touchdown with a 36 yard run and eight and a half minutes remaining.

St. Thomas did score on their next drive with Roberts running in from four yards out. They also went for an onside kick and recovered it, but Gould threw a pick on the first offensive play of the series. Mount Union would run the clock out with a typical Purple Raiders drive of running and a nice 26 yard catch by Nemeth on third and nine.

Nemeth had 30 carries on the night for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns while Bradley Mitchell was explosive with 9 rushes for 63 yards and a score. Taurice Scott had 13 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown, but also went 12 of 19 for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. Roman Namdar was the top receiver for Mount Union with 5 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Lane Clark had an efficient night with 2 catches for 20 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Mount Union finished with 531 yards of offense, had 23 first downs, and went 5 of 13 on third down. They did not have a turnover in this game.

St. Thomas had momentum early in the game and also early in the second half, but could not overcome the Mount Union offense that was sluggish in the first 19 minutes of the game. Jordan Roberts finished with 30 carries for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns. John Gould went 8 of 22 for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns, but also threw the pick to end any chance of a comeback. Nick Waldvogel had 4 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, however, he had 2 fumbles. One of those was on the fortunate bounce while the other led to a Mount Union touchdown.

St. Thomas finished with 328 yards of offense, had 17 first downs, and went only 3 of 15 on third down. As expected, the Tommies went for it on fourth down four times and converted three of those.

Mount Union finished 15-0 and has now played in 19 Division 3 National Championship Games winning 12 of those. They won their last one in 2012 against St. Thomas 28-10. They have won 8 national titles since 2000. It was the first National Championship win for Mount Union head coach Vince Kehres after losing the previous two seasons to Wisconsin-Whitewater.

2015 NCAA Division 3 National Championship Preview

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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.

Prediction

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.

2015 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Semifinal Predictions

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2015 NCAA Division 3 Football Playoff Semifinal Predictions

The NCAA Division 3 Playoffs are one week from concluding, but there are Semifinals and a National Championship still to be played. The Semifinals are incredibly tantalizing including a matchup we normally see in the Stagg Bowl, but the Committee decided to have the possibility occur sooner rather than later. The schedule can be found here and the updated bracket is here via the NCAA’s website.

In round one we went a solid 14-2 and then followed that up with a 6-2 record in our predictions for the second round. In the Quarterfinals, we went 3-1 with our lone loss coming at the hands of Wisconsin-Whitewater (again). The record through the first three weeks of the playoffs stands at 23-5.

Linfield (12-0) at St. Thomas (MN) (13-0)

Linfield’s first game was easy as they crushed Whitworth 48-10 at home in round one. In the second round, they had some trouble with Cortland State, but were never really in danger of losing as they won at home again by a score of 38-22. Their Quarterfinal game against Mary Hardin-Baylor was a great one. Both teams had a fast start with MHB taking a 21-14 lead after the first quarter and they also led 28-14 at halftime. Linfield had a big third quarter to tie the game up at 28 apiece and then took the lead 35-28 midway through the final quarter.

That lead did not last long as MHB tied it up at 35 thanks to an 85 yard pass from Zach Anderson to DeNerian Thomas. Linfield was then picked off inside their own 25 to give MHB a chance to reclaim the lead, but Linfield recovered a fumble and ended up kicking the game winning 32 yard field goal as time expired. Oh and Linfield did all of this without their normal quarterback Sam Riddle. Tom Knecht filled in nicely going 38 of 54 for 492 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions while Brian Balsiger (7 catches for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Johnny Carroll (10 catches for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns) were his top target.

It has been a little less thrilling for St. Thomas, but that does not take away from what they have done. The dominated La Verne at home 57-14 in round one to set up a rivalry matchup in the second round against St. John’s (MN). That game was all about the Tommies as they held a 31-7 lead after three quarters and won 38-19. In the Quarterfinal game last week, they faced Wabash and their high powered rushing attack. They stopped that as well holding Mason Zurek to only 72 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries in a 38-7 victory.

Both of these teams have made the Stagg Bowl once before. Linfield did so in 2004 (defeated Mary Hardin-Baylor 28-21) while St. Thomas went in 2012 (lost 28-10 to Mount Union). These two teams also met in the Playoffs back in 2009 (Linfield won 31-20 at home) and 2010 (St. Thomas won 24-17 at home), but it would be unfair to base this game solely on those contests as these are different teams. St. Thomas will try and stop the passing attack for Linfield with their stingy defense and are also focused on getting back to the Stagg Bowl. We will take St. Thomas to win at home in a close on 23-17.

Wisconsin-Whitewater (12-1) at Mount Union (13-0)

Wisconsin-Whitewater has had an unusual path in the Division 3 Playoffs compared to what they normally have. Most year Whitewater would be home for every game through the Quarterfinals, if not the Semifinals. This year, they had to travel for their second round game after destroying St. Norbert 48-0 in round one. Their second round opponent was Wheaton (IL) and the big second quarter in which they outscored the Thunder 24-7 allowed them to take command of the game. They did give up 475 yards of offense to Wheaton, but they stiffened on defense to allow just a field goal in the final 30 minutes.

They also traveled for the Quarterfinal game against conference foe Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a team they lost to by a score of 10-7 in the regular season at Oshkosh. Whitewater took a 10-0 lead after the first 15 minutes, but Oshkosh battled back to tie the game at 10 apiece going into halftime. Whitewater took another double digit lead in the third quarter to lead 31-16 before a furious rally by Oshkosh. With 3:42 left, Oshkosh scored to make it 31-29, but the two point conversion failed. Oshkosh still had a chance to win after forcing a punt and getting the ball back at the 50 yard line. However, they were unable to complete three of their passes as they gave the ball back to Whitewater to run the clock out.

Mount Union opened with a 55-23 win in the first round against St. Lawrence where they allowed 16 points in the final quarter after building a 55-7 lead. Their game against Albright was similar except they scored more and allowed less. Mount Union won 66-7 to set up another game against offense powerhouse Wesley. Mount Union built a big lead again (not as big as their 70-0 lead in 2014 though) to lead 49-14 at the break before winning 56-35. They did allow 469 yards of offense to Wesley, but they gained 603 of their own including 218 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns from Logan Nemeth while Taurice Scott had 330 yards and 5 touchdowns with a pick through the air.

For even the most casual follower of Division 3 football, it is well known that these two teams meet nearly every postseason, but that game is usually the Stagg Bowl and not the game prior. The last 10 years, one of these two teams has won the Stagg Bowl (the last team not named Mount Union or Wisconsin-Whitewater? Linfield). Also, since 2005 these teams have met 9 times in the Stagg Bowl with Whitewater holding a 6-3 edge including 5 of the last 6. This game, however, is not the Stagg Bowl and is being played on Mount Union’s turf.

It is possible to put points up against these two teams as noted by the last game for each team. Also consider the fact that Whitewater won 43-34 in 2014 and 52-14 in 2013. Despite that, we are going with Mount Union to win at home in an exciting contest 41-34.

And for you Whitewater fans here is a fun fact: the last three times we have picked against Whitewater (2015 Playoffs Quarterfinal2015 Playoffs Round 2, and 2014 Stagg Bowl), the Warhawks have won.