September 26, 2007

How we ranked the conferences

Even the most thorough preseason examination of available information only goes so far toward telling us what will really happen, before results begin to trickle in and we invoke the cliché 'That's why they play the games.'

With conference play underway in all but six of the nation's 26 conferences (although to be fair, another four conferences have played just one game total) and with it set to reach full swing on Saturday, Around the Nation figured now was as good a time as any to look back at our conference rankings from Kickoff '07, our preseason publication, and see what's borne out as expected and what's changed.

Perhaps no conference has provided more September surprise than the Empire 8, where St. John Fisher and Alfred sit atop the standings undefeated while the other two teams expected to contend are bringing up the rear. Ithaca and Springfield were each in the top 25 after Week 2 but have lost twice since, while St. John Fisher has remained steady at No. 5 nationally. Alfred crept into this week's rankings at No. 22 following a 37-7 shellacking of Springfield, ranked No. 9 in the preseason and first two weeks and coming off a 10-2 season in which its Chris Sharpe-led offense scored 35 points per game.

Alfred, in recent seasons the Empire 8 program which could win eight or nine games but could never get over the conference championship or playoff hump, has been the early-going's best story. The Saxons have averaged 40 points per game and surrendered 11 in wins at Thiel and against St. Lawrence and Springfield. With a 256-280 run/pass balance, running back Vinson Hendrix is nearly halfway to 1,000 yards while quarterback Paul Keeley has completed 70 percent of his passes with nine TDs and one interception so far. Defensively, Alfred's received a balanced effort, though sophomore linebacker Chad Pieri leads the Saxons with 18.5 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, an interception and a fumble recovery.

But Alfred's play hasn't been the Empire 8's lone surprise. Hartwick's 32-30 upset of then-No. 24 Ithaca was a stunner, but moreso because the Hawks had lost 48-21 to Western New England of the lightly regarded New England Football Conference in their opener.

Across the board, the Empire 8 ranked as the fifth-strongest among the 25 conferences Publisher Pat Coleman and I ranked in Kickoff. Our reasoning centered largely on the performance of the league in out-of-conference competition (25-10 in 2006) and in the playoffs (two teams went 4-2, with St. John Fisher eliminating Springfield in the second round and losing 26-14 at Mount Union in the semifinals), and the depth of the conference (four of its seven teams won seven or more games last year).

The Empire 8 has gone 12-6 in non-conference competition so far, with wins against the Liberty League's Union and Rochester, and losses to RPI and No. 16 Montclair State. The conference has held up its end of the bargain so far and deserves to maintain its place, approximately, in our conference rankings.

Listed by where they ranked in Kickoff's rundown of 25 Division III conferences, here's how other conferences have fared in non-conference competition in the early stages of the season, with the exception of the NESCAC, which plays a closed schedule and isn't ranked in Kickoff's comparison, and independents:

No. 1 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 19-9 (Two playoff teams went 5-2 with a Stagg Bowl appearance)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Long the division's most competitive conference, a dominant team finally emerged from the WIAC with UW-Whitewater's past two trips to the national championship game. But the reason the conference has always remained the nation's best is because even its bad teams tend to be hard for teams from other conferences to beat.
2007 non-conference record so far: 15-7
What's been established so far in '07: That it's still Division III's top conference. No one schedules a more rugged group of opponents – 10 of the non-conference games have come against Division I FCS, Division II and NAIA opponents, including UW-Eau Claire's 42-13 win against Division II Southwest Minnesota State. UW-River Falls pushed No. 3 St. John's before losing 21-10 and UW-La Crosse went to Texas and beat Hardin-Simmons 47-21.

No. 2 Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 14-4 (Two teams went 7-1 in the playoffs with a national championship)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Same as always. The OAC has the strongest top half of any conference in the country, but lacks the depth of the WIAC.
2007 non-conference record so far: 6-4
What's been established so far in '07: Little, actually. We know Mount Union's still No. 1 and Baldwin-Wallace chalked up a nice victory against CCIW contender Augustana, but the Yellow Jackets will have to fight off Capital, Ohio Northern and perhaps John Carroll to challenge the Purple Raiders. A good sign so far, if defense wins championships as they say: Capital's allowed just 10 points, Baldwin-Wallace 14, Mount Union 21 and Ohio Northern 22, all in 3-0 starts. John Carroll has allowed only 29 points, and 23 of those came in a loss to Ohio Northern Saturday. That doesn't bode well for the bottom half of the league, though Heidelberg did snap a 36-game losing streak earlier in the year.

No. 3 American Southwest Conference (ASC) 
2006 non-conference record: 14-7 (Two teams went 2-2 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: That the conference had established itself as one who produced two playoff contenders per season, was capable of producing a national champion and had reasonable depth throughout.
2007 non-conference record so far: 4-9
What's been established so far in '07: It has not been a good start for the ASC, which moved ahead of the Northwest Conference, which usually ranks third, this preseason. Linfield's head-to-head win against Hardin-Simmons (52-42, after a 21-6 Cowboys win in Texas last season) probably tilts the scales back in the NWC's favor. No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor looked dominating against Christopher Newport (51-19), but other ASC teams have not impressed against the likes of Trinity (Texas), Huntingdon and UW-La Crosse. Mississippi College's 27-26 rivalry game win against Millsaps in the opener was a bright spot for the ASC, but the Majors' 44-10 whomping of Louisiana College the following week was not.

No. 4 Northwest Conference (NWC) 
2006 non-conference record: 13-13 (One team went 1-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Bumped down after Linfield had an off year and Whitworth could not carry the conference by itself in the playoffs. Some of its depth had wilted as Pacific Lutheran and Willamette slid below .500 and Puget Sound's 7-3 season included not-very-competitive showings against the NWC's top two.
2007 non-conference record so far: 9-12
What's been established so far in '07: Early NWC results send mixed messages, as Linfield looked powerful again vs. Hardin-Simmons and Whitworth knocked off UW-Stout. But the league is also just 6-6 against the SCIAC and Chapman, the only other measuring stick in Division III on the West Coast. Redlands won 24-12 at Whitworth and Whittier won 28-26 at Puget Sound, leaving us to question the NWC's overall strength this year.

No. 5 Empire 8 (E8)
See above. 

No. 6 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 17-11 (One team went 2-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: The eight-team NJAC finished 2006 with two nine-win teams and two more with seven.
2007 non-conference record so far: 15-7
What's been established so far in '07: The NJAC will again be deep in '07, but perhaps in a way that allows no dominant team to emerge for a lengthy playoff run. The conference has been the beneficiary of the smaller MAC's additional conference dates, going 5-2 against that league, including 3-0 against its defending champion, Wilkes. But the NJAC has also inflated its record by going 4-0 against Morrisville State in its second year in Division III. Montclair State knocking off top-10 teams in consecutive games (then-No. 9 Springfield, then-No. 7 Wesley) probably makes up for Rowan's loss to the USAC's Christopher Newport and Kean's struggles against Albright. 

No. 7 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) 
2006 non-conference record: 15-9 (Two teams went 2-2 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Non-conference record not as impressive as went seven of the eight teams won all three of their non-CCIW games and the league posted a 22-3 non-conference record.
2007 non-conference record so far: 16-8
What's been established so far in '07: The conference doesn't have the depth of '05, but its schools will still play anyone in the Midwest. Losses have come against Baldwin-Wallace, Ohio Northern, Mt. St. Joseph and Coe, while wins have come against teams from several conferences, including Carthage's win at Whittier in California. Augustana's win over UW-Platteville of the WIAC was big last weekend, but top 25 North Central's loss to Washington U. probably nullified it. Wheaton is off to a great start and has moved into the top 10.

No. 8 Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 4-10 (One team went 1-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Traditionally one of the East's toughest conferences.
2007 non-conference record so far: 6-18
What's been established so far in '07: No conference has fallen on more difficult times, with four of its eight remaining teams, including the past two champions, off to 0-3 starts. Three teams, none of whom were perennial contenders, defected, leaving behind teams with more open dates to fill than usual. Those dates went to top teams from the NJAC, E8 and ACFC, and has coincided with a year in which few MAC teams returned a lot of experience or firepower. The new-look MAC might never again be so glad to begin conference play, but it could produce a one-and-done playoff representative this year. Albright (vs. Kean) and FDU-Florham (at William Paterson, who beat Wilkes) have provided the highlights.

No. 9 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 14-4 (Two teams went 2-2 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: MIAC fell some because its top was not as strong but its middle and bottom were still very mediocre and poor.
2007 non-conference record so far: 12-3
What's been established so far in '07: The early start is a bit deceiving since conference teams were just 2-3 vs. the IIAC, but includes some big wins, including Concordia-Moorhead win against Division II Moorhead State. Five of the nine teams have winning records, including St. Olaf and St. John's at 4-0 and Gustavus Adolphus at 3-0.

No. 10 Liberty League (LL) 
2006 non-conference record: 19-8 (Two teams went 0-2 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: League's surge largely due to five of seven teams finishing 2006 with winning records, including four with seven or more wins.
2007 non-conference record so far: 8-11
What's been established so far in '07: It's definitely been a down year so far, with just WPI and RPI remaining undefeated while traditional powers Hobart and Union have two losses each so far and expected contender Rochester is 0-3.

No. 11 Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 10-9 (One team went 0-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Despite lack of playoff success in '06, IIAC has always been an upper-middle league capable of producing a top-10 team or multiple playoff teams.
2007 non-conference record so far: 12-3
What's been established so far in '07: Four of the nine teams remain unbeaten, though Wartburg and Dubuque face off this week. IIAC teams have been competitive non-conference, mostly against the MIAC, including Buena Vista's 21-16 upset of Bethel. Cornell, which hasn't won an IIAC game since the middle of '05, beat MIAA contender Alma by 1 for the second consecutive season.

No. 12 Atlantic Central Football Conference (ACFC) 
2006 non-conference record: 22-12 (One team went 3-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Strong overall non-conference record and produced a national semifinalist in '05 and '06.
2007 non-conference record so far: 8-3
What's been established so far in '07: With just five members, including Newport News Apprentice, which is ineligible for the Division III playoffs based on its membership status, it's hard for the ACFC to claim the depth of other conferences. But it features two teams, Salisbury and Wesley, currently ranked in the top 20 and who have been competitive with the best teams in the mid-Atlantic for a few years now.

No. 13 Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 15-15 (One team went 1-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Conference expansion has not resulted in more competitive non-conference play.
2007 non-conference record so far: 8-4
What's been established so far in '07: Geneva, transitioning from the NAIA, will be an immediate factor, although perennial favorite Washington & Jefferson has already defeated the Golden Tornadoes. Other than that and Thiel's loss to Alfred, the PAC has played a generally unimpressive group of opponents. Brand-new St. Vincent brings the conference to nine teams, just one of whom won more than six games last year.

No. 14 USA South Athletic Conference (USAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 9-15 (One team went 0-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Conference filled with still-young programs has yet to develop real depth behind Christopher Newport.
2007 non-conference record so far: 7-15
What's been established so far in '07: North Carolina Wesleyan can compete with some of the East's best, and Christopher Newport, which beat Rowan, can defeat them. But the East's best aren't necessarily the nation's best, as evidenced by the 51-19 beating the Captains took at No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor and Averett's 75-7 loss against No. 1 Mount Union. The USA South should be commended for aggressive scheduling, from Bridgewater to Wesley, but the results aren't yet there.

No. 15 University Athletic Association (UAA) 
2006 non-conference record: 20-9 (One team went 1-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: All four teams contributed to the strong non-conference record last year, but league doesn't have the depth of competitive teams to challenge for top-conference honors.
2007 non-conference record so far: 11-4
What's been established so far in '07: The UAA is more than just one team coming off a hot season. No one's worse off now than defending champion Carnegie Mellon, 2-2 to start. Wash U.'s North Central upset was a high moment. Case Western Reserve is better than the bottom half of the NCAC.

No. 16 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 17-12 (One team went 0-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: UAA's champion beat SCAC's champion in playoffs.
2007 non-conference record so far: 9-3
What's been established so far in '07: Conference is up to nine teams, but it's the old guard (Trinity, Millsaps and DePauw) looking like they'll be title challengers. 

No. 17 Centennial Conference (CC) 
2006 non-conference record: 17-13 (One team went 0-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Conference good, not great in ‘06. No team better than 8-3, none worse than 3-7.
2007 non-conference record so far: 10-6
What's been established so far in '07: Also up to nine members, the Centennial won't lose its competitiveness overnight. Four teams are unbeaten, with Dickinson and Moravian facing off this week.

No. 18 North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 12-19 (One team went 0-1 in playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Decent top-half teams suffer from weaker bottom half of conference.
2007 non-conference record so far: 8-18
What's been established so far in '07: Seven of the league's 10 teams have losing records, including four at 0-3. Wabash, Allegheny and Wittenberg will probably make it a race amongst themselves.

No. 19 Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 15-14 (One team went 0-1 in playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Champion had lost to 3-7 Centennial team and 5-5 UAA team. This conference would move up if we re-ranked them today.
2007 non-conference record so far: 18-3
What's been established so far in '07: No conference has been more impressive out of the gate. Each ODAC team returned at least 14 starters this season and the experience has done as much to improve the conference's reputation as last season, in which Bridgewater's six-season string of dominance was halted, did to damage it. 

No. 20 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 10-12 (One team went 0-1 in playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Beyond Occidental, teams hadn't always been competitive in non-conference play.
2007 non-conference record so far: 7-7
What's been established so far in '07: The SCIAC is capable of surprising. Redlands' win at Whitworth meant Occidental may have a challenger on its hands.

No. 21 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) 
2006 non-conference record: 13-12 (One team went 0-1 in playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Of the least-strong conferences, it at least produced two nine-win teams.
2007 non-conference record so far: 11-12
What's been established so far in '07: Hovering around .500 in non-conference play means the HCAC might be right where it was last season, but that also could mean upward movement in the conference rankings. Mt. St. Joseph and Franklin carry the torch for the HCAC, and the Grizzlies lost to Wabash this year after beating the Little Giants in ‘06.

No. 22 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) 
2006 non-conference record: 5-19 (One team went 0-1 in playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Poor non-conference mark mostly responsible for low rank.
2007 non-conference record so far: 7-16
What's been established so far in '07: Four teams are 0-3 and only two have winning marks. State has a thick Division I, BCS and Division II presence and talent gets plucked by scholarship schools, and then the Division IIIs, being in the Midwest, tend to schedule the top teams from the CCIW, etc., to fill open dates.

No. 23 Midwest Conference (MWC) 
2006 non-conference record: 4-6 (One team went 0-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Rarely competitive with good teams from other conferences.
2007 non-conference record so far: 2-7
What's been established so far in '07: The size of the MWC (10 teams) leaves little time (1 game each) for non-conference play, and it hasn't been good for the conference of late anyway.

No. 24 Illini-Badger Football Conference (IBFC) 
2006 non-conference record: 7-18 (One team went 0-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Along with MIAA & NEFC, conference teams have never won a playoff game in the automatic bid era. 
2007 non-conference record so far: 4-16
What's been established so far in '07: Progress begins somewhere, at and least Concordia (Wis.) will schedule who will take them on. Concordia (Ill.) has started 2-2, uncharacteristic for the former also-ran now one of the two IBFC teams not below .500.

No. 25 New England Football Conference (NEFC) 
2006 non-conference record: 2-5 (One team went 0-1 in the playoffs)
Reasoning at the time of Kickoff ranking: Still the worst conference unless we see a Big East upset or a playoff win. Or a competitive playoff game against someone who doesn’t get blown out the next year.
2007 non-conference record so far: 3-5
What's been established so far in '07: Games against conference members dominate the schedule, making it hard to judge progress. Western New England’s win against Hartwick in Week 1 was only made more puzzling by its loss to Westfield State in the week.

First and Ten

Quick reactions to results through Week 4 and expected Week 5 happenings:

1. Aside from Alfred, last week's eye-opener was Montclair State beating Wesley. The Red Hawks came in ranked and beating the Wolverines was certainly in the realm of possibility, but it took place in a pretty interesting way. First, the officials, who were not assigned until that morning when Wesley realized it hadn’t arranged for any, were held up in NASCAR traffic (Wesley, like Dover Downs, is in Delaware's capital city) for three hours, forcing a late start. Then thunderstorms hit, with lightning that might have delayed the start anyway. When the game did start, it was an offensive shootout in the first half. Montclair State's Jeff Bliss took the second-half kickoff back 89 yards for a score, the fourth time in four Wesley games that's happened, and no one scored the rest of the way, save for the Red Hawks taking a safety late in the game.

2. Just when you didn't quite know what to make of Rowan, a loser in Week 1 at Christopher Newport and a team that squeaked past Wilkes last week, the Profs showed up Widener 41-0 on Friday night. Joe Rankin battled injuries and ineffectiveness, so freshman Tim Hagerty got the start at quarterback and passed for two scores and rushed for two more. The Glassboro native played his high school games across the street from Rowan's campus and came on last week to help save the day. There wasn't much saving needed against the Pride, as the Profs defense held Widener to 101 total yards.

3. It's hard to believe Whitworth's Jay Tully caught another back-breaking TD pass in the final seconds against UW-Stout. Adam Johnson caught up with him in Around the West.

4. North Central's loss to Wash U., this week's most significant top 25 upset, had the look of one of those games where the more talented team didn't quite do enough to put a team away and paid for letting them hang around. Or perhaps the Cardinals weren't more talented at all. They led 10-0 at the half, but only 10-9 before kicking a field goal midway through the fourth quarter. Wash. U.'s Dan Mulholland intercepted a Kyle Kniss pass at the North Central 33 and ran it back to the 14. After three incompletions, Buck Smith hooked up with Joe Lubelski on fourth-and-10 for the game-winning score with 2:14 left. Wash U. pulled out the win despite rushing for minus-1 yard.

5. Bowdoin's win against Williams, the team who swept through the NESCAC unbeaten last year, was the Polar Bears' first since 1979. Bowdoin forced eight Ephs turnovers, all in the second half, in the 28-14 win.

6. So much for that preseason Rochester prediction. The Yellowjackets had a chance to rebound from an 0-2 start when the Liberty League slate began, but Union's 13-7 win put them behind the 8-ball in-conference too. RPI's 35-31 win against Hobart and St. Lawrence's 49-42 overtime thriller against Susquehanna turned out to be the league's most exciting games of the weekend.

7. We're not going to start calling them Cardiac Central, we promise, but the IIAC's Dutch just find ways to win. Outgained for the third consecutive week, Central beat Loras 17-14.

8. The poll's top 3 looked pretty powerful, as Mount Union, Mary-Hardin Baylor and UW-Whitewater combined to defeat Muskingum, Texas Lutheran and UW-Eau Claire 137-0.

9. Can Guilford muster enough defense to be competitive? They answered with a resounding no Saturday, as the Quakers gained 674 yards and allowed 678 in a 56-49 loss against Hampden-Sydney. Guilford junior Josh Vogelbach passed for 592 yards and seems poised to hold every passing mark in what's recently been a pass-happy league (think Catholic's Kevin Ricca, Randolph-Macon's Brian Partlow and H-SC's J.D. Ricca) before he's done.

9a. Hardin-Simmons finally mustered some defense, as their 41-34 win against Louisiana College that required a fourth-down pass to be batted away as time expired wasn't nearly that close. The Cowboys led 41-20 with 6:18 to play and began to substitute before allowing two scores. We would never tell coaches how to do their jobs, but if your ones can't stop anybody, it makes sense that your twos … ah, forget it.

10. UW-Whitewater and UW-La Crosse each lost a lot from last year's playoff teams, but they meet again with both teams ranked in the top 10. D3football.com has the Warhawks third overall and the Eagles sixth, while the AFCA has the Eagles fourth and Warhawks eighth. Hmm.

My 26-35

The big poll is starting to look so much like my individual ballot, it's scary. I have teams flip-flopped here and there, but I moved Montclair one spot ahead of Wesley and moved Alfred in at No. 22, etc. Very odd.

Last week I listed Mount St. Joseph in the 26-and-beyond category, except I'd voted for them 24th. Oops. They and Occidental are in my top 25 instead of Wabash and North Central, but to have this much agreement with the overall rankings this early in the season, when there is so much left to sort out, is a strange sign.

We will certainly see some movement in the coming weeks as ranked teams face off in key conference clashes.

 Teams I'm watching, just outside the top 25: UW-Oshkosh, UW-Stevens Point, Augustana, Redlands, Mississippi College, RPI, Coe and Dubuque.

The latter two present an interesting case study, as neither received a single vote this week while conference foes Wartburg and Central ranked 13th and eighth. All four have started 3-0 or 4-0 and figured to give each other a run for the conference crown. Last year, Central-Coe went into two overtimes, and Central-Wartburg and Wartburg-Dubuque went into OT. There's probably not that much distance between the top two in the IIAC and the next two, but clearly each voter knows exactly which two they have rated higher so far. Look for those rankings to not hold up as the season plays out. 

 As always, you can debate the worthiness of any top 25 team, or ask questions about the process or voters' mind-set here .

Games to Watch

Gordon Mann's take on Week 5's contests of national significance:

It's not easy to predict who will win most conferences, but we usually have a pretty good idea who the top competitors are. The ASC usually comes down to Mary Hardin-Baylor and Hardin-Simmons. Before last year, the de facto ODAC title game was routinely played by Bridgewater (Va.) and Hampden-Sydney. Redlands and Occidental have been top dogs (or tigers) in the SCIAC for years. But this week several teams can break the traditional two- or three-horse races wide open by continuing their surprising starts.

No. 3 UW-Whitewater (2-1, 1-0) at No. 6 UW-La Crosse (2-0, 0-0): The WIAC is one of the least predictable conferences on a week-to-week basis, but the list of eventual champions has been very stable. The Warhawks and Eagles have won every title since 2001 and the winner of this Saturday's meeting will produce a strong favorite to do so again this year. All-American Justin Beaver has been his usual spectacular self (149.7 rushing yards per game) but the Warhawks' run defense also deserves kudos, holding opponents to 47.3 per game. Whether UW-La Crosse can beat UW-Whitewater depends on how much success it has against that stifling defense. In last year's regular season meeting, the Eagles had 37 rushing yards in a 45-10 loss. In the playoffs the Eagles gained 127 yards in a much closer 24-21 defeat.

Gustavus Adolphus (3-0, 2-0) at No. 23 St. Olaf (4-0, 2-0): St. Olaf figured to battle No. 4 St. John's for the MIAC title and 2006 playoff participant Bethel can't be discounted either. But the Gusties can shoehorn their way into this race by upsetting the Oles in Northfield. As Adam Johnson reports in this week's Around the Westcolumn, these two offenses have exploded for 318 total points led by senior quarterbacks Jordan Stolp (Gustavus Adolphus) and Matt Penz (St. Olaf).

No. 13 Wartburg (3-0, 2-0) at Dubuque (3-0, 1-0): Speaking of senior quarterbacks, Dubuque has one of Division III's best kept secrets in Jermar Jackson. Jackson averages more than 100 rushing yards per game and has thrown seven touchdown passes to just one interception. His 12 total touchdowns put him at the top of the scoring list for quarterbacks. Wartburg will have Jackson in its sights after suffering a 17-14 overtime loss to the Spartans last year. That loss may have kept Wartburg out of the playoffs. If Dubuque can win again, they'll join Wartburg, Central and Coe in the IIAC chase.

No. 21 Hardin-Simmons (1-2, 1-0) at Mississippi College (3-0, 2-0): In two weeks HSU will likely be sitting pretty atop the ASC or under-.500 and effectively done in the conference race. The Cowboys have their Texas-sized showdown with No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor next week but first they have to get by undefeated Mississippi College. The Choctaws cannot be taken lightly, having outgained their opponents by an average of 202 yards per game. A win here makes them the top contender to defending conference champion UMHB.

Dickinson (4-0, 2-0) at Moravian (4-0, 2-0): When do we start to use "team of destiny" instead of "flair for the dramatic" to describe Moravian? Last week the Greyhounds withstood three Johns Hopkins' rallies to tie in the game's final 20 minutes, finally putting the Blue Jays away 44-41. In Week 3 Moravian overcame five turnovers to edge Lebanon Valley 19-18. In Week 1 quarterback Marc Braxmeier scored a late touchdown to beat Susquehanna 34-27. Destiny is on hold, at least until Moravian finds a way to beat defending conference champion Dickinson. The Red Devils are paced on defense by Eric Dube (58 tackles, seven for loss). 

Also keep an eye on: No. 10 Baldwin-Wallace at John Carroll; No. 24 Bridgewater (Va.) at Hampden-Sydney; Maryville (Tenn.) at North Carolina Wesleyan; DePauw at Millsaps; Hobart at WPI; Williams at Trinity (Conn.)

Check Friday morning's Daily Dose for Pat, Keith and a weekly guest analyst’s primer on Week 5 games.

Who are those guys?

Taking a look at those unfamiliar names on schedules, and following Division III teams in interdivisional play:

Two NJAC teams notched wins over Division I-AA (FCS) non-scholarship opponents last week, TCNJ against La Salle on Friday night and Western Connecticut against Iona. UW-Stevens Point's 55-0 win against Waldorf was the only other Division III win, although Texas College's win over Howard Payne makes it an even split between Division III and the NAIA in overtime games. UW-La Crosse beat Azusa Pacific in overtime two weeks ago.

With conference play beginning or underway in most Division III conferences, the out-of-division schedule tightens up quite a bit this week. Duquesne is ranked 10th in The Sports Network's FCS mid-major top 10. The game against Frostburg State is one both needed desperately in the offseason -- Frostburg because it had mistakenly kept Waynesburg on the schedule after Waynesburg’s conference expanded and Duquesne because it had scheduled St. Peter's for homecoming. St. Peter's dropped its football program over the offseason.

vs. Division I, FCS (2-0 in Week 4, 3-6 in 2007) 
Frostburg State at Duquesne
La Salle at Geneva

vs. Division II (0-1 in Week 4, 3-10 in 2007) 
None.

vs. NAIA (1-2 in Week 4, 15-5 in 2007) 
None.

For a running list of the season's interdivisional scores and accompanying discussion, visit our Post Patterns threads D3 vs. D-IAA, D2 and D3 vs. NAIA.

Streak watch

Williams' stunning season-opening loss against Bowdoin leaves Mount Union the only team riding a double-digit win streak. The Ephs had won 14 in a row dating to a 34-6 loss at Trinity (Conn.) Oct. 1, 2005.

The longest current winning streak in Division III: 
Mount Union (26 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Ohio Northern, 21-14, Oct. 22, 2005; 1-0 in 2007)

 Becker had the first win in program history in its grasp Saturday. After allowing a go-ahead Mount Ida score with 1:04 left, the Hawks scored in three plays, with Karrone Stanley's quarterback sneak putting Becker ahead with 37 seconds left. But the Mustangs took the squib kick back 72 yards for the game-clinching score and 45-41 win. Lewis and Clark was off, so Becker assumed the nation's longest losing streak with the defeat.

Longest current losing streaks: 
Becker (21 consecutive losses, no wins in program history; 0-4 in 2007)
Eureka (20 consecutive losses, last win vs. Concordia, Ill., 32-13, Sept. 24, 2005; 0-3 in 2007)
Hiram (20 consecutive losses, last win vs. Earlham, 7-2, Oct. 1, 2005; 0-3 in 2007)
Lewis and Clark (20 consecutive losses, last win vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 27-11, Oct. 9, 2004; 0-2 in 2007)
LaGrange (14 consecutive losses, no wins in program history; 0-4 in 2007)

 Wesley's loss to Montclair State halted a streak of 15 consecutive regular-season wins, as well as a 23-game home winning streak. Williams also fell off this list with its loss. Occidental did not play, but remained on top.

Longest current regular-season winning streaks: 
Occidental (28 consecutive wins, last loss at Chapman, 31-28, Sept. 11, 2004; 2-0 in 2007)
Curry (23 consecutive wins, including two NEFC title games, last loss at Maine Maritime, 28-21, Sept. 17, 2005; 4-0 in 2007)
Central (21 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Coe, 17-14, Sept. 17, 2005; 4-0 in 2007)
St. Norbert (21 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Monmouth, 28-20, Sept. 17, 2005; 4-0 in 2007)
Mount Union (16 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Ohio Northern, 21-14, Oct. 22, 2005; 3-0 in 2007)

 Curry played its first NEFC Boyd Division opponent and moved its streak to 19 games, but considering the Colonels have defeated a Bogan Division team in each of the past two NEFC title games, plus beat three teams from its conference's other division to start each of the past two seasons, and their NEFC streak could be considered 27 games, longer than anyone's. Occidental, Wilkes and Mount St. Joseph did not play, while Washington and Jefferson is added to the list.

Longest current conference winning streaks: 
Occidental (21 consecutive SCIAC wins, last loss vs. Redlands, 18-14, Oct. 11, 2003)
Curry (19 consecutive NEFC Boyd wins, not including Bogan Division or title games, last loss at Mass-Dartmouth, 18-13, Sept. 25, 2004)
St. Norbert (18 consecutive MWC wins, last loss vs. Monmouth, 28-20, Sept. 17, 2005)
Central (17 consecutive IIAC wins, last loss vs. Coe, 17-14, Sept. 17, 2005)
Wilkes (16 consecutive MAC wins, last loss at Delaware Valley, 17-14, Sept. 17, 2005)
UW-Whitewater (15 consecutive WIAC wins, last loss vs. UW-La Crosse, 35-10, Nov. 13, 2004)
Mary Hardin-Baylor (15 consecutive ASC wins, last loss at Howard Payne, 24-20, Oct. 8, 2005)
Mount Union (14 consecutive OAC wins, last loss vs. Ohio Northern, 21-14, Oct. 22, 2005)
Mount St. Joseph (13 consecutive HCAC wins, last loss vs. Hanover, 40-34, Oct.1, 2005, 1-0 HCAC in 2007)
Concordia, Wis. (11 consecutive IBFC wins, last loss vs. Lakeland, 17-14, Oct. 15, 2005)
Washington & Jefferson (11 consecutive PAC wins, last loss vs. Thiel, 38-35 in OT, Oct. 1, 2005)

North Park and Hiram lost to non-conference opponents, while Lewis and Clark, Wisconsin Lutheran and Cornell did not play.

Longest current conference losing streaks:
North Park (47 consecutive CCIW losses, last win vs. Elmhurst, 31-21, Oct. 7, 2000)
Heidelberg (35 consecutive OAC losses, last win vs. Marietta, 21-13, Oct. 4, 2003)
Lewis and Clark (15 consecutive NWC losses, last win vs. Puget Sound, 25-23, Sept. 27, 2003)
Hiram (14 consecutive NCAC losses, last win vs. Earlham, 7-2, Oct. 1, 2005)
Eureka (14 consecutive IBFC losses, last win vs. Concordia, Ill., 32-13, Sept. 24, 2005)
Wisconsin Lutheran (13 consecutive MIAA losses, last win vs. Tri-State, 37-14, Oct. 1, 2005)
Cornell (13 consecutive IIAC losses, last win vs. Dubuque, 25-21, Oct. 15, 2005)

Tracked streaks must be a season (10 games) or longer. All research has been done and updated by hand, so e-mail Around the Nation or use our feedback form for corrections.

Highly recommended

Have you gotten through all the Around the Regions, most of Around the Nation and are all caught up on Post Patterns? Don't worry, we still have you covered:

Check out our fourth Around the Nation podcast , available on The Daily Dose. Download it, or listen to it straight from your computer.

If you haven't yet noticed, our own Pat Coleman is writing Division III football columns for CSTV again. Check out this week's, which details Montclair State's win at Wesley.

At my day job, an NFL reporter used the term "rocket screen" in an Eagles-Lions story this week. As a former defensive back, I'm very familiar with the play, and I wasn't sure it was being used correctly. So I did what anyone would do these days: I Googled "rocket screen." Three of the first four results are Division III-related, including hits on Rowan and Wartburg, but it was UW-Platteville coach Mike Emendorfer's Power Point presentation 'Hurt the blitz with your screen game' that caught my eye. It really is a great tutorial for the die-hard or beginner on how some of today's more popular plays, including flair screens and slip screens are run. Follow along as it shows you how a play is blocked and what receiver it's supposed to hit (although I must admit it works much better on PC than Mac).

Feedback

Around the Nation is largely interactive, and since its inception has made reader feedback a part of the column. We keep a running board on Post Patterns (under general football) to discuss issues raised in the column, and we'll share feedback and answer questions there, as well as in the column occasionally. Send all correspondence to keith@d3football.com, or use our feedback form.

Topic(s) of the Week 
Share your opinions on the top 25 or not here .

 Also, I always wanted to start a Post Patterns thread for photos of Division III stadiums. It might take me 20 years to see them all on game day, or 20 months to crisscross the country photographing them empty. But, with a collective effort, we might be able to compile a photo-database for us all to enjoy.

I'd thought of coming up with a standard list of shots: Of the home side and press box, of the visitors side, an end-zone angle and something where you can see the markings on the field or turf. We've started collecting them at games our photographers work. And then I see D2Football.com already does practically the same thing. Here are two examples.

Anyway, if anyone's interested, send feedback.

Call for video

Around the Nation is always looking for video of anything Division III football-related. That means we'd like to get our hands on documentaries, local cable broadcasts and re-airs, links to archived broadcasts and coaches' tapes. 

Anyone with access to footage, please send an e-mail to keith@d3football.com. Arrangements can be made to keep coaches' footage private or to pay fans for shipping and materials.

For journalists and broadcasters

Keith McMillan is available on Thursdays and Fridays or by appointment to talk Division III football. For more information, e-mail Keith.

Attention SIDs

Around the Nation is looking for conference media guides this season, but will follow individual schools online or by request. Please use your individual login and D3football.com's news release capabilities instead of our e-mail for general and game-related releases. That way, they get front-page play and still catch Around the Nation's attention. Feel free to send personally addressed e-mail at any time.

To reach Around the Nation by mail, use D3football.com, 13055 Carolyn Forest Dr., Woodbridge, Va., 22192.

Thank you.


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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com's Senior Editor and begins as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011; has worked on all but one of the preseason Kickoff publications; has done game-day writing and photography and the pregame broadcast at the championship Stagg Bowl in Salem for almost a decade; and has taken photos at the Final Four for D3hoops.com. He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

Previous Columns

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October 6, 2013
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September 29, 2013
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September 26, 2013
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September 24, 2013
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September 22, 2013
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September 19, 2013
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September 18, 2013
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September 17, 2013
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Keith McMillan's Around the Nation column returns. You'll see ATN several times a week, including on...

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