October 28, 2013

Snap judgments from the first big week

Sunday's snap judgments are Monday's delayed reactions. Still, after such a big week, we deserve some.

Week 8 was really the first huge week of the 2013 season, nationally. There had been games that were important to particular programs, or to conference races, but Week 8 was the first time there'd be so many, from coast to coast.

Or, more accurately, from Wheaton-Illinois Wesleyan to Lakeland-Concordia (Wis.). (CUW's Austin Damaschke at right.)

Week 9 is going to continue the theme. Former Heidelberg linebacker Neal Renna said:

The @NCAADIII game of the week has to go to Mount Union vs Heidelberg. #d3fb #OAC

— Neal Renna (@Nrenna) October 27, 2013

Well, sure, it's big when No. 1 plays at No. 9. Of course, this Saturday also features No. 2 Linfield at No. 25 Willamette, No. 4 North Central at No. 13 Illinois Wesleyan and No. 8 UW-Platteville at No. 6 UW-Whitewater, so game of the week candidates abound.

With the NCAA committee's regional rankings due out this week, playoff talk heats up, and everything's big for contending teams from here out. Week 9 may be crazy, but here are some more things about Week 8 that didn't make the podcast.

• Approximately 94 percent of D-III is based in either the Eastern or Central Time Zone, so West Coast games are occasionally buried among the onslaught of everything else in the division happening. But Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, a week after getting notice for a 62-yard field goal, denied Whittier its first win ... in five overtimes.

The Stags kicked a field goal to tie the game at 26 with eight seconds left. And then the fireworks began. Here's the play-by-play of all five overtimes

The teams traded touchdowns three times, then each missed a field goal in the fourth overtime, with Whitter's kick missing from 49. Matthew Aven missed a potential game-winner from 35 yards in the fourth OT, but CMS eschewed a fourth-and-1 at the 16 in the fifth OT and let Aven kick from 33. And the Poets came away crushed when they attempted to match the field goal, from 36, and again missed wide left.

• Mississippi College is 3-4 but technically tied atop the ASC with No. 3 Mary Hardin Baylor at 3-0 in conference games.

• Meantime, former ASC member Texas Lutheran is 6-0 after beating the Choctaws, and might be 7-0 if its game with Southwestern Assemblies of God hadn't been called off because of a three-hour lightning delay. TLU gets perhaps the stiffest test on its schedule when it hosts Louisiana College (5-2) this week.

TLU's strength of schedule is 215th nationally (sixth if you search by teams with "Luther" in their names), which is why they aren't getting any top 25 love. Their new SCAC schedule allows them to dodge the big dog in Texas in a season when playing UMHB might be a game worthy of national attention.

• We didn't mention the NACC clash between Lakeland and Concordia at all, but the Falcons fell behind 14-0 and scored five straight TDs on the way to a 45-28 win. Factoring in the one-point win over Benedictine earlier this season, the Falcons are on the path to a playoff spot. In the North and West, however, having two losses overall is going to get you sent somewhere like Mount Union or UW-Whitewater in the first round, which is neat until the game actually starts.

• It's a game we wanted to see last season when Ohio Wesleyan was on the way to 9-1 instead of 4-3, but they face Wittenberg this week. The Tigers need not to stumble to keep the Week 10 (Nov. 9) showdown with Wabash a matchup of unbeatens.

• Big games get you talked about, as do big rivalries. The top 25 teams I've paid the least attention to over the past several weeks are No. 7 Hobart, No. 11 Franklin, No. 12 Johns Hopkins, No. 14 Wabash and No. 17 Wittenberg. It's not that they've played badly, but that they've played so well -- beating teams they're expected to beat, by mostly handy margins -- that it attracts little attention. I'd take that as compliment.

• Most surprising conference leaders: Guilford, Wesleyan, Maryville and Rhodes (co-leader with Millsaps, with the Lynx set to host the Majors in Week 11). Albion, which was 6-4 last season, is 5-2 and out in front in the MIAA, but that conference is still a multiple-contender, anybody-can-win league.

• The multiple-contender, anybody-can-win, but the champ might-be-unranked club: The ODAC, MAC, IIAC, NJAC and MIAA.

• The multiple-contender, one-of-three-or-four-can-win, come-on-let's-play-these-big-games-already-club: The OAC, WIAC, CCIW and NWC.

• UW-Whitewater has a pretty great defense, allowing 51 points through seven games. And that's more than double the 23 John Carroll has allowed.

• Of the 15 remaning winless teams (Allegheny, Alma, Anderson, Berry, Hamilton, Lawrence, MacMurray, Misericordia, St. Vincent, Southwestern, Sul Ross State, Tufts, UW-River Falls, Whittier, Wilmington), all could finish the season that way, since Hamilton and Tufts don't play each other. The most likely to win is Misericordia against FDU-Florham in Week 11.

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