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Snap Judgments: Controlling your own destiny

More news about: Westminster (Pa.)

Justin Dahl was a perfect 3-3 in field goal attempts as the Titans defeated Washington and Jefferson, 16-10.
Photo by Jason Kapusta 

Heading into Saturday's action, the ASC was the last remaining non-NESCAC conference with multiple undefeated teams.

Jerrell Freeman became the first Crusader to have his jersey retired and Chuck Norris was also on hand as No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor retained control of the ASC with a 20-15 win over No. 11 Hardin-Simmons. The defensive battle turned early in the fourth quarter on a Hunter Schmidt interception return, which set the Crusaders up inside the Cowboys five yard line. Two plays later, Blake Jackson connected with Carson Embry for the go-ahead score. The Cowboys responded with a 14-play drive, but it fizzled out at the Mary Hardin-Baylor 20 and the Cru held on for the win.

The Crusaders are now one of just 18 undefeateds left in the country. That includes NESCAC schools Trinity (CT) and Middlebury which do not compete in the postseason. That leaves 16 schools who control their own playoff destiny. For the rest of the teams nipping at their heels, it's about that time of the season to start considering conference tiebreaker scenarios.

The Westminster-Washington and Jefferson game had a huge impact on the PAC race, even if both of those teams are looking up in the standings at Thomas More and Case Western Reserve. The Saints and Spartans do not play each other this year; both remain undefeated in conference play. The next tiebreaker after head-to-head in the PAC is record against the next-best team. Thomas More has a win over the Presidents; Case Western does not face W&J this year. Because Thomas More played and defeated both the Titans and Presidents, the Saints have an edge in the third step of the tiebreaker: strength of conference wins. In addition to Case Western, Thomas More doesn't play Geneva (2-5, 1-4) this season. That means that the Saints have the stronger conference slate, which could determine who gets the Pool A bid, even if CWRU finishes 10-0 while Thomas More finishes 9-1 with a non-conference loss to Franklin. Westminster defeated Washington and Jefferson for the first time since 2000, 16-10. The Titans picked off Pete Coughlin three times. The Spartans were nearly upset, surviving Geneva, 16-14. Case Western did just enough to keep pace with Thomas More and keep the tiebreaker scenario intact.

In the NCAC, frontrunner Denison still has to play DePauw and Wabash, the two teams that Wittenberg defeated before losing to the Big Red. There may be a three-way tie in this league, or there may be a clear winner. We might not know until after the Monon Bell game in Week 11.

Similarly, in the NJAC, No. 22 Salisbury still has to play Christopher Newport, Wesley, and Frostburg State. Those three results will likely determine if one, two, or three teams finish atop the conference standings. The Captains lost to the Bobcats and the Wolverines defeated No. 21 Rowan, breaking a five-way tie and leaving just three teams tied for first.

All of a sudden, the HCAC race is dramatic. Rose-Hulman upset No. 14 Franklin, 23-22. The Fightin' Engineers and Grizzlies are now part of a four-way tie for the conference lead, along with Bluffton and Mount St. Joseph. Next week, Rose-Hulman faces Bluffton and Franklin plays Mount St. Joseph. It will be a two-team race by this time next week.

Berry remained in first place in the SAA by not playing this weekend. The Vikings are joined atop the conference standings by Washington U., Centre, and Hendrix. The Vikings still play Centre in the season finale on Nov. 12. The Warriors play the Bears on Nov. 5. It appears unlikely that one team will finish alone atop the conference standings in the SAA.

St. Lawrence has the edge in the Liberty League, but a Nov. 5 showdown with Hobart is looming. The Statesmen needed a comeback to hold off Springfield, 12-7, and keep their title hopes alive. The Saints stayed on top by winning the lowest scoring game of the season, 8-0 over Merchant Marine.

Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer will play for first place in the SCIAC on Oct. 29. If the Bulldogs win that one, they still have to finish the season at Cal Lutheran. The Kingsmen could force a three-way tie if they win out and the Sagehens lose to Redlands. Eureka is the surprise team in the UMAC. The Red Devils are tied at 6-1 in league play and face Northwestern in the regular season finale on Nov. 5. If both teams take care of business on Oct. 29, the conference will have a true championship game the following week.

In the Empire 8, Alfred still has to play St. John Fisher and Brockport. The Saxons control their own destiny, much like Washington and Lee in the ODAC. The Generals still have to face Randolph-Macon and Shenandoah. Husson remains alone in first in the ECFC, but still has dates with Norwich and Mount Ida ahead. Stevenson made a statement with a 19-0 win over Delaware Valley to retain sole possession of the MAC lead. The No. 15 Mustangs held the Aggies to just 114 yards of offense. The Aggies had not been shut out since 2002.

Olivet had a field goal blocked at the end of regulation, but survived Benedictine in overtime, 54-48, in a rare late season non-conference game. The Comets are in first place in the MIAA, but still face Alma, Adrian, and Trine, three teams that each have just one conference loss.

Wisconsin Lutheran stunned Lakeland, 50-34, leaving Aurora alone atop the NACC. The Spartans still have to play the Muskies and Benedictine, two of the three one-loss conference teams. Aurora defeated the Warriors, the third one-loss NACC team, earlier this season.

Maryville held off Averett to take sole possession of first place in the USA South. Both the Scots and Cougars still have to face Huntingdon, and the defending champion Hawks remain very much alive in the conference race.

Bridgewater State remained unblemished in MASCAC play. The Bears now get a bye week and have extra time to prepare for the Nov. 5 showdown with Framingham State. A win over the Rams will clinch the conference title.

Monmouth and St. Norbert remain on a collision course to play for the MWC title on Nov. 5. Both the Scots and Green Knights have breezed through conference play at a combined 10-0 with no opponents playing them close.

Get out the vote

As we get deeper into the season and undefeated teams fall by the wayside, I've started to get more inquiries into the Top 25 poll. Mainly, inquiring minds what to know who I think is number one and why. 

Here's my rationale, but keep in mind I'm just one of the 25 voters.

In the preseason poll, I voted Mount Union number one. Simply put, I think preseason polls are largely meaningless and I will pretty much always vote the defending champion into that top spot. Until they're unseated, they are the top team. 

The next week I voted who I believed would be the best team in the nation this year into the top spot. That was Linfield, my pick in Kickoff to win the Stagg Bowl this year. After the Wildcats lost to Mary Hardin-Baylor, the Crusaders leapfrogged the other Purple Powers to get to number one in my poll. The Cru has remained in my top spot ever since. This week's win over Hardin-Simmons, while narrow, was still impressive enough to keep UMHB number one in my opinion. 

I think UW-Whitewater has the next best case after fending off two top ten WIAC opponents. Mount Union remains undefeated and is still the defending champ. It's hard to argue with either of those teams being ranked first. I'm sticking with the Cru for now, and hoping we get to see some great matchups in December that will settle the poll debate on the field. 

On tap:

Here's what to watch for on D3football.com this week.

Later today-- new Top 25 poll released

Monday--Around the Nation podcast featuring Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan. Also, Play of the Week. Submit nominations today if you haven't already.

Tuesday/Wednesday--Around the Region columns

Thursday--Around the Nation column.

Friday--Quick Hits (the new, improved version of Triple Take featuring our panel's predictions and insight into the weekend's games).

Saturday--Game day. You know what Saturdays are for.

We've got great content coming at you all week, every week. Follow along and get to know D-III football beyond just your favorite team.

If you have ideas for an upcoming column or just want to talk some D-III football, get at me at @adamturer on Twitter or adam.turer@d3sports.com.

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Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his third season writing Around the Nation after spending four seasons writing Around the Mid-Atlantic.

2014-2015 columnist: Ryan Tipps.
2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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