10 games to watch for 2012

Few games are more impassioned than the rivalry game between Hampden-Sydney and Randolph-Macon. Each team has won two of the last four meetings.
Photo by David Breidenbach

The dew glistening on the grass as you and your teammates trudge through an early morning walkthrough. The way a bit of dirt always seems to find its way into your mouthguard. The way your undershirt, soaked in water and sweat, clings to your torso as you remove your shoulder pads after the game. Recovering in the cold tub on Sunday morning. Damn, I miss football. 

If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you how exciting this time of year is. Every team has hope. Teams like Wesley, Johns Hopkins, Christopher Newport, and Hampden-Sydney expect to return to the postseason, but know that they still have to put the work in over the next eleven weeks. Teams like Muhlenberg, Ursinus, Randolph-Macon, and Ferrum are on the verge and hungry to take that next step. Teams like Juniata, Greensboro, and Catholic worked just as hard in the offseason to prove that last season was a fluke. 

Before we get to my ten most-anticipated games in the Centennial, ODAC, and USA South (with a dash of Wesley thrown in the mix), a brief introduction:  I graduated from Washington and Lee in 2006 after earning three letters in football. I was a two-year starter at free safety and quarterbacked our defense as we turned the program from a disappointing 3-7 my sophomore year to a 7-3 mark in my senior season. I’ve been contributing to D3football.com since 2007 and look forward to writing the Mid-Atlantic column each week this season. I have big shoes to fill, as Ryan Tipps has done an excellent job in this space for the past five years. Tipps is still on board as an editor and still owns the @D3MidAtlantic twitter handle. I’m going to stick with @adamturer, where I’ll tweet mostly about D-III football, Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky high school football, my beloved Cincinnati Reds, and sandwiches. I had a very unique D-III football-playing experience, and I’m looking to sharing stories of your similarly unique experiences. Please reach out to me via Twitter or email if you know of a player who has taken an unconventional path to Saturdays. 

Now, let’s whet our appetite for what should be the 10 tastiest games on the 2012 regular season menu in the Mid-Atlantic.

Games to watch

Randolph-Macon at Johns Hopkins on Sept. 1. The season opener should have implications come November. If either of these teams falls short in their quest for a conference championship, a win here will go a long way toward a Pool C playoff berth. Yellow Jackets’ sophomore quarterback Zac Naccarato is eager to show how much he has improved since his ODAC Rookie of the Year campaign, but will be tested by the Blue Jays defense that finished 2011 ranked 10th in the nation in total defense. 

Christopher Newport at Hampden-Sydney on Sept. 8. Another early season nonconference matchup with Pool C implications. Will the Tigers’ new quarterback, Nash Nance, be able to pick apart the Captains’ defense? After battling Salisbury’s punishing ground game the previous week, the Captains defense will need to adjust to the Tigers’ balanced no-huddle attack. Pressure will be on CNU cornerbacks Marvin Mills and Tyshawn Harris to rise to the challenge.

Gettysburg at Ursinus on Sept. 8. 40-34. 49-39. 55-50. Those are the final scores from the past three matchups between the Bullets and the Bears. Gettysburg won the most recent shootout after dropping the first two to Ursinus. These teams tied for third place in the Centennial in 2011, and this early season battle could provide separation near the top of the league.

Mary Hardin-Baylor at Wesley on Sept. 15. This is the most-anticipated nonconference regular season game of 2012, in my opinion. The Wolverines have ended the Crusaders’ season in the national quarterfinals each of the past two seasons. UMHB aims to get a measure of revenge on Wesley’s home turf. The stakes won’t be as high as they usually are when these two meet, but this is a must-watch game, even in September.

Johns Hopkins at Muhlenberg on Sept. 22. Speaking of the top of the Centennial Conference, the Blue Jays and Mules finished 1-2 in 2011 after forming two-thirds of a three-way tie for first place in 2010. With the Blue Jays breaking in a new quarterback, the outcome of this game will be decided by defense and rushing. 

Ferrum at Christopher Newport on Oct. 6. The Panthers won six conference games last year, the program’s most since its last postseason year of 2005. The Captains kept Ferrum’s postseason drought alive by defeating the Panthers, 48-30, in the penultimate game of the 2011 season. This year, the teams meet up in the middle of the season. Based on their early nonconference schedules, Ferrum should enter this matchup with the better record.

Randolph-Macon at Washington and Lee on Oct. 13. The ODAC schedule does not kick into high gear until the second weekend in October. The Yellow Jackets’ defense will need to rise to the occasion. In their last two meetings, both Generals victories, Randolph-Macon has yielded an average of 38 points per game. Behind Drake Sanders and Zac Naccarato, the Yellow Jackets will have the offensive firepower to keep pace with the Generals’ multi-faceted rushing attack. This game should come down to which team makes a crucial fourth quarter defensive stand.

LaGrange at Maryville on Oct. 20. The Panthers have a new conference after three years of independent play. The Scots have a new head coach and are looking for their first winning season since 2007. Maryville finished in the top half of the USA South last season and does not want to let the new kid on the block relegate them toward the basement. LaGrange wants to prove that it belongs with the top contenders in the conference.

Hampden-Sydney at Washington and Lee on Nov. 3. It’s the game before The Game. The Tigers eked out a seven-point win over the Generals to earn the ODAC title in 2011. While each team will still have one regular season game to play after this, chances are the loser of this game will be eliminated from ODAC contention. The Tigers jumped out to a big early lead in 2011 and held on for the win. The Generals hope that homefield advantage is in their favor this season. 

Randolph-Macon at Hampden-Sydney on Nov. 10. The Game. What can make one of the nation’s most historic rivalry games even more exciting? A playoff berth on the line in the final week of the regular season should do the trick. The Tigers earned the ODAC automatic bid last year, but entered the playoffs coming off of a loss to the Yellow Jackets. The 2012 edition is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in this game’s storied history.

There are so many more games we are looking forward to. I look forward to sharing our predictions and analysis together throughout the season. Keep the discussion going through Twitter and email and on the Around the Mid Atlantic thread on the D3football.com message board.

Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is a writer based in Connecticut and a former online news editor for ESPN.com, as well as a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has written feature stories for ESPN.com, currently contributes fantasy football content to RotoBaller.com, and has been a regular contributor to D3sports.com sites since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing.

2012-2015 columnist: Adam Turer
2007-2011 columnist: Ryan Tipps
2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman

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