August 28, 2012

10 games to watch for 2012

Will Whitworth and linebacker Ryan Loutsis have a breakout season? The Pirates start in Duluth, Minn.
Whitworth athletics photo

Hello again all D3football.com fans. I am honored to have a chance to tell some of the great stories that happen around the West region and give a sneak peek into the key recaps and future pivotal matchups in the week ahead.

Last season, I was pleased to see how many e-mails I received with feature story ideas to be highlighted in this column. Please do that again!

I can be contacted at jason.galleske
@d3sports.com
.
 
Thank you again. Here's 10 games to watch for the upcoming season, with a thumbnail sketch of why they're important.
 
Whitworth at St. Scholastica, Sept. 1: The Pirates will make the trek across the country against a playoff team last season. A could figure heavily in the Pirates playoff chances down the road. The Saints, who won the UMAC last season, look to bolster their non-conference schedule from a year ago with a solid NWC foe.

Redlands at North Central, Sept. 8: Last season Chad Hurst scored a touchdown with five seconds lieft to give Redlands the big upset and factored heaviliy in the Bulldogs playoff appearance a season ago. North Central, who is looking for its seventh straight CCIW title, will be thinking about the collapse a season ago and not wanting it to happen again.
 
Bethel at Wartburg, Sept. 8: A non-conference game between an MIAC and IIAC schools that could have serious playoff implications riding on it down the road. Both teams are picked to be in the hunt and a win here could bolster the playoff chances of the winner even if a slipup happens in league play.
 
Linfield at Cal Lutheran, Sept. 15: Linfield is 4-1 in the last three seasons against the Kingsmen, including three playoff wins in the last three seasons. This is always a pivotal game for strength of schedule. That being said, a slipup by either team in this game means the loser more than likely has to win a conference title to make the playoffs.
 
UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville, Oct. 1: The three-time defending national champion Warhawks kickoff the WIAC season with a challenge at a sure-to-be crowded Pioneer Stadium when these two teams square off. The Pioneers are picked to be in the mix to win the WIAC, an upset here would get them well on their way.

Cal Lutheran at Redlands, Oct. 6: Last season, the Kingsmen overcame a 24-point halftime deficit to stun the Bulldogs in the second half to claim the SCIAC championship and a playoff spot. This game is a crucial one as both team may not only be playing for the SCIAC crown, but a chance to punch their postseason tickets as well.
 
Bethel at St. Thomas, Oct. 13: More than likely this will be for the MIAC championship. Both teams have established themselves as heavyweights in the league and the Tommies' road to a third consecutive MIAC title may be showcased in front of their own fans. The Royals have other plans and hope to bust out of the top three and into the first spot of the MIAC.
 
Wartburg at Dubuque, Oct. 20: The two favorites to win the IIAC square off and if last year was any indication how close it was, this could be a dandy. Last year, the Knights gave the Spartans their lone league defeat and looked to have a good chance to win the league. But a stumble against Simpson gave the Spartans a second chance after falling to Wartburg.
 
Illinois Wesleyan at Wheaton, Oct. 20: This battle could very well be for a playoff spot as the two teams that are picked second and third in the CCIW square off. If the loser of the game doesn't pick off conference favorite and six-time defending champion North Central, it could be a long offseason.
 
UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater, Oct. 20: Last season the Warhawks had a come-from-behind victory and barely beat the Titans 20-17. Oshkosh gave the Warhawks their biggest challenge last season and as always will give their best to try and upset the best team in the nation.

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Josh Smith covers high school and Division III athletics for the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wis. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and contributes to multiple publications in addition to his duties at the Daily Union, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He graduated from UW-Whitewater with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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