Originally written on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 11/13/14

Well here we are in the second round, the turkey has been eaten, the family has been seen, and now it’s time to play some football. Plenty of teams face tough match-ups this weekend as Mount Union’s side of the bracket is loaded with big games. Expect powerhouses UW-Whitewater and Mount Union both to win and make it into the quarterfinals. But who awaits them there could lead to their early exit.

Wisconsin-Whitewater v. Franklin

Well it’s hard to find much to improve on when you win your first rond game 59-0 like Wisconsin-Whitewater did. Wisconsin-Whitewater was able to get up 38-0 before half and put it into coast mode the rest of the half, giving their starters plenty of rest. Wisconsin-Whitewater was able to put 260 rushing yards against Albion, with star running back Levell Coppage held to only 80 yards in the game. However he did score three TD’s. Look for Wisconsin-Whitewater to continue to pound the rock this weekend. The most intriguing part of this match-up for Wisconsin-Whitewater could be the emergence of freshman RB Byron Stanford last week. Stanford came in when Wisconsin-Whitewater benched their starters and ran for 114 yards on only nine carries. If Stanford can become a strong dual threat who can help spell Coppage it will give Franklin a number of backs to worry about. That problem will fall mainly on the shoulders Franklin LB David O’Rourke who was huge v. Thomas More with 10 tackles, two for loss, and a sack.

Franklin struggled a bit to get their passing attack on track v. Thomas More, QB Jonny West went 26 of 44 for 228 yards, a TD and an INT last Saturday. For a team that averaged 314 yards per game the results v. Thomas More were not promising especially when you consider Thomas More ranked 175th in pass defense. Wisconsin-Whitewater comes in with the 81st ranked passing defense giving up an average of 178.27 yards per game. The biggest weapon that QB Jonny West will use is WR Kyle Linville. Linville went for 97 yards on eight catches last weekend. Linville averages seven catches, 100 yards, and a TD per game. In order to stop him DB Noah Timm will need to have a big game. Timm leads Wisconsin-Whitewater in INT’s with six and had a big pick last week v. Albion. Franklin’s passing game may hinge on the ability of  Linville to beat Timm on a consistent basis.

Franklin’s inability to get their passing attack on track last week v. Thomas More should give plenty of people pause for concern. I’m taking Wisconsin-Whitewater to win the game and make it into the quarterfinals.

Salisbury v. Kean

So I think its safe to say you won in a dominant fashion when you’re only forced to throw the ball four times in a game. Granted Salisbury is a triple option attack so they automatically throw far less than most teams to begin with only four passes is a little ridiculous. If you’re not going to pass the ball you may as well run it and that’s exactly what Salisbury did. They ran for 568 yards and eight touchdowns, they had two players go over the hundred yard mark, four go over 75 yards, and five go over 50 yards rushing on the day. That kind of production is nearly unheard of and is 200 yards over their per game average, they also set a new season high for rushing yards in a game. Their triple option attack was running at full force last weekend and Salisbury will look for that to happen again v. Kean who will have to rely on LB’s Brad Bujari and Brad Higgins to make the majority of the stops on Saturday. The emergence of freshman DB Darren Dixon last weekend could be huge when trying to make an impact on this Salisbury triple option. Dixon came through with 15 tackles last weekend and that kind of active participation will be needed again this Saturday.

Kean’s offense is predicated on the ability of QB Tom D’Ambrisi to make plays down the field. D’Ambrisi was able to go 17 of 27 last Saturday for 166 yards, 2 TD’s, and 1 INT. Thess may seem like smaller numbers but this is how Kean wins football games. Only three times all season has D’Ambrisi gone over 200 yards passing in a game. What he has done though is throw for 18 TD’s and just over 1,800 yards. Which equates to an very interesting 1 TD for every 100 yard ratio.  D’Ambrisi is not only consistent with his yardage he’s also pretty consistent with his target as he likes to look for TJ Denehy down the field. Denehy was able to get loose on Saturday for eight catches but was held to only 54 yards. RB Chris DiMicco had a good day running for 73 yards and two scores on 19 carries. His ability to convert short yardage into first downs will be key in efforts to keep the Salisbury offense off the field and the defense will rested. Salisbury will try and bring its pass rush on Kean like it did last week v. Western New England. Salisbury got four sacks last weekend, and forced both of the Western New England QB’s to make throws they didn’t want to.

I will once again pick the Salisbury triple option attack and its potency this week. I don’t see how anybody can pick against them at this point given how many yards they ran for last week.

Monmouth v. St. Thomas

Well it took Monmouth triple OT last weekend to get rid of Illinois Wesleyan but they did it. Monmouth started out extremely slow getting down 17-0  before they would answer with 17 of their own points. Once again it was QB Alex Tanney who had to come up big in a game where he struggled some. Tanney threw an INT on his first drive and then saw another one his passes get fumbled to end the second drive. Those kind of mistakes would be the end of most teams but this Monmouth team fought back. Tanney ended the day going 32 of 43 for 336 yards two TD’s and an INT. RB Trey Yokum ran for 89 yards on 25 carries and a score. Illinois Wesleyan did a good job v. Monmouth’s offensive line, they held up at the POA and got good penetration all game long. Monmouth was only able to gain 112 yards on the ground and the Illinois Wesleyan defense recorded 10 TFL’s and two sacks. St. Thomas will look to continue that trend as they recorded six tackles for loss and four sacks last week themselves. St. Thomas completely shut down Gagliardi Award Finalist QB Alex Thiry making him go 9 of 21 for 59 yards and two picks. They will take on yet another Gagliardi finalist this weekend.

St. Thomas is a physically dominant rushing team who will grind you down into nothing. They rushed for 351 yards and seven TD’s last week against St. Scholastica. They dominated the time of possession battle winning 37:16 to 22:44. They have a good offensive line who loves to get into the trenches and hit people. They finish their blocks well and run their scheme so effectively that its hard for defenses to find flaws in it. Monmouth is strong offensive team that relies on its ability to answer teams scores to win games. Its defense isn’t horrible but they are not a juggernaut that’s going to hold teams to only a few points per game. On the season they allow an average of 22.27 per game. Against a team like St. Thomas who scores an average of 39.82 points per game Monmouth’s average points per game could easily get doubled. If Monmouth is going to make some defensive stops its going to come because LB Preston Lumzy made some plays. Last week v. Illinois Wesleyan he recorded six tackles and a TFL but he’s going to have to much more if he hopes to make an impact on St. Thomas.

As much as I like QB Alex Tanney and this Monmouth offense I’m not sure how effective they can be against the No. 3 Total Defense in the nation. As much as it hurts to pick against one of my favorite teams and players in Division III, I have to go with St. Thomas to role and continue their collision course for a semi-final showdown with UW-Whitewater.

Delaware Valley v. St. John Fisher

Like many of the teams in the first round Delaware Valley was able to win its first round game in rather easy fashion. Delaware Valley jumped out to a 28-10 first half lead and never looked back as they added 34 in the second half and Norwich didn’t score again. Delaware Valley who is a traditionally balanced offensive attack was quite unbalanced last weekend as they doubled the amount of passes they attempted (26) with their rushing attack (52) and they nearly doubled their yardage (207 pass, 397 rush). Delaware Valley RB Kyle Schuberth actually had a rather quiet game on Saturday as he carried the ball 15 times for 61 yards and a score. Instead of Schuberth ripping off long runs it was senior Isaiah Hall. Coming into this game Hall had rushed for only 143 yards and had been more of a hybrid WR/RB than a true RB. Well last weekend he exploded for 128 yards on seven carries and averaged over 18 yards per carry. Hall adds yet another dimension to this already dangerous offense that St. John Fisher will have to account for. St. John Fisher sure looked up to the task last weekend as they held Johns Hopkins to 317 total yards and came away with a big win over the Blue Jays. St. John Fisher forced five INT’s and took full advantage of those in their efforts to stump an offensive attack that was averaging just under 500 yards per game.

When you pick off five passes v. your opponent you often don’t have to do much in order to win the game and that’s what St. John Fisher did. They scored only 23 points and scored only once off those five turnovers. The weird thing about St. John Fisher is how much they rely on so few players to make plays. All 16 of St. John’s passes were completed to only two WR’s. Both Ryan Francis and Ryan Schmidt went over 100 yards on the day, and Schmidt also carried the ball four times for 48 yards. This lack of offensive versatility is slightly frightening when you consider that they are going against the sixth overall defense this coming Saturday. All eyes will be on Delaware Valley CB Terrance Osborne as he attempts to shut down Ryan Schmidt and force the St John’s passing attack to become one dimensional. If Osborne can eliminate Schmidt one on one they can roll coverage help from guys like DB Ryan McCullough over to Francis’s side in an attempt to eliminate both of St. John’s big playmakers.

Much like last weekend I have a feeling that Delaware Valley will have an easy time moving on in these playoffs. St. John’s was a  bit lucky to move on last weekend v. Johns Hopkins and I think that luck will run out on Saturday.

McMurry v. Mary-Hardin Baylor

If you want to watch a fun game on Saturday make sure you find a way to watch this game. McMurry comes in with the top ranked passing attack in the entire nation averaging 353.27 yards per game v. the Mary Hardin-Baylor rushing attack that ranks seventh in the country averaging 302.64 yards per game. These two teams met up in Week 2 of the regular season when Mary-Hardin Baylor beat McMurry 28-27 in a hard fought game that saw McMurry QB Jake Mullin struggle with his accuracy and throw two of his 12 INT’s on the year. The issue for McMurry may be that we still aren’t sure on Mullin’s status for this weekends game. We know he hurt his knee two weeks ago v. Mississippi College and missed last weekend’s playoff game. Most pundits expect Mullin to see the field on Saturday but in what capacity or at what level of health is a complete guess. What we do know is that this high octane offensive attack is simply not the same when Mullin is not in there. No matter who is at QB, WR R.J. Long must get open and expose defensive holes. In the first match-up Long had nine catches for 100 yards, and a TD. MHB must get either CB Tracy Cooper or Brodrick Crain to give Long a better game than he had in Week 1.

MHB was able to do exactly what it wanted in its Week 2 match-up as they were able to run the ball 58 times for 323 yards and three TD’s. RB Darius Wilson was especially dangerous in that game as he ran 30 times for 222 yards and a score. Wilson averaged 7.4 yards per carry in that game and never had a carry over 18 yards in that game. His ability to consistently pick up 7 yards per carry and extend drives proved deadly to McMurry who couldn’t get the ball enough to feed their high powered offense. Not much has changed for MHB since that game, they won 9 straight since that game making them 11-0 and just last week they went for 336 and three scores on the ground. Wilson was actually held relatively in check against  Redlands as had he had only 57 yards on 23 carries. It was QB LiDarral Bailey who was a consistent pain in the running game. Bailey’s 112 yards, and two TD’s were more than enough to put the Redlands away and get MHB into the second round for the 7th consecutive season. McMurry will need to hope that MHB’s new pistol offense will show have some of the inconsistencies that plagued it earlier this season. They will also need DB Will Morris to have a huge game. In their first match-up Morris had 11 tackles and a pass breakup. The defensive front seven will also need to come up just as big on Saturday as they did in Week 2 with 12 TFL.

Without Mullin I don’t think the McMurry offense is as dangerous. Mullin makes that passing attack go and without him I don’t think they have a shot to answer MHB’s rushing attack score for score.

Linfield v. Wesley

Linfield completed the season sweep of Cal Lutheran last weekend with a big 30-27 win to advance into Round 2. RB Josh Hill was a dominant player in the game as he carried the ball 27 times for 154 yards, caught four passes for 26 yards, and scored a TD. QB Mickey Inns also was effective as he completed 17 of his 27 pass attempts fort 152 yards and three scores. Inns found three different WR’s for TD’s that did not include his big play threat in WR Lucas Jepson. Jepson was held to only three catches for 30 yards. Jepson leads the team in TD’s with eight but is only the third most often targets WR on this team behind Deidre Wiersma and Buddy Saxon who both had five catches and a TD last weekend. Wesley did a very good job v. Hobart last weekend as they help them to only 211 passing yards and QB Kelly Olney had a sub 50% completion percentage. DB Dakevis Howard was all over the place with seven tackles and five pass breakups. Expect him to be put one on one with Deidre Wiersma early but he could move over to shut down Jepson if he gets going early.

QB Shane McSweeny was deadly last Saturday as he tossed for 336 yards and five TD’s, he also added 61 yards on the ground and led his team in rushing. McSweeny and freshmen WR Steven Koudossou continued to have an explosive relationship. Koudossou has only 12 receptions on the year but he’s caught six TD’s. He’s only caught passes in five games but he’s caught at least one score in four of those five games. Koudossou became Wesley’s top WR based on yardage last week but its Sean McAndrew and Jeremiah Howe who are McSweeny’s top targets. Linfield must find a way to shut down McSweeney not just throw the air but also on the ground as he leads the team in rushing touchdowns with 10. Expect Linfield DB Drew Fisher to be aware whenever Koudossou is on the field. Fisher is considered to be one of the top safeties in all Division II and his ability to stay back in CF, read the QB’s eyes and break on the ball could be key. Also look for DL Tyler Steele to try and provide pressure on McSweeny. Steele had a down game v. Cal Lutheran but has nine sacks, and 14.5 tackles for loss on the year.

I thought about this game for a long time. I actually finished out this preview before I wrote this prediction because that’s how torn I was on both of these teams. In the end I decided to roll with Linfield in this game. I think their versatility and more proven WR corp will likely be the difference in a game that I expect to come down to the final possession.

Wabash v. North Central

Wabash was able to beat Illinois College last week because of their ability to run the ball and control the clock. Wabash dominated the time of possession and had nearly 20 more minutes of possession than Illinois College. RB’s Vann Hunt and Tyler Holmes combined for 41 carries, 192 yards, and two TD’s. QB Chase Belton was extremely effective in the passing game going 11 of 19 for 135 yards and two TD’s and added another TD on the ground. Like they have been all season both WR Jonathan Horn and Wes Chamblee were the main targets for Benton. They caught eight of Benton’s 12 completions, accounted for 133 of his 182 yards and caught both of the TD’s. Unfortunately for Wabash, North Central was a defensive nightmare for a Dubuque offense that averaged 489.91 yards per game. Last weekend North Central held Dubuque to only 310 total yards. Only 49 of those 310 yards came on the ground, though its worth noting that Dubuque is a far greater passing offense than rushing. North Central does come into this game with the 25th ranked rushing defense allowing an average of only 103.09 yards. North Central averages about 6.73 tackles for loss per game which helps to keep their average rush yards per game allowed low.

North Central like so many other teams on the side of the bracket is one dimensional. They rely very heavily on the running game. Last weekend they put up 411 rushing yards and seven TD’s v. Dubuque. RB’s Jordan Tassio and Nick Kukuc both eclipsed the 100 yard mark and five different players rushed for a TD. Despite attempting only eight passes on the day North Central also managed to score a TD through the air as they found All-American caliber TE Kyle Fiedorowicz in the end zone for a score. RB Nick Kukuc went over 1,000 yards this past weekend on the year and with another game or two Jordan Tassio won’t be far behind him (803 yards). To their credit Wabash allowed only 29 rushing yards themselves last week and only allow and average of 61 yards per game which ranks third in the country. In order for North Central to be successful in the run game they will have to make sure they find a way to block DL Pat Clegg. Clegg’s ability to get into the backfield and be disruptive in uncanny. He has 16.5 TFL on the year and added another one last weekend v. Illinois College.

If you loved LSU v. Alabama a few weeks ago than you’ll love this game as two strong defenses will go head to head to see who can give up less yardage on the ground to two very good rushing attacks. Like the LSU and Alabama game this one could very well have a big impact on the National Championship. Im taking North Central in this game though setting up an epic quarterfinal match-up with Mount Union next weekend.

Mount Union v. Centre

One could easily make the case that Mount Union won last weekend’s game before the game even reached halftime. Mount Union is so deep and dangerous at nearly every position that their game v. Benedictine was never fair. QB Matt Piloto completed 18 of 23 passes for 206 yards, RB’s Blair Skilliter and Jeremy Murray went over 60 yards a piece and combined for five TD’s. Mount Union is this dominant because everything for them starts up front with an incredible offensive line. They are the lead blockers for a rushing attack that averages 264 yards per game and they help a passing attack average 219 yards per game by allowing only .91 sacks per game which ranks 28th in the country in sacks allowed. The issue for Centra is that their rush defense isn’t all the good, their toughest task to date was when they played Washington & Lee in Week 3 and in that game they gave up 339 yards and four TD’s on the ground the 4th ranked rushing attack in the country. If they are to do anything in this game to shut down Mount Union’s rushing attack they must have DL Javod Sewell step up and have a huge game. His ability to get into the backfield and make plays must be taken to a new level on Saturday.

Offensively it has been the Tyler Osterman show all season long and that will have to continue to be the story this Saturday. Osterman threw for 161 yards, and five TD’s last weekend v. Hampden-Sydney taking advantage of a defense that was committed to stopping the run and that left huge holes in their pass defense. Hampden-Sydney though has good reason to concentrate on the Centre rushing attack as it ran up 302 rushing yards and two TD’s on the day. Both RB Monte Scotton and Jonathan Pinque went got to the century mark and Osterman added another 60 on his own. Mount Union comes in as the top total defense in the nation. They come in allowing only 175.45 yards per game and absolutely dominating their opponents. Mount Union allows an average of only 7.09 points per game and has only twice this season allowed more than a touchdown.

This game to me isn’t a hard pick and I gave it away in my last pick. Its Mount Union and I don’t think Centre scores over seven points.

I hope everybody enjoyed their turkey and family yesterday, now let’s gets ready for some more football!

For his coverage of the FCS, DII and DIII playoffs, please follow Matt Elder on Twitter @MatthewCElder.

Also follow Crystal Ball Run @CrystalBallRun.

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