Week 1 was an NWC disaster for the conference and for my picks as Pacific, Whitworth dropped winnable games, and Willamette and GFU both losing as well. UPS did defeat the defending SCIAC champions in a tight contest and proceeded to brag how everyone in the NWC was sucky last weekend except for them. Obviously the game I was most surprised with was the Whitworth game. I had three games running at the same time this past Saturday (Whit/Fox/UPS) and it seemed that every time I turned my eyes back to the Whitworth game it seems that Central was a hot knife through the Rats defensive butter. That changes a huge dynamic this season for Whitworth as any hope for a pool C bid (if they’re unable to unseat Linfield) is now officially a razor’s edge.
With that said we almost have a full slate of NWC action this week except for Fox is on the bye. Whitworth has a “get right” game in SoCal, L&C has a chance to show improvement in year two of their new staff, Pacific’s season could be in deep trouble after Saturday, UPS is looking to lay claim to legitimacy, and PLU has a chance to make a statement. Let’s get to the picks!
Northwest Conference Games of the Week:
#3 Linfield (0-0) over Chapman (0-0) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says Linfield: Go ahead and phone in another NWC win in what appears to be the first annual NWC v SCIAC Challenge weekend. wildcat11 did a fine job of talking about all the things that won't matter until UMHB next week. How will the o-line play? How productive is Hoff's replacement? Against Chapman...who cares. This will be a nice tune-up for Belton next week. See you boys down there.
Whitworth (0-1) over Whittier (0-0) (at Whitter): Man, I had no idea that Central was going to make Whitworth’s defense look that pedestrian. The Rats gave up 595 total yards of offense….595! Whitworth’s DC Adam Richbart should have been forced to wear a brown paper bag all week on campus after a performance after that. The silver lining for Whitworth? They have a lot of guys that can make plays in the receiving crop. The Rats get a chance to wash that taste out of their mouth again the Poets this weekend but pretty much the playoffs start now for Whitworth. It has to be NWC title or the Rats are going to be sitting on the outside looking in when the playoffs are announced.
(509)Rat says Whitworth: Nothing like scheduling a SCIAC push-over to get the train back on the tracks. I get that Central is a good program and may have enough to win the IIAC, but they aren't worthy of an OT loss if you are supposedly a top 25 team. Whitworth gave up 35 first downs and 602 yards of offense. Central probably won't do that against anybody else this year...think about that. It won't matter this week though as the Pirate offense will be way too much for the Poets.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (0-0) over Lewis & Clark (0-0) (at CMS): The Staggs are the SCIAC favorite this season as CMS is coming off a 7-2 season last year. I’m not sure if that means CMS is that good of a football team. 5 of their SCIAC wins last year were by 3 points or less and they only beat L&C 27-7 last season and lost to UPS by 2. So it’s not like CMS is some juggernaut of a team. L&C has some kids that can play but not nearly enough or even nearly enough serviceable depth this year. I expect a comfortable Staggs win.
(509)Rat says Claremont-Mudd-Scripps: The first game for the coach-picked SCIAC champs should be a cakewalk. Whatever L&C is paying Locey, it isn't enough.
Pacific Lutheran (0-0) over California Lutheran (0-0) (at PLU): It’s time for the annual Lutheran Bowl and a chance to find out if I’m a total fool for thinking PLU is going to have a big bounce back season or if PLU is going to remain that plucky little team that just puts up a good fight. I have no idea what happened to CLU. They went from running the SCIAC and looking like a team that might be able to overtake Linfield on the West Coast to an also ran in the SCIAC for the past 3 seasons. No idea why because there is no reason why CLU should be the favorite year in and year out in that conference. Oh well, maybe they’ll come out and blast PLU but I like the Lutes at the high school community stadium that’s a 25 minute drive away from PLU’s campus on Saturday.
(509)Rat says Pacific Lutheran: I'm buying what wildcat11 is selling re: the Lutes. The Solutes have taken a big hit in the last few years, tumbling down from their perch atop the SCIAC. Hopefully PLU continues to mature and prove me right on this one. Because if we learned anything in week 1 (in all of college football) is that we aren't very good at predicting the outcomes in games played by a bunch of 18-22 year olds.
Dubuque (1-0) over Pacific (0-1) (at Pacific): This will be interesting. I didn’t think Adrian was a very good football team and if you look at the box score you would think there is no way Pacific should have lost that game…until you look at Pacific’s punt team. The Boxers punted 8 times for an average of 31.9 yards per punt. That’s not great and those shorter fields cost the Boxers. The good news for the Boxers is their offense had more punch than I though. Pacific did telegraph that 46 yard play action bomb to Kobe Williams (The Boxers lined up in that formation and I said, “Here comes the bomb”) but that kid is pretty darn fast. The bad news is that Pacific is going to drop to 0-2 on the season with Dubuque coming to town. Yeah, the Spartans didn’t play much defense in their 70-53 win over Bethel but Dubuque THREW for 634 yards and 8 TD’s against a traditionally very good MIAC team. Pacific’s 1st year DC is going to have his hands full.
(509)Rat says Dubuque: This game may tell us a lot about how the NWC race might shape up behind Linfield. Dubuque's week 1 box score resembles Whitworth's, though slightly less balanced offensively. Dubuque is going to light up the Pacific D through the air, if their defense can limit the Boxer offense then Whitworth fans should continue to be confident that the Pirates are the next best team in the NWC.
College of Idaho (0-1) over Willamette (0-1) (at Willamette): I watched a lot of the Willamette/Rhodes game the Bearcats are still not a very good offensive team. It think their QB, Knowlton, is improved this year but the Bearcats are pretty much a snap and throw it as fast you can offense. I think the Bearcat defense is going to be ok. They were carved up by a nice duel threat QB against Rhodes but Willamette still have some guys that can play of defense. College of Idaho of the NAIA is coming to town and while I don’t think the ‘Yotes are anything special, I think they’ll beat the Bearcats up front and move the Bearcats to 0-2.
(509)Rat says College of Idaho: Rhodes offensive coordinator has done a good job and Willamette isn't the same program. I took Rhodes last week in what felt like my only correct pick. Willamette is in for another rough game against a team who's talent is better than you'd expect in year 3 of its return to football.
Occidental (0-0) over Puget Sound (1-0) (at Oxy): This is a game that UPS will probably pull off but I just enjoy picking against them. I made fun of UPS this off-season in having a run game coordinator and they come out the first game of the year and have a guy, Austin Wagner, rush for over 180 on La Verne. Take THAT Wildcat11. Wagner looked pretty slick and if he can bring that weekly for UPS that will be a huge boon for the Loggers. At the same time I don’t think La Verne will be a very good team this year so a two point win at home doesn’t scream UPS is for real to me.
(509)Rat says Occidental: Just like many pre-season predictions, I think we all got ULV wrong. Or the SCIAC is even worse than everyone expected. Probably a little of both. ULV probably still should have won that game against the Loggers. I'll take the home team in this one, and I will stay off twitter if UPS starts the season 2-0.
West Region Game(s) of the Week:
Wartburg (0-0) over Monmouth (0-0) (at Monmouth): You just never pick a MWC team over a IIAC team. Nope and I’m not going to start here.
(509)Rat says Wartburg: Never pick against Wartburg until about the 2nd round of the playoffs.
St. Norbert’s (0-1) over Benedictine (0-1) (at Bene): Goodness this is a stinker of a game. A second MWC in the pick ‘em? Ugh. Both of these teams are terrible but I’m going to pick St. Norbert’s to be less terrible this Saturday.
(509)Rat says Benedictine: I can't get over how bad St. Norbert's conference is and how bad they always seem to fare when they get onto the national scene in the playoffs. Judging who's week 1 loss looked better probably isn't a great way of determining who will win this one. I'll take the home team that seems to have a little stiffer competition year in and year out.
National Games of the Week:
Albright (0-1) over Stevenson (1-0) (at Albright): Everything in my bones is telling me to take Stevenson but I’m not going to listen to my gut and I’m going to go with Albright. Rat is right that is the team on the rise in the MAC but I’m looking for Albright to have a bounce back week in this budding rivalry.
(509)Rat says Stevenson: I think the Mustangs are slightly better than they were 1 year ago and I think Albright has taken a step back. Normally I wouldn't read too much into a team struggling with Salisbury's flexbone offense, but they've seen it before and don't have that excuse anymore. Stevenson is in year 6 of having a program and they are ready to break through and win a MAC title. You heard it here first.
Hampden Sydney (0-1) over Christopher Newport (1-0) (at HSU): Again, I’m not super confident in this pick. HSU lost to a terrible team in the opening week and CNU knocked off a decent Kean program. I think the result for me is going to be disappointing.
(509)Rat says Christopher Newport: I wanted to go with the Tigers, they are at home and won the match-up last year. Then I decided to put a bunch of stock in their loss to Averett. I'd never heard of Averett and after a little digging I figured out why...they stink. Hampden-Sydney may very well win, but if you are picking them because of what you remember from their game in McMinnville a few years back, you're going to be very disappointed.
Wildcat11’s NWC Week 2 Power Rankings
1. Linfield – until proven otherwise
2. Whitworth – Last Saturday had to hurt.
3. PLU – Has a chance to start 2016 off on the right foot
4. UPS – I don’t think La Verne is very good but a win is a win
5. Pacific – Offense looked better than I thought but giving up 30 to Adrian? Yikes.
6. George Fox – They have some big bodies up front but slow big bodies.
7. Willamette – The offense is still bad. They have no game breakers.
8. L&C – Less than 60 players on the roster could really hurt if injuries pile up.