Something Exciting This Way Comes: Week Five Power Rankings

The NESCAC schedule this season seems to share a structure with the Alfred Hitchcock classic Vertigo. There is a first half that is somewhat formulaic and drags on forever, and then a second half that blows it all out of the water with incredible drama, despite some dull plot holes . The first half of the season featured good teams playing bad teams, and now the good teams play the good teams and the bad teams play the bad teams. This is obviously the time in which the championship will be decided, so let’s see where the teams stand heading into the “Judy” half of the season (watch the movie folks!)

Kim Novak is all the NESCAC teams at once.

1: Trinity

Until Trinity loses, they have earned the top spot in the rankings. They have the best running back in the league in Max Chipouras ‘18, the third best quarterback in the league in Sonny Puzzo ‘18 (dm us on Twitter, I can defend my claims,) and a defense that seems to have a new MVP every week. Recently, it has been the linebacking corps that has stepped up. The secondary has been impenetrable all year, giving up only 126 passing yards per game, a very impressive stat in the pass-heavy NESCAC. But the rush defense is rounding into shape. Linebackers Shane Libby ‘19 and Dago Picon-Roura ‘19 have stuffed rushing attacks to the tune of 98 rushing yards per game. And it’s a good thing they did, because Williams has a tremendously underrated rushing attack. Stopping Connor Harris ‘18 and freshman weapon Rashad Morrison ‘21 was the key to Trinity surviving a strong upset bid. The season is about to get interesting for the Bantams. They haven’t played any of the upper tier yet, which has contributed to their aura of invincibility. But with Tufts this weekend, that will change. That rush defense will again be tested by Ryan McDonald ‘20. And, through no fault of their own, they have a legitimate challenger in Middlebury, and their matchup with the Panthers in two weeks looms.

2: Middlebury

Speaking of the Panthers, they are starting to look as dominant on offense as Trinity does on defense (and pretty formidable on defense as well.) To continue my quest to compliment Jared Lebowitz ‘18 in every article, he has raised his level of play past even where it was last year. We wrote at the beginning of the season that the key to Middlebury’s title hopes would be taking care of the ball, and Lebowitz only has two interceptions this year after having five at this point last season. Additionally, in Wesleyan and Amherst, Middlebury has played two of the best defenses in the league. Lebowitz has not dominated those games. Against Amherst he only had 205 yards, and against Wesleyan he only completed 50% of his passes. But in those two games he has 6 touchdowns and no interceptions, and, lo and behold, Middlebury has won both games.

Lebowitz not turning the ball over has allowed Middlebury to win games in other ways. Jimmy Martinez ‘19 is a combination of Tyreek Hill and a Power Ranger in the return game. He’s so terrifying that teams would rather squib kicks than give him the chance to run them back. This gives Lebowitz the Panthers excellent starting field position. And the defense, after struggling against Wesleyan in the fourth quarter in Week One, has become one of the most explosive units in the league. They scored two touchdowns against Amherst, including one from LB Wesley Becton ‘18, who is quickly becoming a First Team candidate. The unit leads the league in interceptions, and have done it against elite competition, unlike Trinity.

3: Amherst

The Amherst Football redemption tour bus hit a pothole last weekend when they dropped a key home game to Middlebury. A win against the Panthers would have put them in a great position to at least split the league title; now they’ll need some help from the teams remaining. Defense was not the problem for the Mammoths against Middlebury. They held the vaunted Middlebury offense to just 287 yards, by far their lowest output of the season. And the three passing touchdowns that the Panthers produced were heavily aided by 3 Amherst interceptions. One of those came from starter Ollie Eberth ‘21, but two came from Reece Foy ‘18. Herein lies Amherst’s problem. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Foy is not ready to be the player he was before his injury last off-season. Eberth is a great talent, but the prospect of beating Trinity with a first year QB is not a promising one. Amherst has the best rushing attack in the league, with Jack Hickey ‘19 and Hasani Figueroa ‘18 (189 yards combined against Middlebury.)Amherst should up both of their carries to make up for the inconsistencies at QB, but you can’t beat teams like Middlebury or Trinity without a well-rounded offense.

James O’ Regen ’20 is one of the biggest receivers in the league at 6’4″, and has been using that size to put up even bigger numbers.

4: Wesleyan

I really wanted to put the Cardinals ahead of Amherst here, but after the outcry against the Stock Report I thought better of it. The Cardinals offense continued to fly high last weekend against Colby, as did the remarkable season of QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18. He is tied with Lebowitz for the league lead in touchdowns and passing yards per game, and has one of the highest completion percentages in the country  at over 70%. He does have a propensity for interceptions (6 already on the year,) and that hurt them in their opening loss to Middlebury. Their rushing attack is coming together nicely as Dario Highsmith ‘20 continues to flash huge potential, and they might even be able to give him more carries and keep some pressure off of First Team Candidates Piccirillo and WR Mike Breuler ’18.

For Wesleyan, the fault is not in their stars, dear Brutus, but in their defense. The stats are solid (between third and fourth in the league in yards and points per game,) but they are not as dangerous as they were last season. The unit has only forced four turnovers on the season, the lowest of the top teams, and that includes none against Middlebury. That may seem like a bit of a nit-picky complaint against a unit that has only given up 15 points per game despite playing Middlebury and Tufts already, but it matters. They simply haven’t been as dangerous on defense as Middlebury and Trinity have, and that is why they’re just outside of the upper echelon.

5: Williams

Rashad Morrison ’21 is another weapon on a Williams offense that is getting scarier by the minute.

I know that Bates’ defense make every team they play look like me in online Madden (that is, unbeatable,) but Williams’ performance last week.was still impressive. They put up 590 yards of total offense, including 289 rushing yards, and 47 points, the second most in the league this year. Bobby Maimeron ‘21 continued his star turn in his freshman year, and Frank Stola ‘21 netted 172 and two touchdowns. The defense tallied four interceptions against the overmatched Bates offense. It was an all around domination that showed just how far Williams has come from being one of the worst teams in the league just last season. Something to watch for out of this game was the emergence of versatile weapon Rashad Morrison ‘21. After not playing in the first three games, the speedy receiver exploded for 85 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. Between him and Connor Harris ‘18, Williams has two explosive backfield options who can break games with their speed. The Ephs are very much here to stay, and have another chance to notch a huge upset this weekend in Middlebury. The Panthers should be very wary.

6: Tufts

Tufts has done nothing to deserve being dropped in the rankings. I’m just getting that out the way now before Rory and Sid text me and call me names. They suffered a tough loss to Wesleyan in Week Two, and since then have beaten up on lower tier teams, just like the teams above them on this list. Ryan McDonald ‘18 is the best dual-threat QB in the league, averaging over 90 rushing yards per game in addition to 220 passing yards. However, he is their entire offense. RB Dom Borelli ‘19 has struggled with injuries and inconsistency all year, and they lack an explosive playmaker outside of swiss army knife WR Jack Dolan ‘18. This is what separates them from the likes of Trinity, Middlebury and Wesleyan. They don’t have enough other weapons to win when they face a team that has the athleticism on defense to stop McDonald. Trinity, Middlebury, Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst all have that.

7: Hamilton

The Continentals have got to be a little frustrated, both in the schedulers and in themselves. For a couple years they’ve been amassing young talent, and it looked as if they, not Williams, would be the team to rise up out of the bottom tier and take on the big dogs. And after a close loss to Tufts in Week One, the “Hamilton is good now” train (on which I was the conductor) took off a little prematurely. Hamilton still hasn’t won a game yet this season, despite exciting young players such as QB Kenny Gray ’20 and WR Joe Schmidt ’20. However, they have also had to play all of those “big dogs” pretty immediately, and right in a row. Hamilton has played, in this order, Tufts, Amherst, Wesleyan and Trinity. So their record and anemic defensive and rushing statistics can be partially attributed to a young team playing very good teams early in the season. In the second half, they still have Middlebury, but they also finally play teams like Bates and Colby, whom they should beat. Look for Hamilton to grab some wins in the next couple weeks.

8: Bowdoin

Nate Richam
In his bio on the Bowdoin football website, Nate lists his favorite food as “linebackers,” which is awesome.

Here we are, the bottom tier. Bowdoin gets the “moral victory” trophy for being at the top of this group on the strength of their surprisingly solid rushing attack, led by Nate Richam ’20, who in his sophomore year is averaging 71 yards per game on five yards per carry. He doesn’t get a lot of red zone chances, as Bowdoin’s quarterback play has been less functional than the Trump White House and just as hard to watch. But in Richam, Bowdoin has the semblance of an identity, a power running team that works hard for every possession. They also have played a very difficult schedule thus far, and should use the second half to work on this identity.

9: Colby

These bottom two teams are both here for opposite, and historically bad reasons. For Colby, it is their offense. They don’t seem to have one. Colby has only scored 20 points all season, for an average of five per game. They only have 786 total yards, or to phrase it differently, nearly five hundred fewer than Jared Lebowitz has on his own. These numbers are bad no matter who they’ve played, and doesn’t bode well for even the easier games in the second half.

10: Bates

Three out of the five highest scoring games this season have come against the Bobcats. The Bobcats just gave up 590 yards to Williams, which is the equivalent of giving up 985 yards to Trinity. Bates recently gave up 75 yards on the ground and a touchdown to the dog from Air Bud, who died several years ago (sorry.) Bates’ defense hasn’t gotten much help from the offense, which has ten turnovers. I do like the direction Bates is trending in, as they have entirely given their season over to building up young QBs Matt Golden ’20 and Brendan Costa ’21. This second half should be about auditioning those two for the QB of the future role. Bates has no hope of winning any games this year if their defense doesn’t approach mediocrity real soon.

The Best of the Rest: Week Four Football Weekend Preview

The marquee game of the season thus far is in Amherst, as Middlebury travels to the Mammoths in a game that starts the process of deciding the league champion. Amherst and Middlebury are the two teams with the best chance of supplanting Trinity, but staying undefeated will be crucial in that noble quest. Check out Colby’s breakdown of that game here.  Other than that game this week is pretty pedestrian, with mostly lower tier teams taking on better opponents. It will be interesting to see if Williams can build off their performance against Trinity last weekend, or if they are let down after a tough loss. And Trinity is worth watching as well, to see if their offense can rebound against a Hamilton team that can be sneaky-dangerous (ask Tufts.)

Colby (0-3) @ Wesleyan (2-1), 1:00 PM, Middletown, CT

As their Twitter page is very fond of pointing out, Wesleyan has one of the most potent passing offenses in the country thus far. However, they are not built to be a high volume aerial attack like, say, Middlebury is. Mark Piccirillo ‘18 doesn’t have the bevy of receiving weapons that Lebowitz does, nor is he as deadly accurate, as shown by his two picks against Hamilton. This is why it was so encouraging to see the Cardinal rushing attack get going in a big way against the Continentals. Sophomore Dario Highsmith ‘20 had the breakout game we’ve been waiting for, rushing for 95 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. Wesleyan is at their best when their offense is multi-faceted, and after a one-dimensional first three weeks, they’re finally figuring it out. Look for them to continue to establish the run in a mismatch against Colby.

Dario Highsmith ’20 might be making a star turn before our very eyes.

Speaking of the Mules, their offense has continued to be anemic, putting too much pressure on an actually fairly good defense. QB Jack O’ Brian ‘21 has not thrown a pick since becoming the starter, but he also has completed just around 50% of his passes and really struggles throwing it downfield. The passing game can’t keep the ball on the field well enough to run it with Jake Schwern ’19, an underrated back who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Colby will try to run the ball on the Cardinals, but they really need to get some sort of threatening passing attack going. Unfortunately, Wesleyan is not a team offenses get “well” against.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 31, Colby 9

Bates (0-3) @ Williams (2-1), 1:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

At the beginning of the season, we would have thought this game would be close, as these two teams would be battling it out for the “Best of the Rest” spot that we’ve written about in the past. But with Williams’ shocking improvement and Bates’ equally shocking struggles, it now looks like it could be a blowout. But, it also might not be. This is a very important game for both teams. Williams has impressed the league with their terrific defensive performance against Trinity. They had two sacks, a category in which they sit a second in the league, and nine tackles for loss in a pressure-filled performance that helped hold Max Chipouras ’19 to his worst performance on the season (just 2.8 yards per carry.) Unfortunately for them, Trinity’s defense was just as good, forcing the young Williams offense into four turnovers. Williams brought a lot of passion in that game, and they can’t afford to take a break against the Bobcats if they want to keep a legit chance at finishing in the top four (which I think they have.) The offense should rebound against a porous Bates defense, but the youth factor might make it harder to come back from a frustrating loss last weekend

Brendan Costa
Brendan Costa ’21 is the latest on the carousel of Bates starting QB’s.

Luckily for the Williams offense, Bates has made pretty much every team they play look like the ‘07 Patriots. To be fair, they have played three of the best offenses in the league (Trinity, Amherst and Tufts.) And also to be fair, their own offense has struggled so much that their defense can’t get a break. The Bobcats are on their their third QB of the year in Brendan Costa ‘21, and he looked impressive on the ground against Tufts (91 yards and a TD.) But he still completed only 42% of his passes. Even if Williams’ offense isn’t as dominant as the others Bates has faced, their defense should be enough to get them the win.

Predicted Score: Williams 24, Bates 10

Hamilton (0-3) @ Trinity (3-0), 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT

Trinity had some weaknesses exposed last weekend against Williams, namely on the offensive line and in the receiving game. Sonny Puzzo ‘18 and Max Chipouras ‘19 might be the best at their positions in the league, but Trinity doesn’t have a stud receiver. Koby Schafer ’20 is a great player, but he’d be better suited as a second option behind a Mike Breuler ’18 or a Conrado Banky ’19. This puts more pressure on Puzzo to make perfect throws, and on Chipouras to set up the offense in good spots. Therefore, if either of them are struggling, Trinity’s offense can sputter. And the way to make them struggle is to pack the box and stop Chipouras. Williams did that very effectively until a fourth quarter turnover gave the Bantams excellent field position. That’s when Puzzo ended the game with a TD strike to Schafer, keeping Trinity from suffering a huge upset. Also, it should be noted that Trinity’s defense still looked impenetrable despite finally giving up points. They dominated the Ephs inexperienced attack, with LB and Player of the Week Carty Campbell ’18 returning an interception 34 yards. They should to the same to Hamilton.

Hamilton has definitely seen the game plan that Williams used to limit Trinity. However, they probably do not have the personnel to repeat it. They have two solid linebackers in Cole Burchill ’19 and Tyler Hudson ’19, but neither of them are intimidating backfield presence, preferring to work in the secondary. And their D-Line has been roasted all season to the tune of 204 rushing yards per game (!!) Add in another inexperienced offense (despite a bevy of weapons that might make Puzzo fairly jealous) and Trinity should get back on their blowout grind this week.

Predicted Score: Trinity 42, Hamilton 6

Bowdoin (0-3) @ Tufts (2-1), 1:30 PM, Medford, MA

One of the most versatile offenses in the league takes on the worst defense in the league. Not exactly a recipe for a tight game. Tufts can beat you in a lot of different ways on the offensive end, but they all start with QB Ryan McDonald ‘19. McDonald has had a couple huge passing games (and one very bad one against Wesleyan,) and has six touchdowns and two interceptions on the year. But his greatest weapons is his legs. He has 295 yards and two touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry. He does have an unfortunate fumbling habit (3 on the year) but he is undoubtedly one of the deadliest offensive forces in the league, and has been chiefly responsible for Tufts’s offense thriving even without Chance Brady.

Ryan McDonald ’19 is the key to Tufts’ offense.

Bowdoin’s defense is allowing an incomprehensible 477 yards per game this season. They seem to have found some modicum of consistency at QB in Griff Stalcup ‘21, but they simply cannot stay in games long enough for him to really get into a rhythm. If they could find some way to disrupt McDonald’s throwing, Tufts RB Dom Borelli ‘19 is battling an injury and may not play, limiting their rushing attack. They could play contain on McDonald and force him to make downfield throws. However, I don’t see their secondary being good enough to stop those throws even if they do that.

Predicted Score: Tufts 40, Bowdoin 10

Wake Me Up, When September Ends: Football Weekend Preview 9/29

This week features a slate of games that can be charitably described as “uneven.” That’s a nice way of saying that it features games where the better teams in the league play the worse teams in the league. And having learned our lesson last week picking Hamilton over Amherst, we’re not seeing any magic happening here. But there is good news. With these lopsided games happening earlier in the season, the end of the year should feature more games between strong teams. But we can’t get there without going here first.

Tufts (1-1) @ Bates (0-2), Lewiston, ME, 1:00 PM

The Jumbos have been the team to watch if you’re looking for close games this season. This has been mostly due to their strong schedule (an improved Hamilton team in Week One and then Wesleyan last week) but has also been due to their inability to close out games. Their defense allowed Hamilton to continuously tie up the game before the offense won it in OT, and then QB Ryan McDonald turned the ball over twice to help along Wesleyan’s comeback. Indeed, without multi-purpose weapon Jack Dolan ‘19, who had an 85 yard punt return touchdown to keep Tufts in it, the game wouldn’t even have been close. Tufts is in need of a blowout after two hard fought games, but that won’t happen if they don’t execute. This is a golden chance for the Jumbos to get things fully in order for a championship run.

Tufts’ defense is rounding into shape, but to beat Trinity (the ultimate goal for any NESCAC team) they have to get even better.

Bates, on the other hand, isn’t in a position to have a preferred kind of win. They have had a very difficult start to the season, highlighted by a 51-0 drubbing at the hands of Trinity that wasn’t even that close. Obviously not much has gone right for Bates this season, but offense has been the biggest issue. QB Sandy Plashkes ‘18 has been benched for Matt Golden, signifying that Bates is ready to go in a new direction. Left to their own devices, Bates would want to be a run-based offense, and when they’ve gotten to that style it has been successful. Peter Boyer and Kyle Flaherty have run the ball with authority, combining for 73 yards a game. But with no consistent QB play, the offense can’t stay on the field long enough to give them a chance to score. Tufts’ defense is still coming together, so Bates has the potential to improve a bit this game. At this point, that should be their goal.

Projected Score: Tufts 31, Bates 10

Wesleyan (1-1) @ Hamilton (0-2), Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM

After an inspired performance in Week One, Hamilton fell back to Earth in a big way last weekend, making several trigger happy “experts” (namely Colby and I) look pretty foolish in the process. Amherst smoked Hamilton 36-6, and while the dynamic Kenny Gray-Joe Schmidt duo ended up with respectable totals (245 yards, one TD for Gray, 54 yards for Schmidt,) most of that was in garbage time. Even so, it was Hamilton’s run defense that looked worst against the Mammoths. Amherst tallied over 250 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Of course, Amherst has arguably the best ground game in the league, but if Hamilton wants to play with the big boys they have to be ready for that.

Mike Breuler
Mike Breuler ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Wesleyan had a run-heavy identity last season, but haven’t been able to get to it this year. This is partially due to the graduation of Gerald Hawkins and Devin Carillo, but it is also because they have gotten down big early in both of their games. This has called QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18 into action, as he has thrown the Cardinals back into both of their games. The Cardinals have a strong and experienced offensive line, as evidenced by Piccirillo’s success in finding Mike Breuler ‘18 deep. They could run behind that line as well, if sophomore Dario Highsmith ‘20 gets more carries. He should in this game, as Hamilton doesn’t have an answer for Breuler (no one does.) Expect the Cardinals to get up early this time, but it may just tighten up at the end if Gray can get going.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 24, Hamilton 14

Colby (0-2) @ Middlebury (2-0), Middlebury, 1:00 PM

The almighty Schedulers have rewarded Middlebury’s difficult Week One matchup with Wesleyan with back to back games against Bowdoin and Colby. The Panthers absolutely smacked Bowdoin in Week Two, with Jared Lebowitz ‘18 putting up one of the most efficient games of his storied career. Lebowitz wen 20-26 for over 300 yards and four touchdowns, with no turnovers. That last stat is the most important one for him, as the only blemish on his sterling resume is a tendency to give up the football when under pressure. But the Panther O-Line, led by junior stud Andrew Rogan ‘19, gets better every week, and Lebowitz has reaped the rewards. He has also seamlessly worked in a large group of new receivers, who have filled in admirably as we wait for Conrado Banky’s explosion. All four of his touchdown throws were to different receivers last week, including new names like Maxim Bochman ‘20 and Jimmy Connell ‘21. Add in the emergence of Matt Cardew ‘20 as a solid running back option, and the Panthers look like the best offense in the league, maybe even including Trinity.

Colby, like Bates, has had a potentially dangerous running game squelched by inconsistency at quarterback. Jake Schwern ‘19 has run very well at times for the Mules, averaging 73 yards per game on 4.6 yards per carry. But he hasn’t gotten into the end zone yet, as Colby simply can’t sustain long drives. Pre-season starting QB Christian Sparacio ‘18 has been replaced by sophomore Jack O’Brian ‘20, who looked okay last week against Williams. Colby scored their first points of the year in that game. Unfortunately, Middlebury’s offense is firing right now, so any improvement on Colby’s end will probably fall flat, as Middlebury should dominate time of possession (as well as every other stat.)

Predicted Score: Middlebury 45, Colby 0

Bowdoin (0-2) @ Amherst (2-0), Amherst, MA, 1:00 PM

Another probable blowout this week features the Polar Bears traveling to Amherst to take on the Mammoths. As you’ve gathered from the earlier games, these two teams enter the game on vastly different trajectories. Amherst comes off a terrific 36-6 drubbing of Hamilton in which their running game and defense looked unbeatable. However, there is a question hanging over the game for the Mammoths; who is the quarterback. They got Reece Foy ‘18 back in Week Two after he missed the entire 2016 season with an injury. And Foy made an impact, rushing for a seven yard score. This is a good sign, as the thing that made him a POY candidate before the injury was his dual threat ability. But his backup Ollie Eberth ‘20 has filled in admirably in his absence, completing 64% of his passes with four touchdowns. Eberth is the QB of the future, and it makes sense to give him work in mismatches like this, but when Amherst meets the other title contenders, they will lick their chops at facing such an inexperienced QB (particularly one named “Ollie.”) I would think as soon as Foy is ready, he gets the ball back. But we’ll have to wait till Saturday to see.

Bowdoin also has quarterback issues, but their defense and running game aren’t good enough to make up for them. After only completing 42.9% of his passes, Noah Nelson ‘18 was replaced by Griff Stalcup ‘21, who has fared slightly better (54%.) They have also shown a strong offensive line and running attack, averaging 152.5 yards per game, good for fourth in the league. They have also scored all four times they’ve been in the red zone. These are stats that point towards an offense that has potential to control the game through posession if the defense could get a stop. Which so far, they haven’t. The Polar Bears allow 480 yards per game and 35 points, which doesn’t give a rush heavy offense much of a chance. Amherst has QB questions, but they simply beat Bowdoin at their own game.

Predicted Score: Amherst 27, Bowdoin 10

GAME OF THE WEEK: Williams (2-0) @ Trinity (2-0), Hartford, CT, 1:30 PM

At the beginning of the season, Williams versus Trinity did not have the ring of a Game of the Week. And frankly, to me it still somewhat doesn’t. To spoil my prediction, I don’t see a fairy tale ending for this game, but the very fact that we can discuss Williams in the same breath as Trinity like this is a tremendous achievement of which the whole Williams organization should be proud. And furthermore, Williams might not be the shark bait that other teams have been for Trinity so far this year.

Trinity ran and threw all over Bates last weekend, and is looking to do the same to Williams.

Most NESCAC fans know where Trinity is heading into this game.They have outscored their opponents (Colby and Bates) 86-0 this season, outgained them 901-374 and also, oh yeah, haven’t allowed a point all season. Sonny Puzzo ‘18 and Max Chipouras ‘19 have been as good as expected, but receiver Koby Schofer ‘20 has been a revelation thus far. He’s averaged 85 yards per game, and has stepped in very well for a team that lost several receiving weapons in the offseason. Defensively, Trinity doesn’t have any standouts statistically, but honestly this is mostly because they haven’t had to play in the fourth quarter yet this season. The whole unit has destroyed offensive lines so far this season, and has given the offense ample scoring chances with great field position. Long story short, Trinity is good.

Connor Harris
Connor Harris ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

But, potentially, so is Williams? Earlier this week we leveled the crticism at the Ephs that they have played two lower caliber teams (Bowdoin and Colby) in the first two weeks, and so therfore their fast start is slightly exaggerated. But as several enterprising readers pointed out, that is unfair for two reasons. Firstly, Williams was supposed to BE one of those teams, so beating them handily is still impressive. And secondly, Trinity has also played weak teams thus far. This is not to say that Trinity isn’t as good as they look, but rather that Williams is as good as they appear. They have legitimate weapons in the passing game, thanks largely to a fantastic first year class. QB Bobby Maimeron ‘21 and WR’s Frank Stola ‘21 and Justin Nelson ‘21 have given the Ephs the all important vertical threat in the run-n’-gun NESCAC. But their offense is multidimensional. Senior back Connor Harris ‘18 has been one of the most underrated players so far this season. Harris has 162 yards in two games on 5.6 yards per carry, as well as two touchdowns. Harris is crucial to the WIlliams offense, as he provides a dynamic threat on the ground and opens up play action routes for Maimeron.

Jameson DeMarco
Jameson DeMarco ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

And furthermore, despite all of these offensive weapons, Williamsgreatest asset this year has been defensive; their dominant pass rush. Williams has the most sacks in the league, 10, thanks largely to Jameson DeMarco ‘19, who leads the league with 3.5. So to recap, Williams has a good offense and dominant defense that has been untested against upper level teams. Just like Trinity. Hmmm….

Of course, I jest. Trinity will win this game handily. But there will be nothing better for all of thse young Ephs than a test against one of the best teams NESCAC has seen this decade. Williams is playing for next year, and it’s serving them very well this year. Watch out for the Ephs, not in this game, but down the line.

Predicted Score: Trinity 31, Williams 20

Familiar Territory: Week 2 Football Power Rankings

I may have hopped on the Hamilton football bandwagon a little too quickly, and now we find ourselves in a familiar NESCAC football picture. While each team looks to have settled in to a more classic position early on in the standings, it’s hard not to lament at what could have been if there were some upsets in week two. What we see now is Trinity’s continuing reign, with Middlebury, Amherst, and Tufts hot on the Bantams’ feathers. While Williams is 2-0 after an 0-8 season in 2016, they still have much to prove to be included in the title hunt. With week three around the corner, here is where each squad stands:

1: Trinity
Two games and two dominant results. The Bantam defense is unstoppable at the moment, not allowing points heading into October. After a 31-0 mark at the end of the first quarter, they cruised to victory as Sonny Puzzo ’18, Max Chipouras ’18, and Dominique Seagers ’18 had huge days. Seagers had a pick-six and a tackle for a loss. Even their special teams were perfect as kicker Eric Sachse ’19 made his only field goal attempt and John Spears returned a punt 51 yards to the Bates 16 yard line, leading to a Chipouras TD. An 11 game win streak, 86-0 aggregate season score, and all three prongs of the game in full force lead to a sure fire top ranking here.

Dakota Foster rises up to make a grab against Bates in week 2.

2: Middlebury
Middlebury stands out on offense right now. QB Jared Lebowitz ’18 is off looking for more TD records as he found the end zone four more times in week two, finding four different receivers in the process. Breakout WR Maxim Bockman ’20, Conrado Banky ’19, Max Rye ’20, and Jimmy Connell ’21  all had reason to celebrate, while Tanner Contois ’18 and Jimmy Martinez ’19 also had solid days. Their receiving depth is noteworthy, and although Diego Meritus ’19 was still out, he should be coming back soon. In his stead, Senior Matt Cardew ’18 shined in his biggest college game, running for 74 yards and a TD, looking like a solid option out of the backfield. They have an easy game against Colby in week three at home, and if Meritus is back it would be a good time to ease him into action and see what he can do alongside Cardew.

3: Amherst
Reece Foy ’18 is back after missing all of 2016. That’s big news for Mammoth fans as he brought a win along with him. While Amherst eased him in to action, he still ran for a TD in the first quarter and backup Ollie Eberth ’21 looked fine for most of the game. Jack Hickey ’19 led the way with two scored and 122 yards rushing, while Elijah Ngbokoli ’20 had a breakout game with a TD run of 39 yards in the third quarter. The defense also forced four turnovers against a Hamilton team that looked to be an up and coming threat. While the Mammoths certainly sent the Continentals back to earth, they looked clean and ready to take on the tougher teams in the process. Look for them to roll over Bowdoin.

Wesleyan celebrates their OT victory over Tufts.

4: Wesleyan
Nearly identically to last year, Wesleyan shrugged off their opening game loss against a tough team to beat another one in week two. They are here to stay, and although they have a tally in the loss column, they could make a run at the title just like they did until the final week of last season. Their OT win against Tufts saved their season and will be a great stepping stone after a defensively oriented game. Mark Piccirillo ’18 looked good passing but lost two fumbles, and the running game was weak, however, Ben Thaw ’20 and Shane Kaminski ’18 saved the day by each intercepting passes from Ryan McDonald. If Dario Highsmith ’20 can rebound against hamilton after rushing for just ten yards, then Wesleyan will be in good shape.

5: Tufts
Wesleyan avenged their 2016 week one loss to the Jumbos with an OT victory last week, dashing Tufts’ hopes of a perfect season. It’s really nice to think that the Jumbos aren’t totally out of the championship picture with the addition of the ninth game providing more hope, but it will be a tough road. After exiting the opening game against Hamilton early, Ryan McDonald ’20 returned but didn’t look good in the air, throwing two picks and zero TDs. He looked great on the ground though, running for over seven yards per carry and 122 yards total, including a TD. Tufts didn’t muster much offense other than his rushing though as if it weren’t for an 85 yard punt return from Jack Dolan ’20, they would’ve been routed in regular time. If Ryan Hagfeldt can return for week three, he might see some pocket action against Bates as the Jumbos should easily rout the Bobcats on their way to a 2-1 start.

6: Williams
2-0! A perfect start for a team that had a perfectly bad season in 2016. Is this the story of 2017 NESCAC football? Don’t get too excited too fast as the Ephs have yet to play a team from the top half of the division. They have some great pieces that they are rolling out as new QB Bobby Maimaron ’21, WRs Frank Stola ’21 and Justin Nelson are running the show. They were down 7-0 and then up just 10-7 at half against Colby, but turned up the heat in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 24 unanswered points. Their first real test will be this weekend at Trinity, and if they can pull off this upset I will be shocked. If they put up a close game then they should still be considered the real deal. Let the Coop bring its worst, the Ephs are warmed up.

7: Hamilton
Well, I will admit defeat with this one. I wanted so badly to see a Cinderella story with the Continentals in 2017, but am realizing how that train has already left the station. Hamilton came off a hard fought loss against Tufts and just got abused by Amherst. Ball security was an issue as two RBs and a WR fumbled, leaving the Continentals with a poor red zone execution rate. Gray also threw a pick and with those four turnovers, they never had a shot. Granted these aspects of the game are correctable as Gray looked solid, and so did lead receiver Christian Donahue ’20, but they still couldn’t gain any traction on the ground. Their rush defense was also pitiful, and against other top teams like Trinity and Wesleyan with good backs, they will continue to watch their deficits shoot up.

8: Bowdoin
Bowdoin didn’t look great against Middlebury, particularly their defense, and only scored garbage time TDs. They did score twice though, putting them ahead of Colby and Bates in the rankings. This was an important game though as it was the first start for Griff Stalcup ’21 who took over for Noah Nelson ’18 (as predicted). Stalcup struggled some, completing just 12 passes for 105 yards, but ran the ball well, rushing ten times for 54 yards and a TD. If he keeps developing he could be an exciting dual threat player for the Polar Bears, although I will keep in mind it was against the Panthers’ reserves. Lebowitz had all day to throw for Middlebury, as he was sacked just once, and if they can’t pressure the QB, the opposition if going to keep having a field day against Bowdoin.

9: Colby
The Mules move up in the rankings by virtue of getting on the scoreboard in week two, but are only marginally higher than Bates. Sure they only lost by 17 (is that even a bright side?), but getting dominated by Williams, regardless of how good they might be, is not a good result. QB Jack O’Brien had an OK day, not throwing a pick, completing over 50% of his passes, and finding the end zone, but he also fumbled and failed to keep his team in the game. Jake Schwern had a solid day on the ground with 71 yards rushing, and the positives stop with him. The Mule defense sacked Williams’ QB Maimaron just twice and recorded five tackles for losses compared to 12 from the Ephs, pointing to line troubles on both sides of the ball. This was probably a game that was circled on the Colby schedule as a victory before the season and is going to hurt for a while.

10: Bates
There are four 0-2 teams and one of them had to bite the bullet. Bates is last on these rankings due to lack of a point scored in week two. Their offensive struggles of week one worsened and that is a big issue for a team that looked to be on the rise a season ago. As I predicted, QB Sandy Plashkes’ (’18) lack of production led to Matt Golden taking over, although with limited success. Plashkes’ completions to the Bobcats matched his completions to the Bantams (one each) and the Bates QBs threw for just 45 yards combined. They stayed true to their system of a run oriented offense, but besides Kyle Flaherty (seven rushes, 43 yards) no player with over two attempts averaged more than three yards per carry. If Bates’ defense continues to struggle, then running the ball in such a high volume without a dynamic back won’t lead to many comebacks. On the bright side, Justin Foley netted 247 total yards on punts.

Fly, Cardinals Fly: 2017 Wesleyan Football Preview

2016 Record: 6-2

Projected 2017 Record: 8-1

Projected Starters: Offense (*Returning)

QB: Mark Piccarillo ‘19*

RB: Dario Highsmith ‘20

WR: Mike Breuler ‘18*

WR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*

WR: TBD

TE: TBD

OL: Beau Butler ‘18 *

OL: Terrance Norton ‘19 *

OL: Ryan Shutta ‘20

OL: TBD

OL: TBD

Projected Starters: Defense (*Returning)

LB: Shane Kaminski ‘18 *

LB: Brandon Morris ‘19*

LB: TBD

CB: Jason Mitzner ‘18*

S: Elias Comacho ‘18*

S: TBD

CB: Ben Thaw ‘20/Eli Blair-May ‘20

DE: Jude Lindberg ‘19

DT: Grant Williams ‘19

DT: Bobby Nevin ‘19

DE: TBD

Projected Starters: Special Teams (*Returning)

K: TBD

P: TBD

KR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*

PR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*

Summary:

Wesleyan finished last season at 6-2, very much in the mix as one of the top teams in the league. They did it with a dynamic, powerful defense that was complemented by a run based offense that very rarely turned the ball over. This is usually a pretty solid and sustainable formula for success. However, the Cardinals lost a lot of the pieces that made that formula work in the offseason. They are that rare team that could go either way this season. They could rely on their depth and have young players step up to help them make the leap to the true top tier, or they could fall to the middle of the pack.

On offense, most of their losses affect that crucial running game. Lead back Lou Stevens is gone, as is, of course, versatile threat Devin Carrillo. Carrillo’s loss particularly stings,as he was a factor in every part of Wesleyan’s offense. He had 12 rushing touchdowns, and was also their leading receiver. To replace that kind of production, senior QB Mark Piccarillo will have to become elite. He is close to that level already, accounting for 15 total touchdowns last season, but without Stevens and Carillo to fall back on he will be asked to make more difficult throws and to run the ball with more authority. Luckily for the Cardinals, they are still very deep at receiver, with Eric Meyreles ‘18 and Mike Breuler ‘18 forming one of the better duos in the league.

Defensively, they lost two of their standouts in DT Jordan Stone and DB Justin Sanchez. They were both all-league level players, but more than that they, along with Coach DiCenzo and his staff, were responsible for forming the tough as nails defensive identity for which Wesleyan has become known. Luckily, that identity has seeped into the pores of the other players. LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18 is more than ready to take over that leadership mantle, and Wesleyan boasts a trio of junior DT’s that stop opposing rushing attacks where they stand. Defense has never been a worry for the Cardinals, and it won’t be this year.

Depth is what the Cardinals hope will keep them afloat despite all these losses, and that leads to position battles. There are two major ones that we’re keeping an eye on. On offense, tight end is up in the air. Senior Jake Cronin ‘18 would appear to have an inside track due to his experience, but freshman Patterson ‘21 adds a receiving dimension to their offense. And on defense, that final LB spot is still open, although sophomore Will Kearney ‘20 has made an impressive push in camp and might be set as the starter. Wesleyan lost a great deal, but they also keep a great deal and look poised to make a leap.

Eric Meyreles
Eric Meyreles ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Offensive MVP: WR Eric Meyreles ‘18

One of the strengths of Wesleyan’s offense is their versatility. Last season they used Devin Carrillo ‘17 as a weapon from pretty much everywhere on the field. Carrillo had 12 rushing touchdowns, as well as 29 receptions as a receiver. His departure leaves them with a hole in that receiver hybrid spot that is so popular in today’s game. Meyreles is the logical choice to fill that void. He was their third-leading receiver last year with 21 receptions, and also uses his speed to be one of the most dangerous return men in the league. Wesleyan could well give some of Carillo’s rushing sets to Meyreles, making him an even more versatile threat.

Shayne Kaminski
Shayne Kaminski ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Defensive MVP: LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18

This choice is pretty straightforward. Kaminski was one of the best linebackers in the league last year as a junior, putting up 61 tackles and four sacks. Wesleyan as a team was one of the best defenses in the country, ranking towards the top in yards allowed for most of the season.Clearly, defense is Wesleyan’s identity. Unfortunately for them, they lost elite defensive back Justin Sanchez. This leaves a void at a leadership position for that elite defense, a void that Kaminski is more than ready to fill. Look for him at the end of the season as First Team and DPOY candidate.

Dario Highsmith
Dario Highsmith ’20 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Player to Watch: RB Dario Highsmith ‘20

Wesleyan has long relied on a strong rushing attack to complement their stellar defense. Last season they averaged nearly 180 yards per game on the ground, and scored 21 rushing touchdowns. However, between Carillo and fellow graduated senior back Lou Stevens, the Cardinals have lost a large chunk of those yards and touchdowns. Enter Dario. Highsmith put up an impressive first year last season, fitting in seamlessly to Wesleyan’s vaunted rushing attack, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and, most importantly, not fumbling once all season. Highsmith is poised to combine with Piccarillo, an excellent threat to run from the QB spot, to form a dynamic duo out of the backfield.

Biggest Game: @Trinity, November 11th

Wesleyan has their sights set on the top this season, and on paper they certainly have the talent to get their. Of course, the games aren’t played on paper, but say for the sake of this section of the preview that they and the Bantams run the table leading up to this match-up. Imagine iow exciting that game would be. Even if that hypothetical doesn’t come true, this game could very well serve as a de facto NESCAC championship. And aside from that, it’s a classic offense versus defense matchup, and those are always fun.

Best Tweet:

The Quasi-Championship Game Heads to Hartford: Week 6 Weekend Preview

NT Matt D'Andrea '17 looks to continue getting pressure on the quarterback this weekend against Middlebury (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).
NT Matt D’Andrea ’17 looks to continue getting pressure on the quarterback this weekend against Middlebury (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Week Six is here, and it is shaping up to be a doozy.  In a largely predictable NESCAC season, three top tier teams have their day of reckoning this Saturday.  Middlebury and Trinity square off in the league championship (barring some wild results in Weeks Seven and Eight), and Amherst faces Tufts in an effort to make 2016 not a total lost cause of a season.  There is also an intriguing matchup at the bottom of the league, as Williams and Hamilton battle for the right to stay out of the cellar.  There is only one probable blowout this weekend, as Wesleyan will most likely take Bowdoin behind the dumpster like Joe Biden would Trump if given the chance. The stresses of being an editor have finally gotten to Rory and he’s laid up in the health center, so cut him some slack when his analysis is inevitably wrong; he took care of the Tufts-Amherst, Bowdoin-Wesleyan, and Williams-Hamilton games this week, while I wrote up on Middlebury-Trinity and Colby-Bates.  We’ve got you covered with the preview of a potentially thrilling weekend down below, as well as our score predictions.

Here are the standings as they are now (keep in mind that Rory compiles all the predictions, so can these numbers even be trusted?)

  1. Rory (18-2)
  2. Pete (17-3)
  3. Nick (17-3)
  4. Liam (17-3)
  5. Colin (17-3)
  6. Colby (16-4)
  7. Sid (15-5)

Middlebury (5-0) @ Trinity (5-0), 12:30 PM, Hartford, Connecticut

Colby tackled this one in depth in the Game of the Week blog that went up this morning, but this would be a difficult one for us to overcover.  This game represents as close as we can get to a NESCAC Super Bowl.  Both teams enter the game undefeated, and have shown themselves this season to be the class of the league.  Middlebury and Trinity both pride themselves on their offenses, as they are 1 and 2 in the league in total yards.  They are both led by stellar quarterbacks in Jared Lebowitz ‘18 and infamous Chicago “sanitation specialist” Sunny Puzzo ‘18.  Trinity may have the edge in the running game, as Max Chipouras ‘19 gives them a deadly ground attack to compliment Puzzo’s passing abilities.  Middlebury will need to put up a considerably better defensive performance than they have in the last couple weeks in order to clinch (for all intents and purposes) the league title.  And if the Panthers are reading, I’d like to point out to them that only Colby and I (the two Middlebury writers) have picked them to win.  Put it on the bulletin board, boys!

Rory: Middlebury 31, Trinity 38

Pete: Middlebury 31, Trinity 28

Liam: Middlebury 18, Trinity 27

Colin: Middlebury 17, Trinity 20

Colby: Middlebury 30, Trinity 28

Sid: Middlebury 26, Trinity 28

Nick: Middlebury 14, Trinity 20

Editor’s Note: I truly apologize for Pete’s 50th joke in a row about Sonny Puzzo’s name being reminiscent of some sort of Chicago racketeer/Godfather character/1970’s gangster. If you’re reading this Sonny, I’m sure it would mean the world to Pete if you could autograph a ball and have one of the Middlebury players deliver it to him when they get back to school.

Colby (2-3) @ Bates (1-4), 1:00 PM, Lewiston, Maine

Call this one “The Battle for the Middle.”  Or call it “The Battle for Maine.”  But DO NOT call me about it during the Middlebury-Trinity game.  Bates and Colby have been going back and forth all year as the top of the lower tier of NESCAC teams, which is not exactly a sexy war to be waging, but it is a war nonetheless.  It’s like if Macbeth was fighting Macduff for the right to be a duke rather than King.  Both have at times looked ready to make a large step forward, and both teams have at times disappointed.  Bates’ inconsistent season can be summed up by quarterback Sandy Plaschkes (it’s 2016 and we have starting NESCAC quarterbacks named Sandy and Sonny.  What a world.)  He has made some very exciting plays, and shown an ability to improvise and keep plays alive with his feet that few QB’s have.  However, he has been far too inconsistent with his accuracy this season.  Colby has two wins this season, and has a real chance to finish .500 or better, which would be a huge victory for the program.  This will be a hard fought game, but I don’t think many people win tune away from Middlebury-Trinity to catch it.

Rory: Colby 21, Bates 17

Pete: Colby 6, Bates 17

Liam: Colby 10, Bates 17

Colin: Colby 17, Bates 15

Colby: Colby 9, Bates 17

Sid: Colby 10, Bates 17

Nick: Colby 12, Bates 13

Tufts (4-1) @ Amherst (3-2), 1:00 PM, Amherst, Massachusetts

This is a must-win game for both schools. Tufts is still in the title hunt technically, but more importantly, they are trying to prove that they know how to beat a top team on the road, a skill they have yet to demonstrate since their resurgence in the past couple years. The squad on the other side of the field is on a slippery slope right now, and though it’s weird for me to write this having grown up in Amherst, the ex-LJs have not yet beat a top half team this season (maybe they need to decide on a new mascot ASAP). So what are we going to see on Saturday? Per usual, I expect a run-heavy attack from the Jumbos, but Amherst has eaten run-first teams for breakfast this year. I know Tufts has Chance Brady, who is fresh off a 165 yard/4 TD week that earned him the honor of receiving the Gold Helmet Award from the New England Writers Association, but Amherst is allowing just 25.2 YPG on the ground – through five weeks of action, that’s a pretty ridiculous stat. When possession changes, I expect Amherst to attack more through the air than on the ground, and as long as Nick Morales takes care of the ball, the Purple and White should have pretty decent success, much like Trinity did against the Jumbos. A potential curveball this weekend is that it snowed in Amherst yesterday. Will the turf be clear by Saturday? Likely. But you never know what’s going to happen in Western Mass, and if there is a light layer of snow on Pratt Field the offenses could be slow moving on Saturday.

Rory: Tufts 13, Amherst 10

Pete: Tufts 10, Amherst 24

Liam: Tufts 19, Amherst 17

Colin: Tufts 22, Amherst 24

Colby: Tufts 21, Amherst 24

Sid: Tufts 14, Amherst 13

Nick: Tufts 21, Amherst 24

Bowdoin (0-5) @ Wesleyan (4-1), 12:30 PM, Wesleyan, Connecticut

I hate to be the bearer of bad news for the Polar Bears, but this game has blowout written all over it. Wesleyan just notched their biggest win of the season against Amherst last week, and in doing so, they have maintained a spot in line to board the champion-ship. Meanwhile, Bowdoin has yet to win, and to date, their best opportunity to do so was just two weeks ago against Hamilton, when they lost on a last minute score by the Continentals. Other than that, Bowdoin has faced a string of bludgeonings, resulting in a league-worst 35.2 OPPG. Compare that to Wesleyan’s league-best 7.2 OPPG and you understand why I say this is an uphill battle for the Polar Bears, especially on the road. Wesleyan has thrived on their home turf, allowing a total of just 6 points in two home games. The Cardinals are led by Devon Carrillo, who has posted 7 rushing touchdowns on the year, and Mark Piccirillo, who ranks first on the team in both passing and rushing yards. Throw in some other big names on Wesleyan’s offense such as Lou Stevens, Dario Highsmith, and Mike Breuler and I frankly just don’t see any way that Bowdoin can slow down this multi-faceted attack.

Rory: Bowdoin 6, Wesleyan 38

Pete: Bowdoin 0, Wesleyan 27

Liam: Bowdoin 7, Wesleyan 34

Colin: Bowdoin 6, Wesleyan 37

Colby: Bowdoin 10, Wesleyan 35

Sid: Bowdoin 0, Wesleyan 38

Nick: Bowdoin 14, Wesleyan 25

Williams (0-5) @ Hamilton (1-4), 1:20 PM, Clinton, New York

This will be a very intriguing matchup in Clinton, NY. A win for the Ephs would be a huge confidence boost as they head into their final two games against Wesleyan and Amherst – in other words, this is the last game in which Williams isn’t a heavy underdog. Hamilton has quite the stake in this game as well, and they are still hoping to put together at least a three win season here with their remaining opponents being Williams, Middlebury, and Bates. For these reasons, I expect another intense tilt out of these two squads, similar to Williams’ opener against Colby or Hamilton’s Week 4 win over Bates, both of which ended in “2-minute drill” winning drives. Though the Ephs lost to Tufts last weekend, they were able to run for 227 yards, primarily through a two-pronged attack of Noah Sorrento and Connor Harris. This should be an encouraging sign for Coach Raymond as his squad faces off with the Continentals, who have a pretty comparable run defense to Tufts statistically. Meanwhile, Hamilton definitely boasts more of a passing attack than a running game, so they are likely to air it out, especially considering the recent success of freshman quarterback Kenny Gray in the past couple weeks. This one could be a fight ‘til the end between two pretty evenly matched football teams.

Rory: Williams 21, Hamilton 14

Pete: Williams 21, Hamilton 14

Liam: Williams 10, Hamilton 24

Colin: Williams 21, Hamilton 17

Colby: Williams 20, Hamilton 18

Sid: Williams 21, Hamilton 17

Nick: Williams 21, Hamilton 0

Shake it Up, Shake it Up (Woah-oh-oh!): Week Five Power Rankings

Week Five featured arguably the most surprising result of the season thus far, with Wesleyan affirming their status as a big time contender by shutting out Amherst 20-0.  It feels strange to be writing an article about NESCAC football without Amherst in the top three, but it’s always nice to try new things so let’s see if I can get through it.  The status quo held up in the rest of the league, with Trinity and Middlebury remaining undefeated and no real surprises in the lower levels.  Now without further dudes (cred to Family Guy), let’s get into the Week Five Power Rankings:

 

1.) Trinity (5-0)

To shamelessly borrow from Rory’s flawless research, Trinity has scored between 36 and 38 points every week this season.  Of course, the other end of that stick is that they have yet to play any of the other top teams in the league.  Their only quality win thus far is a 36-28 home win over Tufts, which was an impressive performance to be sure, but not as impressive as Wesleyan or Middlebury’s wins over Amherst.  The Bantams have arguably the three best teams to close out the season, starting with a home game against Middlebury next week that might very well determine the league championship.  Right now Trinity is the best team in the league, with quarterback (and legendary Chicagoan racketeer) Sonny Puzzo ’18 and running back Max Chipouras ’19 both standing as legit POY candidates.  But things could look very different by the end of the season.

2.) Middlebury (5-0)

Last week the Panthers got moved down in the rankings two days after scoring 49 points on the road.  Predictably, they had some gripes, expressed to me in loud voices in the dining hall as I walked back to my table with my chicken and peas.  However, the Panthers  got off to a slow start again this week against one of the lesser teams in the league, trailing Bates 9-0 at the end of the first quarter before rattling off 28 points in a row to put the game away.  Quarterback Jared Lebowitz ‘18 struggled early, throwing two interceptions (although heavy rain may have contributed to the early sloppiness).  The Panthers have now started very slowly in the last two weeks against two teams that are far from Trinity’s level.  These mistakes haven’t mattered against Williams or Bates, but one against Trinity could cost them the NESCAC championship.

3.) Wesleyan (4-1)

Welcome to the top three, Wesleyan!  We’ve been expecting you (here Trinity and Middlebury open the doors to the exclusive “NESCAC Upper Tier” night club, where T-Pain is playing 24/7 and there’s no need to do homework on Saturdays.)  Wesleyan’s defense has been their calling card this season, giving up only 7.2 points per game. However, their offense has stepped up at times as well.  QB Mark Piccirillo ‘19 hasn’t committed a turnover yet this season, and running back committee Lou Stevens ‘17, Dario Highsmith ‘20 and Devin Carrillo ‘17 have given the Cardinals a dynamic running game.  We went most of this season thinking that Wesleyan wasn’t dynamic enough to overcome the offensive firepower of the top teams, but they made us all look pretty foolish last weekend.

4.) Tufts (4-1)

A side effect of the Wesleyan win over Amherst is that Tufts’ win over them in Week One is now a quality win.  The Jumbos have been quietly playing pretty well this season at 4-1, but their quarterback inconsistencies have kept them squarely out of the top tier.  However, Chance Brady proved this weekend that sometimes it doesn’t matter who your quarterback is, so long as you have Smash Williams 2.0 as your running back.  Brady ran away (pun intended) with Offensive Player of the Week honors, putting up 157 yards and four touchdowns.  Brady is the type of player that can carry a team, and he has the chance to really seal up that reputation next week against Amherst.

5.) Amherst (3-2)

Image result for darth vader
“Luke, I am your father. But I am NOT a very good contractor.”

I expected myself to feel very gratified at the prospect of writing a Power Rankings in which I get the pleasure of putting Amherst outside the top three.  It’s something that I have never gotten to do, as Amherst had never lost a football game in my college career prior to this season.  But faced with this opportunity, I feel less gratification and more melancholy.  Stories simply aren’t that fun if there’s no villain.  Imagine if Darth Vader got demoted for failing twice on the Death Star (I mean honestly, the rebels blow up the first one, so he builds the same ship that can be destroyed in the same way?  Just poor logistical planning) and becomes a Storm Trooper.  Or if Voldemort had to retake Beginning Potions.  That is how the league without Amherst dominating feels right now.  Amherst probably has lost the chance to finish at the top this season, as Middlebury and Trinity will most likely not lose another game other than whoever loses their match-up next weekend.  The best they can do now is play out the season and prepare their youngsters to restart the dynasty next season.

6.) Colby (2-3)

The Mules have been battling Bates all season for “Best of the Rest” status, and they took a big step towards sealing that title with a 27-7 shellacking of Hamilton.  Colby’s defense has been a hallmark of their success this season, and this weekend’s performance was no different.  They forced three turnovers, including a fumble that was then returned for a touchdown.  Colby has already played (and lost to) Amherst, Middlebury and Wesleyan, meaning that they have three winnable games left.  The Mules have a good shot at finishing the season .500 or better, which would be a major accomplishment for a program that has struggled mightily for the last few years.

7.) Bates (1-4)

Bates came out very aggressive against the Panthers this weekend, and led 9-0 after the first quarter.  Unfortunately, the Bobcats’ season-long issue of putting together multiple strong drives reared its head again.  After a 48 yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, the Bobcats didn’t score again for the rest of the game, while the Panthers rattled off four touchdowns and put the game far out of reach.  Bates has shown flashes of contention this season, but seem to lack the consistency to make themselves anything more than those brief moments of sunlight on a dark and cloudy day.

8.) Hamilton (1-4)

After the end of last season, in which Hamilton won two of their last three games, many experts (meaning me) thought that they might be primed for a big step forward this season.  However, the Continentals have not quite lived up to their early season promise.  An exciting win over Bowdoin aside, Hamilton has looked very much like the team they have been the last three seasons.  This weekend’s 27-7 loss to Colby was the pinnacle of this disappointing season; Colby is a team that Hamilton simply has to beat if they want to climb out of their perennial losing reputation.

9.) Williams (0-5)

Williams has shown signs of life in the last few weeks, particularly against Middlebury two weekends ago.  However, they also battled Tufts for most of the first half last weekend, and have by and large acquitted themselves well this season, when taking into account the coaching upheaval of the off-season.  The Ephs appear to have discovered a star in versatile end Tyler Patterson ‘19, and have a golden opportunity against Hamilton next weekend to come away with a huge moral victory.

10.) Bowdoin (0-5)

Bowdoin has given up an average of 481 yards per game this season.  That’s 100 yards more than Williams, and by far the worst in the league.  The Polar Bears have been lost at sea on defense for much of 2016, floating on stranded icebergs from the melting Poles.  They do have Bates and Colby left on their schedule, giving them two chances to come out of this season with at least a win.  But as of now, they’re the underdogs in even those match-ups.

The First Test at the Top: Weekend Preview 10/8

Dario Highsmith '20 looks to run through Colby this weekend on the way to a 2-1 record for the Cardinals (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics).
Dario Highsmith ’20 looks to run through Colby this weekend on the way to a 2-1 record for the Cardinals (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics).

Hear ye, hear ye, Week 3 NESCAC action is in order! What’s almost as good as watching NESCAC football on Saturdays? National polls suggest that NBN’s Weekend Previews come in a close second place. Quite a weekend we’ve got in store: Williams and Bates will battle it out to see who can avoid an 0-3 start, Tufts tries to prove that their close game against the Bobcats was a fluke, Trinity will attempt to put up 38 points for the third week in a row, and Colby will try to upset Wesleyan in a battle between two 1-1 squads. Oh and ho-hum, Amherst and Middlebury will battle for the top spot in the conference. Pete and I tag-teamed this weekend’s preview, so if you are looking to skip through Pete’s overly poetic analysis, I wrote the Trinity-Hamilton and Tufts-Bowdoin previews. Check it out below:

Amherst @ Middlebury, 1:30 PM, Middlebury, VT

For a more expansive preview of this one, check out Colby Morris’ excellent piece that went up yesterday.  This game is on the short list for the most important game of the year, with Middlebury and Amherst both coming in undefeated after impressive blowouts in each of their respective games. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that this game may well decide the league championship, although Trinity, Tufts and Wesleyan certainly have something to say in that regard.

The Panthers are led by quarterback Jared Lebowitz ‘18, who has 11 total touchdowns (10 passing, 1 rushing) and just one interception thus far this season.  However, Amherst’s staunch defense will pose a very tough test to the first year starter.  In contrast to the Panthers, Amherst comes in with quarterback uncertainty, with starter Alex Berluti ‘17  suffering a knee injury last week, forcing third-stringer Nick Morales ‘18 into action. Berluti may very well play, but either way, Amherst’s strong defense and powerful running game led by Jack Hickey ‘19 should mitigate any issues under center. This game may well come down to which offense can break through first, or it could be a shootout that comes down to one crucial stop. In any event, it’s shaping up to be a classic.

 

PS: Look how unbiased that was, Rory!  I did it!

PPS:  Go Panthers

Rory Ziomek (5-0): Amherst – 24, Middlebury – 21

Pete Lindholm (5-0): Amherst – 28, Middlebury – 31

Liam O’Neil (5-0): Amherst – 24, Middlebury – 17

Colin Tiernan (5-0): Amherst – 24, Middlebury – 20

Colby Morris (4-1): Amherst – 21, Middlebury – 28 (OT)

Sid Warrenbrand (5-0): Amherst – 31, Middlebury – 14

Nick DiBenedetto (5-0): Amherst – 30, Middlebury – 31

 

Williams @ Bates, 1:00 PM, Lewiston, ME

Look, every game can’t be Amherst vs. Middlebury.  This is maybe the least sexy match-up of the weekend, with both teams struggling mightily so far.  However, the game offers a golden opportunity for either of these teams to pick up a win, so it’s still an intriguing matchup to check the score of while you’re waiting in line for the bathroom at the Middlebury-Amherst game.

Bates put up a very good fight against Tufts last week, losing 12-7 and throwing a shutout for the entire second half.  They showed a very strong defense, limiting explosive Jumbos running back Chance Brady ‘17 to 140 yards and no touchdowns.  Unfortunately, they had some pretty severe offensive struggles of their own, totaling only 220 total yards of offense. Williams is coming off a shellacking at home against Trinity, in which they gave up 517 total yards of offense and only gained 201. This should be a tight one, with Bates getting the edge because they’re at home and my younger sister goes to college there.

RZ: Williams – 13, Bates – 20

PL: Williams – 10, Bates – 13

LO: Williams – 7, Bates – 16

CT: Williams – 10, Bates – 17

CM: Williams – 7, Bates – 14

SW: Williams – 17, Bates 21

ND: Williams – 14, Bates – 10

 

Wesleyan @ Colby, 1:00 PM, Waterville, ME

If you ask me, this game has serious upset potential.  Colby is a long trip for Wesleyan, and the Mules already have a road win under their belt in Williamstown.  Wesleyan, on the other hand, lost a tough early season game to Tufts in which they blew a double digit lead in the second half.  Throwing history and reputation aside, both these teams are 1-1 right now, and numbers never lie (except when they do).

At their best, Wesleyan uses an explosive running attack led by electric freshman Dario Highsmith to march down the field. They punctuate those runs with safe, cagey passes from quarterback Mark Piccirillo ‘19. However, as Tufts showed in Week One, the Wesleyan offense can be stalled by the same kind of stout defense that Colby showed at Williams. It would be surprising if Colby pulled this one off, but the possibility is there.

RZ: Wesleyan – 24, Colby – 17

PL: Wesleyan – 20, Colby – 10

LO: Wesleyan – 31, Colby – 7

CT: Wesleyan – 30, Colby – 10

CM: Wesleyan – 24, Colby – 10

SW: Wesleyan – 35, Colby – 14

ND: Wesleyan – 35, Colby – 7

 

Trinity @ Hamilton, 1:00 PM, Clinton, NY

It took me three clicks on the NESCAC website to find the most glaring disparity between the Bantams and the Continentals: their offensive outputs. While Trinity has absolutely annihilated teams so far, putting up 38 points in each of their games thus far, the Continentals are averaging a mere 3 PPG. I don’t think anybody expected Hamilton to make it through their opening stretch unscathed, but frankly, they have been obliterated by Amherst and Wesleyan in consecutive games. Liam mentioned this in his Top 10 Games of 2016 article a few weeks ago, but the scheduling gods certainly didn’t spare Hamilton this year, and Week 3 looks to be another opportunity for a powerhouse to dismember the Continentals’ defense.

Chipouras looks to continue his insane pace against Hamilton tomorrow (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).
Chipouras looks to continue his insane pace against Hamilton tomorrow (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Hamilton is tied with Williams for the second-worst clip of rushing YPG allowed in the league, giving up 221.5 YPG on the ground to their opponents. Meanwhile, Trinity just runs, runs, and runs more, and is averaging 305 YPG on the ground through the first two weeks! Max Chipouras ‘19 was one of my early picks for player of the year for a reason; he has shown flashes of Boobie Miles with his 154.5 rush YPG rate that has placed him atop the conference. I’d be surprised if Trinity doesn’t run away with this one.

RZ: Trinity – 38, Hamilton – 10

PL: Trinity – 45, Hamilton – 6

LO: Trinity – 36, Hamilton – 10

CT: Trinity – 40, Hamilton – 0

CM: Trinity – 34, Hamilton 7

SW: Trinity – 42, Hamilton – 9

ND: Trinity – 40, Hamilton – 6

 

Tufts @ Bowdoin, 2:00 PM, Brunswick, ME

Speaking of dominant running backs, Smash Williams, aka Chance Brady, is heading up to Bowdoin this weekend to try to dethrone Chipouras as the NESCAC’s leading rusher. Brady trails Chipouras, but just barely, accumulating 145.5 YPG on the ground so far. The issue for the Jumbos at this point is that they can’t decide who they want to throw the ball. Is it going to be JD McCoy or Matt Saracen? Alex Snyder ‘17 and Ryan McDonald ‘19 have both seen plenty of snaps thus far, but neither has excelled, and Coach Civetti has had to lean on Brady to shoulder the load offensively. If Tufts wants to compete for the title this year, it’s crucial that they demonstrate the ability to attack through the air effectively. The Jumbos only rank ahead of Bates in passing yards…the Bobcats run the option…see what I’m getting at?

Bowdoin hopes to get on the phone with Matt Patricia before Saturday's game to talk defensive strategy.
Bowdoin hopes to get on the phone with Matt Patricia before Saturday’s game to talk defensive strategy.

“So, Rory, when are you going to start talking about the game?” Here’s how my tangent becomes relevant: if Bowdoin can stop the run, they have a pretty good chance to win this game. Because of how reliant Tufts is on their ground game, the Polar Bears may be tempted to stack the box and force the Jumbos to throw. This strategy worked decently well for Bates, right? I mean, there was a minor tsunami in Somerville last Saturday, but still, the Bobcats played a “bend don’t break” style of defense à la Matt Patricia and the New England Patriots, and they found themselves right in it until the end of the game. However, aside from stopping the run, Bowdoin needs to score, which is arguably their biggest challenge of the weekend. Coming off of games against Middlebury and Amherst, it’s not surprising that Bowdoin has struggled offensively to begin the 2016 season, but if their defense can keep them in the game, Bowdoin may only need a couple good drives to find themselves victorious. That being said, I don’t think anything will slow down Brady tomorrow (insert Pete’s comment about me being biased here).

RZ: Tufts – 28, Bowdoin – 13

PL: Tufts – 17, Bowdoin 14

LO: Tufts – 34, Bowdoin – 6

CT: Tufts – 24, Bowdoin – 13

CM: Tufts – 21, Bowdoin – 6

SW: Tufts – 28, Bowdoin – 6

ND: Tufts – 20, Bowdoin – 10