Six Down, Three To Go: Football Weekend Preview 10/20

We’re still sorting through the wreckage of Williams’ comeback, last-second, upset win in Middlebury last Saturday, and I mean that both in a “how does it affect the league” sense and a “how does Pete recover from it emotionally” sense. What we do know is this; two losses will not earn you any share of the league championship. Middlebury, and any other team hoping to earn that coveted co-title (as always, terrific to not have any playoffs to sort this out) will need to win out. For the Panthers, Cardinals and Mammoths, that means beating Trinity. I don’t see more than one team potentially doing that, so the biggest story the rest of the way will be who has the best shot. The title is, now more than ever, Trinity’s to lose.

Colby (0-5) @ Hamilton (1-4), Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM

Hamilton stuck their flag in the ground last week as the Best of the Bad Teams, demolishing Bowdoin 28-7. As always, it was the offense that carried the Continentals to this strong performance. They gained 448 total yards, including 208 on the ground. 158 of those yards came on the back of first year RB Mitch Bierman. Bierman is making a delayed push for Rookie of the Year (Non Williams-division,) with touchdowns in 2 of his last three games and this dominant performance. More promising for their future, however, was the strong play of the defense. They held Bowdoin to 275 total yards, only 60 of which came from Nate Richam, and totaled five sacks. This matchup with Colby is another choice matchup for the Continentals, who would love to get another win under their belts before they play Middlebury and Williams.

The good news is that Colby tied their season high in points last week. The bad news is that their season high in points is 7. They simply do not have any offensive players who scare anyone, and by the end of the first quarter their defense is too tired to make much of a difference. If the offense could sustain some drives and give the defense a break, defensive back Don Vivian ’18 is a menace to quarterback who could give turnover-prone Kenny Gray ’20 fits. Hamilton’s offense might not allow this to happen, however.

Predicted Score: Hamilton 24, Colby 10 

Middlebury (4-1) @ Bates (0-5), Lewiston, ME, 1:00 PM

I can’t go quite as far as calling this a “trap game” for the Panthers, but it is important. Middlebury suffered one of the most demoralizing losses possible last weekend; the feeling at Alumni Field as Williams celebrated reminded me of when _________ died in Game of Thrones (no spoilers here.) And next weekend, Trinity looms. Middlebury not only needs to win this game (which they will,) they need to dominate and carry momentum into the game that may well decide the season. It would help if Jared Lebowitz ’18 could get his full compliment of weapons. Although he still played well against Williams (304 yards, three touchdowns,) by the end of the game Williams had figured out how to stop Maxwell Rye ’20, Frank Cosolito ’20 and Jimmy Martinez ’19. With star receiver Conrado Banky ’19 out with an injury, Williams was able to eventually key in on the receivers and get stops.

Brendan Costa ’21 ran for 170 yards against Wesleyan, and will look to do the same against Middlebury.

Another thing Middlebury should take this game to work on is rush defense. Bates got the moral victory trophy last weekend in their 41-23 loss to Wesleyan. This was by far their best performance of the season, and the reason for this is that they discovered an offensive identity. The Bobcats put up an impossible 287 rushing yards, 170 of which came from QB Brendan Costa ’20. Bates biggest problem all season has been choosing a QB, and it seems that Costa has won the job. This is actually bad news for Middlebury, as it was an inability to contain Bobby Maimaron ’21 (15 rushes for 93 yards) that helped spell their doom against Williams. Middlebury should work on stopping the run this game, because they know it’s coming against the Bobcats, and even more so against Trinity in two weeks. I think Bates comes out and runs the down the Panthers throats at first, but Middlebury’s offense versus the Bates defense is a perfect storm for Middlebury.

Predicted Score: Middlebury 51, Bates 17

Wesleyan (4-1) @ Amherst (4-1), Amherst, MA, 1:00 PM

That Bates rushing explosion came at the hands of Wesleyan’s defense, which has been pedestrian all season. They are the only top team to not have a defensive touchdown all season, and they still haven’t forced a fumble. This lack of dynamism from the defense hurt them against Bates. Mark Piccirillo ’18 had to throw them to victory, as he has done all season. But against Amherst on the road, this is not so easy a proposition. Amherst has the most dangerous running game in the league. Jack Hickey ’19 and Hasani Figueroa ’18 combine to average over 120 yards per game, and the team has a whole averages 195. If Wesleyan couldn’t stop Bates rushing attack, which is excellent but is not nearly as polished as Amherst’s, the Cardinals are in trouble. The key to this game will be the Wesleyan D-Line. Shane Kaminski ’18 is excellent at getting into the backfield (3 sacks,) and he will be busy this game.

Shane Kaminski ’18 will have to dominate for Wesleyan to win.

The other thing that Amherst has going for them is a stingy defense. They only give up 242 total yards per game, which is the best in the league. It is their rush defense that is most impressive, but in generally they do an excellent job breaking up opposing offenses. Andrew Yamin ’19 is the league leader in sacks with 5, and will be coming at Piccirillo all night. And their defensive backs, especially John Rak ’19, are all adept tacklers. Wesleyan’s offense is already not particularly diverse, and Amherst will excacerbate that problem. I see them forcing the turnover prone Piccirillo into trouble, and running the ball to victory.

Predicted Score: Amherst 28, Wesleyan 24

Bowdoin (0-5) @ Trinity (5-0), Hartford, CT, 1:00 PM

Not a lot to say about this one. Bowdoin has given up the most yards per game in the league, and Trinity has gained the third most (477 and 438, respectively.) Max Chipouras ’18 might have 200 yards in this game. But, as Tufts found out, Trinity’s offense is not even the most dangerous part of their game. It’s the defense that has won them the two games they’ve played against upper level opponents. In their wins against Williams and Tufts, Trinity has only averaged 20 points and around 385 yards gained, well below their season averages. But in both those games, they have locked down excellent offenses, and the defense has made huge, return touchdown type plays to give them the win. Last week against Tufts it was CB Dominique Seagears ’18 who returned his second pick of the year for a 100 yard touchdown, which ended up being the difference in the game. Trinity won’t have to make any of those big plays this week to win, but the will anyway, and they definitely will next week against Middlebury.

Predicted Score: Trinity 40, Bowdoin 0

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (3-2) @ Williams (4-1), Williamstown, MA, 1:30 PM

As Matt pointed out in the Power Rankings, this is a really fascinating game. Williams has catapulted themselves into title consideration with their upset of Middlebury, but they can easily fall back out of it with another loss. And Tufts just unseated Williams as the team that played the best against Trinity, but that still counts as a loss. If Williams loses, they will be effectively out of title contention, as Tufts already is. The Jumbos should love the chance to play spoiler.

The Tufts defense subscribed to a “Bend don’t Break” approach against Trinity. They gave up 402 total yards, including 165 to Max Chipouras. But they were able to stand strong in the red zone several times, only giving up two offensive touchdowns, including the game winner to Chipouras in the fourth quarter. Indeed, what really did the Bantams in was inconsistency on offense. QB Ryan McDonald ’19 threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a 100 yard touchdown. He will need to control the ball better against the powerful Williams pass rush and secondary, which have combined to hold QB’s to the lowest YPG average in the league.

Williams will need to keep McDonald inside the pocket. Their pass rush eventually affected Lebowitz, but even he (not known as a burner) was able to hurt them on scrambles. That is McDonald’s game. He is adept at moving the chains with his legs, and on individual plays he gives Jack Dolan ’19 and his other receivers ample time to get open. This is how Tufts will have to win; McDonald will have to carry them. On the road against a confident Williams teams, however, I don’t think he will.

Predicted Score: Williams 28, Tufts 17

 

Change is a Good Thing: Football Power Rankings Week 6

As the top half of the league spent the first half of this NESCAC season collectively pounding the state of Maine week after week, we were finally treated with a slate of games with legitimate championship implications, and it certainly lived up to the hype. With Trinity visiting Tufts and Middlebury welcoming Williams, as well as a pair of 0-4 teams in Hamilton and Bowdoin squaring off, Saturday was sure to make this rookie blogger’s Power Rankings debut a whole lot easier.

  1. Trinity
Dominque Seagears
Dominique Seagears ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

There is one team in this conference that is undefeated and as long as that holds true, Trinity will remain at the top of these rankings. Max Chipouras ’18 logged a season high 165 rushing yards on 29 attempts and the Bantams defense was able to turn Tufts over 4 times, 3 of those being interceptions off of Ryan McDonald ’18. They once again had a new defensive MVP, this time in the form of defensive back Dominique Seagears ’18 whose 100 yard interception return for a touchdown surely flipped this game on its head. It’s hard to imagine Trinity sliding out of this spot after next week’s matchup at home against Bowdoin, but Middlebury the following weekend will be their biggest test to date.

2. Williams

What a week for the Ephs and again what a week for Bobby Maimaron ’21. Maimaron connected with classmate Frank Stola with 0 seconds left on the clock to stun previously undefeated Middlebury 27-26. Maimaron impressed again, racking up 288 total yards of offense and 3 TDs, earning his second consecutive NESCAC offensive player of the week honor. But I think the most impressive part about this Williams win was how they got it done. They were outgained 432-378, they didn’t force any turnovers on defense, and they found themselves down two scores with 9 minutes left in the game, but still managed a way to win. Despite the fact that Jared Lebowitz ’18 made perhaps his strongest case for being the best quarterback in the league and a continued recipient of compliments from this blog, it was once again the first year QB on the other side of the ball who shone the brightest, leading his team on a 12 play, 80 yard drive in just over two minutes to win what was the biggest game for Williams football in a long time. While Wesleyan and Amherst also sit at 4-1, it’s the Ephs who earn the top spot for one-loss teams with a resume that features a win on the road against a title contender in Middlebury and a single loss to undefeated Trinity in Hartford. Until Wesleyan and Amherst show that they can hang with the big boys, it’s Williams who will hold onto this spot. A lot of things need to fall their way for them to have a chance to win this thing, and while I don’t have the metrics in front of me, I would imagine that still having Tufts, Wesleyan, and Amherst remaining puts them towards the front of toughest remaining schedules, but there is no reason this team should have anything less than championship aspirations, especially after this week.

3. Middlebury

The Panthers were one play away from firmly planting themselves as the second horse in what looked as if could be a two horse race for the NESCAC, and this space would’ve been taken up with a discussion about 6-0 Middlebury vs. 6-0 Trinity in Week 7 after both teams steamroll Bates and Bowdoin respectively, but the defense couldn’t get a stop against Williams in the waning seconds on Saturday and instead find themselves amongst the rest of the one loss teams rooting for a Trinity loss (although aren’t we all rooting for a Trinity loss?). Unlike Amherst, whose loss against Middlebury a few weeks back raised as many questions about the actual quality of their team as much as it did their chances to get fitted for rings in November, this loss didn’t really do anything to make me feel that Middlebury can’t still sit atop the standings after 9 games. As I mentioned above, Middlebury still played great, Lebowitz ’18 was dynamite again, but Williams simply made more plays and won the game. This team is still a legitimate title contender, and although they can no longer go undefeated, their season was always going to boil down to Week 7 at Trinity. Win or lose against Williams, that was still going be the case. Beat the Bantams and they immediately become title favorites, lose to Trinity and start thinking about next year. This is still a very dangerous team.

4. Wesleyan

Wesleyan and Middlebury have the same record but Middlebury beat Wesleyan so they go ahead of them, nothing complicated about that. As much as it pains me to admit, I think this Wesleyan team is going to sneak up on someone in the next few weeks and be a serious spoiler in the title race. Yet the simple fact that I’m talking about a team that is tied for second as a potential spoiler and not a contender should tell you how much they’re flying under the radar. Their lone loss was a 30-27 Week 1 defeat to Middlebury in Middlebury, they beat Tufts at home, and they’ve taken care of their business against the bottom half of the league to find themselves at 4-1. Mark Piccirillo ’19 is probably the best player that no one is talking about, as his 388 passing yards against Bates kept him comfortably at the top of the passing charts, his 333.2 YPG first in the league. Piccirillo, however, also leads the league with 7 interceptions, and he is yet to have a game without one. If he can find a way to limit the turnovers, then this team is talented offensively to outscore any one team for 60 minutes. Mike Brueler ’18 has comfortably been the best WR in the league this year, running away with the gold medal for receptions and receiving yards, and still leading in touchdowns as well. If Piccirillo and Brueler bring their A game they can throw a wrench in someone’s title plans. While I don’t think they quite have it defensively this year to make a serious splash, I’m confident enough to know that they are going to play a crucial role in the outcome of this season.

Mark Piccirillo ’18 leads the league in passing yards per game with 332, and makes the Cardinals offense dangerous to anyone.

5. Amherst

This team gives me a headache. I simply don’t know what to make of them. They’ve scored no less than 31 points in a game all season, and they lead the league in scoring offense with 35.8 points per game. But these guys don’t seem to scare anybody this year. Maybe it’s because of the fact that there isn’t one guy on the offensive side of the ball that scares anybody. Jack Hickey ’19 leads the top rushing offense in the NESCAC, but only averages 79.4 yards a game as he is simply half of their two-pronged attack alongside Hasani Figueroa ’18. Maybe it’s because at this point in the year I don’t think there are a lot of people who have much hope for Reece Foy ’18 to return to the POY caliber player he was before his injury, and Ollie Eberth ’20’s name is not going to be one of the first to come up in a debate over who the best quarterback in the NESCAC is. Maybe it’s because they have 4 wins over the 4 worst teams in the league and lost to the only good team they played in Middlebury. Regardless of what it is, I don’t think there is a team in this league with more to prove than the Purple and White. Their four remaining opponents are a combined 16-4, with the “worst” of those teams being Tufts, and Ellis Oval is never a fun place to play. The matchup I’m most looking forward to this week is Wesleyan @ Amherst because I think it’s the matchup we will learn the most from. Amherst’s performance this week will be the strongest indicator yet of what kind team they’re shaping up to be, which is anywhere from a 4-5 team to an 8-1 team.

6. Tufts

Ahead of the Jumbos are 5 teams with better records, and below them are 4 teams with worse records, so slotting them in 6 was as easy as it gets this week. Tufts probably isn’t the 6th best team in this league, if I had to guess I think they’ll finish somewhere in the top 4, but as a product of some close games and outrageously lopsided scheduling to begin the season, this is where they stand. A loss to Wesleyan in Middletown in overtime, and a one possession loss to Trinity, a game in which they more than likely would’ve won if not for Dominque Seagears ’18’s 100 yard interception return for a touchdown, a play that turned what would’ve been a 14-7 score line in favor of Tufts into 13-7 the other way. But if we’re counting Williams’ 17-9 loss to Trinity as an impressive showing, then I suppose we have to feel this way about Tufts as well, who were able to put up more points on Trinity than any other team this year.

I know I sound like a broken record here, but this Tufts team’s deal isn’t different than any of the other teams chasing after the top. They have weapons on offense, and some guys on defense, but neither side is really dominant enough to put a scare in you. Ryan McDonald ’18 has proven his ability has a dual threat QB and Jack Dolan ’19 is as dangerous a big play threat as there is in the league, but they have yet to find a way to fill the Chance Brady sized hole in their ground game. McDonald carries for 76.4 yards a game, but it’s hard to really set the tone with a quarterback as your main rushing threat. Defensively, it seems like they have some talented guys, but it just hasn’t come together. The senior trio of monsters in Zach Thomas, Micah Adickes, and Doug Harrison all rank in the top 5 in the league in sacks, and the team itself is 1st with 21, but their ability to get to the quarterback hasn’t really amounted to much as they rank 5th in run defense and 6th against the pass. The Jumbos, like everybody else, have a remaining schedule that could go either way, as they are definitely capable of beating any of Williams, Amherst, Colby, and Middlebury. We will know a lot more about how good this team is after they visit Williams on Saturday.

7. Hamilton

Mitch Bierman
Mitch Bierman ’21 wins both the “Breakout Star of the Week” award and the “Looks Most Like Landry Clarke from FNL” Award. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Someone had to win this game Hamilton-Bowdoin game and it was the Continentals who escaped from the pack of winless teams to go to 1-4. Kenny Gray ’20 continued his strong individual season going 20-34 for 240 yards and 3 TDs, but the real story on offense for Hamilton was the breakout game of first year running back Mitch Bierman who ran for a career high 158 yards on 22 carries, providing a balanced attack for their first win of the season. Although by all accounts it has been a disappointing season for Hamilton, they still have a really good chance to finish 3-6 and end the season on a high note. They have Colby and Bates at home, both matchups in which they are the better team, and then they travel to both Williams and Middlebury. I’m fairly confident in counting both of these games as losses, but if the Conts want to turn that into bulletin board material and maybe catch one of those two looking past them at other obstacles in their race to a title, then I’m sure that would also be a tremendous moment for them as a program, and Pete could hop right back on as the conductor of the “Hamilton is Good” train for the 2018 campaign.

8. Bates

As long as these three teams remain winless, which unfortunately looks like it might carry on for another week, the moral victory trophy is going to be handed out on a relative week by week basis. Colby got pasted at home by Amherst, Bowdoin lost to previously winless Hamilton at home, and Bates went to Wesleyan and scored 23 points in a loss, losing by the least. So they will occupy the highly coveted 8th spot for this week.

On a more serious football note, Bates did impress in their trip to Wesleyan. Their option attack showed signs of life as they logged 287 yards rushing. Brendan Costa ’21 had his best game as the Bates QB1 with 170 rushing yards, but most importantly didn’t turn the ball over once, a significant improvement from his 4 interceptions in Williamstown the week before. No one’s asking Costa to look like Cam Newton, but if they’re going to prioritize the run then they need to take better care of the ball in passing situations. The defense continues to get smoked, as they allowed 41 more points this week, which actually brings their average DOWN to 43.4 points allowed a week. I don’t have a spin zone for that, the defense is just downright bad, but the offense trended in the right direction this week. Their run of pain should come to an end after they host Middlebury this week (don’t get your hopes up folks), and we’ll see how they can finish up against Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton.

 9. Bowdoin

Nate Richam ’20 is hidden on an otherwise weak offense, but is one of the best running backs in the league.

Bowdoin lost to a previously winless team in Hamilton, and Colby got smoked by a quite decent team in Amherst, but the Polar Bears are going to occupy the 9 spot this week. I know I said that the moral victory trophy and 8th spot would be the decided on a relative week by week basis, but that’s not going to be the case at 9. Neither Bowdoin or Colby are any good, but Colby’s offense is so downright poor (5.4 points/184.2 yards a game), that it’s hard to justify putting them over anyone. We are at the point in the year for these bottom tier teams that you just have to find a couple of silver linings and focus on those. Nate Richam ’20 had some flashes of production, and first year quarterback Griff Stalcup ’21 played turnover free football. They are both obviously still young and hopefully can be two pillars to build on moving forward.

10. Colby

I really don’t have a whole to say here. Colby vs. the top offense in the NESCAC was always going to be ugly and Amherst didn’t disappoint, hanging 40 on the Mules. Just as Bates’ “holding” Wesleyan to 41 points lowered their points allowed average, Colby’s scoring 7 raised their offensive to a whopping 5.4 scored a game. This goes without saying but the biggest problem, among many, for this team is that they simply don’t have any weapons. Jake Schwern ’19 is both their leading rusher and their leading receiver, which is more of an indication that they have no one who can make plays downfield or a quarterback that can get it to them.

Luckily for Colby and Bowdoin, and Bates I guess, although my Maine sources tell me they are the third wheel in this whole Maine rivalry (just like Wesleyan in the Little Three even if they don’t realize it), is that they still have each other to look forward to, and any team with an archrival can tell you that having that game (or games) at the end of the season is like having your own championship or bowl game to play for. If Williams or Bowdoin went 1-7 last year but beat Amherst or Colby, respectively, in Week 8, it sure wouldn’t have felt like they went 1-7, and the same will go for these teams this year. They still have something to play for.

 

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.

It’s Finally Getting Interesting: Weekend Preview 10/15

This week features not one, but two sure-fire nail-biter contests between the league’s top teams. Not only this, but some of the less successful teams up to this point (four 0-4 teams) will get the chance to find the win column as they square off against one another. Hamilton or Bowdoin will end their winless streaks and Williams @ Middlebury and Trinity @ Tufts are games that could either put one undefeated over the other on a quest for a ring, or bring all the one loss teams closer together. Regardless of how this week plays out, it’s nice to see that the majority of results won’t be easy to predict, a refreshing sight compared to the majority of the first four weeks.

Hamilton (0-4) @ Bowdoin (0-4), 12:00 PM, Brunswick, ME

It must be nice to look across the field and not see a powerhouse on the other side for these two teams. After brutal starts to the season in terms of strength of schedule, the Continentals and Polar Bears will square off in what is sure to be a competitive matchup. Bowdoin had a dud of an offensive performance last week, scoring just three points, but the previous three weeks saw them in the end zone 2x per contest. QB Griff Stalcup ‘21 should have a good chance to breakout against his first weak defense while RB Nate Richam ’20 looks to continue his ground

Nate RIcham ’20 is the lone bright spot in Bowdoin’s season thus far.

dominance after a 109 yard performance against Tufts. Richam averaged 5.7 yards per carry against a Jumbo defense that held the Bowdoin team to just three points, and Richam has improved in some way every week. Stalcup has been remarkably consistent in terms of completions as he is either 12/21 or 12/22 in each of his three starts this year, the best of which came against Amherst. If both these two players can get it going, they might just have the scoring capability to set them over the edge.

Hamilton, like Bowdoin, hasn’t had much luck so far this season. If they started playing some of the NESCAC’s weaker teams immediately following their near win over Tufts, then their record might look drastically different. However, after failing to improve on that performance, and falling back into the abyss of the losing column the last three weeks without much resistance, they are desperate for a win against Bowdoin. Kenny Gray ’20 has played better than his team’s 0-4 record would indicate and he has the experience that could lead his team to victory. Also, a stellar secondary performance against perennial All-NESCAC Sonny Puzzo ’18 would suggest that Griff Stalcup will have his hands full. I mean, if they can intercept Trinity’s QB twice, why not four against Bowdoin? They look to be the favorite here due to their defense from last week and Gray’s relative consistency thus far, but Richam could control the Bowdoin offense if he plays like he did last week.

Predicted Score: Hamilton 20, Bowdoin 17

Bates (0-4) @ Wesleyan (3-1), 1:00 PM, Middletown, CT

While the outcome of this game isn’t necessarily hard to predict in terms of who will win (sorry, Bobcat fans, this won’t be your week), it will still be a good opportunity for Bates do develop their offense in preparation for games that they will compete in. Brendan Costa ’21 looked really bad last weekend against Williams, like really bad. Yes, I recognize that it’s only his second career start, and his second career game, but four INTs is a lot. Sandy Plashkes ’19 showed flashes of greatness with some huge runs last year, and Costa looked good in his opening contest, but until Bates figures out who is going to lead their team, they won’t have a chance to win. Here’s the good news: Matt Golden ’20 looked really good against Williams with a huge 62 yard rush, both Costa and Plashkes can run the ball, and Bates plays with tons of slot receivers and slot backs that are part of a run oriented offense. They should run the ball on offense. Obviously with only 14 pass attempts as a unit last game, they know what their strengths are, but they need to limit the turnovers and let their ground game take control. Jason Lopez should be nearly the only receiver they throw too. They won’t win this game, but hopefully they can get enough offense going to show that they can find the win column eventually.

Again, for Wesleyan this shouldn’t be a difficult win. If nothing else it should be an opportunity to QB Mark Piccirillo ’18 to work on his turnover issue as well. He threw the ball well against Colby, going for four TDs and 324 yards. His play isn’t an issue right now, but he has turned the ball over in 4/4 contests so far and with Amherst and Trinity still left on the Cardinals’ schedule, he will need to be perfect for Wesleyan to win out. The Wesleyan defensive line looked great last weekend too, accumulating three sacks and 10 tackles for losses, and they should get to the Bates QBs all day.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 35, Bates 10

Amherst (3-1) @ Colby (0-4), 1:00 PM, Waterville, ME

I am seriously doubting Amherst’s potential to make a run at the league title after their lacklustre play at QB against Middlebury. As everybody knows, the NESCAC is a QB league, and while Ollie Eberth ’20 is solid, he isn’t the same as Piccirillo, Lebowitz, McDonald, or Puzzo. Even young Bobby Maimaron ’21 looks to have an edge over Eberth. With that said, they shouldn’t have much issue against the Mules. Eberth is going to have to start making strides to be more diverse in his passing game as Bo Berluti has been under utilized up to this point in the season. Amherst’s secondary looked weak against Midd too and will use this game as an opportunity to get some turnovers and work out the kinks before tougher games.

Ollie Eberth ’20 has had moments of greatness, but hasn’t been consistent enough to compete with the elite QB class above him.

This probably isn’t a game that the Mules circled on their schedule in the preseason. Amherst has looked nearly unstoppable against the other 0-4 teams this year, and while they lost to Midd, Colby is not even close to on that level. They really didn’t get anything going against Wesleyan, and their only highlight was having a lead through the first quarter. They proceeded to let up 41 unanswered points to finish off the contest. They don’t have much of an offensive game as Jack O’Brien, Jake Schwern, and the receivers haven’t made many big plays this year. They were able to force two turnovers against the Cardinals though and defense should be their goal against the Mammoths who turned the ball over three times against the Panthers. Their defensive line hasn’t done much recently, but they could limit Eberth significantly in his passing game. The bad news for the Mules is that Jack Hickey is the star of the Amherst offense and stopping the ground game isn’t the Colby specialty.

Predicted Score: Amherst 38, Colby 7

GAME OF THE WEEK: Trinity (4-0) @ Tufts (3-1), 1:30 PM, Medford, MA

Another marquee matchup brings excitement to my heart. Tufts has already lost, but have displayed enough offensive talent worth of a challenge for the mighty Bantams, who’s only notable win thus far was a nail-biter against Williams. The key to this game for Tufts will be stopping RB Max Chipouras ’18 who had a dud of a performance against the Ephs but rebounded nicely against Hamilton. Ryan McDonald ’19 has been running the ball convincingly lately and could be the spark that puts the Jumbos over the edge on Saturday. His dual threat ability is just what an opponent needs against Trinity, who’s defense has been nearly unstoppable up to this point. Unfortunately for Tufts, Bowdoin RB Nate Richam ran all over them last week, and if they are vulnerable like that again, Chipouras could control the game. Rush defense is the only hope for the Jumbos.

Ryan McDonald’s speed makes him a dangerous weapon, and is the key to Tufts’ upset chances.

I mentioned above how Chipouras had a tough day against Williams, averaging under three yards per carry for the first time in his career, but his silenced his doubters (were there any?) with two TDs and 97 yards against Hamilton. Puzzo showed he was vulnerable to the interception too, and he will need to take better care of the ball as to not give Tufts additional scoring opportunities. With the way Trinity’s defense has played so far this year, they shouldn’t need more than 21 points to win this game, but the question is, how many opportunities will they give Tufts to find the end zone.

Predicted Score: Trinity 24, Tufts 14

Williams (3-1) @ Middlebury (4-0), 2:00 PM, Middlebury, VT

 334 yards of offense and four TDs from Bobby Maimeron led him to his first Player of the Week honors after a clobbering of Bates (check out Matt’s excellent profile of Bobby here). Good special teams play, a balanced offensive attack, and a breakout day from their secondary lead to a decent amount of hope heading into this game. Rashad Morrison ’21 and Connor Harris ’18 combined for over 160 yards against Bates and looked nearly unstoppable. TJ Rothman (21)’s two picks, along with another from Jameson DeMarco ’19 and Jack Kastenhuber ’21 should worry Lebowitz, who has had issues with turnovers in the past. DeMarco has been great to start the season, adding the INT in his only game without a sack this year. Williams should put up a fight, Maimeron is about to face the music with Midd’s secondary showing up in a big way against Amherst.

 Zoning in on Maimeron all day though will be Midd’s Kevin Hopsicker who had a career game against Amherst with eight tackles and a pick-6 against Amherst. Wesley Becton also added a pick-6 and Maimeron should have his hands full with this secondary. Lebowitz won’t be slowed down by Williams’ defense despite their solid play against Bates. The Middlebury receiving core should be able to overcome much of the challenge from the Ephs, and while Williams could intercept one or two passes, Lebowitz should still find the end zone upwards of three times. The rush defense looks to be the only question heading into this one as they allowed almost 200 yards on the ground to the Mammoths.

 Predicted Score: Middlebury 28, Williams 21

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

The Rich Get Richer: Week Two Stock Report

This was not the greatest week for NESCAC parity. There was only one game that was ever in doubt, the Wesleyan-Tufts classic, and all the other games featured elite teams beating up on the lower tier like Godzilla on Tokyo. But what there were this week were several incredible performances. Jared Lebowtiz ‘18 (20-26, 316 yards, 4 touchdowns) continued his incredible start, Jack Hickey ‘19 of Amherst (113 yards, 2 touchdowns) had a very effective game out of the backfield, and the entire Trinity team looked like the Monstars in Space Jam against Bates, winning 51-0. So there wasn’t a lot of excitement, but there were still several compelling threads to trace through Week Two. Here are some of them.

Stock Up

Wesleyan QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18

Mark Piccirillo
Mark Piccirillo ’19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

At the beginning of the season, the First Team QB spot (and probably Offensive Player of the Year as well) looked to be a two man race between Jared Lebowitz ‘18 of Middlebury and Sonny Puzzo ‘18 of Trinity. And those two have certainly done nothing to take themselves out of that discussion; indeed, they both threw four touchdown passes. But by leading comebacks against high level opponents in the first two weeks, Piccirillo has catapulted himself right into that conversation. After throwing for 432 yards (4 touchdowns) and nearly leading a miraculous comeback against Middlebury, he followed it up with 279 yards and 3 touchdowns against Tufts in the biggest game of the year thus far. And furthermore, he did his best Tom Brady impression against the Jumbos, leading a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter, and a game winning drive in overtime. He accounted for 345 of their 385 total yards in one of the most impressive performances of the young season. Quarterback play this season is at its highest level in years, and Piccirillo is a large part of that.

Trinity’s Streak(s)

As we all know, the Bantams are currently on a 13 game winning streak spanning over the last two years. But this season has spawned another streak for Trinity, one that is even more impressive. Trinity is currently on an eight quarter scoreless streak. Put more simply, they have not allowed a point yet this year. For all you non-football fans, that’s pretty good. And although Trinity hasn’t played the elite in the league yet, they didn’t have a shutout for all of last season despite being 8-0, signifying an improvement in their already-excellent defense. It has been a true team effort for the Bantams. They don’t have a player in the top 20 in tackles or sacks, but the whole unit has just been incredible. We’ll be keeping an eye on this streak as the season goes on.

Stock Down

Hamilton’s Ascendence

The experts here at NbN were perhaps a little premature in predicting Hamilton’s rise to the top. Of course, Amherst is a very good team, but many were expecting a better performance from the Continentals than we saw on Saturday. Amherst focused in on WR Joe Schmidt ‘20, holding him to 54 yards and no touchdowns after he destroyed Tufts in Week One. And without his greatest weapon, QB Kenny Gray ‘20 struggled, throwing a pick and struggling before garbage time. The defense was perhaps more concerning, however. The Mammoths had 257 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and simply dominated the game all the way through. Hamilton may not be as ready as we thought.

Football Blanks Hamilton in First Half, Powers to 36-6 Victory
Amherst put a damper on Hamilton’s improvement, smoking the Continentals 36-6. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Tufts Defense

Tufts has been involved in easily the two best games of the season thus far, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. In both games, the Tufts offense has played fairly well (although QB Ryan McDonald struggled throwing the ball this week,) only to have the defense rendered unable to get a key stop. The secondary has been the main culprit. They gave up a legendary performance to Joe Schmidt in Week One, and Mike Breuler ‘18 roasted them in a similar way on Saturday. Breuler was Piccirillo’s main target, hauling in 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Incidentally, this gives Breuler 28 catches over the first two games. This is a ridiculous statistic that I would think has to be some kind of record. Tufts paid the price this week for their shaky defense, and one more loss would sink them in the league. The secondary will have to improve immensely if they want to stay afloat.

 

You Got Records? I’ma Smash ‘Em: Stock Report 11/7

 

Brady has dominated all season, and he is currently the frontrunner for Offensive POY voting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).
Brady has dominated all season, and he is currently the frontrunner for Offensive POY voting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

No upsets this weekend, and aside from Amherst and Bowdoin each hanging on through three quarters (until they both threw up goose eggs in the 4th), these games weren’t very close at all. Wesleyan did put up the highest score of the 2016 season in their 59-14 win over Williams, and both Middlebury and Tufts clung onto their title hopes with wins in their respective matchups. Alas, we are in the same position as last week in terms of determining the NESCAC Champion, so it’s all in Trinity’s hands this coming weekend.

There were lots of terrific individual performances on Saturday, so there are definitely some names not on here – Spencer Donahue ‘17 forcing a fumble and returning it for a touchdown, Jared Lebowitz ‘18 throwing for four TDs and running for one, Trinity moving to 7-0, Bates winning the CBB – don’t be mad if you didn’t get a write-up, there were just a lot of guys who had outstanding games this weekend, and who have been consistently having outstanding games throughout the season.

As for the writers’ picks this weekend, everyone went 5-0 except for Colin and I, who both went 4-1. Here’s where everyone stands as we enter the final week of action:

1.) Liam O’Neil (27-3)

2.) Rory Ziomek (25-5)

2.) Nick DiBenedetto (25-5)

4.) Sid Warrenbrand (24-6)

4.) Pete Lindholm (24-6)

6.) Colin Tiernan (23-7)

6.) Colby Morris (23-7)

The last week of action should be a great one, but that’s a long way off as of now. Let’s see who excelled and whose stock dropped this weekend.

 

Stock Up

Tufts RB Chance Brady ‘17

Brady ran for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns on Saturday, but that’s not really the highlight – the senior broke two different school touchdown records this weekend. The first, single season rushing touchdowns, was previously set at 13, but Brady now has a total of 14 rushing TDs on the year. The second record is somehow more impressive than that: career touchdowns. Brady now holds the Tufts record for career touchdowns with 30. I’ve always felt spoiled as a Boston sports fan, but being a Chance Brady fan is arguably more of a treat. He is now just 2 touchdowns away from tying the NESCAC single-season rushing touchdowns record (16), which Fred Storz set in 1998 for Williams. There’s a very real possibility that Brady ties that record on Saturday – go get ‘em Chance.

Wesleyan’s Big Three: QB Mark Piccirillo ‘19, WR Devon Carrillo ‘17, WR Mike Breuler ‘18

Holy cow, Wesleyan really worked the Ephs this weekend…I mean talk about a beatdown. The Cardinals won 59-14 on Saturday, primarily because of the incredible performances of these three guys. Piccirillo threw for 5 touchdowns and 288 yards, and also ran for 66 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, Carrillo ran for 2 touchdowns and caught one, while also racking up 95 yards, and Breuler accumulated 125 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. The highlight of the day was a 50 yard touchdown pass and catch between Piccirillo and Breuler. Poor Williams. Quite the tune-up game for Wesleyan as they head into a title match against Trinity. Coach DiCenzo is gonna need these three to bring the heat against the Bantams if they want to pull off the upset.

Trinity PK Eric Sachse ‘19

Last year it was Tufts’ Willie Holmquist ‘17 who tied the NESCAC single-season field goals record with 11, but Sachse broke that record on Saturday when he nailed his 12th field goal of the season. The sophomore kicker is still a perfect 12/12 on the year on field goals, and he has also converted every PAT that he has attempted in 2016 (31). Sachse’s consistency has been an unbelievable advantage for Trinity the entire year, and it’s no wonder that he ranks 3rd in overall points in the conference. The only potential knock on Sachse is that his longest field goal of the year is just 40 yards, but that’s not necessarily his fault either. He hasn’t attempted a field goal from outside 40, so it’s not like you can make the argument that 41+ is outside of his range. Unless he has an absolutely dreadful Week 8, Sachse should earn a First Team selection without a doubt. It’s rare you see this type of consistency in the NESCAC, and the golden boot of Sachse has truly been a spectacle week after week.

Tufts CB Tim Preston ‘19

Ya know, I really thought Preston’s league-leading 6 interceptions during his freshman year was a once-in-a-career type of season. I mean, no one is going to keep throwing the ball his way if he is that good, right? I guess I was wrong because once again, Preston is leading the NESCAC in interceptions, and his 5th pick this weekend was definitely the most impressive of his sophomore campaign. Despite the final score, this was a back and forth game early on. Down 7-0, Colby drove 81 yards down the field to set themselves up with a 1st and Goal from the 4 yard line. Quarterback Christian Sparacio dropped back to pass and tried to hit his man in the endzone, but Preston jumped the route and snagged the football at the 1 yard line. He wasn’t content with the interception, however – Preston weaved in and out of Colby’s offensive players and ended up returning the INT 99 yards for a touchdown. Though it’s a long ways off, it’s worth noting that the sophomore is currently on pace to break Tufts’ career interceptions record of 20 that was set by Evan Zupancic (1999-2003). For the NESCAC quarterbacks reading this: STOP THROWING TOWARDS PRESTON (or continue to do so, I do go to Tufts after all).

 

Stock Down

Colby Offense

In the second quarter, the Colby defense forced a punt on two consecutive drives. On each of those two punts, the Mules were able to  storm into the backfield and block the punts off of Willie Holmquist’s foot, giving them the ball on the Tufts 22, and then on the Tufts 16 to start their drives. Unfortunately, Colby couldn’t move the ball at all, and each time they had to resort to kicking a field goal, making the score 16-9 Tufts at the half. Between these two disappointing opportunities and the interception that Colby threw on the goal line in the first quarter, the Mules just simply couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities that Tufts gave them. If they score a touchdown on each of these three drives, the score is 24-9 Colby at halftime and all of a sudden, this is a completely different ballgame. The margin of error is so small in the NESCAC, so failing to convert on three prime touchdown opportunities is not quite a recipe for success.

Bottom Three Ball Control

It might not be the only reason that Hamilton, Williams, and Bowdoin are the three worst teams in the NESCAC, but it is certainly telling that they committed 6, 5 and 4 turnovers respectively on Saturday. Hamilton threw 5 picks and lost a fumble; Williams threw 1 interception and lost 4 fumbles; Bowdoin threw 3 INTs and lost 1 fumble. Unsurprisingly, all three lost their games this weekend. The fact is, you can’t just throw away possessions like this and expect to win football games. Maybe I’m being harsh, but it’s true. Hopefully they can figure out what went wrong on film and then use the knowledge gained to turn it around next weekend.

Down to the Wire: Week 7 Weekend Preview, 11/5

Alex Waugh '18 and Hamilton hope to pull off the upset as they host Middlebury this weekend in Clinton (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
Alex Waugh ’18 and Hamilton hope to pull off the upset as they host Middlebury this weekend in Clinton (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Honestly speaking, this has been the most exciting NESCAC season that I have witnessed in my college career. Looking over the schedule for the final two weeks of season, I am drawn to game after game after game. There are games with championship hopes on the line (both NESCAC and CBB championship hopes); there are games with endless pride at stake; there are in-state rivalry games, conference rivalry games, grudge matches…there’s even some little school in Connecticut that’s trying to finish out an undefeated season. 2016 has given us the rise of a historically less relevant team in terms of championship contention (Tufts), and it has also presented us with an epic fall from grace (Amherst). All in all, it’s hard to objectively look at the 2016 NESCAC Football season and be upset — the competition has been good, great, phenomenal…I can’t wait to see what type of upsets are in store for us over these next two weeks.

Hold your horses though, folks. Before we can get to the decisive Week 8 games, we need to get through this weekend. Good news! There are a number of very important games tomorrow, games that will set the stage for a thrilling final week. The most obvious is Amherst-Trinity, a matchup that features an undefeated group of Bantams looking to win the sole title of 2016 NESCAC champion. Amherst has been on quite the slide as of late, but if they can put together a little Western Mass magic like we remember from the good old days, then Week 8 will be VERY interesting. Elsewhere, Middlebury, Tufts, and Wesleyan all have one loss, and all need to win-out in order to have a shot at taking home at least a share of the title (I’d be unbelievably surprised if there was a sole champion that didn’t hail from Hartford, CT, but I suppose it is possible). The good news for all three of the 5-1 squads is that they play Hamilton, Colby, and Williams respectively. The bad news? Hamilton, Colby, and Williams are ALL looking to spoil some championship dreams. So check out Saturday’s action below – this should be an awesome weekend.

(Per usual, Pete and I split up this weekend’s preview. I wrote about the Colby-Tufts and Wesleyan-Williams games, while Pete wrote the Middlebury-Hamilton, Amherst-Trinity, and Bates-Bowdoin games)

Colby (2-4) at Tufts (5-1), Medford, MA, 1:00 PM

Sebastian Farrell '19 debatably leapfrogged this defender (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)
Sebastian Ferrell ’19 debatably leapfrogged this defender (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Well, Pete moved Tufts into the #2 slot in this week’s power rankings, so it’s time for the Jumbos to show everyone that they deserve that nod. While the Trinitys, Middleburys, and Wesleyans of the world have been able to blow out some inferior opponents by ~30 points somewhat often, Tufts has not done so, but that doesn’t mean they’re any worse of a team for it. Scoring 40 or 50 points is not their M.O. – playing solid defense and wearing down opposing defenses is. That’s why Tufts has the lowest point differential per game, an average of just +9.33 per game compared to Trinity (27.00), Middlebury (11.33), and Wesleyan (21.00). It’s also why I think that this weekend’s game could be closer than many people are anticipating. Colby is fresh off a devastating loss to Bates, but the fight they showed in the second half of that game is a testament to their willpower. The Mules are clearly not going to roll over, and whether or not Jabari Hurdle-Price ‘17 is back from injury this week, Colby is going to be ready to play. Expect Coach Michaeles to stick with what’s working – lots of plays drawn up  for Christian Sparacio ‘18 to feed Sebastian Ferrell ‘19. Lockdown Jumbo cornerback Tim Preston ‘19 is back to his old ways – once again he leads the NESCAC in interceptions (4), so expect him to line up against Ferrell. The main question, as always, will be whether the opposing D can shut down Chance Brady ‘17… I somehow doubt it.

Rory Ziomek: Colby 17, Tufts 24

Pete Lindholm: Colby 10, Tufts 13

Liam O’Neil: Colby 10, Tufts 40

Colin Tiernan: Colby 13, Tufts 31

Colby Morris: Colby 7, Tufts 35

Sid Warrenbrand: Colby 7, Tufts 41

Nick DiBenedetto: Colby 7, Tufts 21

 

Wesleyan (5-1) at Williams (0-6), Williamstown, MA, 1:00 PM

I have tried to be pretty optimistic about Williams all season long, and they have shown some instances of competitive football in 2016, but overall, I think that Williams’ defense has been their downfall. The Ephs are allowing 29.3 OPPG, largely in part because of the nearly 400 YPG that they allow (381.5). Conceding a league-worst 199.2 YPG on the ground is not a recipe for success against Wesleyan, the third-best rushing attack in the NESCAC (180.5 YPG). And it’s not that the Cardinals can’t pass either! Quarterback Mark Piccirillo ‘19 can pass, he can run, and above all else, he can facilitate offensive flow. If Williams wants to win this game, they are going to need to score the football…unfortunately, I think that could be an issue for them. Though Williams ranks 6th in scoring in the NESCAC, they are a hop, skip and a jump below Amherst’s scoring average, once again highlighting the “league of two tiers” that we have often alluded to this fall. Wesleyan still boasts the best defense in the league, allowing just 7.7 OPPG, one that has only gotten better as the season has gone on. If the rest of the 2016 season is an accurate barometer, Wesleyan should head to Trinity at 6-1.

Rory: Wesleyan 42, Williams 7

Pete: Wesleyan 35, Williams 7

Liam: Wesleyan 27, Williams 10

Colin: Wesleyan 27, Williams 10

Colby: Wesleyan 28, Williams 13

Sid: Wesleyan 38, Williams 6

Nick: Wesleyan 38, Williams 14

 

Middlebury (5-1) at Hamilton (2-4), Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM

Contrary to the apparent mismatch, this is a crucial game for the Panthers.  Last weekend, Trinity Sonny Corleone-d the Panthers to the tune of a 49-13 drubbing that may not even have been that close.  The Panthers now must win out (and get a little help from Amherst this weekend) in order to have a shot at sharing the league title.  Their biggest obstacle on paper is a home game against Tufts to close the year, but Middlebury would be wise to not discount the Continentals this weekend.  Hamilton is a long drive from Middlebury, and the Panthers have had a tendency to start slowly, particularly on the road.  Also, Hamilton is truly not that bad.  Quarterback Kenny Gray ‘20 has had some impressive connections with receiver Charles Ensley ‘18, and the defense features certified studs Mickey Keating ‘18 and Tyler Hudson ‘19, who are excellent at pressuring the quarterback.  The struggling Middlebury offensive line will have to step up their game in order to give Jared Lebowitz time to get back into POY form after a very tough week against Trinity.  This should be a tune-up game for Middlebury in preparation for Tufts, but it would be very dangerous for the Panthers to think like that.

Rory: Middlebury 20, Hamilton 23

Pete: Middlebury 23, Hamilton 14

Liam: Middlebury 34, Hamilton 10

Colin: Middlebury 27, Hamilton 10

Colby: Middlebury 38, Hamilton 14

Sid: Middlebury 24, Hamilton 6

Nick: Middlebury 42, Hamilton 0

 

Amherst (3-3) at Trinity (6-0), Hartford, CT, 12:30 PM

Look, did I expect Amherst to be 3-3 heading into Week Seven?  No.  Am I happy about it?  No, (holding back gleeful laughter) okay maybe a bit, but just because it makes for more interesting #content for us to write about here at NBN.  Amherst has lost three of their last four games, with turnovers out of quarterbacks Alex Berluti and Nick Morales being the main culprit.  Additionally, running back Jack Hickey ‘19, who was looking like a darkhorse All-League team candidate early in the season, has pretty much disappeared from the offense, posting only 97 yards and one TD over the last three games after 6 touchdowns in the first three games.  Amherst simply has no offensive firepower right now, and that doesn’t bode well for a matchup with Trinity’s vaunted defense.  However, Amherst still has one weapon left in their arsenal: pride.  This is a team that won 21 in a row just a short time ago, and the attitude that makes the rest of the league hate them is still there.  If they can summon that attitude, take care of the ball and let their still-excellent defense match up with Trinity’s dominant offense, this could be a classic.

Rory: Amherst 13, Trinity 31

Pete: Amherst 10, Trinity 28

Liam: Amherst 13, Trinity 28

Colin: Amherst 24, Trinity 33

Colby: Amherst 13, Trinity 27

Sid: Amherst 14, Trinity 21

Nick: Amherst 17, Trinity 38

 

Bates (2-4) at Bowdoin (0-6), Lewiston, ME, 12:30 PM

There’s a battle for Maine brewing in Lewiston this weekend, as well as a battle for Bates to have one of their best seasons in the last ten years.  The second game of the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) series features Bates coming off a hard fought 21-19 win over Colby, and Bowdoin coming off a shellacking at the hands of Wesleyan. Bates has a great opportunity in the next few weeks to finish at .500, as they play Hamilton in Week Eight.  Bowdoin, on the other hand, has an opportunity against Bates or Colby to leave 2016 with a win, potentially two, which would be a tremendous moral victory in a season that was doomed from the start.  The key for the Polar Bears will be keeping Bates QB Sandy Plaschkes from breaking away for big plays.  Plaschkes 42% completion percentage looks bad on paper (and honestly is pretty bad,) but he has eight touchdowns and only four interceptions on the year, and has a knack for coming up with big throws when the team needs it.  The stakes in this game are not high rankings-wise, but they are for the teams involved, making for a hard fought game.

Rory: Bates 27, Bowdoin 21

Pete: Bates 24, Bowdoin 7

Liam: Bates 26, Bowdoin 8

Colin: Bates 17, Bowdoin 20

Colby: Bates 17, Bowdoin 13

Sid: Bates 16, Bowdoin 9

Nick: Bates 28, Bowdoin 14

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