October 20th, 2022 2:00pm
Week seven in the GMAC played out as I’m sure we all expected – Ashland survives a defensive struggle over Ohio Dominican to remain unbeaten, while Walsh remains winless after falling to Lake Erie College, and the Oilers of Findlay and Chargers of Hillsdale both earned blowout victories. I’m not here to fluff my own ego, but last week's column was spot on!
We won’t spend a lot of time recapping the previous week because I’m not sure we learned a great deal. Let’s be honest, if I can accurately predict what’s going to happen, anybody who follows this league could do the same! We may however have confirmed a few things – the Ashland and Tiffin game this weekend will likely be for the GMAC title, while Walsh and Northwood need to do some soul searching, and as for Hillsdale and Findlay, the dominating performances they put together are perhaps a testament to what these two teams are capable of.
Meanwhile, Lake Erie earned its second win of the season to join Kentucky Wesleyan and Northwood as the three two-win teams in the conference.
Week eight will ultimately provide complete clarity, but for now, here are my GMAC power rankings after seven weeks:
Let’s start with the biggest game of the weekend and work our way through the schedule – Ashland and Tiffin are the crème of the crop when it comes to GMAC football, and this weekend’s showdown at Jack Miller Stadium has the makings of a conference championship atmosphere. On top of the excitement centered around this matchup, it’s also homecoming for the No. 6-ranked Ashland Eagles.
The identity to this point for the Eagles has been their defense – allowing fewer than ten points per game, the Ashland defensive unit is not only the best in the GMAC, but the best in the entire country. The Eagles have been led by reigning GMAC Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Ayers, but ask anybody and they’ll tell you – it’s a defensive unit that is loaded at every position. Lee Owens said it himself -- Saturday night will provide the toughest test yet for AU as Tiffin enters scoring better than 33 points per game and the top offense in the conference.
The Dragons’ rushing attack is averaging nearly 200 yards a game thanks largely to Darius Pinnix, the leagues top running back. Not to sleep on the Ashland rushing attack, who is top in the conference averaging 198.5 yards per game. Nearly everywhere you look up and down the various stat categories in the GMAC, you see Tiffin and Ashland in most of the top spots.
Ashland leads the overall series, 7-2, but the last time these two teams met, Tiffin pulled out a 27-21 win at home in 2021.
All eyes will be on this highly anticipated matchup Saturday afternoon and trying to pick a winner here is a coin toss – I’ll take the Eagles at home with the top ranked defense getting the job done.
Up next we head to Columbus, OH, where the Ohio Dominican Panthers will be hosting the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers. ODU is coming off a tough luck 14-7 loss to Ashland in which they lead 7-0 for nearly three quarters, but the Eagles scored the final 14 points of the contest to earn the win. At 4-3, the record for ODU doesn’t necessarily reflect how good this squad is -- two of the Panthers three losses were one possession games, and the other defeat was a 28-13 setback to Tiffin. That said, there are no rewards for being close, and the Panthers have three winnable games remaining and a realistic shot at finishing 7-3.
For Kentucky Wesleyan, it’s about reestablishing an offense that has shown signs of being a dangerous threat, but for the last two weeks has been held in check only scoring single digit points in each of the last two games. Last year when these two teams met in Owensboro, KY, it was arguably one of the wildest finishes in all of football – after scoring to tie the game late at 30, KWC had the extra point blocked and returned by ODU all the way for two points to make it 32-30. From there, KWC recovered the ensuing onside kick and had a field goal lined up on the final play, only to have ODU block yet another attempt and hold on for the 32-20-win, wow! My apologies in advance for making Kentucky Wesleyan faithful relive that game, but it’s one of the crazier final minutes of football. To make up for the look back in time, I have to give Kentucky Wesleyan head coach Tyronne Young a shoutout on the announcement of baby Young due in April of 2023 – his guys celebrated with him this week at practice in the best way possible – check it out here.
As for the pick – Ohio Dominican gets back on track and back in the win column with a win at home over KWC.
Next, we venture to Painesville, OH for Lake Erie hosting Northwood. The Storm is coming off a 22-15 win over Walsh, while the Timberwolves have lost five in a row after starting 2-0. Despite being in the GLIAC from 2010-16 together, Northwood and Lake Erie have met just once on the football field. Northwood picked up a 44-14 win October 1, 2016. This Saturday’s game will be the first played in Painsville. For the Storm, with just the two wins on the season, the offense has been a bright spot as Lake Erie ranks tied with Findlay for third in scoring offense averaging nearly 26 points per game. The Northwood defense has shown signs of vulnerability, especially in recent weeks surrendering 34 plus points in the five consecutive defeats.
Closing it out with Findlay and Hillsdale – a sneaky good clash on the gridiron between two teams with a lot of similarities. After seeing Hillsdale first hand last Saturday against Northwood, I walked away thoroughly impressed with the ground and pound game from the Chargers rushing attack led by Michael Herzog. Additionally, the stats speak for themselves with the big play capabilities through the air in the form of Luke Keller to Isaac TeSlaa who leads the conference with 9 touchdown receptions.
The Findlay defense has been opportunistic this season in leading the conference with eight interceptions, two of which were taken all the way back for defensive touchdowns. The Oilers are in the process of ‘getting right’ as their last two times out have resulted in blowout wins.
In a game like this where both teams seem relatively even on paper, I’m inclined to give a slight edge to the home team, but oddly enough the Chargers have struggled at Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium this season with a record of 1-2 while being 3-1 away from home.
I’m fully prepared to take the heat of recency bias here, but after the second half performance I saw Hillsdale put together just one week ago, I’m going to take the Chargers to keep it rolling in a close win over the Oilers at home.
As always, we close with the spark notes version of the picks – I like Ashland, Ohio Dominican, and Hillsdale to earn victories in week eight of the season.
Enjoy the action!