October 6th, 2022 1:00pm
Week 6 is upon us in the GMAC and as the weather turns to the cool fall crisp air we all know and love in the Midwest, so to does the schedule turn to the meat and potatoes portion of the season. The appetizers have been cleared, and it’s time to roll up the sleeves and indulge.
After five weeks of play, we have a better idea of who these teams are, and perhaps more importantly, who teams are not. Some teams, as the late great Dennis Green once famously said, ‘ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!’ While other teams have provided a surprise for one reason or another.
Given my brief hiatus, my sincerest apologies for the lapse in coverage, the business of life inevitably sneaks up on you at times which is exactly what took place for me over the last two weeks. I hope this is the only and last apology needed to be made on my behalf. But all is well considering I’m back writing about GMAC football!
Ashland represents the lone Top 25 team in the GMAC coming in at No. 12 in this week’s D2Football.com Top 25 Poll while the Eagles hold the No. 6 ranking in the AFCA DII Coaches Poll. Quite the discrepancy, but let’s not get too caught up on national rankings in early October, the point here is Ashland has solidified themselves as the hunted in the GMAC.
Tiffin oddly enough ranks ahead of Ashland in the conference standings given the Dragons 3-0 conference mark compared to AU’s 2-0 unblemished conference record. The obvious difference of course being Tiffin’s two losses in the nonconference – both of which came at the hands of quality opponents in unbeaten and nationally ranked UIndy and Truman State who received votes in the AFCA Top 25 poll this week. I’m not here to close the book on the Dragons, still plenty of season left for Chris Reisert’s group to make a meaningful run.
Next we have a pair of 3-2 teams who are also 2-1 in conference play with Hillsdale and Ohio Dominican. The Chargers season so far has been a head-scratching tale as at times they’ve look prolific offensively, but a puzzling loss last week to Kentucky Wesleyan has me wondering what this Hillsdale team is really made of – we’ll find out a lot this Saturday when they host Tiffin. As for Ohio Dominican, they too represent a team with everything in front of them. If you followed my work for the GLIAC the last several years, you know I absolutely HATE the term, ‘quality loss’, but every now and then there is some merit to the concept of coming up just short against good teams. The Panthers two losses are at the hands of two very good teams in Tiffin and UIndy. The October 15th showdown on the road against Ashland could be a season maker for ODU.
Northwood and Kentucky Wesleyan are both at 2-3 after five games, with the Panthers of KWC suffering two conference defeats, while NU has just the one. That said, credit Kentucky Wesleyan for the win last week over Hillsdale at home. Perhaps this is the beginning of a little coming out party for Tyrone Young in his first season at the helm – the remaining schedule is tough for KWC, but I like the direction of the Panthers in year one. As for Northwood, I’ll go ahead and say we’re no closer to knowing who this team is than when the season first began five weeks ago. You could make the case they’ve won the games they’ve been favored on paper in, and lost the games they’ve been underdogs on paper in. A huge road test this weekend against a struggling Findlay Oilers team.
What a perfect segway if I do say so myself – next up the 1-4 teams – Findlay and Lake Erie. Raise your hand if you had Findlay at 1-4 through the first five games of the season… that’s what I thought. The biggest surprise of the year so far is the Oilers stumbling out of the gates to the tune of four defeats in five games. As we all know, this is the team that was picked to finish first in the preseason coaches’ poll – which in fairness, every coach will tell you means absolutely nothing. However, it still should be noted how surprising it is to see the 1-4 mark next to Findlay. Now let me retreat a bit with my opening comments on the Oilers and add the opening schedule did them no favors and arguably the slate they’ve played is one of the tougher schedules in all of football. The next six games are all very winnable for the Oilers, and I believe when the dust settles they’ll be looking close to a .500 team.
Lake Erie’s lone win came over Kentucky Wesleyan but they have had some tough battles simply not go their way. I don’t want to play the ‘what if’ game with the Storm, but the 1-4 mark through five games may not adequately represent the talent on this football team. That said, the remaining schedule is tough with ODU, Findlay, and Ashland still on the slate.
Walsh has been bad in every game this year. 0-5 with 40 total points scored. Eight points per game. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but the numbers do not lie. Still time to turn it around for the Cavaliers with games against some below .500 teams still remaining.
Whew, deep breath, now that we’re caught up, let’s look at the week five six:
We’ll start with the best versus the worst as Ashland travels to North Canton, OH for a noon kickoff against Walsh. The Eagles have never lost in this series dating back to 2012, and the direction of the program is trending up – the No. 6 ranking in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll is the best Ashland has been ranked since being No. 5 in the poll in 2016. The only thing to be weary of here for AU is the noon kick off on the road, but I don’t see the Eagles sleepwalking in this one, Ashland wins in a route.
The other noon kickoff on the day is Ohio Dominican traveling to Painesville, OH to take on the Storm of Lake Erie. As we discussed above, this Ohio Dominican team still has a lot to play for and everything in front of them. The Panther defense has been solid all year and are coming off a shutout win over Walsh, but lookout for the Storm offense who enter scoring better than 30 points per game. This one could be closer than people think, but I still like ODU to win by double digits.
Findlay hosting Northwood feels like a mammoth sized game for both teams who have a lot to prove. While the Timberwolves started 2-0, they’ve suffered three consecutive setbacks in disappointing fashion. For the Oilers, they’re at home and needing to rejuvenate the season and turn things around. When Northwood has had success, the offense has rolled – 46.5 points per game in the two wins, 16.3 points per game in its three defeats. As always, statistical data can be skewed, and in Northwood’s case, the game two win over NAIA Madonna can all but be thrown away as a statistical outlier based solely on quality of opponent. For the Oilers, the defense has struggled, nearly 33 points per game allowed, and even in the win over Southwest Baptist, the UF defense surrendered five touchdowns. As a reminder, given my broadcasting role with the Northwood Timberwolves, I do not pick their games.
The lone non-conference tilt features Kentucky Wesleyan on the road against a GLVC opponent in Quincy. The Hawks are no stranger to the GMAC having played Walsh and Ashland already this season – Ashland beat Quincy handedly 34-14 while the Hawks roughed up Walsh 28-13. Regardless, this is a great opportunity for Kentucky Wesleyan to take another step forward. The Panthers have won two of their last three, and oddly enough in completely different fashions – the win over Missouri S&T back in mid September was thanks largely to the defense dominating the game, while last week’s big win over Hillsdale saw the offense step up with a balanced attack compiling 154 rushing yards and 280 passing yards en route to the 31-27 win. I’ll take the Panthers to keep the momentum rolling and earn a hard-fought close victory over Quincy.
Tiffin and Hillsdale wrap up the afternoon slate with a 4:00 pm game at Hillsdale College. This game has important GMAC standings implications as the Chargers stand at 2-1 and Tiffin atop the conference at 3-0. Certainly a tough road test for the Dragons who are coming off a 52-point performance in a win over Lake Erie that saw the offense eclipse the 500 yard of total offense mark with 514. Tiffin’s defense has been solid over the first five games as well ranking behind only Ashland in total defense in the GMAC. This game also features two of the conference’s best running backs in Darius Pinnix for Tiffin and Michael Herzog for Hillsdale. Pinnix is top in the conference with better than 94 yards per game, while Herzog is third in the league averaging 90 yards a game. I’ve talked myself into Hillsdale pulling the home upset and knocking off Tiffin in a close one.
Looking forward to a great Saturday of GMAC football!