First off, well, I fear there won’t be a lot to talk about with the Colts. They aren’t a very good team this year, and the Packers are. Or should be, anyway. Yes, the game is in Indianapolis, but that won’t make up this big of a talent difference. For the record, my wife and her family are all big Packer fans. The past few times they’ve played, the Colts were still in the middle of the Peyton Manning era, and I felt good about them beating anybody, Packers included. And they did. Now, not so much. It all goes in circles, right? Anyway, I don’t think there’s going to be too much to see here, though I’m sure I’ll end up seeing every minute.
In a related note, I think everybody is behind Chuck Pagano, regardless of how you feel about the team. Get well, soon, Coach.
Purdue has a much more interesting game this week. They host Michigan in a game that many people are picking Purdue to win. And, you know, I’m picking them, too. Shock, I know, being a fan and all. But, in all seriousness, Purdue has played great games with Michigan lately, and have split with them the last four years. As noted, the game is in Ross-Ade, which is a help. Purdue also has not disappointed in non-conference play for the first time in a while, so hopefully that points to good things. Michigan, on the other hand, has.* I know the law of common opponents isn’t a very good law, but Purdue looked much, much better against Notre Dame, in South Bend, than Michigan did in Ann Arbor. This game is going to be a dogfight, but I think Purdue pulls it out. 27-20, we’ll say.
*I don’t include Alabama as one of those disappointments. Yes, they were thoroughly drubbed, but Alabama could probably give a couple NFL teams a run for their money.
Now, for the real meat of the article. Wabash travels to Springfield, Ohio, to take on the Wittenberg Tigers. Now, let’s be clear, this isn’t DePauw. But, nationally, this game has more significance. First of all, since Wabash joined the NCAC, either Wabash or Wittenberg has won the conference title twelve out of fourteen times. There isn’t an actual conference title game, but this is the de facto one. Historically, Wittenberg tops the Division III wins list at 707 wins, which is good for nineteenth overall in any division. Wabash is sixth on the D3 list at 625.* It’s kind of a big deal.
*Good for 53rd overall. Just throwing it out there, but DePauw is seventeenth on the D3 list at 545 wins. I don’t know what that is overall.
So, yes, while this game is definitely not the Bell Game, it’s pretty darned important. Wabash has held the upper hand the past several years, the only loss coming when Wabash’s All-American quarterback Matt Hudson was out with a punctured lung. And Wabash still came damned close to winning that year.
This year, though, I’m a little nervous. More nervous than I have been for a Wittenberg game in a long time, actually. And that has mostly to do with the recent struggles the Little Giants have inflicted mostly on themselves, which has been well-chronicled here. Still, Wabash finally looked like the team they were supposed to be over the last three quarters of last week’s homecoming game against Carnegie Mellon. For review, Carnegie Mellon had been pretty well destroying everything in their path before that game. They beat Grove City 23-20, which admittedly is not a romp. But beating Allegheny* 37-7, Catholic 35-17, and DePauw 51-28 would qualify. Normally, those would be three quality wins, too. I guess we’ll have to see for sure down the road, but DePauw is definitely not themselves this year. In any case, then they came to Wabash, and we mowed them down, 54-28. I feel a lot better playing Wittenberg this week than I would have last week.
*Who Wabash totally blew it against.
Still, it’s Wittenberg. I really feel they ought to be ranked, especially if Wabash is ranked.* First off, as noted earlier, Wittenberg is home. Secondly, they started their season blowing out Captial (44-17) and DePauw (52-14). Now, both of those schools are generally good to very good, but both are going through downswings at the moment.** They’ve had a couple closer games lately against their big rival, Wooster (17-7), and Case*** (14-10), but they have won. Those are also schools that are normally at least decent, but have been soft lately. Still, they are 4-0 and historically every bit as good as Wabash.
*Which we are. 16.
**You might remember that Capital was the team that benefitted from Wabash being totally screwed over in the playoffs in 2005.
***You might know them better by their full name, Case Western Reserve University. You might see why most call them Case.
So, yes, I’m a bit worried. Still, there is some reason to take heart. To distill it here, Wabash looked dominant last week against a good team. Wittenberg has looked dominant, but against a pretty weak schedule to this point, which is probably the only reason they aren’t ranked yet. Not that Wabash’s schedule has been murderer’s row or anything (Hanover, Denison, Allegheny, CMU), but it’s probably better than what Witt has faced to this point. There’s just that very troublesome blemish against ‘Gheny.
I guess the only thing that’s left is to pick the game. I can’t say I’m anywhere close to as confident as I want to be with this, but I’m going to have to pick my alma mater. Maybe it’s just a little false bravado, but the Little Giants are still my team. These are typically very close, low to mid-scoring games. I don’t see why this would be any different. I’ll say Wabash takes this one 17-14 and cling to their chance to sneak into the playoffs. Wabash Always Fights!