Every week, Marquette Social Scene’s Brice Burge will breakdown the GLIAC matchups to tell you who will get the mark in the win column and who will take the long bus ride home after the loss. The predictions will also include the favorites from the D2messageboard.com’s unofficial pick’em thread. Starting in week 2, this will be a regularly occurring Friday column since there will be no more Thursday games left on the schedule.
Michigan Tech at Wayne State – This game will be more about what we can learn from Tech. Coach Kearly looks to have a smart team that knows their own limits, putting them mentally in midseason form, while a balanced attack from Tyler Scarlett and Charlie Leffingwell will keep the Huskies offense churning on the road. If they can go on the road and make some waves, the GLIAC North will be deep at the top.
Wayne State was a middle of the pack team last year which didn’t really improve – or really get worse – in the offseason. Let’s see who wants to be the headliner for the Warriors this year.
Favorite: Michigan Tech 74.4%
Prediction: Tech will be in control throughout, but Wayne State will keep it respectable. MTU 27-17
#21 Ferris State at McKendree (GLVC) – Bulldog quarterback Jason Vander Laan is a beast. A Super Regional 4 Harlon Hill (D2’s Heisman equivalent) favorite, a middle-of-the-road opponent in one of the worst conferences nationwide shouldn’t pose a threat. This is about bringing in the backups and escaping as healthy as possible for FSU.
Though honestly the same could be said about McKendree. Any league that has their top program that far ahead of everyone else, there usually some good in-house fighting for second place, kind of like the top two cars a lap down in NASCAR trying to get the lucky dog pass. With Truman State (Iowa) and St. Joseph (Ind.) fighting strong for second, McKendree can’t hope to lose any stars in what should be an absolute blowout.
Favorite: Ferris State 97.7%
Prediction: Did you see the USA-Finland FIBA World Cup game? It should be something like that. FSU 59-21
#2 Grand Valley at Azusa Pacific (GNAC) – This will be a deceptively great game. The GNAC is D2’s weakest conference with just six teams, none of which are nationally ranked in the D2football.com poll. Azusa is the strongest in the league and will have the West Coast advantage as Grand Valley makes the approximately 2,150-mile trek to California.
However, the Lakers are ranked second for a reason and made it to semifinals last year for a reason. GVSU is a team that never really rebuilds, just constantly reloads and shows depth most teams can only dream of. That is going to be helpful after the long trip and what should be a physical game from Azusa.
Favorite: Grand Valley 93%
Prediction: Grand Valley will pull ahead in the fourth quarter for the win, but it will be close enough for someone one to start calling for Matt Mitchell’s head on a stake. GVSU 28-24
Tiffin at Walsh – Both schools are part of different generations of GLIAC expansion, but both have had limited success. Walsh had flashes of greatness last year like their five-interception performance against Northwood last season while Tiffin has improved in everything except the win column under fourth-year head coach Gary Goff. Both teams will look to start off their seasons on the right foot.
Favorite: Walsh 100%
Prediction: It wouldn’t be a surprise if Tiffin won, but expect the home team on this one. Walsh 35-24
Malone at #10 Ohio Dominican – Ohio Dominican looks to start the season out with what is essentially a warmup as Malone is still struggling since moving up from NAIA. Don’t expect any of the offensive starters from the Panthers after halftime.
Favorite: Ohio Dominican 97.7%
Prediction: Slaughter doesn’t even begin to describe this. ODU 55-10
Lake Erie at Ashland – This is the game to determine how good the GLIAC South is this year. The gap between the division’s top three programs of ODU, Findlay and Ashland to the rest was significant. Lake Erie is a tale of two sides. Their potent offense behind running back Anthony Bilal is one of the best in the country, but their defense is horrendous. This game is at Ashland too, where the Storm is even worse.
Ashland though will finally answer two big offensive questions that will show if they can hang with Findlay and ODU. First is what a healthy Jordan McCune will do in the rushing game. Returning from injury, he should be able to rock the rock with Anthony Taylor in a two-back system. That said, I’ll believe it once I see it after what happened to Keon Collier at NMU and countless other backs that didn’t return to their former self after that severe of an injury. The other questions is at quarterback with Tarnowski at the helm as Ashland is looking for their next leader. Expect a flaw-filled game from the freshman as he gets his feet wet.
Favorite: Ashland 97.7%
Prediction: Ashland will overcome any mistakes, but this might get close if Bilal goes big. AU 41-31
#15 Indianapolis (GLVC) at #20 Saginaw Valley – This is the only ranked matchup of the week, so this should be a good one. Unfortunately SVSU lost a lot to graduation, including quarterback Jonathan Jennings and Green Bay’s seventh-round draft pick Jeff Janis. The Cardinals have been a glutton for punishment as well in non-conference games, facing the last two national champions in Northwest Missouri State last year and Valdosta State (Ga.) in 2012.
UIndy has had a great deal of success since the GLVC picked up football full time and tapping Bob Bartolomeo as head coach. The former GLIAC associate member is led by quarterback Connor Barthel, who took over the starting job after an injury. The Greyhounds did lose GLVC Offensive Player of the Year Klay Fiechter, but will have Matt Ripp step up to the starting spot. Ripp had 10 touchdowns and 6.4 ypc last season.
Favorite: Indianapolis 74.4%
Prediction: SVSU will start too slow to get the win. UIndy 23-14
Hillsdale at Findlay (Game of the Week) – A classic GLIAC battle between two programs that could cause some major damage this season. The Oilers are going to need a good jump on the season to stay steady with Ohio Dominican, which they’ll get behind their underrated tailback Daiquone Ford.
Hillsdale has a young roster, but any squad under coaching legend Keith Otterbein can’t be counted out. They have a lot of the stereotypical question marks at each position, but also some returning from injury.
Favorite: Findlay 74.4%
Prediction: Home-field advantage wins the coin flip as Findlay gets a week one must-win. UF 28-17
Northwood at Northern Michigan – The Wildcats have an impressive record in their home openers, winning every year since 2008. However, the story of Northwood’s winningest coach Pat Ripema returning to the sideline is the headline of this matchup. Ripema had 90 wins in his first stint with the Timberwolves, but his toughest challenge has been with his health. Already a throat cancer survivor, Ripema was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and is receiving chemotherapy all while remaining head coach.
The Wildcats look to spoil that emotional return as they are hopeful and energetic about their expectations this season. NMU returns multiple starters on both sides of the ball and will have their easiest schedule in over a decade. The team’s first winning season under Coach Chris Ostrowsky is a realistic possibility, but would significantly lessen without a 2-0 start to the year.
Favorite: Northern Michigan 90.7%
Prediction: Northwood has too much to learn under a new coach and NMU is starting off faster and stronger than ever. NMU 41-NU 21