Tony Nicolette

Week Seven Previews

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I marvel every year at how quickly the football season goes by, and yet I'm still surprised each time it happens. We are past the halfway mark of the season already! Can you believe it? Only five Saturday's left in the season...which, in reality is only four weeks. Wow. If you haven't gotten on campus for a game yet this year, better hurry and do so quick! 2012 will (unfortunately) be in the books before we know it!

#14 Grand Valley (4-1, 5-1) at Northern Michigan (0-5, 1-5)

The Lakers will make their second trip to the U.P. in three games to take on Northern. Grand Valley enters the game having suffered its first loss after rattling off 12 straight wins dating back to last year. We've talked at length on this site about how the 2012 Grand Valley defense has consistently had a hard time finding itself, and this past weekend that finally caught up with the Lakers as their 50+ point per game offense had an off night and couldn't score enough to get the win. Will the Wildcats smell blood in the water and hand the Lakers a second straight defeat?

One could argue that the possibility exists. U.P. trips seem to be kryptonite for a lot of teams in this league...let alone a second trip inside of a couple of weeks. Add in the fact that the Laker defense seems to be going in the wrong direction (currently last in the league in rushing defense...never thought I'd write that!) and the 'Cats might think their chances are as good as any. The problem is that NMU's offense hasn't shown the ability this year to be able to take advantage of any defense. They're last in the GLIAC in total and scoring offense, so while they might be able to pump those stats up a bit and maybe even score some points, it seems tough to fathom they'll do enough to keep this one close.

Look, halfway through the year it's obvious that this GV team has some issues, especially in terms of getting stops. An almost inexplicable rash of injuries have been a big part to be sure, but in total this club has simply been winning moreso by outgunning folks than shutting them down. We've only seen one game (last week) where the Laker O was silenced for any length of time, so the sample size of the rest of the year suggests they'll get back on track and continue to be explosive. It's hard not to see that dictating the result here. Grand Valley 44, Northern Michigan 24.

Malone (1-4, 1-4) at Lake Erie (1-4, 1-5)

The Storm was the last team in the league still looking for a win, and they got off the schneid a week ago over Notre Dame. They look to make it a win streak on Saturday when they host Malone. While LEC might have the league's worst defense statistically, they've managed to stay in quite a few of their games this year and just couldn't close the deal. Can't do that without an offense that can do some things and The Storm have been coming along in that regard, thanks in part to the emergence of RB Anthony Bilal. He's topped the 100-yard mark in each of the last two weeks, and we like him to make it three straight against a Malone rush defense giving up more than 204 yards per game.

Malone has also played some folks tough, but a turnover margin of -9 has been a problem, including turning it over five times last week against archrival Walsh. While I don't think they'll make that many mistakes here, I like Lake Erie's chances if this game ends up getting in the high-twenties or low-thirties in terms of score. Malone allows 32+ and has had trouble scoring, so the signs point to The Storm. Lake Erie 38, Malone 28.

Walsh (1-4, 2-4) at #12 Ashland (5-0, 6-0)

The Cavaliers notched their first ever GLIAC win a week ago. Their reward? A trip to Ashland to take on the league's first place club. Ashland does lead the league standings, yet, but more importantly the Eagles have been the most complete team in the league thus far. Quarterback Taylor Housewright has led an offense executing with great precision, and any offense LOVES when they get help from a solid, and often stingy defense. The Eagles have had that too. Will Walsh pose a potential threat to Ashland's undefeated run?

If so, they're going to have to find a way to force some mistakes by the AU offense. And don't think they can't...the Cavaliers are in the top quarter of the league in sacks, points allowed, and total takeaways. They've allowed 30 points only once (on the button, to Tech), and have been in games primarily due to the fact that they play solid, team defense and run an offense that tends to the possess the ball. All of that said, this will be the best team they have faced thus far, and their struggles in scoring consistently will likely be magnified by AU's defense.

Walsh keeps this one in shouting distance for a while, in part because that's just what they do. It's hard to see there being much more damage than that, however. Ashland, 31, Walsh 14.

Northwood (3-2, 4-2) at Michigan Tech (4-1, 4-1)

After streaking out to 4-0, Northwood has lost their last two and must now make the trip to Houghton in the hopes of getting back into the win column...a tough task. Tech bounced back after their loss to GV two weeks ago, and looks to keep pace with the rest of the log jam they are caught up in atop the North.

During their two-game losing streak, The Woodies have struggled to finish drives when they've had the chance. Because the basic nature of their offensive scheme tends to limit possessions, they MUST cash in on scoring opportunities. Tech is comfortable playing at a slow pace, but has far more explosiveness should they need it so NU simply can't affford to fall behind...if they do, they aren't equipped to come back the way Tech is. Speaking of Tech and being explosive, WR Matt Curtin has 361 yards and seven TD's receiving in just the last two weeks. Northwood distinctly remembers Jeff Janis having about a buck-and-a-half and three scores at HALFTIME last week, so NU has its work cut out for it in slowing down another playmaking receiver.

Look, realistically Northwood won four straight games against some teams that they should have. When they got to this middle part of the schedule, it was hard not to see some struggles coming. They're in those tough times now, and we just don't see them going to Houghton and getting a win. Look for the Huskies to keep their share of the North lead for another week. Michigan Tech 35, Northwood 20.

Notre Dame (0-5, 1-5) at Tiffin (0-5, 1-5)

In this week's chapter of "Because We Have To", Notre Dame heads to Tiffin. Both clubs got week one victories, and have been on major skids since. It's actually harder than you might think to handicap this tilt. I mean, sure, the Tiffin offense is pretty inept at only 16 points per game. The thing of it is, they'll face a Notre Dame defense allowing 53 points per game so the Dragons just might be able to make some things happen.

Even if they do, one has to wonder if it'll be enough to keep up with NDC's offense. The Falcons have shown they can move it at different points this year, and have been back on track of late scoring more than 38 points per game over the past couple of weeks. We tend to think that's what it his comes down to...NDC's offense should be able to do some things (Tiffin's D isn't exactly a juggernaut), but even with how lousy NDC is on defense Tiffin's O just has been so poor. Look for NDC to score some points again this week. Notre Dame 39, Tiffin 29.

Hillsdale #25 (4-1, 4-2) at Ferris (3-2, 4-2)

Hillsdale Coach Keith Otterbein will hit is old stomping grounds...and it'll be the first time in a lot of years (17 or so) that he won't be facing Jeff Pierce when he does. Instead, he'll get Tony Annese's club that has started to give clubs fits with their unique offense and feisty defense. The question now is whether the Bulldogs can avoid a letdown after beating arch-rival Grand Valley for the first time since the late '90's.

For Hillsdale to succeed, they have to avoid the mistakes they made a week ago at Wayne. They turned the ball over four times and a couple of key penalties that proved costly (including one that took a long TD off the board). The Chargers need to execute cleanly like they would normally expect, and then cash-in on drives. They also need to get some big plays going...didn't really do that offensively last week. As for Ferris, they basically need to keep doing what they're doing. They won last week, and maybe should have the week before. What they must avoid the kind of performance like they had three weeks ago against Walsh where they trailed in the fourth quarter and needed to get a couple of turnovers in order to win.

Picking winners in this league is always goofy...I've written about that for years. This game is no exception so I'm going with my hunch: Ferris will have some sort of letdown (not sure why I think that...just do) and Hillsdale will come out crisp. It won't be easy by any stretch, but Hillsdale gets a big day from Joe Glendening and wins the turnover battle to take the game. Hillsdale 27, Ferris 24.

Ohio Dominican (2-3, 3-3) at Findlay (4-1, 4-1)

Despite playing relatively well in most of their games, Ohio Dominican has only managed to win every other week. When they've faced clubs on the top end of the league (Hillsdale, Grand Valley, Ashland) they've either run out of gas or been nipped late. They get another crack at one of the league's better teams when they visit Findlay. The Oilers are looking to keep pace in the South and stay tight with Ashland.

While running the ball with Monterae Williams is a priority every week, Findlay might be looking to throw it a bit more in this one. ODU has proven to be stronger against the run than the pass (fourth in the GLIAC against the run), so Clay Belton and his reciever duo of White and Brown might just be busy. On the other side, the Panthers really need to find a way to generate some balance. They've shown they can run the ball, and Brandon Schoen has been a pleasant surprise as a freshman. That said, when ODU has needed to throw it hasn't provent to be a strong-suit. Being able to do so under their own terms is imerative. If Findlay gets a lead and forces ODU to pass (and UF will then know it's coming), it's a major advantage for Findlay.

This is one of those "hunch" games for me. On paper, Findlay has a more talented offense with better balance and more playmakers. I think they'll win, but I have a strange hunch that ODU will make things uncomfortable for most of the day. Look for an Oiler win, but it might not be by a wide margin. Findlay 30, Ohio Dominican 22.

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  1. CALUPA69's Avatar
    GVSU is a mystery??? I cannot believe that they're going down to a 1-5 team who hasn't stopped ANYONE !!! UNTIL TODAY