D2football.com: Tony Nicolette’s GLIAC Column

D2Football.com Columnists Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

September 29th, 2009
I have said quite a few times over the last couple of years that the GLIAC’s recent history shows a trend of having one or two teams separate themselves from the rest of the pack over the course of a season. As for teams three through nine, you can practically throw them into a hat and pick them out to determine the order of finish. I’m not insinuating that the teams all stink or are painfully similar, but rather that each week is a test no matter who you’re playing and the difference between being 7-4 and 4-7 might only be a matter of three to five plays. It’s often uncanny how the teams in that three through nine bunch are all a few plays from being two, three or sometimes four games in either direction in terms of their record.

As we approach the halfway mark of the season, it appears this trend is likely to continue as we have six clubs currently tied for second place in the league with 3-1 records. I’ve often remarked about what a parity-driven meat grinder the GLIAC typically is and thus far we may be seeing our best example of that, especially in that “three-through-nine” group. Things should be pretty wild down the stretch as most of the league’s outfits now begin to face what is proving to be the most difficult portions of their schedules. With some of the surprises we’ve had thus far, I doubt that we would all have had as much interest in some of the coming match-ups at the beginning of the season. As our buddy Chris Berman often quips; “That’s why we play the games!”

Another item worthy of mention is that the first wave of Regional Seedings (you all may remember that I REFUSE to call them “rankings” since they really aren’t) will be out this coming Monday. If they remain the league’s lone unbeaten, Grand Valley will certainly make that first list but seeing what/how many others from the GLIAC that will join the Lakers will be something to keep an eye on. Those seedings “oscillate wildly” over the last month of the season, so putting a great deal of stock in this first list typically isn’t wise.

OK, on to the games! I have three very solid options I could pick for “Game of the Week” this week, but I couldn’t make up my mind – each pits teams against each other with 3-1 league records. Since they all should be great to watch, I’ve just decided not to even bother selecting one over the others. There are several more of these types of match-ups over the next few weekends, so the action should be terrific.

#24 Hillsdale (3-1, 4-1) at Findlay (3-1, 4-1)
For the second straight week, the Chargers travel to Central Ohio. They proved last week that they’re more than capable of playing well away from home, and have shown a much more physical slant to their game than what many might expect. Physicality is typically one of the hallmarks of a Findlay club, and they’ll need to find a way to outmuscle an HC bunch that of late as seemed intent on simply running over their opponents.

Hillsdale Keys:
– Keep the Train on the Tracks – Back-to-back career weeks for RB Vinnie Panizzi isn’t an indictment of the passing HC game. Rather, I think this is something that the Chargers have needed and now that they have it they’re smart to keep it going until someone proves they can stop it. Findlay’s rush defense is decent, but I wouldn’t call it a “strength”. I’m looking for the Chargers to keep things on the ground a bunch yet again, and sprinkle in enough Weatherhead aerials to keep the Oilers off-balance.

– Avoid the Letdown/Trap – Last week was a big win on the road against an opponent that HC LOVES to beat. If the Chargers play like that, they can hang with darn near anyone. With Grand Valley visiting Muddy Waters next week, HC must not get caught up in feeling good about what they did against Ashland and looking ahead to the tilt with the Lakers.

Findlay Keys:
– Get out Fast – I know I say that a lot, but it absolutely applies. Hillsdale has the majority of its success when it can do what it wants on offense and dictate tempo. If UF can get an early advantage at home and put pressure on the Chargers to move away from what they want to do it obviously slants almost everything in the Oilers’ favor.

– Play Loose – Let’s face it, UF has already won twice as many games this year as they did all of last year. Hillsdale has been darn close to a playoff berth for the last couple of years and they want to get over that hump pretty badly. With a loss already on their record, the margin for error moving forward for the Chargers is slim. In short, all the pressure is on HC to perform as UF has already surpassed what most had expected of them. The Oilers should come out loose and play like they have nothing to lose.

Prediction – I said in my season preview that I had Hillsdale as my dark horse. With the exception of the heartbreaker in Midland a few weeks ago they’ve done a fine job of backing up my hunch. That said, this game just SCREAMS trap (if that can be the case when facing a 4-1 team) and the Chargers haven’t always handled these situations well over the last couple of years – hence, they’re falling short of the playoff field by only a game or two. With that said, HC has played a different brand of ball of late and have looked a bit more impervious to this sort of thing. Also, let’s not forget that while UF has looked solid thus far only one of their victories has come against a team that’s .500 or better. I’ll stick with my pre-season hunch and roll with the Chargers.
Hillsdale 34, Findlay 20.

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