#7 Hillsdale (5-1, 6-1) at Wayne State (4-2, 5-2)
The GLIAC South Title will be on the line in “The D” as Hillsdale rolls into Adams Field with its #7 ranking and its almost “mechanically” efficient offense. The Chargers have rattled off five straight wins since week two, while Wayne saw its three-game run snapped last week in a tough loss to Ashland.
– Do it until they stop you – The Hillsdale offense has basically done whatever it has wanted this year. They run the ball effectively with Joe Glendening (the league’s top rusher), and throw with precision behind Troy Weatherhead (the league’s top-rated passer). I’ve never been a fan of changing things that are working, and there is no doubt that Hillsdale’s O has been MORE than working all year.
– Keep it between the 20s – The Hillsdale defense has gotten progressively better each week. With that said, they are still one of the worst teams in the league in stopping the run. They did a great job against Phil Milbrath a week ago in as much as he got his yards but never found the end zone. Despite Wayne’s passing-game explosion last week, the Warriors are still a run-first bunch and will be tempted to exploit a Charger D that allows 169 yards per game on the ground. Hillsdale can allow some yards, but avoiding big plays and scoring plays will be the key.
Wayne State Keys:
– D MUST force Punts – Hillsdale (along with MTU and GV) has punted a league-low seventeen times through seven games. The Chargers don’t beat themselves, score often, and typically leave themselves with manageable distances on third down. If Wayne is able to successfully slow down Joe the Show, they must not let Weatherhead find Holmes, Blanchard (if he’s able to play), or anyone else in the passing game. Hillsdale converts more third-down chances than anyone in the country (53.3%), and because they’re so effective at running OR passing in those situations they are nearly impossible to get off the field. Wayne must find a way to do the impossible.
– Keep the Ball – Conversely, when Wayne has the ball they must possess it for extended periods. The defense has been a weakness at times this year for Hillsdale, and if the Warrior ground attack gets wound up like it can they could very easily control tempo and keep the Charger O on the sidelines where it can’t impact the game.
Prediction – Hillsdale knows that this is the last team on its schedule that can come close to matching up with them physically, so it’s likely that the Chargers are more than dialed-in for this one. For Wayne, I’m sure there is a distinct sense of urgency as a third loss will all but run them out of the playoff hunt, not to mention they have a tough roadie next week at Saginaw. In the end, Hillsdale’s offense is just too consistent and potent in my book, and they are better prepared to dig themselves out of a potential hole than Wayne is. Hillsdale 33, Wayne 24.