October 6 will be here on Saturday. It is date the eyes were drawn to the minute the 2012 Hillsdale College Football schedule was released. The Chargers travel to Wayne State for a noon matchup against a team they know a year ago took their playoff spot with an overtime win in Hillsdale. The Warriors then made the most of their postseason berth by running all of the way to the national championship game to finish as the national runner-up.
On paper the biggest similarities come in how stingy both defenses have been. Wayne State has the league lead by a hair in scoring defense having allowed 15.8 points per game while Hillsdale has yielded 16. You can’t get much closer than that. The teams flip flop spots in total defense. The Chargers are a league best at 262 yards per game allowed while Wayne is second with 280.5.
The significant statistical difference comes on offense. Hillsdale has around 15 more points per game and has gained on average 100 extra yards on offense per game. Stats are fun for conversation but we could pick these apart 100 ways. They haven’t played the same teams except for Malone and with the way Hillsdale has been running out to big leads it is hard to separate starter stats and reserve stats. You don’t play games on paper, at least not football, so lets focus on 5 on-field aspects I see as essential parts of a Hillsdale game plan.
•Hillsdale needs to get out quickly and make Wayne play from behind. The Warriors are going to want to keep it on the ground and grind it at their typical more than four yards per carry. That takes a lot of time and if they are trying to score in bunches, that strategy will be limited.
• Use that patented Keith Otterbein ball control offense. The fewer opportunities the Warriors have to move the ball, the more they will have to press when they have it. On average the Chargers have held onto the ball more than six and a half minutes per game than Wayne State has.
•Hillsdale needs to use their tremendous group of linebackers led by Brett Pasche to contain Toney Davis and make Mickey Mohner throw. Hillsdale leads the nation in interceptions and is 4th in turnover ratio. Most of those opportunities have come on 3rd and long where they get a lot of pressure from the OLBs forcing a bad throw. They have also ended a ton of drives with big 3rd down sacks. If they can get some take aways and then grind out 7 minute drives with a lead, it will put a lot of pressure on Wayne State.
•Wayne State has proven to be one of the most physical teams on the schedule. After playing NDC and NMU the last two weeks, the Chargers have to be ready to take a punch. I don’t think they were two years ago in Detroit.
•Swing first. Hillsdale can’t get involved in anything chippy and keep its discipline. That being said, to run out under a banner that states, “Unfinished Business. Leave No Doubt” means Hillsdale has to establish itself immediately as the aggressor. Wayne State has to know there is something different about this bunch and that Hillsdale won’t be pushed around this year.
This is going to be a great game. If Hillsdale can accomplish the above objectives, they will be in a great position to run their winning streak to five games.