Around the Region

10 games to watch for 2014

We won't need to wait nearly as long for this year's John Carroll-Heidelberg game.
John Carroll athletics photo by John Reid III

The curtain is about to rise on another college football season. But before the lights come on inside stadiums across the NCAA Division III landscape, it’s worth taking some time to look at some games worth watching during the 2014 campaign.

I’ll be looking at some of the top games to pay attention to in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, North Coast Athletic Conference, Ohio Athletic Conference and Presidents’ Athletic Conference.

Most of the games I’ll be looking at will have conference championship implications riding on them, although a few of the games are non-conference battles that will serve as measuring sticks for the year ahead, and perhaps offer a glimpse of the potential a team has to make a playoff run come November.

So without further delay, here are my top 10 games to watch in the Great Lakes Region this season.

Wabash vs. Hampden-Sydney on Sept. 6: As far as openers go, this is about as big as it gets as it features two nationally ranked teams. The No. 16 Little Giants, the NCAC runner-up and the league favorite this year, will battle a 21st-ranked Tigers team coming off a playoff appearance and enters the year as the favorite to defend its Old Dominion Athletic Conference title. Wabash will need to contain the dynamic tandem of Nash Nance (3.504 passing yards, 27 touchdowns) and Holton Walker (1,723 receiving yards, 16 TDs) to be in a position to win. The Little Giants’ cause will be aided by nine returning starters from the nation’s top defense (220.7 yards per game). A win for Wabash would give it a huge shot of confidence heading into NCAC action.

Wesley vs. Thomas More on Sept. 6: This showdown will have a postseason-like feel to it. Thomas More has a chance to make a statement against one of the nation’s best teams behind All-American running back Domonique Hayden, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards a year ago. The showdown kicks off a daunting stretch where it will play five of its first six away from home. Thomas More isn’t short on experience as its quarterback is a two-year starter and the line features three returning starters. The defense welcomes back seven starters. The Saints will be tested big time by a fifth-ranked Wildcats team that returns 18 starters and reached the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. If the Saints want to be a playoff team this year, a win here would go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

John Carroll vs. Heidelberg on Sept. 20: Both teams have proven they are among the best in the OAC, but if one of these two teams hopes to end Mount Union’s grip on the championship, this is a must-win game. The winner keeps its hopes alive of being a league champion. The Blue Streaks finished second last year and went to the playoffs. The Student Princes were second...

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Columnist

Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Findlay, Ohio. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending the last 10 at The Courier in Findlay. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois and lives in Ottawa with his wife and daughter.

2011 columnist: Dean Jackson
2007-10 columnist: Matt Florjancic

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