We asked our staffers, frequent contributors and other experts what they believe the Stagg Bowl XXVII outcome will be. There were a variety of opinions.
We declared Mike Allegre this year's predictions champ.
Pat Coleman, publisher
Pacific Lutheran 35, Rowan 31
These two teams know nothing about each other, and that works to PLU's advantage. The Lutes have an extensive playbook and surely did not need to go very deep into it while rolling over Trinity. I believe the element of surprise will beat the element of size. EMAL will become Every Man a Champion.
Mark Simon, national correspondent
Rowan 41, PLU 14
Destiny seems to finally be on the Profs side this year. Rowan's defensive line might be the best ever assembled on the Division III level. The front four of Luke Carpenter, Tim Watson, Randy Marotto and Cornelius White will be the unsung heroes of this game — by stifling PLU running back Anthony Hicks early, the Profs will force the Lutes to throw the ball much more than they have to.
The Profs will be able to score on Pacific Lutheran much like Trinity did. Rowan will break open a close game with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown throws from Mike Warker to Taman Bryant.
Dennis Anderson, Pacific correspondent
Rowan 28, PLU 27
In championship games, being there before means a lot. Rowan will be playing in this game, at this stadium, for the fifth time in seven years. PLU has played in seven national championship games in the NAIA (and won three), but won't be in the same comfort zone here as Rowan.
Don Stoner, Midwest correspondent
Pacific Lutheran 34, Rowan 28
Pacific Lutheran has been the surprise team of the year in D-III football. So it might not be a surprise that I believe the Lutes will pull off another upset and claim the national title. Pacific Lutheran has proven to be a much better team than a No. 7 regional seed would indicate, which may provide vindication for all those who for many years had been pushing the NCAA to expand the D-III playoffs.
The Lutes have shown they can play well on both sides of the ball — with a quick-fire offense (21 points in the last 7:17 in their first round win over Willamette) and a solid defense (19-9 over St. John's in the quarterfinals) Meanwhile, Rowan has been putting up some huge offensive and defensive numbers throughout the playoffs, including the incredible win over Mount Union, and five appearances in the Stagg Bowl in seven years is a true sign of an outstanding program. The key might be this matchup – will Rowan's outstanding defense (48.8 yards of rushing allowed per game) be able to stop PLU's outstanding RB, Anthony Hicks (120 ypg, 21 rushing TDs)?
My hunch (and that's all it is, a hunch) is they might not. Prediction: Pacific Lutheran 34, Rowan 28 in what should be a great game, and the D-III title goes to the Pacific Northwest for the first time.
Mike Allegre, Radio voice of Willamette football
Pacific Lutheran 29, Rowan 13
PLU spreads the field well mixing the run with the NWC co-Offensive Player of the Year, Anthony Hicks with short slant-screens and medium-long routes targeting four receivers. The coach's grandson, QB Chad Johnson, is a phenomenal field general; the Lutes' hard-hitting no-panic defense will knock your helmet off and then help you up.
Jim Stout, Northeast correspondent
Pacific Lutheran 34, Rowan 24
Some things change, some things don't. Division III gets its first champ from west of the Rockies. Rowan gets its fifth loss Stagg Bowl loss in the '90s. No shame in the latter, though. I know about 200 other schools that would love to be in Rowan's shoes. Either way, the selection committee needs to re-examine the way in which it seeds teams in the 28-team format.
Eric Sieger, Great Lakes correspondent
Rowan 31, PLU 21
The Lutes' amazing run will run into the buzzsaw of the Profs defense, who will remain on an emotional high after their huge performance against the Purple Raiders. Rowan's four previous trips to the Stagg Bowl should also serve them well, leading Rowan to its first title ever.