MIAA play opens this Saturday, Oct. 2 for Briton football with their homecoming game against Kalamazoo College. After starting their season 1-3, there are several areas that the team will need to improve on to live up to the preseason hype of ranking second in the conference.
The Britons have started their season well below expectations. On the other hand, aside from Trine, who currently has the only winning record (3-0), so has every other MIAA team. This still does not give the team a crutch to fall back on for their performance heading into their game against the Hornets. Though their record may not reflect it, they need to start playing like a winning team and most importantly approach the season one game at a time.
Kalamazoo College, Oct. 2
Current Record: 1-3 Preseason Rank: 6
Last Season: 4-6 (Conference: 1-5) Game Score: 34-14 W
Since standout quarterback Brandon Lukzac graduated last year, the Hornets have been having trouble trying to fill the void in the pocket. Their offense last season was centered on the pass, averaging 382.3 yards per game through the air. That number has been reduced to less than 300 yards per game this season. Kalamazoo has also yet to find a definitive starting quarterback, instead splitting reps between freshman Sam Landry and junior Nick Jones.
College coaches know that inexperience in the pocket influences a major change in game strategy. Lacking poise in the quarterback position has pushed the Hornets to rely on shorter routes for wide receivers and a greater emphasis on the running game. If Albion plays at the top of their game, opening the conference with a homecoming victory should be easily achievable.
Alma College, Oct. 9
Current Record: 1-3 Preseason Rank: 5
Last Season: 5-5 (Conference: 3-3) Game Score: 60-10 W
The Scotts do not present a major threat to the conference this season. Though they finished with a .500 record last season, what they lack this season as a dominant threat in any major position. The Scotts possess lackluster statistics like 122 yards per game rushing and 205 yards per game passing, which is why the scale will need to tip in the favor of the Brits on defense.
Throughout their three games, Alma has turned the ball over five times on fumbles. Albion should not have a problem dominating possession of the ball, but forcing turnovers will give the Brits the edge they need to maintain the upper hand.
Hope College, Oct. 16
Current Record: 0-4 Preseason Rank: 4
Last Season: 3-7 (Conference: 3-3) Game Score: 6-14 L
The Flying Dutchman may have the worst record in the MIAA, but they are certainly not the worst team. Albion underestimated Hope’s defense last year and ended up getting their first conference loss of the season after the Dutchmen held them to only 6 points.
Hope has always been good at stopping the run, which means Albion running back Clinton Orr, Buchanan sophomore, will have to receive extra help from the offensive line to break into the open field for yardage.
If Albion is ineffectual at pressuring Hope’s offensive line, senior running back Tim Elzinga will take advantage of it. Elzinga has been the workhorse for the Dutchman offense, averaging 90.5 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry.
Olivet College, Oct. 23
Current Record: 0-4 Preseason Rank: 7
Last Season: 0-10 (Conference 0-6) Game Score: 20-0 W
Olivet has not won a game since Sept. 20, 2008 (Concordia University). In four games, the Comets have allowed 198 points and have scored only 36 points. Unless Albion sends their junior varsity team to this game by accident, there is no evidence to support the Comets will pose a threat for the Britons.
Adrian College, Oct. 30
Current Record: 1-2 Preseason Rank: 3
Last Season: 6-4 (Conference: 4-2) Game Score: 17-16 W
This is where the going gets tough for Albion. Though the Bulldogs were ranked third behind the Britons in the preseason coaches’ poll, they were the only team besides Trine to receive a vote as the top-ranked team.
Adrian does not have any player of the year candidates on their roster, but they move the chains by grinding for yardage and spreading the ball over the field.
Defense will be the area of the Bulldogs game that will cause the most problems for Albion. Adrian has forced six turnovers off fumbles this season through three games. With Albion’s schedule opening with teams ranked 7-4, they could potentially be undefeated heading into this game. This match-up could potentially decide who will battle Trine at the end of the season for the conference title.
Trine University, Nov. 13
Current Record: 3-0 Preseason Rank: 1
Last Season: 10-2 (Conference: 6-0) Game Score: 14-33 L
Trine has been nothing short of dominant so far this season. The Thunder are averaging 55.3 points per game on offense and only allowing 9 points per game on defense, not to mention that they lead the MIAA in almost every major statistic.
It seems only fitting for Albion to save the Goliath of the MIAA for the end of the season, right after their bye week. It will be a stretch for the Britons to pull away with a victory in this one unless they come ready to play at the top of their game and have a little luck fall in their favor.