I know, I know...what Linfield has accomplished in the past has little to do with this Saturday's game. So, looking at this year's team, the Wildcats come into this quarterfinal game with a perfect 11-0 record and are ranked third in the country. Of the four No. 1 seeds in the playoffs, Linfield has - by far - the toughest road to Salem. Two weeks ago the 'Cats barely escaped a first-round exit against a vengeful Pacific Lutheran team, 27-24. Meanwhile the other three No. 1 seeds won their first-round game by an average of almost 43 points. That's not to say that Linfield is inferior. What I am saying is that Linfield's geographic location can probably be blamed for the tough game, considering that only 6.2% of D3 football programs share the same timezone as Linfield. With the NCAA trying to save money on traveling, Linfield gets the misfortune of playing a team in close proximity in the first round. Rather than the weakest team in their region, necessarily. In round two they beat the perennial powerhouse North Central College. The only reason why NCC came to McMinnville this early was because the Cardinals lost twice in the regular season. Many, including myself, thought this would be a very tough game for Linfield. However, the 'Cats took care of the Cardinals 30-14 in what was considered a down year for North Central. Still, I'm sure coach Joe Smith wasn't crazy about seeing NCC in the second round.
|Defensive End Brynnan Hyland|
|Senior Quarterback Mickey Inns|
When I first filled out my D3 bracket I had Oshkosh winning this game. After reading up on Linfield, and attending the Oshkosh/Bethel game last week, my confidence level in Oshkosh has subsided a bit. Bethel ranks 109th in passing offense this season and just tore a part Oshkosh's secondary in the first half last weekend. Given that the Wildcats have the 15th best passing offense in D3, I thought to my self, "Jeesh!! If Bethel can have this kind of success in Oshkosh, I'm afraid to see what Linfield will do when they go to McMinnville next week." Bethel wide receiver Mitch Hollstrom torched the Titans for 133 yards on nine catches, along with two touchdowns last week. However, Oshkosh's defense managed to do a complete one-eighty after the half. They held the Royals to just 41 yards of offense in the the second half!! Earlier in the season, when they hosted Platteville, Oshkosh has faced a very similar spread offense to Linfield's. UWP ranks sixth in the country in passing (344.7 yards/game), and ninth in scoring (41/game). In that matchup, the Titans held Bryce Corrigan to just 203 yards passing, 0 TD's and three interceptions as they won 34-13. I know Oshkosh is capable of playing a shut-down defense, but the question is: Can they do it consistently?