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Chuck Curti
Thiel College convocation - picnic, August 2018. (Photo by Ed Mailliard)

FCS football teams and those in the PSAC still are playing games that don’t count toward their conference standings. In Division III, meanwhile, conference play enters its second week.

Here are three things to watch this weekend:

First clash of heavyweights in PAC

After an easy victory over Thiel last week, Washington & Jefferson (2-0) should get a much tougher test from Carnegie Mellon, which won its opener last week. W&J was the preseason favorite to win the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, and CMU was voted fourth in the 10-team league.

Both teams are balanced on offense. Carnegie Mellon is led by senior quarterback Alex Cline, who set a program record with 2,336 passing yards last season, and running back Rory Hubbard. Hubbard stepped in for graduated Sam Benger and rushed for 190 yards and a score in last week’s win over Rochester.

The Presidents counter with the running back combo of Jordan West (193 yards) and E.J. Thompson (163), along with quarterback Jacob Adams, who has thrown for 607 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.

The key will be which defense can contain the opposing offense.

Big test for Grove City

Brimming with confidence after last year’s 4-4 PAC showing that put to rest a 33-game losing streak, the Wolverines stubbed their collective toe at Bethany last week, losing 27-7. The Bison (eighth) were picked three slots below GCC (fifth) in the PAC preseason poll.

Life doesn’t get any easier for the Wolverines (1-1) as they face 2017 conference co-champ Case Western Reserve (1-0). CWRU, picked second in the PAC behind W&J this season, routed Rochester, 38-10, in its opener Sept. 1. The Spartans get a lift from a few players familiar to folks in the WPIAL. Freshman Drew Saxton (South Fayette) split time at quarterback with fellow freshman Ryan Coolidge and threw for 234 yards and ran for a TD against Rochester. Safety Pat Crossey (Plum) had six tackles and broke up three passes in the opener, and Brett Carney (Penn-Trafford) had a sack.

Gators go for 2-0 conference start

Last week, Allegheny (1-1) defeated Wooster, 27-20, on a late touchdown pass, stopping a five-game losing streak to the Fighting Scots. Next up is Denison (0-1), which also has had its way with the Gators recently, outscoring them 182-68 over the past four meetings.

The Big Red must figure out a way to slow Gators junior receiver Alex Victor, who, through two weeks, has the most receiving yards (444) in the NCAA, regardless of division.

Logan Lee, who threw for more than 3,000 yards last season, looks to be on track to return as the Gators starting quarterback. Naz Greer started the first two games while Lee nursed an injury, but Lee came on late last week to throw the winning touchdown pass.

Denison ranked No. 3 in the North Coast Athletic Conference in total defense last season but graduated three all-conference players from that unit.

Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at [email protected] or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.

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