Last week, I openly expressed a bit of frustration over Hillsdale College being picked 6th by the GLIAC football coaches in this year's pre-season poll. I promised I would be back with some extra information as to why I was less than enthused with the results.
Before I get into the numbers, let me explain a little bit about the way I approach Chargerblue.com. Am I a homer? Sure, I am! My dad played at Hillsdale. I was a Charger for 4 years and then spent a 5th as a student-assistant while I student-taught at the Academy. I now have 11 seasons under my belt with this gig. I have a lot of blood, sweat, and emotion invested in what I still consider one of the great traditions in small college football. I don't consider myself a "real journalist" but I will always bring a factual set of information to the table. I can argue D2 football with the best of them, and from what I hear at least one guy had a problem with my previous take.
So, here we go. You can't base anything 100% statistically, but if you take a look at last year's results Hillsdale is overall a statistically better team than 3rd place Michigan Tech, 4th place Wayne State, and 5th place Saginaw Valley. Here are the numbers from a year ago.
Out of this group, Hillsdale had the best total offense and the second best total defense. They were also best against the run and had the most prolific passing game. We could sit here and pick apart this chart all we want, but to me the thing that stands out is the consistency for Hillsdale. The Chargers are 1 or 2 in six of eight categories and have the best overall rank if you look at the average across all categories.
As far as I can tell, a lot of the rankings seem to stem from last year's records. I get that. Any football fan or coach or player for that matter knows wins trump stats 7 days a week and after all, each of these teams posted better records than Hillsdale a year ago. Tech beat the Chargers by 3 and Wayne beat Hillsdale by 7 in head to head competition. Hillsdale and Saginaw didn't play last year and won't play this year as well. Still, this poll is supposed to predict this season's finish. Hillsdale gets Tech and Wayne at home, a place where the Blue and White are extremely tough. After such tight finishes last year, I give the advantage to Hillsdale in both of those ballgames this season.
Another thing you have to look at, and probably worked against Hillsdale, is who each program loses. Two of the biggest names in recent Charger history are gone. Tom Korte is in Steelers camp and Aaron Waldie is headed to the CFL next season. Outside of Tech, the other clubs in this conversation also have big holes to fill. SVSU lost their leading rusher in Brandon Emeott. WSU, despite being the darlings of the league a year ago, the Warriors have to replace GLIAC defensive back of the year Dante Dunn. They also lose running back Daryl Graham whose work with Joique Bell made for a potent combo. Gone also is GLIAC Freshman of the Year quarterback Kevin Smith. He's looking to parlay that accolade into a D1 career and has transferred to Eastern Michigan.
I could go on and on comparing every position group. We could wonder out loud why having premiere D2, not just GLIAC, guys in OT Jared Veldheer and DE Drew Berube isn't doing more for Hillsdale's expectations. That's not going to change anything and in the end it really doesn't matter.
Personally I put Hillsdale in the 3 or 4 slot and right up there with Ashland. This program is top to bottom as good as anyone in the league outside of Grand Valley, and with a little luck the Chargers will make that October 10th Homecoming game one to remember. I guess this is why coaches don't get to vote for their own teams.
When you break it all down, the bottom line is there really isn't a whole lot of difference between any of these clubs but it still takes some convincing the other league coaches where they belong. What the Chargers have to do, and head coach Keith Otterbein has stressed this over and over, they have to win the close games and they have to do it consistently. When Hillsdale does that we will likely start to see them moving up in these ranking. The Chargers are hard at work and take the first step toward that goal on August 28th at St. Joe's.
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