While how the new format ends up working is to be seen, one thing we know for sure is that GLIAC football season is here and so is Tony Nicolette to talk about it. Here is how he sees Hillsdale's opener with Ferris State going.
#18 Hillsdale at Ferris StateYou can read the rest of Tony's post on the Friday/Saturday games here as well as Tony's preview of Thursday night's action.
While it is true that Hillsdale is coming off of back-to-back playoff appearances, there are still some concerns heading into 2011 for the Chargers. The concerns probably aren't about the defense, as key cogs Joe Vear, Nick Hixson and David Bakker all return. They almost certainly aren't about the ground game, as 1,400+ yard rusher Joe Glendening is back along with his 15 touchdowns from last season. It's the passing game that his squarely under the gun as the new season gets going. Gone are quarterback Troy Weatherhead and top receiver Andre Holmes, and they will be replaced by junior quarterback Anthony Mifsud and a pair of new starting wide-outs that have yet to catch a pass in college. Making things more interesting is that while Mifsud was a top-level quarterback in high school, he has spent his first two seasons at Hillsdale as a receiver. Despite not being under center prior to this year, it's safe to presume that he entered camp with at least a solid understanding of the Charger offense, so it's not as though HC is staring from scratch. Plus, let's not forget the last time Hillsdale was in a similar situation...it was three short years ago that Mark Nicolet and Nick Gurica graduated and I think we all know how the Hillsdale aerial attack faired from there.
While there is inexperience within Hillsdale's offense, the bulk of the Ferris unit is rather tenured. Senior quarterback Tom Schneider returns after having started every game for the Bulldogs last year, and he also has his top rushers and receivers from 2010 at his disposal. What FSU will have to figure out his how to put behind them last year's five game losing skid that ended the season and seemed to erase the positives of their 5-1 start. The 16 starters that are back in Big Rapids would like nothing more than to knock off a Hillsdale bunch that has claimed five of the last six meetings in the series.
While I think it's unreasonable to presume that Mifsud can step in and do all the things that his Charger predecessors did, I also believe that he doesn't have to win this first game for Hillsdale. The Bulldogs gave up nearly 170 yards a game on the ground last year, and lost their top two tacklers from their 2010 defense. Glendening should be able to put up a solid effort at Top Taggart and keep the pressure of his new signal-caller. Plus, I'm not sure why but I get the feeling that Coach Otterbein will have his troops ready when they hit his old stomping grounds. I absolutely think Ferris can win this game, but am not convinced that they will. I expect a tight affair either way. Hillsdale 27, Ferris 24.