The Bachelor and The DePauw Predict the 127th Monon Bell Classic
BLAKE LARGENT ’22
WABASH: 28The Bachelor Prediction
The Wabash football team entered the year favorites to win the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) and return to the playoffs for a second consecutive season. The Little Giants welcomed a new stadium with hopes of bringing plenty of wins and, of course, the return of the Monon Bell. Yet, Wabash (6-3, 5-3 NCAC) enters the 127th Monon Bell Classic underdogs as DePauw (8-1, 8-0 NCAC) has taken the conference by storm. The Tigers were projected to finish fourth in the NCAC Preseason Football Coaches’ Poll but sit atop the standings with a playoff run following Saturday’s matchup. Wabash looks to spoil DePauw’s stellar season, while avoiding a two-game skid in the Bell Game for the first time since 2007-2008.
What is there to say about this Tiger team? DePauw has been the best overall squad in the NCAC this year. The Tigers have only had two conference games come within a possession this season, a 34-30 win against Wooster on September 25 and a 17-14 win against Wittenberg on October 9. In every other matchup, DePauw has been electric. The Tigers posted 38.4 points per game while allowing just 11.9 points per game against NCAC opponents this season. Senior quarterback Chase Andries has been a great leader for the team this season, and has spearheaded this offense into a powerhouse.
The DePauw offense has been great. But the Tigers are NCAC winners this season because of their defense. These numbers speak for themselves: 11.9 points allowed, 17 sacks, 17 interceptions, six fumble recoveries, and five defensive touchdowns in eight conference games(!). DePauw has an offense that can score points at will, but their defense is what makes this team playoff caliber.
Why does a Wabash team that has lost three of its last four games have a chance against an elite conference team in DePauw? One answer: quarterback Liam Thompson ’24. Throw out the season stats; when Thompson is on, the Little Giants have the best offense in the NCAC. Wabash averaged 38.5 points per game in the conference this season. This even includes last week’s 35-14 loss to Wittenberg in which Thompson had his worst performance of his career. The dualthreat sophomore has been sensational this season. Thompson averaged 310.3 yards per game through the air, rushed for 40.7 yards per game, and collected 25 passing TDs while rushing for 10.
The game is obviously reliant on a team effort. Thompson will need help. Donovan Snyder ’24 has been the feature back for Wabash, averaging 98.4 yards per game and accounting for 10 total touchdowns this season. Derek Allen ’24 and Cooper Sullivan ’23 have been the favorite targets for Thompson, producing a combined 13 touchdowns this season. The Monon Bell returning to Wabash depends on a career game from Thompson, but the rest of the offense will have to do its part as well.
The offensive prowess of Wabash is no secret, but the brute of the team’s losses have come in shootouts with defensive struggles. The Little Giants do not have to stop the Tiger offense; they merely just have to slow them down. In a chippy rivalry game on a cold, windy Saturday, this can certainly be the case. Wabash’s defense must erase this season’s shortcomings with a gutsy Monon Bell performance.
DePauw is the rightful favorite in this game. But in the Bell Game, anything can happen. The Little Giants are 14-5 since 2001 in this rivalry, and we at The Bachelor expect this recent trend to continue. This game will be won by who scores last, and that will be a touchdown from the hands of Thompson. Wabash tarnishes DePauw’s perfect conference record, winning the 127th Monon Bell Classic 28-24. The Little Giants reclaim the Bell in the new stadium, while the Tigers head to the playoffs 300 pounds lighter.
THE DEPAUW SPORTS WRITER
DEPAUW: 35The DePauw Prediction
If DePauw can force Wabash into some bad turnovers, then the Little Giants will have little hope. The Tigers have feasted on turnovers all year as they lead the conference with 23 total and have five defensive touchdowns which makes them tied for second in Division III. My overall thought on this matchup is that neither side will be overly dominant. Wabash junior and quarterback Liam Thompson will be able to move the ball on DePauw, but definitely not with ease. I think DePauw’s defense will get the best of Thompson in the end, but it should be a fun matchup.
DePauw’s soaring offense vs. Wabash’s struggling defense
The main culprit for Wabash’s late season slump has been their defense. They have given up 28 points or more in six out of eight of their NCAC games this season. Wabash’s defense has put so much pressure on the offense to outscore teams to win and it hasn’t worked against good teams.
On the other hand, DePauw’s offense is in its finest form at the end of the season. The scariest thing about this Tiger offense is they can beat teams in multiple ways. They can blow the top off of defenses with relentless deep passes to Jaylon Smith or Trey Shaw or slow the tempo down and run teams over with Gus Baumgartner.
However, I don’t expect DePauw to run circles around Wabash’s defense. In fact, Wabash’s defense could rise to the occasion and play better than they have these past few weeks. The Monon Bell game can bring out the best in anyone and I believe their defense will make some plays. Even if they get off to a slow start, there is no doubt that the Tigers offense will eventually take off later in the game and move the ball at ease on Wabash’s defense.
Final thoughts and predictions This game is intriguing and I can’t wait to see how it will unfold. DePauw is in unfamiliar territory. We haven’t gone into the conference undefeated since 2010. DePauw is coming in as the favorite, but Wabash has the talent to pull off the upset. The Little Giants are also playing their first Bell game in their new stadium which will for sure add extra motivation. But at the end of the day, throw out all the stats and seasons up to this point and may the best team win.
Prediction: DePauw: 35, Wabash: 24. I think this game will stay close through the first three quarters and Wabash might even have an early lead at halftime. But I believe DePauw will start to take control late in the third or early in the fourth quarter. The running game will start to break down Wabash’s defense late in the game and a long touchdown drive by DePauw will put the game out of reach for the Wabash Little Giants. DePauw simply has too much talent on both sides of the ball for Wabash to overcome in this game. The Tigers get the clean sweep of the NCAC and bring the Monon Bell with them to the NCAA playoffs.