The Case Western Reserve University Spartans take the field for the first time tomorrow night, hosting local-rival John Carroll University. The Spartans come into one of their toughest regular season games in recent memory coasting on a 31-game regular season winning streak. The nationally ranked squad faces the Blue Streaks who are rebounding off their worst season in decades. JCU (3-7 overall, 3-6 conference) suffered its first sub .500 season since 1986. The Spartans haven’t faced the Blue Streaks since two years after that woeful season in 1988. The Blue Streaks won the series 27-10 giving them the lead in the all-time series 9-7-1.
Captaining the Spartans are a pair of seniors; running back Billy Deitmen and quarterback Joey Baum will lead the Spartans. Other big names on the CWRU roster are Tony Opperman, a second-team All-American pick by d3football.com and senior wide receiver Zach Homyl, a first-team pick by USA Football News.
Opperman anchors the offensive line and likes the teams chances tomorrow but he’s not caught up in the diplomacy, “I have full confidence in our coaching staff to prepare us properly for the JCU Game so that we will be able to compete with them and win the game. As far as a specific gameplan, I’ll leave that to our coaches. It is certainly exciting to get to play a team so close to us and to have it in the atmosphere of a night game at Case Field.”
Dale English leads the team on the defensive side as an All-UAA lineman. English has won the John Anderson Award twice, a prize given to the most valuable underclassmen on the team.
The Blue Streaks find themselves in a similar situation to the Spartans, nearly having lost half of their starters on both sides of the ball. While CWRU returns 27 letterwinners and eight starters, JCU tops them with 37 and 12 respectively.
JCU yields a well-rounded offense. Although they have a below average 3.6 yards-per-carry, the team still manages 113.8 yards-per-game. The backfield yields a controversy at quarterback as sophomore Michael Locke and junior Devin O’Brien trade snaps.
Locke looks to be the leading candidate, he appeared in just three games last season and completed just six passes all season. O’Brien started last seasons opener for the Blue Streaks after JCU’s starter was scratched late. O’Brien would go 20-34 for 163 yards against a D3 playoff team Thomas More. Despite the success, O’Brien didn’t make a repeat appearance and the Spartans will look to rattle Locke’s cage early to start the game.
The Spartans look to keep pushing forward, not allowing themselves to be caught up in last years success or the drama of losing 13 starters. The Spartan’s high-powered offense doesn’t look to be slowed down by John Carroll but spectators shouldn’t expect any of the high scoring shootouts that were common last year.
PREDICTION: Spartans: 31 Blue Streaks: 16