Editor’s Note: Reporters from the student newspapers of Case Western Reserve University (The Observer) and Carnegie Mellon University (The Tartan) previewed the 32nd annual Academic Bowl, the rivalry game between the two schools’ football teams. Both previews are printed in both newspapers and online.
On Nov. 11 two rivals do battle in Pittsburgh as the Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) football teams will play in the 32nd annual Academic Bowl. Though the classic rivalry means quite a bit to both teams, the result will have extra implications for the Spartans as they are looking to return to the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 2009.
CWRU opened the season with nine straight victories and have dominated opponents, winning each game by an average of 26.9 points. Though CMU will be just the second team the Spartans play with a winning record, CWRU will still come out on top and bring the Academic Bowl back to Cleveland after losing the previous two seasons.
Leading the Spartans offensive attack are a pair of fourth-year players who are at their peaks.
Running back Jacob Burke averages 100 yards per game and has totaled 16 touchdowns on the ground this season. Gaining exactly five yards per carry, the bruising back is difficult to bring down by any defender.
Dual-threat quarterback Rob Cuda is behind center for his third, and possibly best, year. He has his highest completion percentage (61.8 percent) as a starter and a 26 to five touchdown to interception ratio. Eleven different receivers have caught a touchdown pass this season, so it’s not as simple as taking away Cuda’s primary weapon. And while Cuda hasn’t carried the ball a lot this season—just 71 rushing attempts in nine games—he possesses the ability to take off and run on any play.
CMU will have to choose which one of the two playmakers to stop. And even if they can take away a Spartan’s weapon, CWRU’s other top performer will just step in and carry the load.
On the other side, the strength of the CMU offense used to be, and probably still is, fourth-year running back Sam Benger. He has totaled 58 rushing touchdowns and over 5,000 rushing yards in his historic career as a Tartan. However, this season, opposing defenses have been able to shut him down. Just two times this season has Benger eclipsed 100 yards on the ground.
It doesn’t get any easier for him as the Spartans defense is one of the best in the country at stopping the run. The team ranks 51st in Division III with just 111.4 yards allowed per game on the ground. This includes holding Geneva College running back Trewon Marshall, who has the seventh most rushing yards in Division III, to just 56 yards on the ground. The whole unit is playing at its peak right now, forcing 12 turnovers in the past three games.
For CWRU the matchup against the Tartans is a perfect revenge game. CMU ruined the team’s perfect season and chance at making the playoffs last season. The team would want nothing more than to beat the Tartans to finish the job this year. If there’s one factor that will push the Spartans over the top, it’s their desire for revenge over an archrival.
CWRU will win this game.