DePauw entered the North Coast Athletic Conference with much fanfare in 2012. The new Tigers were expected to be a team that could challenge the old Tigers, Wittenberg, and the other perennial conference power, Wabash, every season.
That wasn’t the case in 2012 when DePauw tied for eighth at 1-6 or 2013 when they tied for sixth at 4-6. They made strides a season ago, finishing third with a 6-3 NCAC mark.
Now in 2015, DePauw (4-0, 3-0 NCAC) looks poised to take the next step and challenge for a league title. It first has to prove it can beat a Wittenberg program that has won three meetings in the last three seasons by a combined score of 131-31.
The Tigers meet the Tigers at 2 p.m. Saturday in Greencastle, Ind. That’s 30 miles north of Crawfordsville, where No. 20 Wittenberg (3-1, 2-1) suffered its first loss two weeks ago, 42-14 to Wabash.
“I’m not saying I told you so, but going into it, I said (DePauw) would be the darkhorse in this thing,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said. “Maybe they’re not the darkhorse. I’m not sure they don’t have the best offense in the league, and I’m not 100 percent sure they don’t have the best defense in the league not named Wabash. It’s homecoming. They’re undefeated. Obviously, they’re going to be excited to see us show up.”
DePauw has routed everyone on its schedule, beating Earlham 53-0, Wooster, 49-20, Hiram 45-7 and Kenyon 38-16. Those teams have a combined record of 3-16.
DePauw’s early schedule no doubt has played a part in its offensive numbers. It leads the NCAC in scoring offense (46.2 points per game), total offense (497.5 yards per game) and rushing offense (280.2).
Wittenberg counters with the top passing offense in the league (293.8) and a defense that shut out Wooster 24-0 last week.
The Tigers will need some help from the rest of the league if they’re going to win a share of the NCAC title. Someone has to upset No. 8 Wabash. However, if Wittenberg finishes 9-1, it would have a chance to earn an at-large bid to the playoffs.
“(The players) understand it could be out there,” Fincham said. “But right now we just have to worry about day to day, game to game. … We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got issues right now. We haven’t played consistently at all the last couple weeks offensively or defensively.”