Who won the title last year?
Mount Union claimed its 12thDIII title in 2015, outlasting St. Thomas (Minn.) 49-35 in the Stagg Bowl to finish off a 15-0 season.
Senior running back Logan Nemeth carried the Purple Raiders to victory with 30 rushing attempts for 220 yards and two touchdowns while senior quarterback Taurice Scott added four total touchdowns.
Mount Union’s defense held quarterback John Gould to 123 passing yards and St. Thomas was outscored 35-21 in the second half.
The title was Mount Union’s first since 2012 when the Purple Raiders also defeated St. Thomas to lift the trophy.
Who is No. 1 heading into 2016?
With its 2015 title, Mount Union has now played in an astounding 19 of the last 23 DIII national championship games.
Therefore, it comes as little surprise that the Purple Raiders head into the new year as the steady favorite to capture another title.
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Mount Union received 18 of 25 first place votes in D3football.com’s preseason ranking and is favored to win its 25th straight conference title.
The main challenge on offense will be replacing mainstays in Scott and Nemeth, as well as top receiver Roman Namdar who hauled in five catches for 127 yards against St. Thomas last year.
But Mount Union will return a veteran offensive line to help out whichever quarterback wins the starting job and will have senior Tim Kennedy coming back to run patterns on the outside (team-leading 83 receptions in 2015) to ease the transition on offense.
What other teams will be in the hunt?One team that has been a thorn in Mount Union’s side over the past decade has been Wisconsin-Whitewater, who has met the Purple Raiders in the title game eight times since 2005 and has defeated Mount Union six times in these contests.
The Warhawks enter 2016 ranked third after finishing with a 12-2 season and being eliminated in last year’s semifinals when Mount Union ran away with a 36-6 victory.
UW-Whitewater will have quarterback Chris Nelson returning for his senior season after he finished last year in the top 20 in the nation in passing efficiency.
Ranked right above the Warhawks at No. 2 is Linfield, who lost in the other 2015 semifinal matchup to St. Thomas. Both teams will be looking for revenge in this year’s bracket and aiming for a return to the title game.