When asked about the importance of a team's fourth game of the season, a coach is usually quick to underscore any potential stakes. "It's just the next game on our schedule," is a familiar refrain.
But with his California team set to play today at IUP, Mike Kellar knows there's no point in denying what awaits his team -- a game that could likely determine the PSAC Western Division champion.
"You hate to put that kind of weight on the fourth game of the season, but if you look at recent history, IUP and us have played for the league title several times," the Vulcans coach said. "It has big ramifications."
California has won the past six meetings between the teams, though that streak might be in jeopardy this season with the Crimson Hawks entering the game as the No. 7 team in Division II.
The game, known as the Coal Bowl, could very well be a defensive showcase, as IUP and California are allowing 6.7 and 12 points per game, respectively, putting both in the top 10 in Division II in scoring defense.
"A lot of these kids grew up in Western Pennsylvania playing against each other," Kellar said. "It's a game of both sides knowing the other very well, so you just have to go out there and play."
Robert Morris (1-2) at VMI (1-3), 1:30 p.m., Foster Stadium -- The Colonials offense has struggled at times this season, as it has scored 14 points or less in two of its three games this season. The Keydets, however, have given up an average of 36.8 points per game.
Gannon (2-1) at Clarion (3-0), 2 p.m., Memorial Stadium -- The Golden Eagles are off to their first 3-0 start in 17 years. The Golden Knights are a week removed from handing Slippery Rock its first loss of the season, led by Jansen Jones' 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Mercyhurst (1-2) at Slippery Rock (2-1), 6 p.m., Mihalik-Thompson Stadium -- Despite compiling 419 yards, The Rock had four turnovers and scored a season-low 27 points last week. Brandon Brown-Dukes rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown as the Lakers fell to Clarion last Saturday.
Geneva (3-0) at Carnegie Mellon (1-2), 1 p.m., Gesling Stadium -- Scoring has been a problem at times for the Tartans, averaging 14.3 points per game. The Golden Tornadoes have had no such woes, as they have scored no fewer than 47 points in a game.
Fordham (4-0) at Saint Francis (1-2), noon, DeGol Field -- The Red Flash got its first victory of the season in convincing fashion last week, routing Lincoln, 38-7. Getting a second win will be considerably more difficult against a Rams team ranked No. 16 in Division I-AA.
Thiel (0-3) at Washington & Jefferson (2-1), 2 p.m., Cameron Stadium -- The Presidents responded to their first loss of the season with a 40-19 victory against Grove City. The Tomcats have not gotten within 10 points of defeating Washington & Jefferson in their past five meetings.
Waynesburg (3-0) at Thomas More (3-0), 1:30 p.m., Bank of Kentucky Field -- The Yellow Jackets are off to their second 3-0 start in as many seasons, but the Saints are the No. 25 team in the AFCA Division III poll.
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.