Last weekend was one of the craziest weekends of NAIA football late in the season that I can remember. Several upsets to teams in the Top 25 did nothing but make the entire postseason picture blurrier. From the looks of it, the team that was hurt the most was Benedictine who was in position to potentially host two NAIA postseason games to now looking like they will have to travel the entire postseason if the new rankings hold true for another week.
Cumberlands, Grand View, Carroll, Baker, Morningside, St. Francis (Ind.), Missouri Valley and Ottawa are all in position to make the postseason (as long as their schools bid the minimum required to guarantee a home game). Every other team will go on the road in the first round, which is an incredibly tough task.
Here is a breakdown of how everything looks, conference by conference in the NAIA heading into the final week of the regular season:
CSFL: Langston beat Bacone last weekend, which basically has taken the Warriors out of the mix and inserted the Lions as the only team with a chance to make it into the postseason. With a No. 24 ranking, it will be tough for Langston to move up past No. 20 in order to make the postseason. They must win this weekend and hope the voting in the final poll goes their way.
Today’s Prediction: Possible Langston.
Frontier: Carroll College defeated Rocky Mountain in a thriller in Helena last weekend to claim the Frontier Conference crown. The Saint are guaranteed a spot in the postseason after last year’s absence. If Rocky Mountain takes care of business this weekend against MSU-Northern they will also make the postseason. However if they slip up and lose, then they are done.
Today’s Prediction: Carroll College and Rocky Mountain.
GPAC: Morningside’s loss to Northwestern last weekend hurts the Mustangs in terms of who and where they will play in the postseason. Northwestern’s win just put them into the conversation for a potential postseason qualifier. If the Red Raiders defeat Midland this weekend they should make it into the postseason given their No. 13 rating. Morningside has an interesting game this weekend against Doane College that could be a bit of a dogfight. Doane is coming off a loss to Briar Cliff University and this game will be the final one of the season for the Tigers. The Mustangs will need their “A-game” to ensure a win over the Tigers this week.
Today’s Prediction: Morningside and Northwestern.
HAAC: Missouri Valley’s dismantling of Benedictine was surprising but not shocking. I think everyone in the HAAC knew how good MVC was their win shows how far they have progressed this season from their early season loss to Ottawa. Peru State’s loss to Evangel will keep them out of the postseason making this week’s game against Baker their own personal national championship. With a No. 4 rating the Wildcats could lose and still make the postseason but need to be careful not to lose or else they will likely have to travel in the postseason. Unless something crazy happens, it looks like the HAAC should get three teams into the postseason.
Today’s Prediction: Benedictine, Baker and Mo. Valley.
Independent: Mayville State lost to Valley City State last weekend ending any shred of hope for NAIA independents for the postseason.
Today’s Prediction: No Qualifier.
KCAC: Ottawa defeated Friends given them the edge over the Falcons in the conference. Going into this weekend postseason possibilities still exist for the Braves along with Tabor College and Sterling College. Ottawa and Tabor face off this weekend with the winner making the postseason and the loser likely out of the mix. Sterling plays in a dangerous game against Kansas Wesleyan on the road. If the Warriors win, one would think they would end the season rated high enough to make the NAIA championship series.
Today’s Prediction: Ottawa and Sterling.
MSC-East: No change from last week. The University of the Cumberlands has won the conference and are now the No. 1 team in the country. Congrats to John Bland and his staff who have worked tirelessly to get the program to where it is today. Lindsey Wilson and Georgetown College face off this weekend in a game that will determine who will make the NAIA Championship Series. Given their ratings (LWC at No. 15 and Georgetown at No. 16) there isn’t anyway to lose this game and make the postseason. The postseason starts Saturday for these two teams for what is essentially a play in game.
Today’s Prediction: U-Cumberlands and winner of LWC/GT
MSC-West: Reinhardt lost to Campbellsville dropping them out of the postseason conversation. With a No. 10 ranking this week it would appear Faulkner is the only team from this conference who will be playing in the postseason. The Eagles need to defeat Kentucky Christian to ensure they will make the postseason.
Today’s Prediction: Faulkner.
MSFA-Mideast: USF (Ind.) is still in control of their postseason destiny as they go into the final week of the season against Marian. USF (Ill.) defeated MSFA Crossover opponent St. Ambrose last week and with a No. 17 ranking they may have entered their name into the conversation for an at-large berth.
Today’s Prediction: Saint Francis (Ind.).
MSFA-Midwest: Grand View wins the conference and automatically makes the postseason. However, with Saint Ambrose’s loss to USF (Ill.) the Bees have seriously damaged their chances at making the postseason. SAU is now ranked No. 17 and will need to make a significant jump in the final rating to make the postseason. Saint Xavier is rated No.21 and will need to make an even more significant jump in order to make the postseason.
Today’s Prediction: Grand View. With Saint Ambrose possible.
For those of you keeping score, my November 11th prediction for the NAIA postseason looks like this:
- Central States Football League: None
- Frontier Conference: Carroll College and Rocky Mountain
- Great Plains Athletic Conference: Morningside College and Northwestern College
- Heart of America Athletic Conference: Benedictine, Baker and Missouri Valley.
- Independents: None
- Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference: Sterling College and Ottawa University
- Mid-South Conference East: Cumberlands and winner of LWC/GT
- Mid South Conference West: Faulkner University
- Mid States Football Association Mideast: Saint Francis (Ind.) and Saint Francis (Ill.)
- Mid States Football Association Midwest: Grand View
So for those of you good at math, you can see above I have predicted 15 teams into the NAIA postseason because by the looks of the rankings either Langston or Saint Ambrose will be the last team left out of the postseason. If Langston gets into the Top 20, one would think Ambrose would miss out on the postseason due to their head-to-head loss with USF (Ill.). However if Langston only moves to No. 21 in the final rankings, then SAU will make the final spot.
The only real wildcard is if Peru State can upset No. 4 Baker University. Peru is tied for No. 19 and a win over Baker should vault them five or six spots next weekend. I’d also be one to say that if Peru State does pull off the upset, they would deserve to be in the postseason based on their body of work this season.
Friends at No. 19 along with No. 21 Saint Xavier just do not look to have the sort of firepower on their resume from this season that would warrant raters moving them into the final at large spot.
No. 12 Tabor, No. 14 Georgetown and No. 15 Lindsey Wilson are all in the win or go home category. You might even be able to put No. 8 Ottawa in that boat if they lose to Tabor. This season, losses to rated teams have been anywhere from a four to an eight spot drop in the rankings. While I wouldn’t suspect the coaches would drop Ottawa eight spots for losing to the No. 12 team in the country it would be a lot easier if Ottawa did not give them the chance to move them out. If Tabor loses to Ottawa, they may only drop to No. 16, which would give them a shot at the postseason but, a drop to No. 17 leaves them high and dry.
There just does not appear to be any feasible way for the loser of Georgetown and Lindsey Wilson to make the postseason. Win, or go home.
I make these predictions with the caveat that I suspect the higher rated teams will take care of business and not get upset in the final week of the season but inevitably something happens the final week of the season which completely throws everything off. From the looks of the conference championships and automatic qualifiers in the NAIA, everyone in the top 15 should make the postseason with Langston’s final ranking determining if the top 16 will make it.