Jason Dannelly Predicts the 2014 NAIA Football Championship Series Qualifiers

Dustin Rinker

Carroll College RB Dustin Rinker. (Helena IR Photo)

Every year this moment in the season comes and every year it’s like my version of X-Mas. There’s nothing better in my world than seeing 16 NAIA football teams advance to the postseason and letting the craziness begin.

This year, the craziness might have started a week earlier than usual. Morningside, Southern Oregon and Georgetown College both all on the final day of the NAIA football regular season changing the perspective of the NAIA postseason immensely. That’s three of the NAIA’s top five teams falling, making the new No. 1 team in the NAIA Carroll College

Being rated in the Top 2 and Top 4 are probably the two biggest factors in making the NAIA Championship Game. Top 2 (as long as you put in the bids) guarantees you home field advantage through the semis. Top 4 obviously gives you the same advantage until the semifinals which many will argue is the most important. Given the Thanksgiving holiday, no one wants to be on the road that weekend and traditionally the home teams have had a much higher rate of success than the road teams during the Turkey Day weekend.

Before predicting anything we have to know the facts. Who won, who lost and who is a conference champion. Remember, all conference champions rated No. 20 or higher earn an automatic berth.

This Weekend’s Results and Previous Rating
No.1 Morningside lost to Doane College, 48-49
No. 2 Carroll College def. College of Idaho 69-12
No. 3 Grand View def. Siena Heights, 56-7
No. 4 Southern Oregon lost to Eastern Oregon, 31-27
No. 5 Georgetown lost to Lindsey Wilson, 28-35
No. 6 Saint Xavier def. Olivet Nazarene, 36-6
No. 7 Missouri Valley def. Baker, 27-24
No. 8 Lindsey Wilson def. Georgetown, 35-28
No. 9 Marian def. Saint Francis (Ind.), 51-18
No. 10 Faulkner def. Kentucky Christian, 31-14
No. 11 MidAmerica Nazarene def. Avila, 45-3
T-No. 12 Northwestern def. Midland, 22-2
T-No. 12 Baker lost to Missouri Valley, 24-27
No. 14 Ottawa def. Tabor, 17-15
No. 15 Valley City State – Idle
No. 16 Eastern Oregon def. Southern Oregon, 31-27
No. 17 Langston def. Bacone, 27-14
No. 18 Tabor lost to Ottawa, 15-17
No. 19 Campbellsville def. Reinhardt, 31-14
No. 20 Siena Heights lost to Grand View, 7-56
No. 21 William Penn def. Trinity International, 42-8
No. 22 Reinhardt lost to Campbellsville, 14-31
No. 23 Robert Morris def. Concordia (Mich.), 17-6
No. 24 Friends def. Saint Mary, 21-10
No. 25 Webber International – Idle

Automatic Berths to the NAIA Football Championship Series

  • CSFL Champion: Langston University
  • Frontier Champion: Carroll College
  • GPAC Champion: Morningside College
  • HAAC Champion: MidAmerica Nazarene
  • KCAC Champion: Ottawa University
  • MSC East Champion: Lindsey Wilson
  • MSC West Champion: Campbellsville
  • MSFA Mideast Champion: Marian University
  • MSFA Midwest Champion: Grand View University
  • North Star Champion: Valley City State
  • **Sun Conference: Webber International (Not automatic, must climb to No. 20 in final poll)

Given the previous ratings and the automatic berths, here is who we know are in:

  • CSFL Champion: Langston University
  • Frontier Champion: Carroll College
  • GPAC Champion: Morningside College
  • HAAC Champion: MidAmerica Nazarene
  • KCAC Champion: Ottawa University
  • MSC East Champion: Lindsey Wilson
  • MSC West Champion: Campbellsville University
  • MSFA Mideast Champion: Marian University
  • MSFA Midwest Champion: Grand View University
  • North Star Champion: Valley City State
  • At Large No. 1: Southern Oregon
  • At Large No. 2: Saint Xavier
  • At Large No. 3: Georgetown
  • At Large No. 4 Missouri Valley
  • At Large No. 5: Faulkner
  • At Large No. 6: Northwestern

Just missed: Baker, Webber International and Eastern Oregon.

The major questions that will have to be answered by the coaches will be:

  • How far do Morningside, Southern Oregon and Georgetown fall?
  • Does Webber International sneak up to No. 20 and get an automatic?
  • Can Eastern Oregon vault their way into the postseason?

A final question out of the entire weekend might be how far does Baker University fall and do they have any shot at the postseason? From the looks of it they do not, but stranger things have happened. Bluntly put: If you can’t cheer for good things to happen to a team that had a player die and a head coach get cancer, then there is something wrong with you.

In my opinion, EOU finished the year with a quality victory but will not make it into the NAIA Championship Series. Northwestern is holding strong with that final at large berth and the did nothing this week to lose that spot.

So what’s the craziest things that might happen tomorrow? WIU getting “rater love” and moving up to No. 20 is the craziest. That would be followed by Eastern Oregon vaulting Northwestern and EOU making the postseason. I don’t see either of these scenarios happening. But. . .I’ve been wrong before.

Pairings for the postseason are much tougher than most people think. The NAIA has a bunch of different criteria they look at when it comes to matching teams up in the first round. It used to be in the past, ratings really didn’t play a part in the pairings. However in the last few years they have stayed a little closer to the 1/16, 2/15 etc etc match ups than when I started covering NAIA football.

The losses by Southern Oregon, Georgetown and Morningside really have messed up what looked a very clean looking top five teams. The losses could potentially put a team like the Mustangs who dominated most of the season up against a pretty good conference champion however I don’t think any of the teams that lost fall out of the ability to host.  The top eight teams in the NAIA ratings earn the right to host and I am going with the assumption that everyone has put in the money to host a first round game. Given what we know, here’s how I think the NAIA committee will put things together:

Valley City State at Carroll College
Campbellsville at Grand View
Langston at Morningside
Northwestern at Saint Xavier
Ottawa at Southern OregonFaulkner at Missouri Valley
Marian at Lindsey Wilson
MidAmerica Nazarene at Georgetown

Keep in mind, these are my guesses. There are a lot of things that factor into making these pairings a reality. If SOU remains rated eighth or higher, the NAIA will have to find an opponent with a major airport nearby so they can fly someone to Oregon. That certainly limits who might be on the road to SOU.

The screwy thing this year is that MNU will be 9-1 headed into the postseason with the only other one loss teams being Carroll College, Grand View and Morningside yet the Pioneers will likely be on the road the first round. And it’s not like MNU is coming out of a weak conference. They are the HAAC champion and will be on the road in the first round.

Just like everyone else, I’m looking forward to seeing how the coaches work things out tonight and tomorrow. They don’t have an easy job because week after week you could make major arguments on who the top 16 teams are in the country only to change your opinion seven days later. Best of luck and congratulations to all the qualifiers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s