Depending on what side of the fence you are looking, you’re either really excited or really disappointed in the NAIA Championship Series semifinal round. There aren’t many that would have predicted two weeks ago that we would be looking at SOU traveling to Saint Xavier and Marian traveling to Morningside to determine who would head to the national championship.
If you aren’t excited for the match ups then you obviously weren’t paying much attention from 2002 until about 2010. Every year the season would start and you could predict the top four teams in the NAIA and have a 50/50 shot at getting the national championship team correct.
Since the last time we saw Carroll College beat Sioux Falls in the 2010 national championship we haven’t seen anyone make it to the title game in back to back years. The same will be true this year as Cumberlands didn’t make the postseason and Grand View failed to get by Marian for the second time this year.
It’s tougher on guys like me who like to claim they know something about NAIA football. There is only one team remaining that I had picked to play in the championship game. Marian wasn’t even on my radar, I never expected SOU would get past Carroll and SXU was solid but felt their defense would give up too many points. Morningside is really the only team I was thinking would get to the title game and after their loss the final week of the season to Doane College, I started doubting them a bit.
All those factors are what is making the NAIA postseason more exciting than ever. By this time in previous years everyone would have it narrowed down to one or two teams already and only those programs would care. Now even the most pedestrian of NAIA fans has a vague interest in who’s actually playing for the title.
Here are my thoughts for the week:
Southern Oregon at Saint Xavier: There is no doubt about it that these teams can put up points. SOU and SXU traditionally have some of the best offenses in the country. This could go down as one of the greatest offensive games in NAIA postseason history. It’s probably a tossup because of the home field advantage that SXU will have in Chicago. I’ll buck the system and go with the away team this week.
SOU 42 SXU 38
Marian at Morningside: Marian seems to be one of those teams that gets better and better each week. They’ve been as dominant in their postseason wins as Morningside and up until this week they’ve probably been the most overlooked team in the championship series. If I’m Morningside, Marian scares me. They’ve got confidence and they believe they can beat anyone. However, I’m starting to believe the best thing to happen to Morningside was their loss to Doane at the end of the season. They seem more focused and determined than late in the season. I see the Mustangs headed back to the title game.
Morningside 35 Marian 24