Somethings you just can’t get out of your blood and covering NAIA football in some shape or form is one of those things for me. I don’t have the time these days to follow every team in the NAIA like I used to back in the day but I still keep track of it enough to feel like I can make a few predictions heading into this weekend’s first round of the Championship Series. Continue reading
Here it is, THE ROAD TO THE CHIPPER!
First things first, thanks for checking out the web site. You are here because in some way you really enjoy NAIA football. It is still a work in progress but by the time the NAIA football season rolls around I hope to have all of the bells and whistles to this site up and going.
Backing up a little bit, I’m Jason Dannelly. For lack of a better way of putting it I’ve been a guru of sorts for NAIA football since 2002. That’s when I started what was then known as NAIAFOOTBALL.NET which eventually became the Victory Sports Network then the College Fanz Sports Network then BACK to the Victory Sports Network. (Did you catch all that?) Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Is the current NAIA Championship Series setup for football out of date? This week I discuss that and offers an alternative plan for the NAIA football postseason in this week’s podcast. Click below to listen.
I’m going to be completely honest. I hate round two of the NAIA Championship Series. I hate the way it’s put together, I hate when it’s played and I hate that after umpteen years no one has done anything to change it.
Some of my argument for change goes back to what I touched on last week via twitter and the need for the NAIA and its football coaches to consider a major rewrite of the NAIA Championship Series. Just like every other division of college football, things have changed. But the NAIA is the only organization that has not made a major change to its postseason qualification since it adopted its current form in 1997.
And there isn’t a person in the world that can convince me the state of NAIA football is the same now as it was in 1997. Continue reading
We’ve been on the “road” for so many years that its odd for me to envision a “race” to the NAIA National Championship. Especially given the driving conditions I had cross country the last few years getting to Rome. Although two buses stranded on I-75 in Georgia and the stories from all those involved is still one of my favorite memories from 2010.
But this year the NAIA will embark on the first of three title games in Daytona Beach aptly title the “Race to Daytona.” Previous incarnations of the game saw us on the “Road to Savannah” and the “Road to Rome.” The racing moniker fits the host and also the attitude of several of the NAIA’s best who are definitely in the fast lane towards the NAIA title game. (See what I did there?)
It’s so tough for me to pick any major upsets in the first round of the NAIA Football Championship Series in any given year. Typically if you select the chalk, you are bound to get five or six of the eight games correct. Last year the only upset was Tabor defeating Benedictine in the first round (11 over an 8). In 2012 there were two upsets, same with 2011.
But that’s not to say the NAIA postseason doesn’t go without it’s occasional craziness. In 1998, five underdogs garnered victories in the NAIA’s opening round of the championship series seeing the No. 1, No. 2, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 teams in the county knocked off in game one of the postseason. This led to a national championship game where the No. 8 Azusa Pacific Cougars won their first national championship game over the No. 11 Olivet Nazarene Tigers. Continue reading
Earlier this week I had intentions to write a conference by conference breakdown of who is in and who is out of the NAIA Football Championship Series. But as life would have it this week has been much busier than normal. Something about a trip to Minnesota, a snow storm and another job kind of got in the way.However, the NAIA wrote a great breakdown of the final week of the regular season. You can read that article here.
The number one thing everyone needs to remember is this: Conference champions rated #20 or better get automatic berths to the postseason. If you are a conference champ and rated #23 in the final poll, you are out of luck. If you are conference co-champs and you are rated #21 and the other team is #15, you are on the outside looking in.
The magic number to remember is 20.
So who am I talking about specifically? Langston, Reinhardt, Saint Francis (Ind.) and Webber International. All of these teams can either win or have part of a conference title by winning this weekend. However, they will all need the help of a lot of other people outside of their control if they are going to make it to the postseason. Continue reading
When the clock strikes zero on Saturday night in Rome, Ga. at Barron Stadium the curtain will fall on the small Georgia community’s hold as the host of the NAIA Football National Championship as well as the hopes and dreams of one of the two teams seeking their first ever national championship in NAIA football.
This year’s game will mark the 10th consecutive NAIA football championship that I have attended and the twelfth in a row that I have seen live (I watched the 2002 and 2003 broadcasts at home on television. Remember the “Empire Sports Network” anyone?). Somewhere packed away in storage are the VHS copies of those games. Yes, VHS but I digress.
While the City of Rome has been home to a great historical tradition of college football, neither of the two programs in this year’s title game can stake the same claim. After all, the City of Rome is home to “the mother who saved college football” when congress was looking to ban the sport nearly 100 years ago. It was the mother of a deceased teenage football player who stepped up and voiced that it would be her son’s desire that the sport continue to be played. If you do not believe the story, just pay a visit to Jefferson’s on Broad Street in Rome this weekend as the historical plaques are in displayed on the street corner. The City of Rome is certainly a football town and that aura will be missed next year when the game moves to Daytona Beach.
The same passion and desire burns in the bellies of the athletes from the University of the Cumberlands and Grand View University has they head into their first ever trips to the NAIA Footbal National Championship.
Cumberlands and Grand View only have 35 years of football tradition combined between their programs. To put that into perspective, realize that Grand View Coach Mike Woodley has spent more time on the gridiron at 39 years as a coach than the total history of these two teams. In fact, Grand View’s trip ties last year’s national champion Marian University for the fastest trip to the national title after a program’s inception at six years. In an effort to expand their athletic department, Cumberlands began their program in 1985, which is still considered a relatively young college football program.
This is also marks the first time in back to back years that none of the teams in the game have a national title in their trophy case since 1972-73. In those years, the NAIA had two divisions of college football (DI/DII) and East Texas State, Missouri Southern, Abilene Christian (Texas) and Northwestern (Iowa) all picked up their first national titles in those years.
The newness of the national championship is where the resemblance of these programs ends. There are few similarities in how these teams attack opponents on offensive. Grand View has been very balanced with their running game while focusing on two very solid wide receivers as their main targets of the passing game. Cumberlands plans to run the ball and then run the ball some more. Their 359 yards per game on the ground is the most in the NAIA since William Penn in 2010. Both teams are solid defensively with Cumberlands adopting more of a bend don’t break mentality while Grand View has been know to demoralize opponents who try to run the football on their vaunted defense.
The NAIA is loaded with great coaches who have flown under the radar as they have built their programs into national contenders and this year is no different with Grand View’s Mike Woodley and Cumberlands’ John Bland. Both coaches were assigned the task of getting their teams to an NAIA national title game and both have done it in a fairly quick fashion. Bland lands in the title game in just his eighth season at UC while Woodley has made it to the chipper in just his sixth season. Both coaches are eerily similar too, spending time in the Houston area, Bland at Rice University and Woodley at Sam Rayburn High School, and in NCAA DI football with Woodley at Iowa State.
One thing you have to earn to be on the coaching staff of either team is trust. Both Bland and Woodley employ many assistants who have been with them since they began their tenure at their respective schools.
Quotes from the Coaches
Last week I had an opportunity to talk with both coaches and get their thoughts on the National Championship game and how they have been able to make it to Rome, Ga.
Coach Mike Woodley of Grand View University Quotes:
On the quick build of the program:
“We have a great administrative team that supports us, from the President to the Athletic Director to the financial aid director. They’ve supported us and given us everything within reason we need to be successful on and off the field. They committed to improving our facilities and allowed us to get out and recruit athletes that can help us win.”
On the play of quarterback Derek Fulton:
“When he started as a freshman last year we knew we had a pretty good one. With his improvement this year he’s really emerged as a leader.”
On wide receiver Brady Roland:
“We feel like we have the best wide receiver in the nation with him. He’s a tremendous athlete and can catch and run better than anyone in the nation.”
On Jason Gladfelder’s play this season and leadership:
“We feel like he’s the best linebacker in the country. He’s our marquee guy. But what he brings to the table is that effort everyday in the offseason in the weight room and on the practice field. He’s a student of the game and always seems to be getting to the football and staying on his teammates.”
On the Vikings All Conference honors:
“The coaches in our league really gave our defense credit this year and that was indicated by our all conference selections. Three of our defensive backs were first team all-conference and that’s almost unheard of in our league.”
On the play of Cumberlands:
“Two of the teams we played later in the season were very similar to Cumberlands. Anytime you play one of those option teams its to your advantage to have a little more time to prepare. They are a cross between option football and the Wing-T with some misdirection and jet sweep.”
On Cumberlands’ offensive athletes:
“They have some fellas that can go. They’ve got a lot of speed and several guys that can house it. We have some speed in our defensive backfield who can keep up, but they are dangerous. I’d be lying if I said we were going go in and shut these guys down, because they are good.”
On Cumberlands’ ability to throw the football:
“They’ve got a good idea on how to throw the football in this offense. A lot of those option teams really struggle to throw the football but these guys have gotten it figured out. They throw the ball a lot better than they get credit for.”
On the focus of this team:
“This team has been unbelievable in terms of having their heads on straight. After seeing Saint Xavier win it and Marian win it, our guys knew we weren’t too far away from something pretty special. Our guys have responded and stayed focus.”
Coach John Bland of the University of the Cumberlands Quotes:
On the injury of Terrance Cobb early in the season and how it changed the offense:
“With Terrance going down, he was such a big part of our offense because we thought he could go the distance every time he touched the ball. But with the progress of Adam Craig being a quarterback, he can run the football and gives us another great option in the backfield. Now defenses just couldn’t key in on one of our runningbacks and they have to account for Adam which helped our offense tremendously as the weeks went on.”
On the play of the offensive line:
“Our offensive line they have always paved the way and that’s been a pleasant surprise again this year. We lost some seniors last year and now we turn around and we have guys that have really stepped up and into roles this season. They’ve done a great job this year and we’ve been fortunate this year to stay healthy and have a very smart group playing for us”
On wide receiver Willie Gibson:
“He’s got tremendous speed and can get behind you and go the distance. Because our running game has been so strong, we’ve been able to get one on one coverage for Gibson on the outside and allowed him to be successful.”
On the defensive line:
“I feel like we have a great group that starts with Nick Smith upfront. I feel like if we faced him, he’d be the best defensive linemen we would face all year.”
On the play of the defensive backs:
“Our secondary has made plays this year. When we got to the playoffs and started facing off with these teams that have these high powered offenses we really elevated our game and stepped up even more.”
On how the offensive backfield have come together:
“Our backs are an unselfish group. They really have the mentality of an offensive line. Sometimes they might have to be the one blocking all game and then the next week they are the one getting the carries. They’ve just been so unselfish this year and they’re never expecting to be the one who gets the ball every time.”
On making it to the national championship:
“I told our team this is a dream come true but when you think about it, it isn’t a dream, this is reality. These are the dreams, hopes and goals that we shoot for every year and this year it is finally happening for our program.”
On the team’s confidence:
“The confidence that this team has is the type that I have seen in other teams when they are playing in the national championship. I’ve see those teams as a coach and as a game committeeman and feel like that’s the type of confidence we have now.”
On Grand View’s defense:
“I think have a very good defensive because they are very aggressive. They get their linebackers and safeties involved in the run game and they are getting down there and attacking. They are very good at making tackles and are very physical. They are well coached. You can tell because they just don’t give up big plays.”
On Grand View’s offense:
“They have a balanced attack and we are going to have to defend them very well if we are going to stop them. We have to continue to not give up the big plays. We have to play solid defense and must continue to tackle well when we get to the ball.”
The Team Comparison
There is no doubt the success of both teams offenses run through their signal callers. Alan Craig has burst onto the scene at Cumberlands to lead his team in rushing, passing and scoring while Grand View’s Derek Fulton leads his squad in rushing and in passing. I’m still researching this stat but this is the first time since at least 2000 that the leading rushers and passers for both teams coming into the game were quarterbacks (My thoughts are that it could be Georgetown – Eddie Eviston and NW Oklahoma State – Al Hunt, but Eviston might not have been the leading rusher, making it an even rarer occurrence).
Fulton is not a quarterback that will wow you with an NFL arm or break the ankles of opponents while running the football. He’s a leader, an extension of the offensive coordinator on the field. Fulton makes good decisions and in his two years as a starter very seldom gets rattled.
Craig enters his first year as a starter for UC replacing four-year UC starter Jay Bright. This season Craig has accounted for 37 total touchdowns for the Patriots while rushing for more than 100 yards four times this season. While UC may not appear to throw the ball much, Craig still makes good decisions when he has to chuck it, accumulating 13 touchdowns passing and just six interceptions
Cumberlands probably has the better No. 2 option to run the football in running back D’Angelo Jordan who has rushed for 1130 yards this season but don’t sleep on the team of running backs that the Vikings will put on the field. The Vikings have four workhorses with over 50 carries each this season led by Mike Perez with 111 carries and 485 yards. Additionally, backup quarterback Dorian Ballentine will come off the bench to be a running threat for the Vikings in what most people would classify as a Wildcat set.
The Vikings have the edge in terms of wide receivers in this game as Brady Roland and Taylor Goebel have found the end zone for 21 touchdowns this season. Roland’s 1220 yards receiving this season has made him one of the NAIA’s top targets and offensive threats. For Cumberlands, their go-to-guy is Willie Gibson, an athlete who will be seen all over the field. This season Gibson has led the Patriots with 638 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver but has also posed a threat as Cumberlands’ main kick and punt returner. Gibson is the type of athlete that Grand View’s defense will have to account for on every play. While his numbers do not reflect that of an NAIA All-American, defenses must respect him like he is one.
Ryan Northcutt and Shane Turnipseed lead Cumberlands’ offensive line with help from Jonathan Morrell and Tor Peterson who garnered all conference honors this season. Grand View saw Marc Osborn, Presley Godson and Tyler Ahrens be named all conference this season with Osborn bringing home the NAIA division’s Rimington Award for the nation’s top center. Ahrens, a member of last year’s JUCO national championship team at Iowa Western has not lost a game in the last two seasons.
On defense the Vikings are led by senior Jason Gladfelder at linebacker, who is a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award an award for the best small college linebackers. Dudley Bickham also helps to anchor one of the NAIA’s top rushing defenses from the linebacker spot along with Adam Wenck. Cumberlands Weston Hazelhurst leads the UC linebacker core after being honored as a first team all conference selection along with Jeremy Gardner who ranks second on the team in tackles.
First team all Mid South Conference selection Nick Smith along with Carson Newman who contributed 16.5 tackles for loss this season anchors Cumberlands’ defensive line. Grand View’s main stays upfront are Cody Redmond and Blake Goodenbour who tallied 26.5 tackles for loss this season.
Grand View defensive backs might be the deepest part of the Vikings team in terms of talent. This fall five of the Vikings defensive backs were named all conference by the MSFA including first teamers Kevin Gilkey, Joe Musselman and Kenny Jones with Lance Lewis and Zach Hollier also picking up honors. The Patriots’ Reggie Murray and Adrian Hightower were named all conference this season in the MSC. Hightower leads the team in interceptions with five while Murray is one of the teams leading tacklers with 43.
Both teams are solid in terms of special teams. They have returners who can get loose and score touchdowns and specialists that typically do not make mistakes. If the game comes down to a field goal the one stat to remember is that neither team has made a field goal longer than 36 yards this season.
Predictions for the National Championship Game
The great thing about how the NAIA championship game is set up is the way the timing of the event plays out. The Sunday and Monday after the semifinals are a blur for everyone involved. The players are letting it soak in that they have accomplished this major milestone, the administration is trying to figure out how the whole event works and parents are frantically making phone calls to figure out how they will get to Georgia to see their sons play.
Thankfully the teams have two full weeks to prepare and get healthy for the title game so that by the time the teams officially setting into Rome on Wednesday, things are not quite such a blur. Even with both teams being completely new to the situation, they will still be very prepared for what the other team has to offer.
The toughest part of this match up is Cumberlands offense. Very few teams in the NAIA run the ball like the Patriots do. All season long, Cumberlands has been the toughest matchup for everyone on their schedule because facing a veer/option look is completely different than what most teams run from week to week.
Grand View is going to be able to counter the offense of the Patriots with the experience they have gained this season against two of the NAIA’s top rushing teams, Tabor and William Penn. It’s even more advantageous for the Vikings that both of these teams came within the last few weeks on the schedule.
While UC posses the NAIA’s top rushing attack, Grand View’s defense has also proven they can shut down the run this season. In the Vikings’ games against Tabor and William Penn they only allowed 109 yards and 212 yards respectively, 203 yards and 62 yards below their season averages.
If Cumberlands wants a chance to win the national title, they will have to keep Grand View on their heels with an effective passing game much like they did in the semifinals against Carroll College.
Grand View has a very balanced offense that must take care of the football if they are going to beat Cumberlands. If the Vikings turn the ball over UC has the type of game plan that will just grind away on the defense of Grand View. Part of the reason why William Penn was able to stick within eight points of Grand View was the fact that GV gave up the ball twice on fumbles. But as luck would have it, Grand View also capitalized on a William Penn interception as Lance Lewis took an interception to the house for the first touchdown of the ball game.
Both teams are fairly solid in terms of taking care of the ball as Cumberlands is +11 in turnover margin on the season while Grand View is +8. If Grand View takes care of business with the football, they will have the advantage on offense.
The one fact that is hard to stat is how these teams have been tested this season. Cumberland has been in close games and won by seven points or less this season four times while Grand View won by five and three points to start the season and weren’t tested again late until William Penn. Given UC’s ability to come back and overcome deficits this season it would be tough to pick against the Patriots in a tight game.
Athlete for athlete, these two teams are nearly dead even. Both teams posses athletic, mobile offensive lines and quick agile defensive lines like we have come to expect from the NAIA’s best teams. The one contributing factor that neither team can control for Saturday is the weather. Several of the NAIA championship games in recent years have seen rain on game day and if this year’s contest is played in a downpour one would have to believe the advantage in the game goes the rushing offense of the Cumberlands.
Predictions for the National Title
There is no doubt arguments can be made as to why either Grand View or Cumberlands will win the national championship. Each team has advantages in several key categories and it will all depend on what weaknesses get exploited and what strengths are diminished.
The distinct advantage in this game is the rushing defense of Grand View University. With the way Cumberlands wants to run the ball, the Patriots will have the rather auspicious task of trying to figure out which way the Vikings are coming at them. Grand View’s defense literally comes at you from every angle, which will give Cumberlands running game fits in the championship game. If Cumberlands is able to run the ball on Grand View, watch out. The final score for this game could be in the 40’s with the last team to touch the ball winning the game.
There is no doubt that Cumberlands also has a great defense and will have a solid game plan for how to shut down the Vikings. However, the Patriots have giving up a lot of points to good teams this year and Grand View has the type of defense that will slow down the Patriot offense and not allow this game to become a shootout.
In the end, it is going to be Grand View’s defense slowing down the UC running game for the difference in Rome, Ga. The Vikings have proven week after week that when they are faced with a tough opponent, they step up and shut down the opposition.
Final Score Prediction: Grand View University 28 Cumberlands 17
Thanks again to everyone for a great season of NAIA College football. From the athletes, to the coaches, to everyone else involved, I truly believe this is the greatest level of college football. The commitment to be involved at this level is second to none.
As for Rome, Ga., I am going to miss coming to this community every year to watch the NAIA Football National Title. The people I have met are some of the most genuine I have ever been around. They’ve welcome fans into their town every year with open arms and allowed us to be the merriest group of college football fans in the country. Thanks to everyone from Rome involved in making the championship such a great event year after year. A personal thanks to people like Bill Petersen, Bob Berry, Ann Hortman, Rachel Rogers, Matt Green, Jeremy Bruce and my guy JT from the Old Havana Cigar Shop. There are countless others that have contributed to the success of the championship game in Rome, Ga., so please don’t be offended if you were left off the list. It goes without saying that Rome, Ga. is the definition of Southern Hospitality and one of the most special places you could ever visit in the country.
Saturday cannot come soon enough. Here’s to looking forward to seeing everyone in Georgia for the NAIA Football National Championship!
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.
This week there is no reason for any pomp and circumstance in this article. Last week I explained just how the NAIA Championship Series works, how teams qualify and briefly looked at some of the history behind the process If you want to know how this all works, check out that article.
The biggest surprise this week was Saint Francis (Ind.) who lost to Robert Morris, 28-24 in Fort Wayne. RMU is an up and coming team with a ton of Chicago talent on their roster. The loss is mostly a surprise due to the location of it coming at home. USF is still my favorite to win the MSFA-Mideast but things have suddenly gotten a bit tighter.
Baker University defeated Missouri Valley, 13-10 also on the road. The loss won’t kill the Vikings postseason chances but it has certainly eliminated the margin of error.
Here’s a look at the conferences this week and who will potentially make the NAIA Championship Series.
CSFL: Bacone defeated Texas College to improve to 6-2 on the season. With their No. 25 ranking they only have to move up five more spots to make the postseason. Langston also won yesterday to improve to 3-4 and remaining undefeated in the conference with the Warriors. If both teams do what they are suppose to do next weekend, we could essentially have a conference championship game on November 9th for the CSFL’s automatic berth to the postseason. Langston will struggle to get to No 20 even if they win out, but it’s not impossible. Right now, Bacone and Langston are the only teams with a shot at the NAIA Championship Series.
Today’s Prediction: Bacone
Frontier: Carroll College and Rocky Mountain continue to separate themselves from the rest of the Frontier with wins this weekend. Carroll is the obvious choice for the postseason with Rocky also looking like a solid seconds choice. However, even though Rocky defeated Dickinson State last weekend, they will have one more loss on their record when the coaches vote on this week’s Top 25 after the Bears had to forfeit on of their earlier victories due to the use of an ineligible player. The two teams need to take care of business this week before they lock horns on November 9th for a potential conference title game. The biggest test will come for the Saints as they take on Southern Oregon in Helena. If the Raiders were to upset the Saints, they would have a great chance at making the postseason.
Today’s Prediction: Carroll College as Champion. Rocky and Southern Oregon with a shot at an at-large.
GPAC: Time to face facts; Morningside is the only team that has proved they absolutely deserve to be in the postseason. Concordia was the next in line before they lost to Doane College this weekend. The loss by the Bulldogs put them at 4-2 in the conference tied with Northwestern and both teams still have to play the nation’s No. 1 team this season. It’s entirely possible Concordia and/or Northwestern upsets the Mustangs, which would jump either team in the ratings and give them a chance at an at-large. But if I was a betting man, I wouldn’t count on it and I’d put my money on Morningside being the lone representative in the NAIA Championship Series.
Today’s Prediction: Morningside.
HAAC: Missouri Valley picked up their first loss of the season making a three-way tie for second place in the HAAC behind Benedictine. The Vikings appear to be the one team that could still spoil the Ravens’ undefeated season as they two will face off Nov. 9th in Marshall, Mo. Baker has quietly had an extremely solid season with their only loss coming to Benedictine. Baker’s major test will come on Nov. 16th against Peru State as the Bobcats are the other one-loss team in the conference. Peru State has the toughest road to the postseason in front of them as they play Missouri Valley this weekend and Baker the final week of the season. I still expect three teams to make the NAIA Championship Series from the HAAC.
Today’s Prediction: Benedictine and Baker with a tossup between Mo. Valley and Peru State.
Independent: It’s going to take a miracle for someone to make it from the Independents. Mayville State at 5-3 and Ave Maria at 4-2 have the best records of the group.
Today’s Prediction: No Qualifier.
KCAC: Tabor College and Ottawa are currently in position to make the NAIA postseason but that could change for both teams in the coming weeks. Ottawa still has games against rated teams in two of their final three weeks, which includes a regular season ending game against Tabor. Both Sterling and Friends are in contention to make the postseason if they can win out and get a little help in the ratings. Sterling plays no rated teams the rest of the season giving them the edge over Friends as the Falcons still face off with Ottawa. The KCAC could get royally messed up if Friends beats Ottawa and Ottawa turns around and beats Tabor while Sterling wins out. That would give Sterling the tiebreaker over Friends and the regular season title and possibly get Friends into the postseason. Needless to say, there is still a lot of football to be played in the KCAC. I still feel like Tabor and Ottawa are solid picks but Sterling and Friends are on the verge of making me a believer.
Today’s Prediction: Tabor and Ottawa.
MSC-East: The University of the Cumberlands remains in control with Lindsey Wilson and Georgetown College knocking on the door. If both teams take care of business the rest of the season, the winner of their game on November 16th will make it to the NAIA Championship Series.
Today’s Prediction: U-Cumberlands and winner of LWC/GT
MSC-West: Reinhardt and Campbellsville are still undefeated in conference play. If either team wins out, they should get into the Top 20 and make the postseason. That might not get decided until Nov. 16th when the two face off. However, the more telling game will likely be Nov. 9th when CU and Faulkner face off. With a 6-2 record and the highest rating in the conference, the Eagles are the most likely team to make it into the postseason on paper. But you cannot sleep on Reinhardt because of their undefeated record with two manageable games left in their regular season.
Today’s Prediction: Faulkner with Reinhardt still having a shot.
MSFA-Mideast: USF loses to Robert Morris and opens up a can of worms in the MSFA-Mideast. USF (Ind.) still controls their own destiny but Marian, USF (Ill.) and Taylor all have one loss in the conference. If the Cougars slip up again this season, we could see a giant mess in this conference’s standings. USF (Ill.) has an outside shot at a postseason berth, but I still think only one team makes it from this conference.
Today’s Prediction: Saint Francis (Ind.).
MSFA-Midwest: Grand View is in control of this conference with an 8-0 record. They should finish the season as champs if they take care of business the next two weeks. There is a huge game this weekend between Saint Ambrose and Saint Xavier in Chicago as the two teams begin jockeying for second position in the conference. Neither SAU or SXU are guaranteed spots in the postseason, but if the loser of their head to head game this weekend wins out then this conference will still see two teams in the NAIA Championship Series.
Today’s Prediction: Grand View, Saint Ambrose and Saint Xavier.
For those of you keeping score, my October 26th prediction for the NAIA postseason looks like this:
- Central States Football League: Bacone College
- Frontier Conference: Carroll College and Rocky Mountain
- Great Plains Athletic Conference: Morningside College
- Heart of America Athletic Conference: Benedictine, Baker and Missouri Valley/Peru State.
- Independents: None
- Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference: Tabor 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.)
- Mid States Football Association Midwest: Grand View, Saint Ambrose and Saint Xavier
The major changes I made this week are eliminating a second team from the GPAC and given some chance to teams that are still undefeated in their respective conferences. By Nov. 9th, there is going to be a pretty clear picture as to who is going to make the NAIA Championship Series. The issue we will start to see is if teams like Reinhardt and Bacone barely make the Top 20. That would mean you essentially would have to be No. 14 in the final ranking or better to make the postseason.
The final three weeks of the NAIA regular season are shaping up like they usually do. We’re going to see some extremely exciting football in the weeks to come and no one can predict just how things will shake out come selection Sunday on November 17th.