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
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
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.
However the rest of the spots in the postseason leave many of us scratching our heads. Losses on the last week of the season do nothing to help you. Especially if they are to teams whom the raters feel you should beat.
T8 St. Ambrose (Iowa) 7-2: St. Ambrose is really the only team that has some work to still do. The Bee’s play Trinity International in what should be a victory for SAU. I am not saying that to talk down the Trojans but if SAU is truly a postseason caliber program, they win this football game going away. A loss would still likely get the Bees in the postseason because they would be the MSFA Midwest conference champion. Even a bad loss to TIU would not likely get them to below #20 which is all they need to make the postseason.
10 Friends (Kan.) 8-1: Falcons take on the University if Saint Mary this week. This should be a victory if the Falcons are truly the KCAC Champs. A loss will take them out of contention and give the conference crown to Bethel (KS) if the Threshers also win this week. I would say that Friends is in, but you can never be too sure in the KCAC.
11 Morningside (Iowa) 8-2: Barring a complete reversal of the rankings and a time machine invention I would say the Mustangs are in. They play no games this week so any drop in the poll would a travesty. Rest up Mustangs, you’ll be taking a road trip on November 17th.
12 Missouri Valley 7-2: Probably the toughest task of any team that needs to win to get into the postseason. They take on #7 Lindenwood who has won the HAAC title and the automatic berth to the NAIA Championship Series. If MoVal wins, they are in. A loss has them cross their fingers and hoping there is some movement in the spots behind them.
13 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) 8-2: Pioneers face off with Culver-Stockton in a game they should win this week. A loss means they have to hope a lot of people rated #14-20 need to lose. Make things easy MNU … just win.
14 Virginia-Wise 8-2: Cavs tumbled in a few late games and now must win to make it in. They play WV Tech which should be a victory for UVa-Wise if they are postseason caliber. Given the fact that two conference champions sit below the Cavs, they need to finish strong. They are currently in a three way tie for their divisional title which means they would get the automatic bid if Georgetown and U-Cumberlands win.
15 Northwestern (Iowa) 7-2: Red Raiders did themselves no favors with a 33-7 loss to Morningside. They have to hope there are some losses in front of them to insure they will make the postseason. They also have to beat a much improved Doane College team.
16 Bethel (Kan) 7-1: Sitting on the bubble. Need to win this week against McPherson and hope teams in front of them lose.
17 Georgetown (Ky.) 6-3: Three way tie doesn’t help them. A loss by UVa-Wise puts the Tigers in automatically. They too need a few teams in front of them to lose in order to make it into the postseason. They will likely need to make it to #14 maybe #15 to make it. Gotta strap it on and beat Union while they are at it.
18 Cumberlands (Ky.) 7-2: Three way tie doesn’t help them. A loss by UVa-Wise and Georgetown puts the Patriots in automatically. They too need a few teams in front of them to lose in order to make it into the postseason. They will likely need to make it to #14 maybe #15 to make it. Gotta beat an improved Pikeville team to make it.
19 Northwestern Oklahoma 7-3: They win and they are in. NWOSU currently leads the CSFL and if they beat SNU they would get the automatic berth into the postseason. A loss will knock them out of the Top 20 and take that opportunity away.
20 Montana Tech 7-3: Gotta beat Carroll. If Tech can beat the Saints, then the raters will need to take notice and move the Orediggers up into a postseason position.
21 Black Hills State (S.D.) 7-3: Whoever wrote the DAC Bylaws had BHSU in mind, especially this season. According to the DAC bylaws: “If 2 of 3 teams are ranked in top 20, the winner of the head to head competition will advance.” Guess what … BHSU defeated Jamestown. Yellow Jackets just have to cheer on a team that beat them earlier this season to make it in as a Carroll College win over Montana Tech would almost seal the deal that BHSU would move up one spot to #20 and get the automatic berth.
22 Sterling (Kan) 7-2: Gonna need a miracle. Friends would need to lose and Bethel would need to lose along with Sterling getting a win over Ottawa. If all three of these things were to happen and Sterling were to move up into the Top 20, then the Warriors would make it according to the KCAC bylaws because they would have lost to higher rated teams than Bethel (KS) and Friends because the Warriors only losses are to those two squads. And as I stated last week …THEY BEAT NWOSU ON THE ROAD!
23 Malone (Ohio) 7-3: Has to win and hope for a miracle. That’s about all you can say. BTW, it’s only Ohio Dominican they have to beat …YEESH. Good luck Pioneers because it is not going to be easy.
24 Azusa Pacific (Calif.) 6-5: No game this week. Teams in front of them have to lose and they need to move up to #20. That’s a very manageable four spots but if you look at #17-#23 it will definitely not be easy.
25 Southern Nazarene (Okla.) 6-3: Crimson Storm has to defeat NWOSU and move up to #20 to make it to the postseason. It will be possible … but it will not be easy.
There are no unrated teams this week that I feel have a shot at jumping into the poll and making it to the postseason. There is just too much movement that has to happen in front of #26 in order for it to happen.
Ultimately there are two teams that I feel are probably going to get the shaft this season; Sterling College and U-Cumberlands. Both programs have won big games against top competition but due to losses to other good competition they could get left out of the postseason.
I am not trying to be a cheerleader for Andy Lambert and Sterling College but people need to wake up and notice what is going on with the Warriors. They had an eight win season last year. They are going to have another eight win season this year and they stepped up to the plate and played out of conference against NW Oklahoma State and won on the road. Ranger fans from Alva do not want to hear this but the facts show that the potential conference champion of the CSFL LOST to the #3 team in the KCAC. Plus Sterling has won six in a row after losing on the road to the top two teams in the KCAC.
U-Cumberlands could have helped their cause tremendously if they had beaten Georgetown a couple weeks ago. Now they have to win this week and hope for the best. The facts show they should be where they are unlike Sterling who should be higher in the ratings. I just feel the Pats are a postseason caliber football team but will struggle to make the cut on Sunday.
Speaking of Sunday … VSN will be broadcasting live from Grand Island analyzing the postseason picture starting at approximately 11:00 AM CST. You will be able to hear the broadcast live on the web via our broadcast agreement with Allinbroadcasting.com
There are a lot of possibilities and the message boards will be VERY active with talks of possibilities for certain teams to make it. Sign up and join in on the conversation today. Check back this week for “Chip’s Picks” for this week’s game and for who could make the postseason!