I need to take a mulligan.
Just last week I declared that Northwest Missouri
State was basically a lock to secure a second consecutive national championship.
Then Saturday happened. The Pittsburg State Gorillas rolled into Maryville, MO
and took it to the Bearcats, dominating in all phases of the game on the way to
a 35-17 victory.
Both coaching staffs have national championship
pedigrees, but it was clear from the opening snap that the Gorillas had a better
game plan on this day. From the two recovered onside kicks, to the pass plays to
beat the press coverage that Northwest loves to play, to the varied pressures
that stymied the Bearcat passing game, the Gorillas were prepared and they
executed at a high level.
Despite the resounding defeat, all is not lost
for Northwest. The special teams issues are easily correctable. It*s obvious
that the Bearcats don*t have the same talent level in the secondary as years
past, but they do have an exceptional front seven and a more conservative
approach to pass coverage behind them would still make it difficult for opposing
But what does concern me about Northwest is the
offense: There just aren*t enough playmakers. Of the 17 points scored on
Saturday, 10 were gifts from Pittsburg State on dumb penalties that kept drives
alive. The other seven were scored at garbage time. While I believe PSU has the
best defense in the country, the Bearcats needed to have a better showing than
this to prove to me that they can win it all in December.
For 6-1 PSU, it was a great win, obviously. But
the Gorillas have warts as well, namely a lack of a consistent running game.
Still, a defense as good as the one I saw on Saturday and some continued
playmaking by senior quarterback Anthony Abenajo and his receivers would make
this a dangerous team come playoff time.
And while it*s too early to talk many specifics
when it comes to the playoffs, I will say this: any team with two losses is most
likely out of the running in Super Region Three. PSU was already in playoff mode
and it showed last week. Northwest must adopt that same mindset as another loss
would mean the defending national champs would be watching from home in
Observations from around the Country
-Ferris State took it to Ohio Dominican, winning
34-19 in a battle of GLIAC unbeatens. The Panthers did a decent job of
containing FSU quarterback Jason Vander Laan, but that just opened things up for
other players like running back Jahaan Brown, who ran for 124 yards on just 13
carries. The Bulldogs have my vote as the top-ranked team in the country this
-Shepherd had surrendered 42 points all season
before allowing 35 in a loss to Notre Dame College on Saturday. The loss knocked
the Rams into a tie with NDC for second place in the MEC behind 7-0 Concord.
Shepherd will host Concord to conclude the regular season on November 15th.
-I wasn*t sure which way the CSU-Pueblo season
would go after losing two weeks ago to Fort Lewis, but the Thunderwolves
responded in a big way by crushing Chadron State 43-13. Up next for CSUP however
is a trip to unbeaten Colorado Mines. The Thunderwolves have played poorly in
two of their three conference road games this fall so it will be interesting to
see which team shows up Saturday.
-With California beating IUP and Slippery Rock*s
surprising loss to Mercyhurst, California in essence has a two game lead in the
PSAC West Division race. Unbeatens West Chester and Bloomsburg are set to battle
in the East Division on Saturday.
-American International*s last minute meltdown in
a 31-24 loss to New Haven on Saturday has opened up the race in the
Northeast-10: AIC fumbled the ball away twice and allowed two UNH touchdowns in
the final 1:54 of the game.
-West Georgia stopped Delta State twice on downs
inside the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter and survived 17 penalties to knock
off the previously unbeaten Statesmen 24-16. This now sets up quite a race in
the GSC, especially if the Wolves can win at North Alabama this Saturday.
-Carson-Newman beat Tusculum 55-35 on Saturday,
earning head coach Ken Sparks his 323rd career victory to match Bear Bryant for
sixth on the all-time college football wins list. Sparks is in his 35th season
as the C-N head coach.
Top Games this Week
American International (5-2) at LIU Post (5-2)
These two teams are tied atop the Northeast 10
standing with one conference loss each. Both teams are capable of scoring
points, but AIC is so much better defensively that they have to be the favorite,
even on the road. American International 30 LIU Post 20
Ferris State (7-0) at Michigan Tech (6-0)
GLIAC Game of the Year, Part II. MTU wasn*t all
that impressive in starting 5-0, but the Huskies smack down of Grand Valley
makes this a game worth watching. Plus FSU is coming off an emotional road win
over Ohio Dominican and will now have to travel 7 ½ hours the other direction
to take on MTU. For all of these reasons I expect this to be FSU*s biggest test
of the year, but one they will pass. Ferris State 27 Michigan Tech 21
West Chester (7-0) at Bloomsburg (7-0)
As far as 7-0 teams go, it*s really hard to
determine just how good these teams are. BU has a quality win- 24-21 in
overtime- over PSAC East leader California early in the season, but WCU hasn*t
played a PSAC team with a winning record. I give a slight edge to WCU because of
the experience of senior quarterback Sean McCartney, but BU*s defense and
running game are sure to make this a good one. West Chester 31 Bloomsburg 28
CSU-Pueblo (6-1) at Colorado Mines (7-0)
The Thunderwolves haven*t given up more than 23
points in a game all season. Mines has scored 42 or more in all but one game.
Something is going to have to give. As I mentioned earlier, the Thunderwolves
have struggled some in road conference games so it will be interesting to see
what happens. This should be an entertaining game. CSU -Pueblo 31 Colorado Mines
Harding (6-1) at Henderson State (7-0)
Harding will have to recover from last week*s
overtime loss to Ouachita Baptist to get right back up to play another top-notch
opponent. HSU hasn*t been the offensive juggernaut at times this season that
they were in 2012 and 2013, but the Reddie defense has been outstanding all
year. However, the Harding option rushing attack will provide a significant
challenge. Henderson State 27 Harding 20
West Georgia (6-1) at North Alabama (6-0)
Two weeks ago UWG looked awful in a 40-6 loss to
Valdosta State. Last week they looked great in taking down previously unbeaten
Delta State. Which team will show up in Florence? I don*t think UNA has a great
team this fall, but the Lions have been consistent and have found ways to win
close games. North Alabama 27 West Georgia 24
[Q] Now that the Lone Star Conference has a
playoff to determine its conference championship, does the NCAA playoff
selection committee have to put the LSC champion in the national playoffs?
[A] First an explanation to the readers on what
the LSC is doing: The league will play regular season games over the next two
weeks. Then, starting on November 8th, the top four teams in the conference
standing will begin a two week playoff with the semifinals on the 8th and the
championship game on the 15. There are obviously several conferences that have
league title games, but this is the only league I know of in college football
that has gone to a two week playoff.
To answer the question on whether the champion
will be awarded a playoff berth, the answer is no. In D2, conference
championships have no bearing whatsoever on who gets selected for the playoffs.
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