October 20th, 2022 5:00pm
While the SIAC East race appears to be clear with the #17 Benedict Tigers having defeated the #24 Albany State Golden Rams last week and the Fort Valley State Wildcats three weeks ago, the SIAC West is still up for grabs, despite the Tuskegee Golden Tigers being undefeated in the conference this season. In the East, Benedict (7-0, 5-0 SIAC) has already defeated the two teams who sit directly behind them in the conference standings: Albany State (5-2, 3-1 SIAC) and Fort Valley State (6-1, 3-1 SIAC). The Golden Rams and the Wildcats must each win to keep their hopes alive for a SIAC East division title. BC has a magic number of two with three regular season games remaining on their schedule. Benedict also owns a victory against Savannah State (3-4, 2-3 SIAC). A Benedict victory or a Savannah State loss will eliminate SSU. Benedict is also three games up on Clark-Atlanta, so a loss this Saturday by the Panthers or a Benedict win will eliminate CAU from a chance at the SIAC East crown.
All is not lost for Albany State and Fort Valley State. Despite both trailing Benedict in the standings, they are projected to be ranked in the Top 10 of Super Region 2, with a victory Saturday, when the all-important NCAA rankings are released next week. That will mean that Fountain City Classic on November 5 may determine if the SIAC is in position to receive two spots in the Division II playoffs. Should both teams enter the final week of the SIAC regular season with only one D-II loss each, the victor will have a strong case for the playoff committee to consider. Benedict will continue to position themselves for a home playoff game in the opening round, and will hopefully receive the top seed in the region and get a first round bye. Benedict has the second best scoring offense in the conference and also can claim the second best scoring defense. FVSU has the top offense and ASU has the top defense.
In the SIAC West, there is a three team race for the top: Tuskegee, Kentucky State, and Lane. Tuskegee (5-2, 4-0 SIAC) has ran off five victories in a row and are the only team in the SIAC West who is undefeated in conference play. Over the next two weeks, the Golden Tigers will face the two teams who trail them, Lane (4-3, 3-1 SIAC), and Kentucky State (3-4, 3-1 SIAC). TU has won five games in a row, with the streak beginning with a victory over West Alabama for the 700th in program history. During the streak, Tuskegee has scored 30 points or more in four of the five games, and has averaged 40 points during the last four wins. Kentucky State, despite the one conference loss, controls their own destiny. A win on Saturday and a victory over Tuskegee next Saturday will give them the tie-breaker over the Golden Tigers. The Thorobreds only conference loss was to Benedict. Lane can throw a monkey wrench into the Golden Tigers plan of the conference championship game by defeating Tuskegee on Saturday. A win Saturday will give the Dragons the tie-breaker over Tuskegee. A loss by the Dragons will virtually eliminate them from the division title and set up a showdown between Tuskegee and Kentucky State for the division crown.
The SIAC may be in the best position since playoff expansion to get multiple teams into the D-II tournament. Current projections suggest that the SIAC has three teams, Benedict, Fort Valley State, and Albany State in the top ten of the region. Tuskegee and Kentucky State are projected to be ranked between eleven and fifteen. Of the four conferences that make up Super Region 2, CIAA, GSC, SAC, and SIAC, only the SIAC is projected to have five teams in the top 15 in the region. For Albany State and Fort Valley, along with Kentucky State and Tuskegee, they will resolve the race on the field. For Benedict, all they must do is continue to win. The path is clear and set for all the top teams in the conference. But for the fans, the conference race may be decided by week nine, however, playoff implications may stretch into week ten.