If the playoffs were to start today...oh, wait, they do!
by, 11-12-2011 at 11:09 PM (2355 Views)
That was quite possibly the most exciting football game I've ever witnessed in person. And yes, that includes the triple overtime homecoming battle between Bacone and Oklahoma Panhandle State a few years ago. No doubt, the way the game went back and forth with each team giving its best shot, West Virginia Wesleyan versus Concord was definitely worthy of being a conference championship. The Bobcats and Mountain Lions squared off like in a championship prize fight, and in the end, Concord claimed its first conference title in football in 21 years.
But will that be enough to get into the playoffs? Time for me to tell you what I'm seeing.
Super Region 1 Prediction:
1. New Haven
2. Winston-Salem State
The two undefeated teams (against Division II competition) will get first round byes. New Haven holds a small advantage on strength of schedule, though:
New Haven's OAWP: 0.4931
New Haven's OOAWP: 0.5072
New Haven's SOS ((2 x OAWP + OOAWP) / 3): 0.4978
WSSU's OAWP: 0.4963
WSSU's OOAWP: 0.4720
WSSU's SOS: 0.4882
You may wonder: why didn't Winston-Salem State's schedule strength go up? They already played against Elizabeth City State once this season, so their win-loss record already counted in the average of their opponents. According to the rules, they don't get to count it a second time.
Let's go on:
The Golden Bears are 10-1, a better record than anyone else left, and while their SOS is not great (0.4638), it's good enough for them to hold the #3 spot.
At 9-2, both of these teams have better SOS numbers than most of the other two-loss teams (I'll come back to this in a moment): CUP's is 0.4822; Bloomsburg's is 0.4838. However, California did defeat C.W. Post, a team that Bloomsburg lost to, and the committee does look at record versus common opponents in ranking teams that are close to each other. So, I expect the Vulcans to host the Huskies in a rematch of a playoff game from last season.
6. Concord (at least in terms of the seedings)
Here's where things get complicated. I feel quite confident in #1 through #5. #6, though is fuzzy. But it WILL be a WVIAC team.
Let's start by getting Elizabeth City State out of the way. They're 8-3, and their SOS is quite good at 0.4958. But it's still three losses, even if they came to an undefeated Winston-Salem State (twice) and a Delta State team that was undefeated until getting upset by West Georgia earlier today.
Still, it doesn't matter whether they're actually #6 or not. The WVIAC is guaranteed a spot provided it has a team in the top 8. And the conference will have at least two teams in the top eight.
So, not surprisingly, it comes down to Concord, West Virginia Wesleyan, and Shepherd. Concord won the conference title, so they should get in, right? Well, the committee doesn't necessarily look at it like that. Just ask Glenville State three years ago when Seton Hill got in despite the Pioneers winning the conference title. Why? Seton Hill was ranked higher thanks to having beaten the Pioneers head-to-head.
So, again, it's Concord, right? You would think so since Concord defeated both West Virginia Wesleyan and Shepherd head-to-head. But why was Concord ranked below Shepherd last week if they had defeated the Rams head-to-head? I only have one idea: number of games. Concord came in at 6-2 against Division II opponents; Shepherd was 8-2. Apparently, that was enough of a difference to merit putting the team that won head-to-head lower in the rankings.
Now, you have Concord at 7-2 and with by far the best SOS of the three teams in contention (0.4928 as opposed to WVWC's 0.4493 and Shepherd's 0.4527). But the other two teams are 9-2 against Division II competition.
It's hard to know what the eight-person committee (with two representatives from each conference) will do. After all, they are entitled to take into account both the number of Division II wins and the Division II winning percentage. Both of those go against Concord, but head-to-head results will go in Concord's favor.
Here's the part of the rules that leads me to believe that Concord will get the final playoff spot:
"If the evaluation of the primary criteria does not result in a decision, the tie-breaking procedures will be reviewed. All the criteria listed below will be evaluated (listed in priority order):
Results against common opponents
Overall Division II won-lost results (winning percentage and total of Division II wins and losses)
Overall Division II Strength-of-Schedule (SOS)"
So, based on this, and on past experience, I predict Concord will get in, and the Super Region 1 bracket will be:
#1 New Haven hosts winner of #5 Bloomsburg @ #4 California
#2 Winston-Salem State hosts winner of #6 Concord @ #3 Kutztown
And we'll see tomorrow how well I did.
For those curious about the numbers, here is my website of combined numerical criteria. Notice that head-to-head and common opponents don't apply there, nor am I as confident overall in my single rating numbers. After all, I've been a little off the last couple of weeks.
Finally, for those in other regions interested, here's my quick (without detailed analysis) predictions on the rest of the playoff bracket:
Super Region 2 Prediction:
1. Delta State
Yes, they lost to West Georgia, but they're still well ahead of everyone else in the Super Region.
2. Mars Hill
3. North Greenville
Mars Hill's head-to-head win over the Crusaders is making the difference here. I believe this would be the first Division II playoff berth for both of these schools.
4. West Alabama
5. North Alabama
Head-to-head results triumph here. West Alabama could have lost to FCS Georgia State and stayed in this slot.
With Albany State blowing it in the SIAC championship game, look for Morehouse to move up at least high enough to be in the top 8 and get in via earned access. Lenoir-Rhyne, despite going 7-2 against Division II competition, will likely be the unlucky team bumped out. It seems very odd (and kind of wrong) for a team that didn't even play for its conference title to get into the playoffs ahead of either the championship winner or the runner-up, but even with a head-to-head advantage, I don't expect Albany State to stay ahead of the Maroon Tigers.
Super Region 3 Predictions:
1. Colorado State-Pueblo
They're the only undefeated and one-loss teams in the super region.
3. Saint Cloud State
The Huskies pounded the Bulldogs 35-7 in their head-to-head matchup. It's hard to believe that they're the only two-loss teams in the super region.
6. Saginaw Valley State
I will admit: this is mostly a guess. Hillsdale did defeat Saginaw Valley State head-to-head, who defeated Wayne State (Michigan). Yes, the Warriors did also defeat Hillsdale. I expect it to be two of these three teams that get in and not 8-3 Minnesota State, 8-3 Wayne State (Nebraska), or 8-3 Grand Valley State.
Super Region 4 Predictions:
1. Midwestern State
Being undefeated is a good way to get the #1 seed.
2. Pittsburg State
They and Humboldt State are the only one-loss teams in the super region. But Humboldt State's schedule will keep the Lumberjacks from having any chance.
4. Missouri Western
5. Abilene Christian
6. Northwest Missouri State
Central Missouri's upset bumps Washburn down, but based on head-to-head results and strength of schedule numbers, I think the committee will keep things in the same order among the winners in this group. Central Missouri will move up to #7 but, having lost to both Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western (along with having three losses), don't have any chance to get into the playoffs.
So, there we go: my predicted field. Tomorrow, we'll see how close I came.