HSU on the outside looking in
by, 11-14-2011 at 01:52 AM (2701 Views)
SOS can equate to "Save Our Ship" or "Strength of Schedule." Either way, the acronym "SOS" is a large part why Humboldt State is out of the playoffs before the 24-team tournament even starts next week.
Ther's no doubt that Humboldt State is good. A 9-1 record, a 7-1 GNAC slate and the league title to go along with that is proof enough. However, in such a competitive Super Region 4, four two-loss teams are in the playoffs ahead of HSU.
This is not a GNAC-bashing column, but this is the reality of the GNAC. First, there are only five teams in the league and the round robin schedule is the easiest way to ensure the five members have at least eight games a season. It still puts a premium on the non-league games and where a team is geographically and competition-wise is how that schedule is filled.
Take Simon Fraser, for instance. The Clan is still trying to establish itself as a Division II member. The coaches and administration expect improvement year after year - and three wins, including two within the GNAC, showcase just that - but there was no expectation of a playoff run. Next year, the GNAC might see a more aggressive schedule out of Simon Fraser...or it might not.
Take Dixie State. The Red Storm has taken advantage of its relatively close proximity to the RMAC league, scheduling Adams State the last two years and Colorado Mesa this year. In 2008, it defeated RMAC's Western New Mexico.
Take Central Washington and Western Oregon. The Wildcats have been aggressive in their scheduling (Minnesota-Duluth and a more competitive Colorado-Mesa in 2009; Duluth again in 2010; and SR4 foes West Texas A&M and Texas A&M-Kingsville). Western Oregon took on giants this year in Grand Valley and Abilene Christian.
At this point, the reasons don't matter as to why on paper Humboldt isn't scheduling as aggressive as some of the others within the GNAC and within the SR4, but the fact remains going 8-1 in nine Division II games (the GNAC slate and a very convincing, 29-3 season-opening victory over a 4-7 Colorado Mesa team) wasn't enough. Some might point to a victory over UC-Davis. Yes, it is good, but it means nothing as the regional rankings are based only on Division II competition. The absence of an 11th game, which would have been a 10th Division II game, certainly could have helped.
Humboldt State in this year's playoffs would've been fun to watch. The Lumberjack offensive line allowed just 11 sacks all year, opening holes for Lyndon Rowells and his GNAC-leading 1,417 yards and 15 touchdowns and protecting quarterback Mike Proulx and his 2,888 passing yards. The defense held teams to less than 20 points per contest.
Best thing about Humboldt State that might not be obvious on the stat sheet, but in the stands: Attendance. While the Lumberjacks had just four home games this year, three of those contests had more than 6,000 fans in the stands (with the CWU game on national TV going for 7,031).
Right now, Humboldt coaches, players and fans are going to have to play "what if?" by watching the playoffs on TV. For the seniors, it'll be heart wrenching. For the underclassmen, it could be the best jolt of motivation before two-a-days start in less than nine months.
Jon Guddat had a great time covering the GNAC for D2football.com and can't wait for August.