Kris Ferguson

CIAA Playoffs: And Then There Was Just One (Even Though We Got Screwed)

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Twas the night before the playoffs
And I couldn’t sleep
For all I could think about
Was the team that I want Bowie State to beat
Yet again the Bulldogs have a home game
And again it’s against the GSC
Will this year be different
I surely hope so, as I pray and plea.

That’s right, it's the playoff edition of the CIAA blog. We are at that time where we sit on the edge of our seats, ready for our best to take on the rest of the rugged Super Region 2. But first, a brief recap of what happened last week.

The last week of the regular season left us with half the conference playing ball. Chowan and Shaw met up really just to make up a game as they looked forward to building for next season. Shaw played valiantly, but in the end the offense stalled too much and the defense just got steamrolled by Chowan’s high scoring offense. Still, Shaw finished the season higher than most hoped, while Chowan certainly looks like they could become a force next year. In the second game, Virginia Union pinned its hopes of reaching the playoffs on playing a hapless Johnson C Smith team. This game was a mismatch from the start, as VUU just passed and ran all over the Golden Bulls Just ugly. Lastly, you had the CIAA Championship game, in which Fayetteville State took on Bowie State. Bowie didn’t pass for much, but do you really need to do much when a team spots you four turnovers? That’s right, it was the second consecutive game in which FSU gave up four turnovers. Not to mention, Amir Hall rushed for over 130 yards to match his 180 yards passing. Bowie State captured its first ever CIAA title (finally!) with a 30-10 victory.

When everything shook out, Bowie State claimed the 4-seed and its second straight year of hosting a playoff game. FSU ended its season on a two game losing streak. Virginia Union missed out on the playoffs despite an 8-2 record, as the committee felt an 8-3 Wingate was worthier of a playoff slot. Granted, Wingate had a slightly better Strength of Schedule than VUU, but VUU had more wins over teams with a .500 record or better. The SOS killers of Seton Hill, Lincoln, and Elizabeth City didn't help. This point is really important, given that VUU was ranked seventh when the poll first came out, but then fell out altogether after playing ECSU. A team falling out of the top 10 despite winning reeks of unfair home cooking and seems to really de-legitimize the process. Both teams had a common opponent in Carson-Newman, with Wingate losing by double digits on the road and VUU losing by four at home. Both also beat JC Smith, with VUU winning by a larger margin. Margin of loss or victory isn’t factored into the equation, but hey, one would think all kind of style points cant hurt. Nonetheless, it is this blogger’s opinion, biased or not, that VUU should have earned that seventh slot over Wingate. Not to mention, I almost feel like this was a makeup call from last year when the SAC should have had two teams and yet a 9-2 Catawba got left out for West Georgia.

Three things are for sure. First, the CIAA needs to start winning out of conference games. The conference only netted two wins against out of conference teams with winning record. That was Bowie State and Chowan winning against 7-4 McKendree. The rest of the wins were against teams with losing records – Mars Hill (Shaw), UNC-Pembroke (WSSU), Alderson-Broddus (BSU), Seton Hill (Virginia Union), and Central State (ECSU). The conference lost the likes of Carson-Newman, Catawba and Wingate, all of the South Atlantic Conference. This is not a good look. Secondly, the conference needs an 11-game schedule. Granted, most of the conference would have played 10 games because of the hurricane-shortened season, but again our competitor conferences play 11 games. The third issue is that the conference members who are serious about the D2 playoffs needs to play less FCS games. Chowan actually had the next best record in the conference at 6-2 amongst D2 games, but didn’t register on the radar for the playoffs because it was 5-2 after week 10. Two of its nonconference games were against FCS members, and it probably would have been in the SR2 top 10 had it played at least one more nonconference game against a D2 opponent. Games may be hard to come by without having to take on a ton of travel, but something has to be done in order to be competitive on the D2 landscape. As a reminder, non D2 games do not count for playoff purposes.

So here we are, as we have one team left standing.

#5 West Alabama Tigers at #4 Bowie State Bulldogs

For the second year in a row, BSU is hosting a Gulf South Conference team. This will be the first meeting between these two teams. A little about UWA for those who don’t follow the Gulf South Conference: the Tigers were last year’s top seed and were a favorite to reach the national semifinals….except they hit a bit a road bump in fellow conference member West Florida. UWF got hot at the right time and took down UWA in what really was a big upset. UWA is lead by senior QB Harry Satterwhite, who like BSU QB Amir Hall was a Harlon Hill finalist last year. UWA is very potent on offense, with an school record breaker at running back (Tyler Rogers) and all conference performers on the offensive line. The tight end and wide receivers of Qua Boyd, Christian Saulsberry, and Bayley Blanchard are a three headed monster of pass catchers who were also all-conference performers. UWA’s defense also boasts all conference performers at all three levels (DL, LB, and CB).

How can Bowie State win this game: Well, there is one statistic that seems to favor the Bulldogs, and in a big way. UWA gives up around 240 yards a game through the air. The Tigers have faced pass-happy teams this year and haven’t fared well. Even in victory, the Tigers give up a lot of yards through the air, and that’s with shutting down the run. If there is one thing Amir Hall has been rather adept at doing, its been passing the ball regardless of the competition level and quality of the run game. Also, the BSU defense has been improving quite a bit over the last few games. The Bulldogs held Virginia State to 15, Virginia Union to 13, and Fayetteville State to 10 in its last three games against teams with winning D2 records.

How can Bowie State lose this game: I’ll be looking to see how Bowie’s young offensive line holds up against a very potent UWA defensive line. Bowie is sometimes prone to getting bad penalties, and that bad habit, while better this year, occasionally its ugly head. Also, I’m curious to see if BSU is able to capitalize with TDs once in the red zone. This has been a bit of a sore spot this year without a decent running game. BSU is only averaging about 110 yards a game, and that lackluster affair really shows up on a short field. This is not a game where you want to settle for field goals. Also, I’d say that UWA mirrors what Bowie has seen with the Chowan playbook: A strong pass game with a very complimentary run game. That means there’s not much margin for error.

What are the chances that Bowie wins this game: I’d say above average, actually. The feeling I have is the feeling I had when watching WSSU hosting California (PA) in 2012 – a very dangerous opponent who is also very seasoned for the playoffs. That turned out very well for the Rams. I feel good about this team. Plus, I’m not going to the game, as I’ve proven to be a bad luck charm when attending Bulldog games this year. Call me superstitious, but I don’t think the CIAA’s season ends this weekend.

Please dont let me down, Bulldogs.

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Updated 11-17-2018 at 12:45 AM by Kris Ferguson

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  1. OneOwtDog's Avatar
    Great Write up