FCS: Week 12 Recap, Final Week Preview

EDIT: I missed a detail. Two days ago, San Diego removed themselves from consideration for the Pioneer League title and autobid due to a violation of conference rules. The PFL is a non-scholarship league, and apparently some players were receiving benefits related to their athletic participation. The post has been updated; see the Pioneer section for the new status.

Some things got sorted, some others quite patently did not (including two teams which started the day in the driver’s seat finding themselves standing on the side of the road with their luggage by day’s end and a third being kicked to the back seat). Quick and dirty, the following six teams have secured entry into the FCS playoffs: Eastern Washington, Maine, North Dakota State, Sacred Heart, Eastern Illinois, and Southeastern Louisiana. Northern Arizona, Montana, Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern, Towson, Bethune-Cookman, Youngstown State, Jacksonville State, Fordham, Chattanooga, McNeese State, and Sam Houston State are probably securely in the field as at-larges (or, if italicized, still have a shot at an autobid but probably don’t need it).

After the jump, the more detailed breakdown of the conference races. We won’t get into at-large possibilities; the 19 teams above plus three other teams which might steal two of the remaining autobids make up 20 teams of the 24-team field, and speculating as to the final three is sort of foolish with a week remaining. Anything can happen.

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NAIA: Final Week 2013

We wrap up this week’s spurt of posts with the NAIA, which is always a fun time because of the simple method they use to determine the playoff participants. The top 16 teams in the final poll get in, with one exception: if a team wins its conference’s autobid and is ranked 17-20, they steal a spot from the top 16. If an autobid falls outside the top 20, it simply vanishes into thin air. For what seems like a decade, poor William Penn has been the victim of this setup, repeatedly finishing 15th or 16th in the final poll only to lose a playoff spot to a conference champion ranked 17th-20th. Luckily, that’s not going to happen this year. Not only does there appear to be no serious threat of a stolen spot, but William Penn has solved the problem themselves by stumbling through a 4-6 season to date.

Anyway, we’ll get right to the breakdowns after the jump.

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D-III: Final Week 2013

Things are more cut and dried in D-III than they were in D-II, thanks to the fact that D-III actually has automatic bids. That means that we can outline actual scenarios with absolute certainty, and they won’t be so complex you need an abacus to sort them out. Other than some brief thoughts, I’m not going to try and sort out the at-large bids; you can go visit our pals at d3football.com for that. They’re the experts.

So we’ll get right to it, since we’ve got 28 conferences to sort out here after the jump. Teams in bold are already in the playoff field.
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D-II Final Week 2013

Most of the conference races in D-II are already settled, or at least settled to the point where two teams are playing for the conference title one way or another. We’ll sort of blow through those; the more important thing this week is the super-regional rankings, which determine the playoff field.

For the uninitiated, Division II does things a little differently than the other divisions. In most sports, the top six teams in each region (with some exceptions — we’ll address the Earned Access Rule in a moment) make the playoffs. In football, it’s the top six teams in each super-region, which is simply a combination of two regions, thus reducing things from eight regions to four super-regions.

There’s a catch, though. If a conference doesn’t have a team in the top six of its super-region, but its champion is ranked seventh or eighth… they get into the playoffs, and the lowest-ranked team in the top six (who wouldn’t immediately have to be put back into the field for the exact same reason, of course) stays home. That’s relevant at the moment in two of the four super-regions, though it may clear itself up by Sunday.

I’m sure that’s as clear as mud. Anyway, we’ll go through each super-region here, and cover each conference within same, and lay out some possibilities.

Super Region 1

Regional Rankings (11/11):
1. Shepherd (9-0)
2. Winston-Salem State (8-1)
3. Bloomsburg (9-1)
4. West Chester (9-1)
5. Slippery Rock (9-1)
6. Virginia State (9-1)
7. American International (8-2)
8. Stonehill (8-2)
9. Concord (8-2)
10. Indiana (PA) (8-2)
Note: records in regional rankings reflect games against D-II competition only.

And here’s the first of those two earned access cases. It may not matter come Sunday, because American International hosts Stonehill in the Northeast-10 championship game, while Winston-Salem State faces Virginia State in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship game. However, if Virginia State were to win, it’s possible that the AIU/Stonehill winner might still be stuck in seventh, and the #6 team would go home.

Central IAA

Still Alive: Winston-Salem State (9-1/7-0), Virginia State (9-1/7-0)

As noted, they’ll play in the CIAA title game on Saturday.

Mountain East

Still Alive: Shepherd (9-0/8-0), Concord (8-2/7-1)

It’s not an actual championship game, but Concord hosts Shepherd Saturday. Winner claims the initial conference title (the conference was just formed this year out of the burning ashes of the old West Virginia IAC), although if it’s Shepherd it’s outright and if it’s Concord they’ll share it.


Still Alive: American International (8-2/8-1), Stonehill (8-2/8-1)

The Northeast-10 leaves the final week of the schedule open and pairs everyone up based on their record after the penultimate weekend; as such, the #2 team visits the #1 team for the title (unless, of course, the #1 team has a two-game lead, but I digress). In this case, AIU beat Stonehill earlier in the season, so they get to host; the winner is the conference champion, period.


Still Alive: Slippery Rock (9-1/7-1), Bloomsburg (9-1/6-1)

The PSAC does sort of the same thing, although they go ahead and schedule the final week as normal with cross-divisional games in which all the teams from one division visit the other division. The “visiting” division champion then switches off with the team originally scheduled to visit the “home” division champion. Well, this year, they didn’t have to adjust anyone’s schedule, as Bloomsburg was already slated to visit Slippery Rock anyway. The winner, of course, claims the PSAC title. 9-1 West Chester hosts 4-6 Clarion, so they’re probably safely in the playoff field; 8-2 Indiana visits 7-3 Shippensburg, so their chances of sneaking up into the field are pretty slim.

Super-Region 2

Regional Rankings (11/11):
1. Lenoir-Rhyne (8-1)
2. North Carolina-Pembroke (7-1)
3. North Alabama (7-1)
4. Carson-Newman (8-2)
5. Newberry (8-2)
6. West Alabama (6-2)
7. Tuskegee (7-2)
8. Delta State (5-2)
9. Miles (6-3)
10. Lane (5-3)
Note: records in regional rankings reflect games against D-II competition only.

Earned access comes into play here as well, and with a major twist. Tuskegee is #7, but they finished second in their division to #9 Miles. Miles will probably move into the top 8 with a win Saturday, and it’ll be interesting to see how things shuffle in the top 7. Can the HBCU SIAC get two teams in? Also of note: UNC-Pembroke is an independent; their final game is against Virginia University of Lynchburg, a body-bag that isn’t even in the NAIA. That means that their game won’t affect their ranking, and they’re a lock for the playoffs.

Gulf South

Still Alive: North Alabama (7-2/5-1), West Alabama (7-3/5-1), Delta State (7-2/4-1)

There’s no tiebreaker, so North Alabama and West Alabama already have shares of the crown. Delta State can grab a piece with a win at West Georgia on Saturday while the rest of the conference is farting around with non-conference shenanigans. Those shenanigans, however, are important: West Alabama has a likely walkover at Central State (OH), while UNA has to face Lone Star Conference-leading Tarleton State; a loss might well keep the Lions at home for the playoffs. West Alabama’s in trouble even with a win, thanks to the presence of the two SIAC teams. Delta State is probably out of luck no matter what.

South Atlantic

Still Alive: Lenoir-Rhyne (9-1/6-0) has clinched the SAC title, as they’ve got a two-game lead over everyone.

Lenoir-Rhyne is a lock; even a loss to 6-4 Catawba isn’t going to send them out of the top six. 8-2 Newberry hosts 5-5 North Greenville; they’re in a precarious position, but a win would be more impressive than West Alabama’s win and would likely keep them at least in the #5 slot and save their  bacon. 8-2 Carson-Newman visits 4-5 Wingate, and will definitely survive with a win.

Southern IAC

Still Alive: Albany State (5-4/4-0), Miles (6-3/4-1)

Albany State and Miles will hook up in Atlanta on Saturday for the SIAC title. If Miles wins, they’re almost certainly going to squeak into the field, possibly at the expense of a team ranked ahead of them. Meanwhile, idle Tuskegee, at 8-2, awaits their fate; losses ahead of them could propel them into the playoffs.

Super-Region 3

Regional Rankings (11/11):
1. Northwest Missouri State (10-0)
2. Minnesota State-Mankato (10-0)
3. Henderson State (10-0)
4. Minnesota-Duluth (9-1)
5. Pittsburg State (8-1)
6. Emporia State (8-1)
7. Saint Cloud State (9-1)
8. Missouri Western State (8-2)
9. Washburn (8-2)
10. Harding (7-2)
Note: records in regional rankings reflect games against D-II competition only.

No worries about earned access here. Three of the four conferences in the super-region have unbeaten teams; the fourth doesn’t even have a team ranked. So the top six after Saturday’s games get the tickets, period.

Great American

Still Alive: Henderson State (10-0/9-0) has clinched the conference title outright.

Henderson visits cross-town archrival 7-2 Ouachita Baptist on Saturday. A loss won’t hurt, other than costing the Reddies a home playoff game. It might, however, vault Ouachita into the picture. Harding visits 5-5 Arkansas Tech, but that’s not going to inspire the same sort of fireworks; the Bison are done thanks to all the MIAA action ahead of them.

Great Northwest

Still Alive: Azusa Pacific (8-2/8-1) has clinched the GNAC title, in only their second year in Division II.

Alas, that’s not going to get them into the playoffs.

Mid-America IAA

Still Alive: Northwest Missouri State (10-0/9-0) has clinched a share of the title, and if such things mattered would hold the tiebreak over the other two teams which can still claim a piece of it with wins and a Northwest loss: Pittsburg State (9-1/8-1) and Emporia State (8-1/8-1).

Northwest visits 8-2 Missouri Western State, and is a lock. If MWSU wins, though, they’re likely to bull their way into the field. 8-2 Washburn visits Emporia State. An Emporia win will probably secure their position, while a Washburn win will definitely send Emporia home and will likely not be enough to move the Ichabods up from #9 to a playoff spot. Pittsburg hosts 6-3 Missouri Southern State. They’re a lock if they win, and out if they don’t.

Northern Sun

Still Alive: Minnesota State-Mankato (10-0/10-0) has a four-game lead in the South Division; they clinched it two weeks ago. Minnesota-Duluth (9-1/9-1) and Saint Cloud State (9-1/9-1) are tied for the North Division lead going into the final weekend, and could claim a share of the conference title with wins and a Mankato loss.

Mankato visits 6-4 Upper Iowa; they’re a lock. Duluth visits 3-7 Northern State, and will be safely in the field with a win. Saint Cloud hosts 3-7 Minnesota State-Moorhead. They need to win, of course; they’re also Washburn’s biggest fans this week, as they’re going to require some help to climb into the bracket.

Super-Region 4

Regional Rankings (11/11):
1. Colorado State-Pueblo (9-0)
2. Ohio Dominican (8-0)
3. Saginaw Valley State (9-1)
4. Indianapolis (8-0)
5. Grand Valley State (8-2)
6. Tarleton State (6-2)
7. West Texas A&M (8-2)
8. Chadron State (8-2)
9. Midwestern State (6-2)
10. Ferris State (7-2)
Note: records in regional rankings reflect games against D-II competition only.

No earned access issues here, either. At least not at the moment. Should Indianapolis stumble this week, that may change.

Great Lakes

Still Alive: Saginaw Valley State (9-1/9-0) has clinched the North Division title; the South Division crown has been sealed by Ohio Dominican (9-0/8-0). There is no “conference” champion, as there is an uneven number of conference games.

Ohio Dominican visits 2-8 Malone, and are probably a lock even if you ignore the fact that they’re not going to lose this game. Saginaw visits Grand Valley State. A loss probably won’t knock Saginaw out of the picture, but it would keep Grand Valley from tumbling out of it.  Ferris State hosts 3-6 Northern Michigan; I don’t think there’s enough help to get Ferris into the field with a win.

Great Lakes Valley

Still Alive: Indianapolis (9-1/6-0), Truman State (7-3/5-1)

Truman visits Indy Saturday. Indy would, of course, clinch the outright title with a win; they’d share it with a loss. That loss would probably drop Indianapolis out of the playoffs; the question is whether the win would boost Truman into the rankings and, more importantly, into the top eight. I’d say it was unlikely, but if Saginaw beats Grand Valley as expected and Tarleton loses to North Alabama and Chadron slips up… well, all of those things are possible, and if they happen Truman may well sneak in.

Lone Star

Still Alive: Tarleton State (7-2/5-1), Eastern New Mexico (6-3/4-1)

Tarleton’s conference schedule is done, and they’ve sealed up a share of the title. ENMU can swipe half of it, though, with a win at 7-3 Texas A&M-Commerce. Meanwhile, West Texas A&M visits Midwestern State. A WTAMU win would be a good leg up toward slipping into the field. If Midwestern wins, well, see discussion of Truman above. As for Tarleton, as mentioned they’ve got to play North Alabama, and their very playoff lives are at stake here. They can’t survive a loss unless the other teams vying for the first round road games all trip over themselves.

Rocky Mountain

Still Alive: Colorado State-Pueblo (10-0/8-0), Chadron State (8-2/7-1)

Pueblo claims the title outright with a win at home over 2-7 Western State. Easy peasy. They’re a lock. Chadron needs a Pueblo loss and a win at 7-3 Colorado Mines. That’s a tall order. If Chadron wins, though, they’ve got a reasonable shot at sliding into the six slot in the rankings, and barring a GLVC-related disaster that’ll be good enough for a playoff ticket.


FCS Title Chases, Week of 11.16

We’ve been away awhile, eh? My other “job” has really made trying to do this all by myself untenable, and I’m terribly sorry to the 6 of you who’d been reading this blog regularly. But I can still pop in now and again, and for the next couple of weeks expect some frequent (albeit brief) activity.

And on that note, here’s a breakdown of the conference title races in FCS with two weeks remaining.

TL;DR version: Eastern Washington, Maine, Princeton, Bethune-Cookman, North Dakota State, Robert Morris (PA), Sacred Heart, Eastern Illinois, Colgate, San Diego, Marist, Tennessee-Chattanooga, and Southeastern Louisiana are all capable of clinching conference titles this week (and in the case of all but Princeton, that means an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs).

Big Sky

Leading the pack: Eastern Washington (8-2/6-0)
Still alive: Northern Arizona (7-2/5-1), Montana State (7-3/5-1), Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (5-5/4-2), Montana (8-2/4-2), Southern Utah (7-3/4-2)

The Big Sky’s tiebreaker procedure for the auto-bid is complex: head-to-head, then record in scheduled conference games against conference opponents in descending order, then record in all games against conference opponents in descending order, then common non-conference opponents, then Sagarin, then a coin flip. You may be scratching your head over tiebreakers two and three there; the 13-team Big Sky plays eight conference games, but some teams play other Big Sky members in games which are deemed non-conference games (mostly to preserve rivalries).

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Eastern Washington: win at Cal Poly this week. Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona did not play this year, and Northern Arizona’s loss is to Montana State, who lost to EWU. Barring a shift in the standings which would pull Cal Poly ahead of Montana State (and such a thing is certainly possible), EWU would hold all tiebreakers. They can absolutely seal the deal by knocking off Cal Poly this week, as that will prevent that possibility altogether.

Big South

Leading the Pack: Charleston Southern (10-1/3-0)
Still alive: Liberty (6-4/3-1), Coastal Carolina (9-1/3-1)

The Big South is at it again. Coastal Carolina has already beaten Liberty. Charleston Southern has already beaten Coastal Carolina. Should Liberty beat Charleston Southern next week, well… we could be in for fun times.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Nobody can. Wait till next week.


Leading the Pack: Maine (9-1/6-0)
Still alive: Towson (8-2/4-2), Delaware (7-3/4-2), William & Mary (7-3/4-2), New Hampshire (5-4/4-2)

We’re only going to consider the immediate situation here this week, as the potential for Maine to not win the title is so convoluted it would take 1000 words. If Maine loses at home to 3-8 Rhode Island this week, we’ll get back into this, but that’s so unlikely it’s not worth the effort.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Maine: beat Rhode Island.


Leading the Pack: Princeton (7-1/5-0)
Still Alive: Harvard (7-1/4-1), Yale (5-3/3-2), Dartmouth (4-4/3-2), Pennsylvania (4-4/3-2)

Of course, the Ivy doesn’t participate in the FCS playoffs, so there’s no autobid to be won here. There are also no tiebreakers, so things are fairly simple.

In order to win the outright title:
Princeton: Beat Yale at home this week while Harvard loses at home to Penn.

In order to share the title:
Princeton: Beat Yale at home this week.


Leading the Pack: Bethune-Cookman (8-2/5-1)
Still Alive: South Carolina State (7-3/5-1), Delaware State (4-5/4-2), Hampton (4-6/4-2), Morgan State (4-6/4-2), Norfolk State (3-7/3-3)

Yeah, the upper-middle tier of the conference went 0-fer non-conference, but they’re all still scrapping around the heels of the leaders in conference play. Norfolk State is really only listed as a courtesy; they can’t claim the auto-bid but can manage to stumble into a horrible tie for first at 5-3. Bethune-Cookman had a chance to very nearly ice things last week, but inexplicably lost to Norfolk. They can put it away this week, but they’ll need a hand.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Bethune-Cookman: needs to beat Hampton at home while South Carolina State loses, at home, to Morgan State.

Missouri Valley

Leading the Pack: North Dakota State (9-0/6-0)
Still Alive: Youngstown State (8-2/5-1), Missouri State (5-6/5-2)

Missouri State can’t win the autobid, as a three-way tie between the three schools would go to Youngstown State. But the idea of a team which started the season 0-4 managing to claim a share of the Missouri Valley title is just mind-boggling, so it needs to be acknowledged. This week is the titanic showdown to end all titanic showdowns, though…

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
North Dakota State: needs to beat Youngstown State. Simple as pie.


Leading the Pack: Robert Morris (PA) (5-4/3-1)
Still Alive: Sacred Heart (9-2/3-2), Duquesne (5-4/3-2), Saint Francis (PA) (4-5/2-2), Central Connecticut State (4-6/2-2)

What a mess. A lot will get sorted out this week, as two different schools (or neither one!) can clinch depending on how things shake out.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Robert Morris (PA): needs to beat Sacred Heart at home, and needs Duquesne to lose to Central Connecticut State.
Sacred Heart: needs to win at Robert Morris, and needs Saint Francis to lose to Wagner.

Ohio Valley

Leading the Pack: Eastern Illinois (10-0/6-0)
Still Alive: Tennessee State (8-3/5-2), Jacksonville State (9-1/4-2), Eastern Kentucky (6-4/4-2), Tennessee-Martin (6-4/4-2)

This is potentially a mess, but some stuff’s going to have to happen to get there. For now, things are pretty simple this week. No matter what, either Eastern Kentucky or UT-Martin are gone after Saturday, as they play this week.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Eastern Illinois: needs to win at home against Jacksonville State.


Leading the Pack: Colgate (4-6/3-1)
Still Alive: Lafayette (3-6/3-1), Lehigh (7-2/2-1)

A glance at the standings might make you think that Bucknell (4-5/2-2) is still alive, but because of who plays who in the final two weeks that’s not going to happen. Lehigh visits Colgate this week; if Lehigh wins, then the Lehigh-Lafayette winner will finish with only one conference loss. If Colgate wins, well…

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Colgate: needs to win at home against Lehigh.


Leading the Pack: San Diego (7-3/6-1)
Still Alive: Butler (8-3/6-1), Marist (7-3/6-1), Mercer (9-1/5-1)

San Diego has a commanding lead in this discussion for one very pertinent reason: all three of those other one-loss teams suffered their only loss to San Diego, so the only way any of them are winning the conference title — and the conference’s first automatic playoff bid — is if San Diego stumbles. San Diego is not, however, the only team that can clinch on Saturday…

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
San Diego: win at home against 6-4 Drake.
Marist: win at home against Mercer, and San Diego lose to Drake, and Butler loses at 3-7 Morehead State.


Leading the Pack: Tennessee-Chattanooga (8-2/6-1)
Still Alive: Samford (6-4/4-2), Wofford (5-4/4-2), Furman (5-5/4-2)

How weird is it that Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, who aren’t actually eligible to win the conference title anyway since they’re in the process of moving to FBS, aren’t even theoretically in the picture? Yeah. It’s really weird. This race could end Saturday, or we could have wild and crazy times next week.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Tennessee-Chattanooga: needs to win at Samford.


Leading the Pack: Southeastern Louisiana (8-2/5-0)
Still Alive: McNeese State (8-2/4-1), Sam Houston State (8-2/4-1)

McNeese has lost to Southeastern, and Sam Houston lost to McNeese. Southeastern hosts Sam Houston this week, so we’ll either have a conference champion or a two- or three-way tie heading into the final weekend.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Southeastern Louisiana: needs to beat Sam Houston State at home.


It’s all over except the championship game. Jackson State (7-2/7-0) has won the East, and Southern (6-4/6-2) has clinched the West; they’ll play on December 7 in Houston for the conference title. Remember, the SWAC doesn’t send their champion to the FCS playoffs, so there’s no autobid up for grabs here.


NAIA: Week Six Recap.

NAIA Spreadsheet: (Excel2003, 194 kb)

As I’d warned earlier in the week, this week wasn’t going to go swimmingly. And so here we are, with an NAIA recap which consists solely of the bare minimum information that I mine first thing Sunday morning. I could have discussed #5 William Penn’s 19-8 win over Saint Francis (IL), or #4 Morningside’s 28-3 victory at #18 Doane, or Southern Oregon’s 68-22 destruction of #24 Eastern Oregon; that these were the three most interesting games of the week should make you realize you’re not missing much this week.

And with that, on with the bare bones:
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D-III: Week Six Recap.

D-III Spreadsheet: (Excel2003, 433 kb)

D-III Game of the Week:
There can be only one option here. Unranked and unbeaten Concordia-Moorhead traveled to #10 Bethel (MN) to sort out their differences, and settled into a brisk defensive struggle which found the Cobbers leading 14-7 late in the fourth quarter.  Concordia had scored at the end of the first half on a one-yard run by Brent Baune on fourth-and-goal.  Bethel later tied the score on a one-yard Jesse Phenow run, but the Cobbers regained the lead with nine minutes to play on a 40-yard hookup from Griffin Neal to Chris Gilson. Bethel had the ball late and drove desperately, but were facing third-and-10 from the Concordia 17 with only one second remaining.  Dropping back to try and connect on one final pass, Bethel QB Erik Peterson was stripped of the ball, and Concordia recovered the fumble and ran it back the other way for the win…

…except for one small problem. When the ball came loose, Concordia players — thinking it had been an imcomplete pass, not a fumble — crossed the sideline into the field of play to begin celebrating. Because they did so before the play was blown dead, a live-ball unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called, which meant that Bethel not only retained possession, but got the yardage from the original line of scrimmage and an untimed down. From the nine, Peterson connected with Jay Hilbrands on a fade in the end zone, and Bethel trailed 14-13.

Royals’ coach Steve Johnson decided to take advantage of the chaos and the shocked frustration of the Cobber players and opted to go for two to win the game outright rather than settling for overtime. Peterson hit Mitch Hallstrom on a swing pass to the outside, and Hallstrom angled into the end zone for the conversion and the stunning victory.

It was a heartbreaker for the Cobbers, who never trailed in the game until after time had already expired, and who learned a pretty severe lesson in discipline. The loss cost Concordia an almost certain move into the top 25, a continued chance at an unbeaten season, and — if Bethel can upset Saint Thomas in what’s likely to be this week’s game of the week, an outcome which is certainly possible — any shot at all of capturing this year’s MIAC title, which means they probably cost themselves a playoff berth in the process.  Bethel, meanwhile, heads to Saint Thomas feeling like they may be on a course with destiny.
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D-II: Week Six Recap.

D-II Spreadsheet: (Excel2003, 309 kb)

D-II Games of the Week:
Due to a veterinary emergency which ate my day, this is going to be very brief (for me, anyway).  Further, taking care of the poor thing over the next few days is going to result in the same situation for the D-III and NAIA recaps. Apologies for giving things short shrift this week.
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FCS: Week Six Recap.

FBS Spreadsheet: (Excel2003, 340 kb)
FCS Spreadsheet: (Excel2003, 308 kb)

FCS Game of the Week:
This is what an actual defensive battle looks like.  #12 Towson visited #5 James Madison, and the two best defenses in the CAA squared off for an epic showdown.

Early on, only two Cameron Starke field goals marred the scoreboard as the Dukes took a 6-0 lead.  D.J. Stoven hit from 40 with 11 seconds to go in the first half to cut the lead to 6-3. The third quarter was scoreless before Towson finally grabbed the lead with just 3:21 to play on a 7-yard Grant Enders TD run.  That drive went 92 yards and ate up 7:24 as a tiring Dukes defense finally started allowing some space; even at that, the drive turned on a fourth-and-one at Towson’s own 18. Rob Ambrose rolled the dice and called for a QB sneak, and Enders picked up the first down.

But James Madison came back.  In under two minutes, Justin Thorpe had marched the Dukes downfield, and with 1:24 to go he scored on a nine-yard run to regain the lead.  Dean Marlowe then picked off an Enders pass to kill Towson’s hope for a last-minute miracle, and the Dukes walked off with a 13-10 win.

This wasn’t a case of ineffective offense.  Terrance West had 112 yards rushing for Towson, and Enders wasn’t horribly ineffective passing the ball, going 20-32 for 147; he was picked off twice, and both were pretty good plays on the part of the JMU defense.  For the Dukes, Dae’Quan Scott had 95 yards on the ground, and Thorpe was 11-19 for 116 without turning the ball over.  The key to the game was that both defenses forced long yardage on third down, and that resulted in Towson only managing 5-16 on conversions, while the Dukes were only 2-12.

The win leaves Madison in charge of the CAA race, since co-leaders Old Dominion are ineligible for the title after announcing their departure to Conference USA.
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NAIA: Week Five Recap.

NAIA Spreadsheet: (Excel2003, 191 kb)

Before We Begin:
Because of the August murder of Tabor DL Brandon Brown, which two former McPherson players have been charged in connection with, the October 20 game between the two teams has been cancelled in honor of Brown’s memory.  Of course, the fact that current players on both teams are potential witnesses in the pending trial, and the potential for hostilities in connection with the crime, certainly play a role here as well.  The game is still listed in the spreadsheet as uploaded currently, but will be noted as cancelled in future uploads.

NAIA Game of the Week:
One would have been forgiven for assuming this week’s contest at Saint Xavier would be yet another minor speed bump on the way to the their showdown with Marian on November 3.  Saint Xavier has literally but unbeatable by anyone other than the Knights since the 2011 campaign began, after all.  And this was homecoming; perhaps scheduling the other Cougars from Saint Francis (IL) wasn’t the brightest idea, but in the MSFA it’s sometimes hard to find a homecoming opponent who isn’t ranked.
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