Nov. 20, 2008

By Brandon Misener
Special to from

The first round of the playoffs provided little drama as the top seed won seven of the 10 games.  Only Seton Hill upset a higher ranked team.  No matter the results, it was great that the playoffs have arrived.

But this week is when the heavy hitters enter the playoffs.  The one and two seeds in each region, who sat at home watching first round games from the comfort of their own couches, are back in action as the playoffs continue in earnest.

The first round of the playoffs may have played out as expected, but the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds cannot take much comfort in that fact.  For all the posturing and points that are made about the advantages of having a week off during Round 1 and having a home game in Round 2, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds are only 19-13 in those second round game – a .593 winning percentage.

The playoffs seem to have been seeded in a way that there were rematches in Rounds 1 and 2.  In fact, this week five of the eight games are rematches of games played this year.  If the results of the game fall in certain ways, there could be three rematches next week for the regional championships.  Only Super Region 3 has no chance of a rematch.

Super Region 1

Seton Hill vs. California

Unlike most of the other games this week, the two teams did not play each other during the regular season.  In fact, they have never faced each other on the football field.

Seton Hill gained a spot in the playoffs via Earned-Access.  They made the most of that opportunity with 14-7 win at American International.  It was the first post-season win in the history of Seton Hill and was impressive for a new program barely out of the transition to Division II.  More remarkable would be the fact than an 11th win by SHU would tie the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record for most wins in a season.

That said, California is a heavy favorite in the game and should have no problem advancing to the regional final.

West Chester vs. Bloomsburg

This game is rematch in the truest sense of the word.  West Chester was able to slip out of Bloomsburg with a 24-21 win the first weekend in November.  It was the only time the Huskies left the field defeated this year.

There is no reason to expect anything but a close game between the two teams again.  A difference of 32 yards of total offense and three points is all that separated the teams.  Bloomsburg threw an interception.  West Chester gave away a fumble.

It was simply a close game.  This week should be no different.

Super Region 2

Valdosta State vs. North Alabama

The two teams met earlier in the year at North Alabama.  It is a game that Valdosta State would rather forget.  North Alabama held a 28-7 halftime lead and cruised to a 41-23 win.

The 14th all-time meeting between Gulf South Conference schools in the playoffs should be closer than the first 2008 meeting between the two.  However, UNA and Delta State look to be playing at a higher level than the rest of the field in Super Region 3 and the Lions very well may knock off the defending national champions.

Tusculum vs. Delta State

Tusculum has had a “come from behind” mentality all year long.  The Pioneers had a late surge, including a victory over Carson-Newman in the last regular season game of the year, to make the playoffs.  The never say die attitude served them well as they came from behind to beat Albany State, 34-22.

Their reward is a trip to Cleveland, Mississippi to play Delta State.

Delta State features a pretty defense and an offense that has scored 37 points per game.  If the Pioneers want to pull off the upset, they cannot afford to get behind like they did against Albany State last week.  That will be a tall task for a Tusculum team that gives up 27 points per game.

The two teams have never met.

Super Region 3

Ashland vs. Grand Valley State

The Eagles gave Grand Valley all they could handle in late October.  In spite of a 48-42 win, the game sparked questions about a Grand Valley defense that hadn’t given up more than 21 in any other game.

There hasn’t been a better team in the playoffs in recent years than the Lakers.  That playoff experience and success should prove invaluable for GVSU in this game.  In spite of the close score of the earlier game, a Lakers win by a comfortable margin would not be surprising.  After all, many teams have discounted the Lakers only to fall victim.

Chadron State vs.  Minnesota-Duluth

The winner of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference travels to the champion of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference trying to pull off the upset.  In addition, they will have to do it without their starting quarterback.  Chadron’s Joe McClain broke his right collarbone in last week’s win over Wayne State. 

In his place under center will be sophomore Garret Treffer.  Treffer has completed 24-37 passes with one touchdown and no interceptions this year.

Even McClain would have had a tough time overcoming the Bulldogs.  Duluth has scored no less than 38 points in any one game this year so almost perfect offensive execution will be needed to down the NSIC champs.  That becomes even harder when considering that UMD has not given up more than 21 points in any game this season.

Super Region 4

West Texas A&M vs. Abilene Christian

West Texas will have to limit its mistakes if it wants to do better against the Wildcats than their Oct. 18 matchup.  The Buffs had multiple turnovers in a 52-35 loss to ACU.

There is little doubt that, at a minimum, ACU is one of the three best teams in the country this year.  However, one factor the Buffs have in their favor is that the road team seems to win more than the home team in this rivalry, and the game is being played in Abilene.

Pittsburg State vs. Northwest Missouri

Like the other Super Region 4 game, this is a rematch of an earlier game in which one team blew out the other.  Northwest Missouri downed Pittsburg State 35-10 in a game played at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. 

The two teams haven’t met in Maryville since 2000.  In fact, the only two games between these two have come on campus since 2001.

Northwest won the last playoff matchup in 2005.  The Gorillas hope to turn the tables on the Bearcats this weekend.