Nov. 27, 2008

Every year there are people complaining about the playoffs.

"This team should have made it. That team should have been left out. These people don't know what they're doing."

Well, most of those complaints can be thrown out the window because the playoffs are playing out just like they have been designed to do. For the first time since the new system first implemented in 2004, every region (or Super Region as they're called now) features a matchup of the first and second ranked teams.

An even deeper analysis of the results shows that in 15 of the 16 games, the higher ranked team won - Seton Hill's victory over American International being the anomaly. That leaves two possible reasons:

    1. Home field advantage is critical in the playoffs.
    2. The bracket was selected and seeded almost perfectly.

While the answer is probably a mixture of the two, it probably does show that the playoffs selections of 2008 were the best since the new regional alignment and selection method.

Just because the playoffs were properly seeded doesn't necessarily mean they have been interesting to all people.

Some enjoy upsets and don't consider a playoff to be very entertaining without them. Some haven't liked the way the brackets have set up this year, forcing rematches of games played earlier in the year. Six out of the first 16 games have been rematches. This week, three of the four games are rematches, bringing the total to 45% in the playoffs.

Others, who would obviously be very satisfied with the playoffs thus far, enjoy seeing the best teams in each Super Region play. Four one-versus-two contests this weekend means those who have enjoyed the playoffs so far will be on cloud nine on Saturday.

California v Bloomsburg

Rematch #1

The two teams played on September 6 and Bloomsburg used a dominating ground game to secure a 24-17 win over the Vulcans.

The Huskies racked up 325 yards on the ground, a 5.9 average per carry. They needed every yard on the ground to make up for a deficiency through the air. Quarterback Dan Latorre was only 1-of-6 passing for a grand total of eight yards.

Vulcan quarterback Kevin McCabe was somewhat more effective, throwing for 153 yards on 11-of-25 passing with a touchdown. Add in 193 yards rushing, and the Cal offense outgained Bloom, but was unable to overcome a -1 in the turnover battle. A McCabe pass was returned 52 yards for a touchdown by Oscar Rivera, which turned out to be the winning margin in the game.

Although not as good as last year, the Vulcans are the best team in Super Region 1 when they play to potential.

North Alabama v Delta State

Rematch #2

North Alabama had a 21-7 lead over Delta State in the game played on October 16. Unfortunately for UNA, the Lions were unable to hold that lead, falling to DSU 34-28.

Certainly North Alabama can feel disappointed that it had a big lead and loss, but Delta State will point to four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, as a reason to believe they can play better and have their way with Lions this time out.

These two teams were easily the best two teams in the region. It's only right that they are fighting it out for the right to advance to the semifinal round.

Minnesota-Duluth v Grand Valley

The one game that is not a rematch of a game played earlier in the year might also be the most interesting, simply from the standpoint that there are so many unknowns and so little basis for comparison between the two.

Of course, every Division II fan has heard of Grand Valley and knows of the Lakers' accomplishments. The National Champions from 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006 were expected to be good again in 2008, in spite of this being a "rebuilding" year.

Minnesota-Duluth was predicted to be good in 2008 as well. Even if UMD had been a member of the now defunct North Central Conference, they would have been selected highly in the pre-season. As a new member of the Northern Sun, they were predicted to run away with the league - and they did.

Unfortunately for one of these teams, their first loss will be their last of the year.

Northwest Missouri v Abilene Christian

Rematch #3

After falling behind 21-7 in the first quarter, Abilene Christian dominated the rest of the way out to down Northwest Missouri, 44-27. Neither team played well on defense, with ACU racking up 516 yards of offense to Northwest Missouri's 402.

The Northwest Missouri defense is playing better, but so is the Abilene Christian offense, as evidenced by their 93-point explosion last week versus West Texas A&M. That's a scary proposition for a young Northwest defense that's not as battle tested as the Bearcat offense.

For Northwest to win this game, they will have to be more balanced than the last time the two teams played. The Bearcats put the ball in the air 48 times but only attempted 23 rushes. More rushing attempts could help keep the most explosive offense in the country off the field, a task most teams have failed to do this year.