DIII Football Championship preview: Mary Hardin-Baylor, Mount Union amongst teams to watch
The Division III Football Championship kicks off November 18th. Thirty two teams are still alive in the hunt for the national title.
Let’s take a look at a few teams to keep an eye on as the playoffs unfold.
Mary Hardin-Baylor will be on everyone's radar. The reigning champs rolled into a frigid Stagg Bowl in 2016, and left national champions. The Cru hasn’t lost in 25 straight games. They also haven’t lost their opening game of the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons.
Football gets NCAA playoff bid and first round home game vs. Chapman https://t.co/rqfUDjK9FX— UMHB Cru Sports (@CruSports) November 12, 2017
This part of the bracket is plenty packed with tournament powerhouses. St. Thomas (MN) is rolling. The Tommies have scored 84, 58, 58, and 97 in their last four games, and their 52.7 points per game is second best in the division. The Tommies aren’t all offense though, as their 10.0 points allowed per game is Top 10 material as well.
Linfield returns to the postseason for the 14th time in the past 18 seasons. The Wildcats last two losses have been to Mary Hardin-Baylor, who could be their second round matchup should both advance. First, Linfield has to get around Hardin-Simmons, a 2016 first round rematch between two postseason regulars.
Don’t sleep on Berry. The Vikings rolled to a 10-0 record in the Southern Athletic Association, their first 10-0 season. They will be making the program’s first trip to the playoffs, facing a Huntingdon team that has been there before. It will be the biggest test in the young program’s history.
Wisconsin-Oshkosh left Salem, Virginia on the wrong end of that defensive battle in last season's championship game The Titans find themselves back in the mix, looking for a return to the finals. After posting a 9-0 record this season, UW-Oshkosh will have its hands full in a part of the bracket with plenty of familiar faces.
Lakeland, North Central, St. John’s and Monmouth (Illinois) were all in the DIII Football Championships last season. That may make Trine the under-the-radar team in this part of the bracket. The Thunder return to the postseason for the first time since 2010, and they do so with a Top 10 scoring offense and a Top 20 scoring defense.
Last season was the first time in 11 seasons that Mount Union wasn’t in the final game. The Purple Raiders record winning streak was snapped, but they’ve started a new one, entering the postseason a perfect 10-0. It is the same story as always. Vince Kehres' team can score a bunch of points (a DIII-best 56.7 points per game) while not allowing many, if any at all (10.0 points per game, sixth-best in DIII). They face a Washington and Lee team in the first round still searching for its first-ever postseason win (0-4).
The first round of the 2017 NCAA D3 Football playoffs is here and the Raiders will take on Washington and Lee Saturday at 12pm at Mount Union Stadium. pic.twitter.com/A5XGNE4TtO— Mount Union Football (@UMUFootball) November 12, 2017
Delaware Valley is one of many in the final part of the bracket full of unfamiliar faces. The Aggies are making its first trip to the playoffs since 2014. Delaware Valley reeled off a 10-0 record and will face Western New England for the first time in program’s history. Running back Devauntay Ellis (1,141 yards and 16 touchdowns) and quarterback Dashawn Darden, who combined for 27 touchdowns, hope to keep the perfect season rolling.
Brockport is coming off its first 10-0 season in program’s history. It is also making its first appearance in the DII Football Championships in some time. It’s been 14 years for the Golden Eagles, averaging just five wins a season over the previous ten years. They face off against a Plymouth State team that won its first Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference title in program history. They are returning to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Springfield is returning to the postseason for the first time since 2006. If you like ground games, its first round matchup is a must see. Springfield leads DIII with 452.3 rushing yards per game, while John Smith, running back for its opponent Husson, leads DIII with 1,917 yards on the ground.
Continuing the trend is the Rensselaer Engineers, making their first appearance since 2007. They face off against a Wesley team that has become a staple in the DIII playoffs.
Expect the unexpected in this portion of the bracket. It seems like it can be anyone’s for the taking with so much uncertainty.