Well the NCAA Regional Rankings were finally released this week. Let's look at our rankings and compare them to the NCAA's official list.
1. Central Missouri (2 in the NCAA ranking)
2. Abilene Christian (1)
3. Northwest Missouri (4)
4. Texas A&M-Kingville (3)
5. West Texas A&M (5)
6. Midwestern State (6)
7. Humboldt State (9)
8. Missouri Western (7)
9. Central Washington (8)
10. Washburn (10)
Close, but a few variations. Some of that has to do with the NCAA calculating strength of schedule for games played only, while ours is calculated using W/L records for the entire season.
Playoff Scenarios (as best as we can calculate, and assuming no upsets in next weekend)
If all favorites win, then order should be
ACU, UCM, TAMK, NWMSU, Humboldt, WTAM
If one favorite loses...
NW, ACU, TAMK win
ACU, TAMK, NWMSU, UCM, Humboldt, WTAM
UCM, WT, TAMK win
UCM, ACU, TAMK, NWMSU, WTAM, Humboldt
UCM, ACU, MSU win
ACU, UCM, TAMK, NSMSU, MSU, Humboldt
Now if two favorites lose...
NW, WT, TAMK win
ACU, TAMK, NWMSU, UCM, WTAM, Humboldt
NW, ACU, MSU win
ACU, NWMSU, UCM, TAMK, MSU, Humboldt
UCM, WT, MSU win
UCM, ACU, TAMK, NWMSU, WTAM, MSU
If all three favorites lose...
NW, WT, MSU win
ACU, NWMSU, UCM, TAMK, WTAM, MSU
Abilene Christian - Should be top seed if they win out. Even if they lose to WT, they should be the one or two seed, unless they blow it next week vs. SWO. In that very unlikely scenario, they would probably fall the #3 or #4 seed.
Central Missouri - The can be the top seed if they beat NWMSU and ACU loses to WT. If they win and ACU wins, they should be the #2 seed. If they lose to NW, they should drop to either #3 or #4 and still host a first round playoff game.
Texas A&M-Kingsville - If they win out, they will be the #2 or #3 seed (they need a NW win over UCM). One win will likely get them a #3 or #4 seed and a first round home game. If they were to lose both of their remaining games (SOSU next week), they could fall out of the playoffs altogether.
Northwest Missouri - Could climb as high as #2 seed, but need MSU to beat TAMK. Otherwise will likely be in the #3 or #4 spot and host a first round game. In the very unlikely case that they lose to both UCM and Pitt State, they could miss out on the playoffs altogether.
West Texas A&M - Most likely will be in the #5 slot if they win out. If they lose to ACU they could still sneak in at #6 if MSU loses either of their final two games. If either TAMK or NWMSU loses their final two, the Buffs could slide all the way up to #3.
Midwestern State - Its pretty simple for the Mustangs, win their last two games and they are in - either at #5 (if WT loses) or #6. If they lose either of their final two games, they almost certainly will not make the playoffs.
Humboldt State - The Lumberjacks need wins over Western Oregon and Simon Fraser plus losses by either WTAM or MSU and then they might squeak in, but nothing is assured.
Central Washington - The Wildcats would need West Texas A&M and Midwestern State to lose both of their remaining games to possibly sneak in at #6. If Humboldt were to lose to Western Oregon, they could as high as #5.
Missouri Western - Needs WTAM and MSU to lose out and Humboldt State or Central Washing to lose to Western Oregon to get in at #6. To get the #5 they would need WTAM and MSU to lose out and WOU to beat both CWU and Humboldt.
Washburn - would likely need WTAM and MSU to lose out, and Humboldt State and CWU to both lose to Western Oregon. That's the likely the only way for them to get in the #6 slot.
None of this means we are correct, we are just working with the numbers as we understand them. We will run them all over again next week, but most of the damage will be done by then.
Taylor Harris - Moves into the #3 spot on career passing yards for the LSC.
Josh Neiswander - Now in the #12 spot for career LSC passing yards with 7,466. With 469 over the next weeks, he would move all the way up to #5. Moves to the top of ASU's record books with 378 yards and 5 TDs.
Zack Eskridge - needs 119 yards passing to reach the 7,000 yard mark.
Ryan Lincoln - needs 54 yards to pass Johnathan Haggerty for 10th on the LSC receiving yards chart.
Edmund Gates - needs 167 yards to pass Johnathan Haggerty for 10th on the LSC receiving yards chart.
(LSC records are unofficial, using best efforts to piece them together)
Last Week's Action
West Texas A&M 49, Incarnate Word 10
The Buffalo offense rolled, piling up 412 yards, the defense did its part, allowing just 259 yards and scoring a TD, and the special teams got into the act with a kickoff return for a TD as well. Very good all around tune up game for the big matchup with Abilene Christian.
Texas A&M-Commerce 31, Central Oklahoma 30
The Lions edged the Bronchos, who were playing without QB Ethan Sharp (out with a concussion). It took a missed PAT with under 1:30 to play for the margin. For the tough luck Bronchos, it was the third missed PAT on the season, and in each game UCO fell by one point.
Texas A&M-Kingsville 56, Southwestern Oklahoma 17
The Javelinas starters pummeled the Bulldogs in the first half 42-3, outgaining SWO by a 364-42 yard margin.
Eastern New Mexico 55, Southeastern Oklahoma 20
Greyhounds jumped on Savage Storm early, leading 41-13 at half and cruising the rest of the way. Wes Wood threw for 360 yards and 3 TDs and Rodney Mitchell returned an interception 76 yards for a TD.
Midwestern State 31, Tarleton State 26
Tight game that turned late in the third quarter. Trailing 21-13, Tarleton had driven the ball inside the Mustang's 10 yard line. Neiko Conway intercepted a third down pass and returned it 99 yards to the Texan one yard line. MSU would score two plays later. Instead of a one point game, the Mustangs led 28-13 and eventually won 31-26.
Abilene Christan 33, Angelo State 20
Angelo State gave the Wildcats a battle, trailing by just 3 midway through the third quarter. But in the end, Mitchell Gale's 377 yard, 4 TD effort was too much for the Rams to overcome.
East Central 48, Northeastern State 21
The Riverhawks were the favorites to win this game and claim the LSC North title outright, but East Central had other plans. The Tigers jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, and did not allow NSU to get with 12 points the rest of the way. Dontae Smith and Armonty Bryant scored defensive TDs, and Tyler Vanderzee threw for 250 yards and 2 TDs in the win.
This Week's Games
Central Oklahoma at Southwestern Oklahoma
A matchup of 2-7 teams playing as LSC foes for the final time. Three Broncho losses have come by the margin of missed PATs. Josh Birmingham has rushed for an LSC best 1,056 yards and scored an LSC best 114 points. The Bulldogs had played their best ball of the season the four weeks prior to last Saturday. If Ethan Sharp plays for UCO, they should win 31-17, if he doesn't play they still win 21-17.
Eastern New Mexico at Northeastern State
Depending on the outcome of the ECU-TAMC game, the winner of this game could be the sole LSC North Champion, the Co-LSC North Champion, the Tri-LSC North Champion, or tied for second place. The Riverhawks find themselves in this position because they lost the turnover battle and the game to East Central last week. The Greyhounds stopped a two-game skid and jumped all over SOSU last week to salvage a shot at the divisional title. Two factors weigh heavily in NSU's favor - turnover margin (NSU +5, ENMU -7) and playing at home (ENMU 0-3 outscored 67-84 on the road). Riverhawks stake their claim to the North, NSU 35-27.
Angelo State at Southeastern Oklahoma
Oh, what might have been. The Rams and their fans can't be blamed for feeling that way. With a break or two in a couple of games, and we could be talking about regional rankings and how ASU might fare in the playoffs. Instead they are hoping to win the last two games and break even for the year. Don't expect any sympathy from the Savage Storm, as three of their losses came by a combined 8 points. So for them as well, the talk is not about playoffs, but about avoiding a 3 win season with two tough games to close things out. There should be a lot of offense in this game with the possible key being how well ASU's run defense (118 yds per game) can handle Baylen Laury and SOSU's running attack (175 yds per game). Turnovers could also be huge, and the Rams are 2nd in the LSC with +2 margin, while SOSU is 11th at -6. The Rams should roll right along this week, ASU 35-24.
East Central at Texas A&M-Commerce
It was supposed to be the Lions clinching the LSC North with this game, not the Tigers. I guess that's why they play the games. Texas A&M-Commerce stopped a three game losing skid last week, edging Central Oklahoma, but have yet to post consecutive wins this year. East Central comes into the game, winners of their last three and can clinch an outright divisional title with a win and an ENMU win over NSU. They have done it mostly with defense (5th in the LSC in scoring and yards allowed) and an offense that over the last three weeks has seen the emergence of Charles Opeseyitan (320 yards rushing in that time) and QB Tyler Vanderzee (655 yards and 6 TDs). And, not to beat a dead horse, but turnover margin favors them as well - TAMC is last in the LSC at -11, while ECU is tied for 2nd at +6. We'll go with the hot team, ECU 28-17.
Incarnate Word at Tarleton State
A year after winning a playoff game, the Texans are fighting to stay out of the LSC South cellar. They have been playing much better since starting the season 0-4. Outside of a blowout to WTAM, the Texans have been very competitive taking two ranked teams down to the wire. The Cardinals have struggled the past three weeks, losing to ACU, ASU, and WTAM by an average score of 15-55. The Texans have more playmakers and are at home, so we'll take TSU 28-17.
#19 Midwestern State at #4 Texas A&M-Kingsville - Game of the Year Round Five
Where to start with this one?
Statistically speaking, Midwestern State has the advantage offensively, third in the LSC in scoring (37 points), third in total yards (441 yards), first in rushing (215 yards) and seventh in passing (226 yards). Texas A&M-Kingsville checks in 7th in points (27), 7th in total yards (388), 3rd in rushing (154) and 6th in passing (234).
Defensively, the edge appears to lie with TAMK - 1st in scoring (14 pts per game), 1st in total defense (232 yds per game), 1st in rushing defense (51 yds per game), and 1st in pass defense (182 yds per game). MSU checks in 4th in scoring (23), 4th in yards allowed (360), 3rd in rushing (117) and 9th in pass defense (243).
The Javelinas have put up their numbers against teams with a W/L percentage of .559 (32nd in the NCAA), while the Mustangs opponents have a combined winning percentage of .426 (117th in the NCAA). Against ranked opponents, MSU is 0-2 , while TAMK is 2-1 (and all three in the top 10 at the time).
The Javelinas should end their 5 game skid to the Mustangs, TAMK 28-17.
#2 Abilene Christian at #14 West Texas A&M - Game of the Year Round Six
The game that was supposed to be for all the marbles still is, mostly. An ACU win gives them the LSC South title outright and at least a tie for the overall conference title. If WTAM wins, it creates a two- or three-way tie atop the South with the overall conference title to be settled next week. But you can throw all that out the window, because these two teams will be focused on the other side of the field and worried solely about winning this game.
Abilene Christian comes into the game playing as well as any team in the nation. They are outscoring their opponents by a 43-17 average and outgaining them 469-285 per game. The running game has not been as potent as last year, but has been effective averaging 145 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry. But the passing game has carried the team. Sophomore Mitchell Gale has now thrown for 2,813 yards with a 31-1 TD to Int ratio. Edmund Gates has 935 yards and 11 TDs receiving, and 7 other players have between 16 and 30 receptions. The line has done their job, as evidenced by the yards per carry average and just 11 sacks allowed. The defense is second in the LSC, behind TAMK, in scoring (17 pts per game), yards allowed (285), rushing yards (82) and passing (204). The team has scored at least 31 points in every game this year, while not allowing more than 28 in any game.
West Texas A&M has been pretty dominant themselves. They have outscored their opposition by a 43-22 margin, and outgained them by an average of 511-331. They lead the LSC with 392 yards passing per game, and have rushed for an average of 119. Taylor Harris has thrown for 3,293 yards and 25 TDs, but also has 12 interceptions. The trio of Tyson Williams, Stephen Burton and Brittan Golden has combined for 142 receptions for 2,129 yards and 20 TDs. Kelvin Thompson leads the running game with 628 yards and 7 TDs, and has another 255 yards and a TD receiving. The line has done a good job protecting the QB, allowing just 14 sacks on 441 passing attempts. While they don't get the attention that the offense does, the defense has been effective. They are 3rd in scoring defense (22 pts per game), yards allowed (331), and pass defense (207), while 5th in rush defense (124). They have struggled in a couple of games, allowing 503 yards at TAMK, 475 at Grand Valley, and getting shut out offensively in games against ASU and TAMK.
Last year, unranked West Texas A&M jumped up and spanked undefeated and #1 ranked Abilene Christian. At the time, WT was the hottest team in the LSC and ACU was inconsistent at times, despite its national ranking ranking. This year, its ACU playing the best ball in the league (and possibly the country) and WT that has been inconsistent at times. ACU doesnt' shoot themselves in the foot as much, taking care of the ball (just 6 turnovers) and not committing penalties at the same rate as the Buffs (71 yds per game vs. 92 for WT). Throw in the trend in recent years for the visiting team winning this matchup, and we'll take the Wildcats in a shootout 93-68. No, no, just kidding about the score, ACU 41-35.