On Monday, the first sets of Regional Rankings were released for the Division II level. These rankings are the sole determining factor into how the playoff teams are chosen and seeded. The top 6 teams from each Super Region will make the playoffs for a total field of 24 teams. In the first round, every No. 1 and No. 2 seed gets a bye. The winner of Super Region 1 will have to play the winner of Super Region 3 for a shot at the National Championship the same as Super Region 2’s winner will play the winner of Super Region 4. Here is the initial set of regional rankings;
A few surprises stood out to me as I looked over these rankings. However I feel the need to explain that these rankings are devised using a computer and equations to determine their seeds. I’m not a math guy and I don’t think the game was made to be played on paper, so my comments have to do with what I think would make for better matchups. So when you read this know, I’m not trying to argue that the math is wrong, I’m simply saying I would prefer this matchup in a perfect world.
In SR1, I was very happy to see New Haven retain the No. 1 seed over Bloomsburg. It’s not that Bloomsburg has done anything wrong, but it’s nice to see a team from a non-power conference ranked so highly. I was also happy to see two CIAA teams make it into the Top 6. Both schools deserve the ranking and Winston-Salem has already punched its ticket for the CIAA title game. I did think that Southern Connecticut State offered a better game to West Virginia Wesleyan than Slippery Rock. I really like what the Owls have been doing and think they could have Cinderella potential.
SR 2 was probably the set of rankings I had the biggest gripe with. I didn’t like seeing Morehouse so low in the rankings. Their only loss in region has been to Albany State and they are a very talented and well balanced team. Further, seeing Albany State at No. 6 also concerns me because of their thin margin for error. With the SIAC instituting a conference title game this year, a loss could make them lose their playoff spot, whereas last year it didn’t occur. At this time I would take both SIAC teams over the SAC teams though as I’m a big fan of Jonas Randolph and Mars Hill.
SR3 and SR4 went pretty much as I expected, though I was a little surprised that Hillsdale- with three region losses- was ranked ahead of Indianapolis. Also I wish Humboldt State was ranked higher, as they are going to need a lot of help if they are going to get into the Top 6 at this point. Also when was the last time we didn’t see Grand Valley State in a set of Regional Rankings?
Overall I think the rankings are solid and I’ll be anxious to see how they change in the coming weeks. Speaking of which there are going to be two big games this weekend that could shake up the Regional Rankings as North Alabama (SR2 No. 2 ) takes on West Alabama (SR2 No. 7) on Thursday night, while Minnesota-Duluth (SR3 No. 3) plays St. Cloud State (SR 3 No. 5) on Saturday. West Alabama will need a win just to keep their playoff hopes alive, while St. Cloud State will be looking to put a dent in the chances of Minnesota-Duluth repeating as National Champions.
Finally below is a bracket of how the playoffs would look if they started this weekend;
Matthew Elder provides insight into the small-school football scene, with his weekly columns which appear at Crystal Ball Run on Monday's. Matt added an additional column this week, with the release of the Regional Rankings.
For Matt's insight on all things small-school football, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MatthewCElder.