The final week of the D3 Football season is nigh upon us, people. Look sharp, because we’ve still got a long way to go. Read on to see my completely unbiased playoff projections.
Don’t see your conference listed? Check out part two here.
Fifteen teams have already clinched a conference title, or at least a portion of it, and secured an automatic playoff berth. Here they be:
BR-106 La Verne (SCIAC)
BR-8 Johns Hopkins (Centennial Conference)
BR-2 Wheaton (CCIW)
BR-173 Norwich (ECFC)
BR-26 Franklin (HCAC)
BR-49 Dubuque (IIAC)
BR-69 Framingham (MASCAC)
BR-19 Albion (MIAA)
BR-1 St. Thomas (MIAC)
BR-5 Linfield (Northwest)
BR-25 Washington and Lee (Old Dominion)
BR-10 Thomas More (President’s)
BR-152 St. Scholastica (Upper Midwest)
BR-62 Huntingdon (USA South)
BR-4 UW-Oshkosh (WIAC)
(Information courtesy of D3Football.com)
Here are the conferences left to be decided, along with the teams still in contention for the automatic bid:
THE PLOT: Cortland appeared to be in full control of the Empire 8 through the first five games of the season, especially after back-to-back-to-back victories over conference rivals St. John Fisher, Utica and Hartwick. Alfred lost to Ithaca and St. John Fisher was losing games practically every weekend.
Then came Cortland’s 29-21 overtime loss to Buffalo State, which suddenly looks a lot more important now than it did four weeks ago. The Red Dragons responded with two quick wins — against Alfred and Brockport, no less — and appeared in control once more when a trip to Morrisville fouled everything up. The Red Dragons lost 42-28, dropping them into a tied with Alfred while a suddenly red hot St. John Fisher squad appeared in the rear view mirror.
Now, Cortland must defeat Ithaca on Saturday in order to win the conference. If the Red Dragons lose, and Alfred State or St. John Fisher win, then Cortland is out. Cue dramatic music.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: I’m banking on Cortland standing firm and coming away with a huge road victory over Ithaca for the conference title. Ithaca has won just four games this season, two in the Empire 8, and lost to teams Cortland beat up pretty badly. Sure, the Red Dragon’s early season magic has lost a bit of luster over the course of the season, but they’re still a very good football team capable of putting up a lot of points against a so-so Ithaca defense. I can actually see St. John Fisher pulling off the upset win over Alfred to claim second place in the conference. The Cardinals are playing great football right now.
PREDICTED CONFERENCE CHAMPION: SUNY Cortland
THE PLOT: St. Lawrence already beat RPI earlier this season, so if they beat Merchant Marine this weekend, they win the conference title. If St. Lawrence loses and RPI beats Union, RPI takes home the banner. If both teams lose, and Hobart beats Rochester, the Liberty League will end in a rock-paper-scissors three-way tie since all three teams will have two conference losses, and Hobart beat St. Lawrence, St. Lawrence beat RPI, and RPI beat Hobart.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: The last time St. Lawrence took on Merchant Marine, it dominated with a 42-13 victory — on the road. This year, within the confines of Leckonby Stadium, the Saints will easily take the cake and the conference title in the process. RPI should likewise get an easy victory over winless Union, and Hobart should take down 5-3 Rochester.
PREDICTED CONFERENCE CHAMPION: St. Lawrence
Middle Atlantic Conference
THE PLOT: This is easily the wackiest conference in all of D3 football. A few weeks ago it looked like Delaware Valley was going to take the crown, especially after six-straight wins put them at 6-1 overall in the conference with tiebreakers over Albright and Stevenson.
Then the unthinkable happened: Delaware Valley lost to a Lycoming squad that had won just two games on the season. Albright beat Stevenson and jumped up to first place in the MAC and previously-forgotten Widener suddenly had a 6-2 conference record.
For Albright it’s simple: beat Lebanon Valley at home and the title is yours. Should they lose, Delaware Vally beat Albright 28-23 earlier this season, so a win plus a Lions loss would mean a shared title and an automatic bid to the D3 Playoffs.
After Stevenson’s last second loss to Albright this weekend, they need the Lions to lose to get a share of the title. Widener would share the title with Albright (and potentially Stevenson) if they beat Delaware Valley.
Of course, none of this matters if Albright takes care of business at home.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Delaware Valley and Widener take turns beating one another each year. Last year, Delaware lost 44-28, so that means it should win this season’s matchup handily. Right? Stevenson should be able to tackle Fairleigh Dickinson, which means the standings will look exactly the same as before. But what of Albright?
The Lions have just one loss on the season — a narrow 28-23 loss to Delaware three weeks ago. Up until that point, they were clobbering teams 62-9, 51-6 and 27-10. The defense has been a bit shakier of late, surrendering 28 and 26 points to King’s College and Stevenson over the past two weeks … but Lebanon Valley hasn’t defeated the Lions since the 2011 season. I see a close contest, but one Albright ultimately wins.
PREDICTED CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Albright
THE PLOT: Finally! Simplicity. St. Norbert and Monmouth rattled off huge winning streaks to take control of their respective division, setting up a monster game at the Green Knights Schneider Stadium.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: St. Norbert hasn’t lost a game all season, outscored its opponents 318-92 and boasts a top-15 defense surrendering just 270 yards per game. Monmouth lost to Central in Week 2, but otherwise remained undefeated, outscored opponents 317-84 (in games won) and boasts a top-10 defense that has surrendered just 249 yards per contest. Captain Obvious says this will be a very close game, one that may very well come down to home field advantage. Then again, Monmouth has been stellar on the road … [takes swig of vodka] Screw it! I’m picking it. Monmouth in a narrow road victory.
PREDICTED CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Monmouth
New England Football Conference
THE PLOT: These two squads will face off this weekend in the season finale — the de facto NEFC Championship game.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: These two teams are basically even. Each squad features a top-20 offense — New England averages 504.7 ypg, while Salve averages 492.8 — and a top-20 defense — New England surrenders 254.3 ypg, Salve 276.5. This one comes down to home field advantage. I think New England takes it, but not by much.
PREDICTED CONFERENCE CHAMPION: New England