By A.D. Drew
BCSN SportsWrap co-host

With three weeks left in the Division II football season, most fans are wondering what it will take for their team to get into the playoffs.  We will examine what it will take for our various D-II HBCU’s to get into the “tournament”. 

First of all, Division II teams must be ranked within the top 7 teams in their Super-Region.  An exception is made for conference champions who must finish in the top 9 to qualify (at the expense of a top 7 finisher). Each super region is made up of four conferences, plus any independents that are geographically within the footprint of that region.  The number one seed gets a bye, and the remaining six play round one. Seeds two, three, and four are at home in round one. NEW FOR 2019:  Seeds five, six and seven are matched up geographically with the three home teams for round one.  This was done to avoid travel issues and increase attendance in the first round.  

Super Region Two comprises most of our HBCU’s.  The region encompasses the CIAA and SIAC, along with the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) and Gulf South Conference (GSC).

Let’s start with the regional rankings in Super Region Two that were first released Monday October 28, based upon records versus Division II opponents:

  1.     Valdosta State  |  GSC  |  8-0
  2.     Lenoir-Rhyne  |  SAC  |  8-0
  3.     Bowie State  |  CIAA  |  8-0
  4.     Wingate  |  SAC  |  8-0
  5.     West Florida  |  GSC  |  5-1
  6.     Carson-Newman  |  SAC  |  5-2
  7.     Virginia State  |  CIAA  |  6-1
  8.     Mississippi College  |  GSC  |  4-2
  9.     Virginia Union  |  CIAA  |  5-2
  10.    Albany State  |  SIAC  |  5-3

The records above only reflect the teams record versus Division II opponents only. Division wins and losses are the only games that count towards rankings (Kentucky State’s two impressive victories versus FCS opponents mean nothing in the rankings).  Other factors included when rating a team are conference record, region record, and RPI. The rating percentage index, commonly known as the RPI, is a quantity used to rank teams based upon a team’s wins and losses and its strength of schedule. The index comprises a team’s winning percentage (25%), its opponents’ winning percentage (50%), and the winning percentage of those opponents’ opponents (25%). The opponents’ winning percentage and the winning percentage of those opponents’ opponents both comprise the strength of schedule (SOS). Thus, the SOS accounts for 75% of the RPI calculation and is 2/3 its opponents’ winning percentage and 1/3 its opponents’ opponents’ winning percentages.

Teams Making the First Rankings

Bowie State.  Bowie State has the easiest schedule remaining with games versus Lincoln, PA (0-8) at home before travelling to Elizabeth City. State (2-6).  Bowie will not be tested again until the CIAA conference championship game. This will be an opportunity for the Bulldogs to impress voters with some blowouts.  If Bowie wins out (including the conference championship game), they will host a first-round game. I believe the most likely first round opponent will be Carson-Newman. 

  

Virginia State.  This team trails Bowie State by one game in the standings (Bowie owns the tie-breaker). Bowie has to lose their last two games for VSU to have a chance at winning the conference.  Despite being in the top seven, they are not sitting in a good spot with the SIAC not represented in the top 7. If Albany State wins out, they may bump Virginia State out of the playoffs (a top nine finish by a conference champion is an automatic bid). Additionally, West Florida still has Valdosta State to play. A VSU victory versus Virginia Union and a West Florida loss will probably move VSU up to six and guarantee the Trojans a berth into the playoffs.  Of course, rival Virginia Union will do their best to spoil the Virginia State party and try to get in themselves. If VSU advances to the playoffs, the Trojan should get ready to travel to North Carolina to face either Wingate or Lenoir-Rhyne.

 

Virginia Union.  Only one of the Virginia schools has a shot at getting in the playoffs and Union has the more realistic, yet outside chance to get in.  One of these teams will be eliminated in their head-to-head match-up week 11. The Panthers are playing for an at-large bid and will need a little help to get to the top seven.    West Florida in the most likely team to lose ahead of Union in the standings. Will a West Florida loss and a Virginia Union win get the Panthers to number seven? An additional loss by Carson-Newman will definitely help.  The in-region/conference victory versus Virginia State, along with an RPI over .500 might be enough for them to get in with a loss by one of the teams ahead of them.

 

Albany State.  Despite last week’s loss to Savannah State, the Golden Rams are sitting in a good position at number 10.  Albany State still has a tough opponent in Fort Valley State, which will raise their RPI over .500. An in-region victory over West Georgia has already boosted the resume.  Albany State must win out, including the conference championship game, and they will be in. Gas the busses up for a trip to either Wingate or Lenoir-Rhyne.  

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Miles.  The Miles loss to Central State has them sitting outside the top 10.  If they win out, they still may not get in as a conference champion. They still have to face Tuskegee for the Golden Tigers homecoming, and Tuskegee is looking to knock their rivals out as payback for Miles knocking them out of the SIAC conference championship game last year.  Miles schedule is not impressive: they have an RPI under .400 with no in-region match-ups, Miles has a tough up-hill battle. Miles needs West Florida, Carson Newman, and Virginia State all to lose. A loss by Virginia Union to Elizabeth City State will definitely be a plus.  

Fayetteville State.  The Broncos will probably win the CIAA South and face Bowie State in the Championship game.  A victory over the Bulldogs as a conference champion still may not get them in the top nine. Will a Fayetteville victory over the CIAA North Champion allow them to get in with an at-large, especially when you consider Virginia State is floating around the minimum qualifying standards, also?  A Fayetteville State victory knocks out Virginia State. Fayetteville has no shot at an at-large berth, in my opinion. Wingate faces both Lenoir-Rhyne and Carson-Newman in the final three weeks of the season. However, a Wingate loss to both of these teams, along with loses by Carson-Newman, West Florida, Virginia State, and Albany State will open the door for Fayetteville State.

Fort Valley State.  Fort Valley has to defeat both Savannah State and Albany State in the final two weeks of the regular season and then win the SIAC championship game.  West Florida, and Virginia Union will have drop out of the polls and Carson-Newman will also have to lose.  

DREW’S PROJECTED FINAL RANKINGS (D-II RECORD)

  1.     Valdosta State (11-0)*
  2.     Lenoir-Rhyne (11-0)*
  3.     Bowie State (11-0)*
  4.     Carson Newman (9-2)
  5.     Wingate (10-1)
  6.     Virginia State (8-1)
  7.     West Florida (9-2)
  8.     Mississippi College (7-2)
  9.     Fort Valley (8-2)*

*Automatic Qualifier

 

Projected First Round Match-Up

Valdosta State – Bye

Virginia State at Lenoir-Rhyne

Wingate at Bowie State

Fort Valley State at Carson-Newman

Don’t forget about us

West Virginia State.  West Virginia State competes in the Mountain East Conference,  which is in Super Region One They were ranked 5th in the first rankings. If the Yellow Jackets win out, they are in.  A loss to top rated Notre Dame (OH) will not hurt them, it will just force them out on the road instead of playing at home. It’s too early to tell who they will play. The Mountain East doesn’t play a conference championship game so these last three weeks are important games for West Virginia State.

 

For the full listing of all four regions, CLICK HERE (via NCAA)