|Let the playoffs begin!|
Linfield Bracket Round One Games:
#2 Linfield (9-0) over #22 Whitworth (9-1) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says Linfield: It doesn't matter how much extra prep Whitworth got last week, Linfield has too much talent. Whitworth should do a better job of running the football, mostly because it can't be worse. Kolste actually had a pretty good game for the Pirates in round 1, but if he doesn't get enough time to establish parts of their vertical passing game Whitworth will again struggle to move the ball. This game is close if "Crisco hands Linfield" shows up. That's probably their best chance of slowing down Payne and getting some short fields to work with. Deep down that has to be Cat fans' biggest fear, but it won't matter until later rounds (UMHB, St. Thomas, etc.)
#21 Salisbury (7-2) over #25 Cortland State (8-2): It seems like Cortland State has been living on the edge all season long while Salisbury put together a year where they knocked off Wesley, scored 91 points in a game, and are headed into the playoff with an offense (flexbone…think George Tech) that is going to be a pain in the butt anybody in the playoffs to deal with. Should be a good game but I’m seeing the Seagulls moving on in this one.
(509)Rat says Salisbury: I equate this to Fly-Sweep Willamette teams getting into the playoffs and causing people problems. You don't see the flexbone every year if you are Cortland State and I expect Salisbury to get off to a quick start because of it. Cortland State will score (and probably eventually adjust on Defense), but Salisbury has the ability to hold on to the ball and keep that offense off of the field, which plays right into the Seagulls' hands. 2008 Willamette had no business hanging w UWW on paper, but a short week of prep for a unique and unfamiliar offense can give even the best teams in the country problems.
Huntingdon (9-1) over Hendrix (8-2) (at Hunt): You have to be impressed that Hendrix has reached the playoffs in their 3rd year. It will be a great experience for them but it’s only going to last one weekend. Two of the D3football pundits are taking Hendrix here and they’re probably right but I’m going with my gut and taking the Hawks.
(509)Rat says Huntindon: I'm basically ignoring the early season loss to Birmingham-Southern. Since then, Huntingdon has been beating opponents in a much more convincing fashion than Hendrix. A win would be huge for a Hendrix program in their 3rd year of football, the problem I have is picking a program with such little big game experience to go on the road and win in the playoffs.
#13 Mary Hardin-Baylor (9-1) over #12 Hardin-Simmons (9-1) (at HSU): Now this should be a barn burner. Most people, including myself, saw UMHB’s loss to HSU a wake-up call for the Cru as they beat their next two opponents by a combined score of 134 – 34, while HSU dropped one in the mud to ETBU. Some people think UMHB is going to roll over HSU but I think the Cowboys passing attack is going to give UMHB problems again and this could come down to who has the football last. I’m expecting UMHB to win but I wouldn’t be surprised if HSU found a way to get it done again.
(509)Rat says UMHB: Lightning isn't going to strike twice for the Cowboys. The Cru couldn't stop Jessie Ramos, he had 223 receiving yards including a last minute 57 yd TD reception. I have to think UMHB is talented enough and their coaching staff smart enough to not let that happen again. For Hardin-Simmons to have a shot, they are going to have to hold UMHB to less than 21-24 pts. The Cru will surprise some and win comfortably, moving one step closer to a rematch of last year and a preview to next year’s game...
Wildcat11’s 2015 All-Northwest Conference Team Rant/Review
So the NWC office release the 2015 All-Northwest Conference team awards this week and to nobody’s surprise Sam Riddle (off), Alex Hoff (def), and Joe Smith (coach), were the top award winners for the conference. I’ve been pretty critical in the past of how the coaches put together this team for having time and time again overstuff the 1st team selections. While each coach is looking out for their guys, overstuff the 1st team hurts the Northwest Conference when it comes time for regional and All-American recognition.
If you are listing three 1st team running backs (for example), how can you ask SID’s, coaches, media members to separate one of the NWC players from all the other players from around the country when we can’t even do it in our own conference? What typically happens is that these people think that if a certain player isn’t good enough to stand alone in their own conference then there is no way they would stand alone on a regional or national level. And ultimately it winds up hurting that player, his program, and the conference in terms of national perception. This just isn’t 2015 thing but the coaches have done this over and over and over and over again throughout the years. I mean the NWC coaches named Whitworth QB Joel Clark (who was good) a 1st team QB in 2005 along with Linfield’s Brett Elliott!! Brett was the NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR and considered one of the best D3 QB’s ever but nope…Joel Clark and Brett are put on the same level by the NWC coaches.
OK….I feel better now.
This year the All-NWC team was done well for the most part. We have three 1st team running backs and I’m sorry but Spencer Payne is the best running back in the NWC and it isn’t even close. If the NWC coaches could draft any RB in the conference, there would be no hesitation by any of them to choose Payne.
I thought Riddle was the clear choice as offensive POY. Yeah, other QB’s in the conference had better stats but Sam was only playing 2 ½ quarters of play for most of the season and Linfield didn’t need to chuck it 45 times a game, especially when the ‘Cats were up by 40 a half. When Riddle threw it, he was the most effective QB in the conference and the biggest duel threat in the NWC. Easy choice and it also makes up a little for the NWC coaches botching not naming Riddle 1st team QB last year when they named QB Dalton Ritchie and left Riddle on the honorable mention list. That still pisses me off.
I’m good with the Logger WRs getting 1st team. A lot of their numbers are a product of the Air Raid style offense but Miller was fantastic after the catch and Schon had a ton of success against anyone in the NWC not named Linfield. Suyematsu really came on his senior year for Pacific and no problem with that choice. Totally agree about the offensive line choices and the Rats Freshman kicker was outstanding.
On Defense, Hoff is a no brainer, should be in the running for defensive player of the year in D3. I like the Ryan kid from Willamette on the D-Line more than Bajema from Pacific even though Bajema had more stats. I like the first three LB selections a lot but not in love with the choices of Kodama and Bresser. I’d take all the guys on the 2nd team list over those two. Wrapping it up, the Linfield defensive backs dominated the NWC. You can’t argue with those picks and if you don’t, you’re wrong.
So enough of that. (509)Rat and I put together a final 2015 NWC power ranking where we each give our thoughts on each program. I think the NWC is going to be on the upswing next season not only within conference play but also in terms of Non-Conference action.
Wildcat11 & (509)Rat’s Final 2015 Northwest Conference Power Rankings
Wildcat11: 7th consecutive NWC championship and the largest average margin of victory spread in the history of the Northwest Conference (49.3). People will say that the NWC is down this year and I won’t disagree but Linfield was pretty stellar this season. Don’t expect Linfield to fall off in the near future either. Along with the present, the future for the ‘Cats is pretty bright.
(509)Rat: The class of the conference, will continue to beat up on the NWC for a few years as Whitworth continues to recruit well and PLU matures
Wildcat11: Fantastic year two in the Sandberg era for Whitworth. The defense made a huge leap forward and you have to think the Rats will only get better moving forward. The Linfield game in the Pine Bowl next year should be a doozy.
(509)Rat: You really can't ask for anything more from Whitworth. The first round exit won't be pretty, but I don't think anyone expected a playoff appearance for another year or two. Whitworth has been teetering on landing those borderline FCS kids (ie competing w/ Eastern WA for a few guys) that you need to win on a top 10 national type level...2 more years until I truly expect them to compete with Linfield
3. Puget Sound
Wildcat11: Just a few years ago, the UPS Student Paper was writing articles asking the question of if UPS should ban football. So you have to tip the cap to the Loggers for bouncing back and building towards this 3rd place finish and 5 NWC wins especially have the NWC coaches put them dead last at the start of the year. I don’t know if they’ll ever be year contenders but I don’t see them back in the basement moving forward either.
(509)Rat: Who'd a thunk? Is a 3rd place finish enough for them to upgrade that cow pasture? C'moooon alumni...
Wildcat11: What a letdown year for the Boxers. The Boxers where huge beneficiaries of Linfield falling asleep at the wheel last season, even so, following up their co-championship year with a 4th place finish and getting ran out of Tacoma to end the year had to really sting. They lose a ton of offense this season so I have no idea where the Boxers are going in 2016.
(509)Rat: The beginning of mediocrity if you ask me. Pacific benefited from some down years from a couple of the traditionally strong programs in the conference. Time to compete with the UPS's and Geroge Fox's of the world
Wildcat11: Hard year in the win column for Pacific Lutheran but they’re headed in the right direction and should slotted in a 3rd in the NWC at the start of the 2016 season.
(509)Rat: Should be able to top Pacific and UPS next year.
6. George Fox
Wildcat11: Solid 2nd/3rd year for George Fox. They’ll continue to put in work but where they go next year is all dependent on if they’re able to backfill some of their departing personnel. BTW, I wonder what they’re going to rip off from Linfield next? The Bruindome? Consecutive winning attendance streak?
(509)Rat: Had some good non-conference results, surprising results really. I would not be shocked to see the Bruins end up as a program that ends up finishing higher than Pacific more often than not. John. Tully.
Wildcat11: I like the defense but man that offense is terrible and I don’t see it getting much better next year. They’re on the downward slide and will be for the foreseeable future.
(509)Rat: Can things get worse? Probably not, I mean, as long as Lewis and Clark has a football program
8. Lewis and Clark
Wildcat11: Should see some improvement in 2016 but who are they going to be better than in the NWC in 2016?
(509)Rat: I hope they have Whittier and Pomona-Pitzer on the schedule next year