This is going to be a busy week for me here in Bemidji.
On Wednesday, I’ll run out to The Glas to talk with the BSU men’s hockey team about the weekend series at Northern Michigan. After a week off, I’m sure the team will be ready and excited to get back on the ice. It should be a good road test in the U.P.
Also on Wednesday, I’m going to head out and talk with the Bemidji State football team. The Beavers (6-2 overall, 5-2 NSIC) will be playing for the playoffs Saturday in the final home game when defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth comes to town for a 1 p.m. game at Chet Anderson Stadium.
UMD is currently the No. 6 ranked team in the d2football.com poll and No. 7 in the American Football Coaches’ Association Poll.
I talked a bit with BSU head coach Jeff Tesch over the phone Tuesday night. We had a good conversation and talked about how big the game is for the program.
He is hopeful for a large turnout and feels an energetic, playoff-style crowd could help give the Beavers a boost against the Bulldogs (7-1 overall, 7-0 NSIC).
"We really need the 12th man this weekend," Tesch said.
The weather has been less than pleasant for the last few home games. The homecoming game against St. Cloud State was played in the rain and cold. The Wayne State game felt like winter with snow falling and chunks of ice on the ground.
Fans should know that the National Weather Service is calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s…an ideal forecast for this time of the year in Bemidji.
A win would do two things for the Beavers:
1. Establish respect in the NSIC.
The Beavers were not expected to do much this season with a squad full of underclassmen, but have knocked off a pair of ranked teams in then No. 20 Winona State and then No. 14 Wayne State. BSU challenged then No. 10 Mankato in the second week of the season but lost 37-34 in overtime. In that game BSU was one first down away from the win.
Those observers question those wins: Winona was overrated, Wayne State’s win came in inclement conditions, Mankato’s top players were hurt. They’ll say BSU’s record is inflated because of a win against NAIA Minot State.
They’ll also point to BSU’s loss to St. Cloud State in the homecoming game. It was probably BSU’s worst game of the season. The Beavers repeatetly self-destructed in the second half with special teams errors and penalties.
The bottom line: A win against Minnesota-Duluth would validate the wins against the ranked teams and show the Beavers are for real this year and elevate expectations for the next few years.
In my opinion, a win against Minnesota-Duluth and victories against Mary and Concordia-St. Paul in the final two weeks of the season will be enough to put the Beavers in the Division II playoffs for the first time in school history.
When selection time rolls around, six teams from each of the four super regions are selected to make up the 24-team playoff field.
There are so many determining factors that go into how those rankings are established. You can read more on page 11 in the NCAA Football Championship Handbook.
The primary criteria is:
-Strength of schedule
-Availability of student-athletes for NCAA Championships
There is also a number of criteria the Divsion II Football Committe has approved for consideration of at-large playoff bids (not necessarily in priority order).
-In region Division II win/loss results
-Overall Division II win/loss results
-Strength of schedule
-Results vs. Common opponents
-Results vs. Divsiion II teams greater than .500
-Overall Win/Loss results
-Division II win/loss results
-Results vs. Non-Division II opponents
With that criteria in mind, consider: Of the NSIC teams in the latest super region rankings; Mankato is No. 1, UMD is No. 2 and Wayne State is No. 4. Those three teams were the NSIC’s representatives in the 2008 playoffs.
The Beavers are one of six two-loss teams in the super region. That means a loss to UMD (or to Mary or Concordia) will likely eliminate the Beavers from playoff contention.
But a win against UMD will almost certainly move the Beavers up in the regional rankings. I’d say a victory over UMD would put Bemidji State in the 4-6 range in next week’s rankings.
Why would it not be higher? Well, Bemidji State’s game against NAIA Minot State hurts. Look back up at the selection criteria. Number of games against Division II teams matter.
BSU is the only team in the regional ranking group to not play eight Division II games (they’ve played seven). This is the primary reason that cost Bemidji State a berth in the 2006 national playoffs despite winning the NSIC that year. That year, Winona State – which finished second in the NSIC – went to the national playoffs because they played a stronger strength of schedule against more Divsion II teams.
While BSU didn’t get to the DII playoffs that season, it did make the Mineral Water Bowl.
There’s a lot that can happen in three weeks. But serious talk about the playoffs for the Beavers start and end with Saturday’s game against Minnesota-Duluth.
I’ll write more about the game for Thursday’s edition of The Pioneer.