[cleeng_content id="141282934" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]Next month brings the NCAA Division II playoff march to little Florence, Ala.
Late November finds 24 teams trying to get through their Super Regionals and then have only four of them remaining in the running for the national championship.
After the semifinals have been decided, the two teams left standing travel to Alabama to see which one will be the 2013 national champion.
Unlike their NCAA Division I comrades, those schools filling the Division II ranks actually decide the national champion team on the field.
The country is divided into four so-called “Super Regions.” There are so few Division II schools in the far western states that much of the attention is focused on Super Region Two and Suyper Region Three where the southern, southwestern and midwestern schools are housed.
Only 24 teams are selected to join the Division II playoffs. Each Region gets six teams.
Unbeaten Shepherd is in Super Region One.
For the first time this season there is a certain newness to the Super Region One playoff picture. But that feeling is really only superficial because the old, standard West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference no longer exists. That league has been replaced by the first-year Mountain East Conference where Shepherd, Urbana and Concord are the most impressive teams.
There are three other conferences involved with Super Region One’s playoff picture.
Joining with the Mountain East Conference in supplying the six teams for the Super Region One playoffs are the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and the Northeast-10 Conference.
Although there are seasons when the PSAC sees a league member rise to challenge the tried-and-true powers, it would be an unusual sight if Indiana, Bloomsburg and West Chester weren’t heavily involved in the playoff scramble.
Schools such as Shippensburg, California, Slippery Rock, Kutztown and Mercyhurst have made it known in recent years that the trio of Indiana, Bloomsburg and West Chester won’t always have all the Super Region One playoff berths reserved for themselves. Slippery Rock defeated seventh-ranked Indiana on Saturday.
The CIAA has schools from North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee and has been until recently a league that had no traditionally dominant team. That changed when Winston-Salem State moved down from Division I status and has taken charge of the conference.
Those Rams reached the national championship game in Florence last season where they were trimmed by Valdosta State (Ga.).
Schools from New England and one from New York comprise the Northeast-10 ranks. The team winning with the most consistency has been New Haven, but the Northeast-10 only rarely has a representative that even reaches the Super Region One semifinals.
The old West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference never had more than one team selected for the yearly playoffs. The conference that enters any season expecting at least two of its members to be selected to the playoffs is the PSAC. Now that Winston-Salem State hovers over the rest of the CIAA and will get the majority, if not all, of that league’s future bids it will be up to Shaw or Johnson C. Smith to win enough to bring some bids there.
After this season’s first six weeks of football, the teams moving to prominance are Bloomsburg, Shepherd, West Chester, Winston-Salem State, New Haven, Slippery Rock and Indiana.
The 2013 playoffs could see half the Super Region One bids go to schools with the mascot/nickname “Rams.”
Shepherd is the “Rams.” Winston-Salem State is the “Rams.” and West Chester is the “Golden Rams.”
When Valdosta State won the 2012 national championship, it meant another season had passed without Super Region One providing the champion.
Since this particular playoff format has been in existence there has never been a national title won by a Super Region One school.
Here in 2013, most schools have at least four more games to get through in order to preserve their status as possible playoff teams.
Unbeaten Shepherd (6-0) could lose only one game and still be left out of the playoffs if that loss came in its regular season finale at Concord on Nov. 16.
Two losses didn’t keep the West Virginia Rams away from the 2012 playoffs because one defeat was to Shippensburg (which had a 10-0 regular season record) and the conference loss didn’t keep Shepherd from winning another WVIAC championship.
A single loss to Concord this year could mean a two- or three-way tie for the Mountain East Conference championship.
An unbeaten Shepherd team would receive a postseason bid. Bloomsburg or West Chester could finish unbeaten as well. Bloomsburg doesn’t play Indiana but does have a game against West Chester.
New Haven and Winston-Salem State have one loss.
Shepherd and Bloomsburg are both ranked in the Top 12 of the latest national poll. West Chester, Indiana and Winston-Salem State were in the Top 25.
The Mountain East Conference may have given Super Region One a little new flavor. But the same quality taste is still provided by Bloomsburg, Shepherd, West Chester, Indiana, Slippery Rock and Winston-Salem State.