ATN's 2006 conference rankings
What began as an Around the Nation every-other-year
tradition became a Kickoff '05 staple. For conference previews in
Kickoff '06, Pat Coleman and I reprised our rankings of Division
III's conferences, 1-25, excluding a 26th conference, the NESCAC,
because of its policy of not playing out-of-conference
Fifteen conferences remained in the same spot as last year, with only four moving three or more spots in either direction. The comments are new, and are mine.
1. Wisconsin (WIAC): Still the country's toughest top-to-bottom group; Helped by Whitewater's Stagg Bowl run through the West Region.
2. Ohio (OAC): Mount Union, Ohio Northern and Capital lead a powerful top half, but bottom-half Heidelberg hasn't won since October 2003, a span of 26 games.
3. Northwest (NWC): Linfield carries the banner here, but NWC is usually good for a second playoff-worthy team.
4. American Southwest (ASC): Playoffs were a disappointment in '05, but league's top half can play with anyone.
5. Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW): Deep conference might have put a team in Stagg Bowl by now if Mount Union wasn't always in the way.
6. Minnesota (MIAC): St. John's always strong, but league performs well against out-of-conference competition.
7. New Jersey (NJAC): Cortland accompanied Rowan to playoffs last year, and didn't embarrass itself in one-point loss.
8. Middle Atlantic (MAC): Move to East Region has actually coincided with a league-strength swoon, Delaware Valley aside.
9. Empire 8 (E8): Off year for New York power league left it with two fewer playoff participants than Liberty League by round of 16.
10. Liberty (LL): Biggest mover surged nine spots from previous ranking, largely because of '05 playoff performance.
11. Atlantic Central (ACFC): No bum teams, and Wesley's semifinal run keep ACFC high.
12. Iowa (IIAC): Teams beat on each other too much to produce a good playoff run the past few years.
13. USA South (USAC): Primed to make a power move this year.
14. Old Dominion (ODAC): Perennial champ Bridgewater knocked both PAC teams
from '05 playoffs.
15. Presidents (PAC): Middle teams are improving, and conference no longer just W&J playhouse. Dropped five slots.
16. Southern (SCAC): DePauw not rising fast enough, Trinity (Texas) still the king. Dropped three spots.
17. North Coast (NCAC): Playoff record is nice, but five teams rank in bottom 100, one in top 65.
18. Southern California (SCIAC): Recent Occidental success brought conference this far.
19. Centennial (CC): Dropped four slots after weak non-conference and playoff follow-up to five-way title tie.
20. Michigan (MIAA): Last lower-half conference to produce a national champion (Albion, 1994), but champions are 0-for-6 in expanded playoff era.
21. Midwest (MWC): Champion was bounced from postseason 62-3 last season.
22. Heartland (HCAC): Last playoff win came in 2000; teams were 13-16 non-conference last year.
23. University (UAA): No outstanding — or horrible — teams among foursome.
24. Illini-Badger (IBFC): Teams were 5-20 out-of-conference last season.
25. New England (NEFC): Curry’s performance against Delaware Valley in 2005's first round was step in right direction.