August 30, 2006

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 opponents.

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.

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is's Senior Editor and begins as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011; has worked on all but one of the preseason Kickoff publications; has done game-day writing and photography and the pregame broadcast at the championship Stagg Bowl in Salem for almost a decade; and has taken photos at the Final Four for He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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