November 7, 2013

Poll positions: What to make of regional rankings


At the moment, Millsaps' regional ranking might leave them on the outside looking in for a Pool B bid. But as an unbeaten team, they'd certainly get an at-large bid.
Millsaps athletics photo

So the regional rankings are out, and for the beginner and advanced playoff-field watcher alike, there's information to be gleaned.

Before we dig too deep, let's make sure we understand what we're looking at. The regional rankings are compiled individually in each region by an NCAA-appointed subcommittee of coaches, ADs and conference commissioners. The subcommittee (regional advisory committee) meets weekly by teleconference to discuss the rankings long before Wednesday's first public release. Another set of rankings comes next Wednesday and a third set, while not publicly released, is used to help select the field after Week 11’s games are in the books.

Each eight-member subcommitee has two members at the helm who make up part of the eight-person national committee that selects and seeds the playoff field of 32. That selection committee has a set of primary and secondary criteria that it follows to ensure that assembling of the field is based on more than just opinion.

The D3football.com Top 25 poll (and the coaches poll) is completely unrelated to these rankings and has no influence on playoff selection. If you're new to the process, before you complain, please educate yourself. Here’s the championships handbook the NCAA and schools use, or you can get the basics without all of the extras by reading our FAQ.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this first set of rankings is highly fluid. Even though it's already Week 10 of an 11-week regular season, the final two Saturdays feature a number of big games that could turn the rankings upside down. A sampling:

Week 10:

North Central at Wheaton
Heidelberg at John Carroll
Wittenberg at Wabash
Ithaca at Salisbury
St. Lawrence at Hobart
Concordia-Moorhead at St. Thomas
Pacific at Willamette

Week 11:

John Carroll at Mount Union
Linfield at Pacific
Bethel at St. John's
UW-Platteville at UW-Oshkosh
Millsaps at Rhodes
Cortland State at Ithaca
Alfred at St. John Fisher
Salve Regina at Endicott
Chicago at Wash. U.
St. Norbert at Lake Forest
Widener at Delaware Valley
Hampden-Sydney at Randolph-Macon

And one final thing to keep in mind. Twenty-four of the 32 playoff spots are automatic, meaning they go to champions of conferences with seven or more members who have been in existence for longer than two years. This is referred to as Pool A. So the regional rankings, and the playoff selection committee, really only puts eight teams into the field. These, however, are the eight most hotly contested bids.

Here are Wednesday's rankings, republished with expected automatic qualifiers omitted:

East

6 Framingham State 7-1 7-1
7 Alfred 6-2 6-2
8 St. John Fisher 6-2 6-2
10 St. Lawrence 6-2 6-2

North

- Wabash/Witt loser
5 John Carroll/Heidelberg winner
6 Illinois Wesleyan 7-1 7-1
8 Wheaton (Ill.) 7-1 7-1

South

3 Texas Lutheran 7-0 7-0
4 Wesley 4-2 6-2
5 Millsaps 8-0 8-0
8 Washington U. 6-2 6-2
10 Washington and Jefferson 6-2 6-2

West

4 UW-Oshkosh 7-1 7-1
5 Concordia-Moorhead 7-1 7-1
6 UW-Platteville 7-1 7-1
7 Pacific Lutheran 7-1 7-1
10 St. John’s 6-2 6-2

From this group, three Pool B teams (those from non-AQ conferences SAA, SCAC, UAA, MASCAC and independents, eligible teams in bold) and five Pool C (runners-up in AQ conferences) will be selected.

In the East, Hobart and St. Lawrence face off, and Ithaca, Alfred, St. John Fisher and Salisbury will beat up on each other until there's one AQ team and none with a realistic Pool C shot left.

In the North, Wittenberg and Wabash, John Carroll's two big games, and Wheaton's game against North Central will change things. Wheaton only stays in the picture if they beat North Central. North Central would likely still win the CCIW AQ on points-differential among h2h tiebreaker with IWU and Wheaton. If North Central wins as expected, and Mount Union finishes unbeaten, the JCU/Heidelberg loser is out.

In the South, Texas Lutheran, Wesley and Millsaps and Wash U. would all be in Pool B -- these regional rankings were good news for Wesley's thought-to-be-shot playoff hopes. W&J and Thomas More won't be in the picture - one will win the AQ, the other won't stack up in Pool C.

In the West, you have to consider Pacific and St. Thomas part of the picture even though they aren't regionally ranked. Oshkosh or Platteville will knock one another out.

So that leaves this:

Texas Lutheran, Framingham State, Wesley, Millsaps and Wash U. in Pool B.

Wabash/Witt loser, John Carroll/Heidelberg winner, Oshkosh/Platteville winner, Pacific Lutheran, Concordia-Moorhead and Illinois Wesleyan in Pool C.

Unexpected problems could arise, if say, John Carroll beat Mount Union, Bethel lost to St. John's (check this, they might be good anyway) or Illinois College lost the MWC tiebreaker.

But if things break as expected -- and when do they ever? -- we could be looking at a couple pretty clean-cut playoff pictures.

comments powered by Disqus

Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com'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 D3hoops.com. He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

Previous Columns

December 23, 2014
2014 year in review
There were many memorable moments from the 2014 season. We can't possibly cover them all, but we'll...
November 20, 2014
Playoff picks, surprises, disappointments
Around the Nation has assembled a team of prognosticators for an annual look at who might surprise...
November 13, 2014
Playing to perfection in the MAC
Delaware Valley and Widener have been building to this point all season. This weekend there are...
November 9, 2014
Snap judgments: Finding parity
Ryan Tipps thinks parity arises from other teams following the examples of top teams, finding the...
November 6, 2014
From slumping to surging
With two weeks of football left to play in the regular season, some names that may not be so...
November 2, 2014
Snap judgments: A week with plenty of surprises
By this point in the season, our expectations for each team are pretty solidly grounded. Upsets will...
October 29, 2014
The Empire 8: The conference where all 9 can beat you
So far, Brockport State has beaten Hartwick, who beat Alfred, who beat Buffalo State, who beat...
October 26, 2014
Snap judgments: An interesting week
It’s particularly exciting to see how conferences can still get shaken up this late in the...
October 23, 2014
Finding a freshman phenom
When a freshman steps on campus, he could be the next Nate Kmic, or he could be gone before the end...
October 19, 2014
Snap judgments: Finding clarity
We found out some things about how the NJAC race will play out, as well as the ODAC and HCAC. And...
October 16, 2014
Distance no deterrent to Mighty Mikey, Merchant Marine
The Mariners' football team 'adopted' a young cancer patient a few years ago, and although young...
October 12, 2014
Snap judgments: Putting the -ack in ODAC
You can tell when someone doesn't know Division III, because they pronounce the ODAC as O-D-A-C. But...
October 9, 2014
Re-ranking the conferences for 2014
Keith McMillan ranked conferences for years for D3football.com. This is Ryan Tipps' first crack at...
October 5, 2014
Snap judgments: Where's the dropoff in Division III?
Saturday's loss by St. John Fisher and losses earlier this season by Bethel and North Central serve...
October 2, 2014
It’s the size of the fight in the dog
This past week, Maranatha Baptist had to cancel a game because it didn't have enough players. And...
September 28, 2014
Snap judgments: Signature wins come in upsets
St. John's and UW-Stevens Point took center stage for their upset victories, but Christopher Newport...
September 25, 2014
The phrase that stays
From DePauw Never Quits to Wabash Always Fights to Every Man a Lute, some Division III schools...
September 21, 2014
Snap judgments: Taking a new look at the poll positioning
The perception seems to be that at about Week 3, most Top 25 voters do major teardowns and rebuildin...
September 17, 2014
Startups come back for seconds
The three teams that started up Division III football programs last season are now in the midst of...
September 14, 2014
Snap judgments: These underdogs brought some bite
There were some near-upsets on Saturday, but in the end, almost all of the higher-ranked teams came...
September 11, 2014
Monarch linebacker forced to follow his heart
Forced from the middle of the action to a supporting role on the sidelines, Methodist linebacker...
September 7, 2014
Snap judgments: Right/wrong foot
There are two ways to start the season -- with a win, or a loss. Now, not every win necessarily puts...
September 2, 2014
Division III football: A gentleman's game
Hampden-Sydney and Wabash, two all-male schools, are squaring off in football this weekend for the...
March 3, 2014
Analyzing the NJAC and E8's big moves
Wesley and its Capital Athletic Conference brethren join forces with five New Jersey schools to form...
November 24, 2013
Look who stole the show in Round 1
Many of those who shined in the first round of the 32-team playoffs weren't the nationally elite...
November 21, 2013
Playoff picks, surprises, disappointments
ATN assembles a team for an annual look at who might surprise and disappoint us in the 32-team...
November 16, 2013
On this day, they were all big games
Keith McMillan has instant reactions both inside and outside the playoff picture on the final day of...
November 13, 2013
A pre-regional rankings primer
Keith McMillan introduces the committee and their roles, analyzes Pools B and C and takes reader...
November 10, 2013
Snap judgments: Seen from the other side
Millsaps may well have a story for the ages out of Saturday's win vs. Centre, as will Cornell and...
November 7, 2013
Poll positions: What to make of regional rankings
If you haven't seen regional rankings before, or your team hasn't been a contender in recent years,...
November 3, 2013
Snap judgments: The aftermath
With so many games featuring two ranked teams, we should see a lot of movement in Sunday's Top 25...
October 24, 2013
Poll positions: Doing some number crunching
The Top 25 doesn't exist to steal anybody's joy. It is merely a prism through which to view...
October 20, 2013
Snap judgments: Cycling up
Maryville and TCNJ are atop their respective conferences, the John Carroll defense isn't the only...
October 13, 2013
Snap judgments: A blurry picture developing
Not literally -- we get great pictures from our associated photographers and SIDs, but that won't...
October 8, 2013
Poll positions: Streaking up the rankings
Keith McMillan looks at why one computer ranking is making the case for a blue team No. 1, and not a...
October 6, 2013
Snap judgments: Bounceback seasons
Olivet, St. Lawrence, North Park, Husson, Western Connecticut ... the list of improved teams this...
October 3, 2013
Re-ranking the conferences
With September's games, and the vast majority of non-conference play in the books, Around the Nation...
September 29, 2013
Snap judgments: Look away from the Top 25 scores
At first glance -- like say, the scores page, with the top 25 scores the initial finals that catch...
September 26, 2013
History lesson: Engineering rivalries
Week 4 is perhaps the most odd Saturday on the schedule. There aren't many great rivalries, but...
September 24, 2013
Poll positions: How the voters reacted
A kick going wide left produced a wide variety of reactions, but when Wesley got taken down a peg,...
September 22, 2013
Snap judgments: Week 3
The Tommie-Johnnie rivalry is back, UMHB's defensive line is pretty darn good, the MIAA has a better...
September 19, 2013
History lesson: Wesley vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor
Now that longtime rivals Wabash and DePauw are both in the North Coast, and Mount Union and...
September 18, 2013
Poll positions: There's some movement coming
The top of the poll didn't change much last week but Saturday's games could have a significant...
September 17, 2013
Off the beaten path
Just because a team isn't in the Top 25 running or mentioned in the podcast or doesn't have a Play...
September 11, 2013
Poll positions: Why teams shuffle
In Around the Nation, Keith McMillan discusses a nonstandard way of assembling the ballot after Week...
September 8, 2013
Snap judgments
Keith McMillan's Around the Nation column returns. You'll see ATN several times a week, including on...

Other Columnists