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2022 Football

HBCU Football has plenty of serious D2 playoff candidates

The SIAC has three teams with legit playoff hopes and the CIAA has one and a possible as HBCU football preps for the D2 playoffs.

HBCU football at the Division II level has really shined this year on the gridiron, and the playoff race really showcases how well they have performed.  The NCAA released its last Regional Rankings before making the playoff selections. The playoff selection will occur on Sunday, November 13, 2022 at 5pm Eastern Time.  The following items are a few reminders on how the Division II playoffs work.

  • Only games against Division II opponents count when considering a team’s body of work. Wins against Football Championship Subdivision, Division III, NAIA, or Virginia University of Lynchburg do not count. 
  • Unlike Division II basketball, there are no automatic bids for conference champions in Division II football.

With that in mind, the order, and remaining opponent for each of the ranked teams is as follows:

#1 Benedict (SIAC) (10-0 in Division II play)

Remaining Opponent: #9 Tuskegee, SIAC Championship Game.

Benedict is the region’s only unbeaten team at this point. The last time an HBCU football program headlined a final Super Region ranking was exactly 10 years ago. The resumes of the South Atlantic and Gulf South Conferences are not overly strong this year to overcome a loss, a marked switch when last year when top seeded Valdosta State endured a loss in Week 11 and remained ahead of an undefeated Bowie State. Additionally, it appears the committee is favoring wins and losses in its rankings.

#2 Delta State (Gulf Coast) (8-1)

Remaining Opponent: West Alabama

DSU’s loss to West Georgia last Saturday featured a rather noticeable fourth-quarter collapse in which UWG scored 28 unanswered points in the final eight minutes of the contest.  That loss knocked them into the second seed as they round into the last week of the regular season.  Still, no one wants to see DSU in a first round matchup.  The DSU-UWA game is a rematch in which DSU won 20-7, and shouldn’t really move the needle to threaten Benedict should BC win.  UWA has struggled with offense this year. 

#3 West Florida (Gulf Coast) (7-1)

Remaining Opponents: Mississippi College

The GSC has a number of in-conference rematches for Week 11, and UWF defeated the Choctaws 45-17.  UWF wasn’t fazed much by the Choctaw’s option-based offense, a testament to the level of talent the Argos possess. UWF lost to DSU, so they are likely locked into their spot. 

Virginia Union Jada Byers HBCU football
Virginia Union running back Jada Byers talks with the media following a win over Fayetteville State.

#4 Virginia Union (CIAA) (8-1)

Remaining Opponents: None

VUU’s loss to Chowan has resulted in the Panthers being left out of the CIAA Championship game.  The CIAA plays a 10-game regular season schedule, so this week functions as a bye week while the non-HBCU conferences soldier on with an 11 game schedule.  It is unlikely that the committee will punish VUU by sending them on the road as a 5th or lower seed despite playing a 10-game schedule.  VUU has no plans to seek an 11th game.

#5 Wingate (SAC) (8-2)

Remaining UVa-Wise

Wingate faces a Wise squad that has struggled all season in close games.  Wise has had some very close games (lost to Mars Hill by four, and Tusculum by 1) but those games were at home. Wingate has a tough defense that could be characterized as best in the SAC. Regardless, this game isn’t going to boost Wingate’s strength of schedule (SOS) given Wise’s 1-7 record against Division II schools. Then again: Wingate’s .552 SOS is the strongest of all the regionally ranked teams.

#6 Mars Hill (SAC) (7-1)

Remaining Opponents: Newberry (SAC Championship Game)

Mars Hill is likely in this Defending SAC Champion Newberry represents a very formidable challenge to the Lions.  Losing this game would put the Lions in peril of missing the playoffs, especially given its .475 Strength of Schedule (SOS) entering Week 11.

#7 Fort Valley State (SIAC) (8-2)

Remaining Opponents: None. 

FVSU is in a similar situation to VUU since the SIAC also plays a 10-game regular season schedule.  The Wildcats’ loss to Savannah State has them battling among a number of two-loss teams for a playoff spot.  FVSU is in a similar situation to another HBCU football program — 2021 SSU — in that it is vulnerable to being knocked out under a wide range of scenarios. Still, a .523 SOS is strong among the two-loss teams, and a head-to-head win over Tuskegee is another big plus that could help them retain the seventh spot should the Golden Tigers win. 

#8 Limestone (SAC) (7-2)

Remaining Opponent: Emory and Henry

Limestone and FVSU have an identical SOS, but FVSU has a better record against above- .500 teams (2-1 vs 2-2), and the Wildcats have one additional Division II win.  Emory and Henry has a losing record, so Limestone’s SOS will move in the wrong direction. 

#9 Tuskegee (SIAC) (8-1)

Remaining Opponent: Benedict

The matchup against Tuskegee is not a gimme for Benedict, as head coach Reginald Ruffin has won SIAC Championships at his prior stint (Miles).  Both teams have very adept offenses, but Tuskegee has allowed 30 sacks, a rather high number, and allows 25 points a game. 

#10 West Georgia (Gulf South) (7-2)

Remaining Opponent: North Greenville

This game is a rematch of a 38-35 thriller in which UWG won by scoring a touchdown in the last five minutes of the game.   This game, should UWG win, wouldn’t be a boost for them since these two teams have already played each other. 

Outside Looking In:

Newberry (8-2): Losses to Carson-Newman and Limestone have pushed last year’s playoff-participating Newberry out of the top 10.  A win in the championship game would make them an intriguing pick for a road game in the playoffs because their .495 SOS is going to get a bump.  Newberry has an explosive offense when it is clicking, but has suffered injuries during the season that have put them in sketchy scenarios (such as not having starting quarterback Dre Harris against Carson-Newman). 

Tusculum (8-2): Tusculum isn’t likely in the top 10 because it’s SOS is .475 and is the lowest of all of the 8-2 teams in the region. You can partially thank Saint Augustine’s for that position.

Albany State (7-2): An SOS of .484, and losses to FVSU and Tuskegee placed the Golden Rams outside of the top 10.  Before last week, ASU had a chance to make the field, but the FVSU loss in the Fountain City Classic has ruined those chances. 

Fayetteville State (8-2): An SOS of .492 and 1-2 against teams above .500 hurt the Broncos.  A win against Chowan in the CIAA Championship game doesn’t help the Broncos since they have already played the Hawks.

Chowan (7-3). Chowan is an intriguing team with three losses.  They could neutralize their loss to Fayetteville State with a win in the CIAA championship game, and such a win would allow them to notch a fourth win against a team over .500.  The Hawks also have a .522 SOS that is better than much of the ranked teams.  Nonetheless, it would have to leapfrog a Tusculum team that they lost to by two points earlier in the season, and other schools have fewer losses than them.  Anything could happen, but it’s hard to see them in the playoff field at this point as they may have to settle for being the first non HBCU football-program to win the CIAA.

HBCU Football has plenty of serious D2 playoff candidates
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