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Episode 036 – Previewing the D3 and D2 championship games

And the FCS semifinals with Matthew Elder

Before the postseason started in the lower ranks of college football, which often are easily overlooked, I sought out the input of Matthew Elder from DraftNasty.com to help provide some insight on the teams to watch. Elder is the National Scouting Director for FCS, D2 and D3 Football for the site so I trust and value his opinion on these players more than most people out there. Before hearing what he had to say I would have banked some serious money on four teams he might mention. Low and behold, those four teams I would have gone to the bank on happen to be playing this weekend.

Stagg Bowl – D3 Football Championship
UW Whitewater vs. Mount Union
Saturday, December 18, 2010
3:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPNU/ESPNU HD

In the Stagg Bowl, the D3 championship game, it will be Mount Union and UW Whitewater for a sixth consecutive season. If there is a rivalry in college football that does not receive enough notoriety it just may be this one. Can you imagine two schools facing each other six consecutive seasons in the sport’s championship game? Picture Florida vs. Ohio State six straight seasons. That just does not happen. Not even the Lakers and Celtics met six straight years in the 70’s and 80’s. At least the Sixers broke up the mix at times. But in division three football there are two schools and everybody else. This recent string of championship game matches proves that.

Is this repetitive pairing good or bad for D3 football? Not according to Elder, who believes the two best teams should play in the final game rather than be paired on the same side of a bracket just to break things up a little and give someone else a chance. I have to agree. To be the man (WOO) you have to beat the man (WOO)! Until somebody knocks either team off in the playoffs, nothing should be done to force a different championship match-up.

On a side note, check out the D3football.com podcast for further discussion on this topic.

D2 Football Championship
Delta State vs. Minnesota Duluth
Saturday, December 18, 2010
11:00 a.m. Eastern, ESPN 2/ESPN 2 HD

In the D2 ranks we have some teams you may not have expected at the beginning of the season. Though both entered the postseason as a top two seed in their respective super regions (UMD #1 in Super Region 3 and Delta St #2 in Super Region 2), neither team was thought to be a favorite before kicking off in August or September.

Minnesota Duluth ended the 2010 regular season on top of the D2Football.com Top 25 Poll so seeing them make it this far is not much of a surprise but they had to get by upset minded St. Cloud by a field goal and two-seed Augustana, who knocked out perrenial D2 power Grand Valley State 38-6. After getting by Super Region 3 the Bulldogs ousted defending national champ Northwest Missouri State, which clinched a trip to Florence, Alabama, the location for the D2 Championship Game.

On the other side of the field you have the surprise squad this postseason, Delta State. Entering the playoffs with three losses, which is usually a tough number in the D2 ranks for playoffs, the Statesmen were still worthy of a two seed in Super Region 2. Their path to Florence has been on slight cruise control with big wins against North Alabama, Albany State and Super Region 1 and WVIAC champion Shepherd (as a Shippensburg guy this is fine with me).

Unlike the Stagg Bowl, this will be the first meeting between the two schools. For Minnesota Duluth it will be the first game played against a school from the Gulf South Conference.

FCS Semi Final
Villanova vs. Eastern Washington
Friday, December 17, 2010
8:00 p.m. Eastern, ESPN 2/ESPN 2 HD

Everybody knows that Boise State is knwon for their blue turf. As painful as some say that is for the eyes it may pale in comparison to what Eastern Washington has in store for defending FCS champion Villanova this weekend. Will it make a difference? The way the Wildcats are playing, it may not.

I’ll be honest. Living in the Philadelphia area I find myself pulling for Villanova and Delaware in what would be a fantastic FCS Championship match-up for all of the Delaware Valley. Given the way Villanova handled top seed Appalachian State last week I see no reason to not have that possible clash become a reality. The Wildcats thrashed Appalachian State last week in West Virginia in cold conditions and if Appalachian State couldn’t slow down Villanova on their own home field, will the color of the field make a big difference? I don’t think Matt Szczur will allow that to happen, and neither does Elder. Both of us are picking Villanova this weekend.

How will Villanova handle "The Scarlet Sea"? We'll find out Friday night.

FCS Semi Final
Delaware vs. Georgia Southern
Saturday, December 18, 2010
12 p.m. Eastern, ESPN U/ESPN U HD

While their long time rivals from Villanova must fly across the country to take on Eastern Washington on a shortened week, the Delaware Blue Hens, with a national title in relatively recent memory to their credit, get to stay at home and play host to Georgia Southern. As Elder points out to me the story of this game will be the quarterbacks.

Delaware’s Pat Devlin and Georgia Southern’s Jaybo Shaw are both transfer players from FBS programs. Devlin, who struggled to find playing time at Penn State behind Daryll Clark, opted to transfer to an FCS program and at Delaware he has been following in the footsteps of former Blue Hen Joe Flacco, now the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Elder notes that Devlin is one of the top rated quarterbacks in all of college football according to DraftNasty.com. Georgia Southern’s Shaw transferred from Georgia Tech and led the team in rushing in a victory over Wofford last week with 60 yards in addition to throwing for just 78 yards and a touchdown. This season he has rushed for 16 touchdowns, giving the Eagles a quarterback who threatens to run much like the typical Georgia Tech offense.

Again, Elder and I agree that Delaware looks to be the favorite in this game. Could we have that CAA championship game match-up in a couple weeks? We will find out this weekend. Who do you have winning these games? Share your picks in the comments section below.

Thanks for listening!

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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