Fifteen things to consider about the NAIA championship
ASHLAND — Seven days are all that stand between eighth-ranked Southern Oregon University, seventh-ranked Marian University (Ind.) and the NAIA Football Championship Series final in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Here are 15 things to consider as we draw closer to next Friday’s noon kickoff.
1. This will mark the first time that a top-three team in the NAIA final rankings won’t be involved in the title game since NAIA Division I and II merged for football in 1997. SOU and Marian combined to knock out the Nos. 1 (Carroll), 2 (Grand View), 3 (Saint Xavier) and 4 (Morningside) teams out in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Eight of the last 17 championship contests had featured No. 1 against No. 2.
2. The lower seed has won the last four championships and seven of the last eight. Last year, No. 2 Grand View (Iowa) defeated No. 1 Cumberlands (Ky.), 35-23. When fifth-ranked Marian won the 2012 title, it defeated No. 3 Morningside (Iowa).
3. Southern Oregon and Marian both had to win on the road in the semifinals, which had never before happened. Home teams had previously been 28-6 in the semis dating back to 1997.
4. SOU and Marian both won on the road in the quarterfinals, too. The only other teams to reach the title game with back-to-back road wins were Northwestern Oklahoma (2003) and Saint Xavier (Ill.) (2011), the latter of which went on to win the championship.
5. SOU is the first state school to appear in the title game since Northwestern Oklahoma in 2003. Northwestern Oklahoma, which transitioned to NCAA Division II in 2012, was also the last state school to win it in 1999.
6. Willamette University’s 1997 appearance in the title game was the most recent by a team from the state of Oregon. The Bearcats, who defeated SOU 41-27 that year in Salem, would lose 14-7 to Findlay (Ohio). The last team from Oregon to win it was Linfield in the 1986 Division II championship over Baker (Kan.), 17-0. The Wildcats defeated SOU in a regular-season game in McMinnville that season, 28-14.
7. The most points scored since 1997 in a four-game title run was Georgetown (Ky.)’s 198 in 2001. The 2007 Carroll team has the record for the fewest points scored at 101. SOU is currently at 148, and Marian has 110.
8. The fewest points allowed since 1997 in a four-game title run was 23 by Carroll in 2005, while Marian allowed the most for a champion at 110 in 2012. SOU has to this point given up 105 points, and Marian 30.
9. SOU was No. 22 in the preseason poll and Marian was unranked until the second poll of the regular season, due mostly to the nine losses between the teams in 2013. Never before (again, since the divisions merged in 1997) had a team unranked in the preseason advanced to the final. Last year’s game between preseason No. 25 Cumberlands and No. 19 Grand View owned the title for most unlikely.
10. Four of the last five championship games were decided by four points or less. Grand View’s 35 points last year marked the first time the winning team scored more than 30 since Carroll put up 41 in 2003. Pacific Lutheran (Wash.) was the last team to score 50 in the 1993 Division II championship.
11. SOU prides itself on running more plays from scrimmage than anyone else but has some work to do to reach the NAIA FCS record. That belongs to Lambuth (Tenn.), which ran 108 plays in a 65-48 first-round loss in 2008. Still, SOU ran 93 plays in the quarterfinals and 92 in the semis after not having hit 90 since its first game. The Raiders averaged 74.3 plays during the regular season.
12. With the benefit of a few extra outings, SOU is up to 7,892 yards gained. The all-time NAIA single-season record, including postseason, is Georgetown (Ky.)’s 8,175, set in 1999 when it lost in the championship.
13. The Raiders will have traveled somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,800 miles by plane during these playoffs by the time they return from Daytona Beach, Fla., next Saturday.
14. This is the first year that the NAIA title game will be held in Daytona Beach, Fla., and the 9,600-seat Municipal Stadium, which is usually occupied by the Bethune-Cookman University football team of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision. St. Petersburg had the game the last time it was held in Florida in 1960, when Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) edged Humboldt State (Calif.), 15-14. The last six championships were held in Rome, Ga.
15. This is also the first time the game will air live on ESPNU. The announcers will be Jason Knapp (play-by-play), Forrest Conoly (color commentary) and Tiffany Greene (sideline reporter).