First-round playoff predictions
Hey ’Cats. The regular season is now officially over, and with the Northwest Conference championship sewed up, we can start talking playoffs as a reality.
The NCAA’s selection show on Nov. 13 revealed that No. five Linfield will host a rematch against a revamped No. eight California Lutheran University team that hasn’t lost since the season-opening game at Maxwell Field.
Cal Lutheran has been a vastly different team since the ’Cats won a low-scoring affair on Sept. 10.
The Kingsmen have scored more than 52 points in their last six contests, including a 70-20 pasting of Occidental College on Nov. 12.
Their defense only allows 16.2 points and 292.2 yards of total offense per game, and has taken the ball away 18 times for a +6 turnover margin so far.
However, take these statistics with a grain of salt: only three of Cal Lu’s eight victories this season have come against teams with winning records.
The win-loss percentage of the teams they’ve top 52 points against is a combined 19-35, so it’s not as if they’ve been playing teams like Linfield every weekend.
Furthermore, their average margin of victory against teams with winning records (Pacific Lutheran and Redlands) is a meager 7.5 points.
I have my doubts as to how tough this Kingsmen team will really be when facing a Top-five team on the road, especially one that already held them to a season-low 14 points last time they met.
Cal Lu can score a pile of points if they’re facing a defense that will let them score a pile of points, and any defense would look good playing teams like Pomona-Pitzer, who didn’t win a single game this season.
On the other hand, Linfield’s defense has consistently shut down teams with high win-loss margins, like Willamette, Lewis & Clark and Cal Lu, and that consistency is going to be what anchors this team through their playoff run.
Furthermore, junior quarterback Mickey Inns was making his first career start against the Kingsmen to start the season and had a marginal outing.
Since then, he’s become a red-hot scoring threat from any distance any time he drops back to pass.
I’m not kidding you; the kid’s got a damn laser out there.
Here’s my prediction: Cal Lu puts a few points up early to keep things close out of the gate, but the Kingsmen offense is once again baffled in the long run by Linfield’s tough D.
A seasoned Mickey Inns is the difference maker in a game that quickly becomes a Wildcat blowout in the second and third quarters. Final score: Linfield 38, Cal Lu 14.
Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.