Making sense of a strange playoff bracket

The NCAA released the bracket for the 2011 Division-III football playoffs on Nov. 13 and was received with much surprise from pundits and student-athletes.

No. five Linfield, which captured the Northwest Conference Championship and therefore the league’s automatic bid to playoffs, is slated for a rematch against No. eight California Lutheran University on Nov. 19 at Maxwell Field.

This marks the fifth time in the past three seasons the two teams have faced off, with Linfield owning a 4-1 advantage in the series.

During an interview on Nov. 12, head football coach Joseph Smith said he did not expect to face Cal Lutheran in the first round of the playoffs.

“I’d be surprised,” Smith said. “Possibly Redlands [College], a team from the South they move in or someone else.”

The 2011 playoff bracket bucked several trends in seeding and regional grouping that had been present in prior seasons.

For example, this year’s bracket did not identify specific seeds, leaving fans and pundits alike unaware of how matchups in later rounds might play out in terms of which school hosts what game.

Also, playoff brackets from previous seasons of Division-III football generally have tried to keep teams from the same region in the same area of the bracket.

This season, according to, the four bracket areas appear to be organized with four teams from the highest seed’s region and two teams each from two other regions. This could create many interesting and potentially difficult travel situations for teams.

Although the seeding was not revealed, it can be somewhat gleaned by identifying the bracket area’s top seed and working backward from there to get a rough idea of ranking.

Doing so reveals a few puzzling scenarios in terms of both seeding and location grouping.

For example, undefeated and 9-0 Linfield appears to have been inexplicably
seeded No. three in one
bracket area behind a one-loss Wesley College team seeded No. two.

This means that the NWC champion Wildcats could be on the road all the way to Dover, Del., where Wesley is located, as early as the second round of the playoffs.

Without being a part of the seeding committee and knowing exactly which team went where, and why, it’s impossible to fully grasp the logic in some of the stranger parts of this bracket.

However, according to junior quarterback Mickey Inns, the ’Cats are ready to take on all comers, starting with a much improved Cal Lutheran squad.

“It’d be fine by me, they’re a good team,” Inns said. “Our mentality is that we’ll be ready to go against anybody, anytime. We’re going to stick to that and ride it into playoffs.”

Chris Forrer
/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at

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