Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Division I-AA Name Change for Dummies

As the 2006 Division I-AA football season comes to an end, so does the label that Cal Poly and other I-AA teams play under.
On Dec. 15, the NCAA will no longer use the I-A and I-AA designations for describing Division I football programs.
In fact, the NCAA has already begun to use the new and supposedly improved labels in conjunction with last week’s start of the 16-team Division I-AA playoffs, err the “NCAA Division I Football Championship.”
Division I-A is now being called the “Football Bowl Subdivision.”
Division I-AA is now the “Football Championship Subdivision.”
Confused yet?
I’ve opted to avoid using the new designations in my stories until after the 2006 football season officially comes to a close in an effort to avoid confusing readers (I’ll probably refer to it as I-AA/FCS early on).
Funny thing is, the NCAA’s board of directors decided to make the change because of the confusion I-A, I-AA and I-AAA labels were bringing other sports.
“The previous labels,” according a recent NCAA memo, “have generated a significant amount of concern among the I-AA and I-AAA membership, as the labels were confusing and misapplied by the public, boosters and media when referring not only to their football programs but their overall athletics programs (e.g., I-AA basketball program).”

• • •
So here’s a handy, dandy Division I-AA Football Name Change Table to help clear up any confusion, thanks to the the fine folks at the NCAA:

Old Terminology

New Terminology

Division I-A

Football Bowl Subdivision

Division I-AA

NCAA Football Championship Subdivision

NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship

NCAA Division I Football Championship

I-A (short hand)

Bowl Subdivision

I-AA (short hand)

Football Championship Subdivision

I-A (acronym)


I-AA (acronym)


• • •
The name change already has some Web-based news services scrambling to change the way they do business:
  • has moved its operations to the organization’s parent company, College Sporting News, at will remain a reference-only Web site with any new reporting being posted at CSN.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How Shotwell stacks up

It remains to be seen if Cal Poly senior LB Kyle Shotwell can be the third Mustang to win the Buck Buchanan Award in as many years. The winner of the award for Division I-AA football's top defensive player will be named Dec. 14 on the eve of the championship game. Here's how Shotwell's numbers stack up against the two previous winners from Cal Poly, DE Chris Gocong (2005) and LB Jordan Beck (2004):

Kyle Shotwell
Senior Season
G TT Solo Sacks
11 122 62 7
Career Totals
G TT Solo Sacks
46 392 201 17
Chris Gocong
Senior Season
G TT Solo Sacks
13 98 46 23.5
Career Totals
G TT Solo Sacks
41 212 117 42
Jordan Beck
Senior Season
G TT Solo Sacks
Career Totals
G TT Solo Sacks
G (games), TT (total tackles)
"When Beck left we weren't sure who was going to fill those shoes. When Gocong left, we didn't know who was going to fill those shoes. But people step up and Coach Ellerson knows how to recruit and plug people into the system. ... It's going to be exciting to see who the next player is on the Buchanan list."
Kyle Shotwell after Saturday's 55-0 win over Savannah State.
So who's the next Mustang Buck Buchanan candidate? Offer your suggestion in the comments section below.

Shotwell said he like's rover Mark Restelli's chances.
"He's just got so much athletic ability," Shotwell said of the rover, who could move to mike linebacker. "He's just such a great football player and I can see him doing a great job at that (Mike linebacker) spot."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Poly volley ready to go dancing

What a week it was for the Cal Poly volleyball team.
First, San Luis Obispo High star Ashley Adams signs a National Letter of Intent to play for the Mustangs next season.
Then Cal Poly goes out over the weekend and wins the Big West Conference title outright, its first conference title since 1984 when Mustangs took the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (the precursor to the Big West) crown.
For the second straight year, the Mustangs will have to wait awhile before the NCAA announces the 64-team field for the tournament (Nov. 26). But this time around, Cal Poly knows its in and doesn’t have to worry about being overlooked because of schedule strength – or in the 2005 team’s case, lack there of.
But hosting a regional in the first and second round (there’s usually four in each region) will be tough out west this year, considering how many regional foes were ahead of the No. 16 Mustangs in Monday’s CSTV/AVCA coaches p
oll (for the record, Cal Poly is ranked 17th in the Rich Kern and 13th in the Pablo rankings:

2. Washington 22-3
3. Stanford 21-3
4. USC
9. Utah 23-2
13. Hawaii 21-5
15. Cal 17-8
16. Cal Poly 21-5
17. San Diego 22-5
20. BYU 22-4
Other teams to consider for the postseason out West: No. 21 New Mexico State, No. 22 Santa Clara, No. 25 Pepperdine, Long Beach State, Oregon, Sacramento State and San Francisco.
Note: The NCAA uses its own formula for determining postseason positioning.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The stats tell the tale

The stats from the Cal Poly football team’s 51-14 loss at North Dakota State on Saturday told the story.

The Good:
The Mustangs opened with touchdowns on their first two drives, snapping a streak of six quarters without a touchdown. … Cal Poly tallied four first downs on the first two drives, which ended in Matt Brennan’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Justin Belcher and James Noble’s 2-yard touchdown run.

The Bad: Cal Poly added just two more first downs and allowed 51 unanswered points the rest of the way. … Brennan finished 3 of 8 for 15 yards passing. Noble had another rough game with 13 carries for 52 yards.
The Ugly: North Dakota State had 466 yards of offense, including 324 yards rushing as two backs surpassed the 100-yard mark against a Cal Poly defense that had allowed just one 100-yard rusher all season. … The Bison didn’t have to punt until 4 minutes into the fourth quarter. … Time of possession: NDSU 40:17, CP 19:43. … No. of plays: NDSU 68, CP 37. … Red-zone scoring opportunities: Both teams were perfect. Cal Poly was 2 of 2. The Bison were 6 of 6. ... We'll go ahead and stop right there.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Gazing into I-AA's crystal ball

The latest Gridiron Power Index – considered the top indicator for at-large playoff selection at the Division I-AA football level – is out, just in time to start looking at the playoff picture heading into the final two weekends of the season. The 16-team playoff field will be unveiled Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. Keep in mind that eight teams will get automatic bids by winning their respective conference – champions of the Atlantic 10, Big Sky, Gateway, MEAC, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern and Southland conferences. The other eight teams will be selected by the committee. Here are the top 25 teams in the GPI and where they stand in the playoff race (teams in blue aren't eligible for the playoffs):

  • 1. Massachusetts, A10 (N), 8-1
    UMass isn’t the No. 1 team in the opinion polls but is in contention for a home bid, especially with AD John McCutcheon (formerly CP’s AD) on the committee.
  • 2. Appalachian State, SOCON, 9-1
    The first team to earn a playoff spot, the defending champs are No. 1 in nearly every other poll.
  • 3T. Montana, BSC, 8-1
    Saturday’s win over Cal Poly only solidifies their position as the team to beat out West. A Big Sky title could keep them at home in the playoffs.
  • 3T. James Madison, A10 (S), 8-1
    The A-10 is the GPI's second strongest conference behind the Great West and will surely get multiple teams in.
  • 5. North Dakota State, GWFC, 8-1
    A top-five team but not eligible for the postseason during the transition from Division II, which could free up another spot out West for a team like Cal Poly or even San Diego.
  • 6. Youngstown State, GFC, 8-2
    A win away from the Gateway title, the Penguins are marching toward the playoffs and could be in consideration for a seed (top four) if they finish strong.
  • 7. Illinois State, GFC, 7-2
    The Gateway is the third toughest conference, which means multiple teams probably go from this league too.
  • 8. Cal Poly, GWFC, 6-3
    The Mustangs’ best shot is to win out, get to seven Division I wins and earn a share of the title in the toughest league in the GPI. A split puts them in the danger zone.
  • 9. New Hampshire, A10 (N), 6-3
    After losing 3 of 4, the Wildcats can’t afford to lose again.
  • 10. Northern Iowa, GFC, 6-3
    The Panthers decide their own fate with games against Southern Illinois and Illinois State is the grueling Gateway.
  • 11. Portland St., BSC, 6-4
    A four-loss team way up here? Yeah, because to of those loses are to I-A teams. One four-loss team that will get consideration and could be the second Big Sky team to follow Montana to the postseason.
  • 12. Tennessee-Martin, OVC, 8-1
    Who? Yes, Tennessee-Martin is making a run and is unbeaten in the OVC. Two wins (or a win and a Tenn. St. loss) gives the Skyhawks the league’s automatic bid.
  • 13. San Diego, PFL, 9-0
    One of the most interesting cases, San Diego has a game against UC Davis scheduled for the first weekend of the playoffs but will cancel that game if given an invitation. But the PFL is ranked 15th among 16 I-AA conferences and San Diego has played a schedule that consists largely of nonscholarship teams
  • 14. Maine, A10 (N), 6-3
    With games against UMass and New Hampshire remaining, the Bears control their own destiny.
  • 15. Harvard, IVY, 7-1
    Ivy League schools aren’t eligible for the playoffs.
  • 16T. Southern Illinois, GFC, 6-3
    Another three-loss team that has to keep winning at home against Northern Iowa and then Southern Utah.
  • 16T. Furman, SOCON, 7-3
    The Paladins probably need to beat Georgia Southern to get in as four-loss teams usually get left out of the at-large race.
  • 18T. South Dakota State, GWFC, 6-3
    Like North Dakota State, ineligible for the postseason but makes the GWFC look that much more worthy of an at-large bid.
  • 18T. Montana State, BSC, 7-3
    If you drop the ineligible teams above them, the Bobcats are in at this point. Then again, there are a lot of automatic-bid leagues that we haven’t even gotten to yet, which will bump out a couple of deserving candidates. Their best bet is to beat Montana and take home the Big Sky automatic bid.
  • 20. Princeton, IVY, 7-1
    Ivy League schools aren’t eligible for the playoffs, in case you missed it the first time.
  • 21. UC Davis, GWFC, 4-5
    Another GWFC team ineligible during its move to Division I-AA.
  • 22. Yale, IVY, 7-1
    Ivy League schools aren’t eligible for the playoffs, in case you missed it the second time.
  • 23. Towson, A10 (S), 6-3
    Would have to finish strong to be considered, especially with so many other teams from the A-10 being in the race.
  • 24. Wofford, SOCON, 5-4
    With four losses, Wofford is a probably a long shot at this point unless something crazy happens down the stretch.
  • 25. Hampton, MEAC 9-1
    Hampton is ranked 11th in the opinion poll. A win over Florida A & M gets the Pirates the automatic bid.
Because no teams from the Patriot or Southland conferences are listed above, at least two teams not listed will make the playoffs. It looks like Lehigh and McNeese State are the frontrunners in those respective leagues. Upsets in automatic-bid leagues could also shake things up and 9-2 Coastal Carolina is in the conversation out of the Big South thanks to a No. 16 ranking in the latest Sports Network poll.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Forward progress? You make the call

It’s been a good 48 hours now and some Cal Poly football fans are still grumbling over a couple calls that took place late in Cal Poly’s 10-9 loss at Montana on Saturday.
Both the controversial plays took place on the Grizzlies’ game-winning drive, which was capped by Dan Carpenter’s 21-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.
As luck would have it, this highlight video courtesy and KPAX-TV just so happens to show both those plays back to back, so you be the judge. Did this group of Big Sky Conference officials make the right call?
Click here to start the video, which is designed for Windows Media Player on a PC. Skip to the 3:37 mark on the video to see the two plays, which are broadcast back to back with a replay in between.

The two plays in question:

  • The first was on second-and-five from the Grizzlies’ 15-yard line. Montana quarterback Josh Swogger hits Eric Allen down the Montana sideline for a 29-yard pass play. The Mustangs defenders think he’s out of bounds before he has possession. The Grizzlies players and coaches believe he made the catch while he has possession. If you pause the video as the receiver appears to make the catch, it looks as if he might just have that foot down in time … although from that angle there’s no way you can see if his toe is on the line or not.
The ruling: The officials ruled that Allen did in fact get a foot down in bounds while he had possession of the ball, giving the Grizzlies a first down.
  • The second play came later in the drive but is shown immediately after the first on the video. This one was Swogger’s 14-yard pass to Ryan Bagley on fourth-and-13. If Cal Poly denies Bagley the first down, Montana’s game-winning drive comes to an end. Bagley appears to make the reception just past where the first-down marker should be (around the Cal Poly 46) to the Mustangs’ 45 but backtracks in an attempt to pick up more yardage. It appears his first contact with a Cal Poly defender comes back shy of the 46-yard line.
The ruling: Officials determined that Bagley’s “forward progress” got him up to the Mustangs’ 45 where Montana was given a first down.

... Ten plays later, the Grizzlies won it on Carpenter's field goal.

• • •
When asked about the fourth-down play afterward, Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson (knowing Weber State coach Ron McBride was recently suspended by the Big Sky for criticizing officials) said his opinion on the play didn’t matter because “I don’t have a vote.”

Montana head coach Bobby Hauck also reserved judgment because he had “the worst seat in the house” for the play.

Bagley was a little more candid when asked about the play: “Yeah, I don't know what I was doing there. I knew I was wide open, and I figured I was far enough, and I was. I don't know why I was running backward. He gave me the spot, so whatever.”

• • •
Did the refs get it right? Post your thoughts by clicking the comments link below.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mustangs facing must-win scenario

Saturday’s football game at Montana’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium certainly had a playoff feel to it.
No. 6 Cal Poly at No. 2 Montana.
Two of the most dominant defenses in the West Region, if not all of Division I-AA football, trying to outdo eachother all afternoon.
One touchdown. Four field goals. Four trips to the red zone. Ten sacks. Nineteen punts!
I don’t think it will surprise anyone on either side if these two teams meet up again in the playoffs, which would mark the fourth meeting between the two programs in two seasons.
That’s if Cal Poly even makes the playoffs.
The Mustangs were this close to beating the No. 2 team in the country, on Montana’s home turf where the Grizzlies are an unbelievable 130-18 all-time.
Still, the Mustangs (6-3) aren’t guaranteed a spot in the 16-team playoffs and could easily miss the postseason if they don’t win their final two games against No. 5 North Dakota State (8-1) and Savannah State (1-8).

Here’s why:

  • Teams with more than three losses have a tough time getting in. In fact, only two teams with more than three losses have advanced to the postseason since 2003. Eastern Washington went with four losses last season and Montana State advanced with five defeats in 2003. Both were automatic qualifiers out of the Big Sky Conference.
  • At the same time, the committee could throw out Cal Poly’s loss to San Jose State considering the Spartans were a Division I-A opponent. But if the Mustangs win just one of their final two games, that would leave Cal Poly with just six Division I victories. (Remember the season-opening win against Fort Lewis? Yeah, that win is meaningless in the committee’s eyes.) According to the Division I Football Championship Handbook, “less than seven Division I wins may place a team in jeopardy of not being selected.”
  • The good news? Cal Poly has some familiar faces on this year’s committee. While the Great West doesn’t have a representative on the eight-person committee, former Cal Poly and current UMass athletic director John McCutcheon is still on there. And current Cal Poly athletic director Alison Cone is on the regional advisory committee.
• • •
North Dakota State, by the way, just overcame a 24-point deficit in the second half to stun UC Davis 28-24 on Saturday. Sound familiar?
lost by 60, that's right 60, to No. 17 Coastal Carolina, 66-6!
Cal Poly and No. 9 New Hampshire (6-3), which lost to No. 3 UMass (8-1) 20-28, were the only top-10 teams that lost Saturday.
• • •
Not that you would need to watch any highlights from Saturday's game after reading our thorough coverage (read the mainbar and notebook), but if you feel the need you can watch them here courtesy and KPAX-TV in Missoula, which provided the feed for KSBY's broadcast of the game.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Better pack your parkas Mustangs

Hello Mustangs fans,
Hope y’all are doin’ well out there on the sunny Central Coast.
I’m out here in Montana, getting ready for the big football showdown between No. 6 Cal Poly and No. 2 Montana.
Missoula, for those of you who won’t be making the trip, is beautiful this time of year. The leaves are turning. The autumn sunsets are breathtaking.
But there’s one little problem … it’s freezing out here.
Check that. It’s not even freezing. Try 20 degrees right now (Wednesday night) – 40 degrees cooler than it is in San Luis Obispo. With the wind-chill, it’s like 15 degrees.

• • •
It’s so cold …
… kids dressed up as penguins and polar bears for Halloween.
… the roaring river (Clark Fork) that runs between the team hotel and Washington-Grizzly Stadium is starting to freeze over around the edges.
… this once scalding hot caramel macchiato was an iced macchiato by the time I got back to the room.
… this avid angler/sportswriter I know won’t even consider fly-fishing any of Missoula’s legendary blue-ribbon trout waters in-between writing his football features, basketball previews and this, I mean his, mind-numbing blog about the weather.
• • •
Now I’m no Dave Hovde, but I’m guessing Saturday’s noon (local time) kickoff will be a little bit nippier than Cal Poly’s last game at San Diego State (77 degrees at 5 p.m.).
It should warm up a bit by kickoff, jumping to a whopping 40 degrees, but that’s only because there’s a 60 percent chance of showers at outdoor Washington-Grizzly Stadium (pictured from the "M" atop Mount Sentinel).
Not that the Grizzlies mind.
Fifty-two of Bobby Hauck’s players are originally from Montana.
Senior defensive end Dustin Dlouhy is from Idaho Falls and says he actually enjoys playing football in this frigid environment.
“I hope it gets nasty,” Dlouhy said with a cold chuckle following Tuesday’s practice. “I know it’s a little more pleasant in San Luis Obispo right now. Meanwhile, we’ve been practicing in full thermals and Under Armour. I’m hoping for the worst Saturday because I think that’ll benefit us.”
Luckily for most of you Mustangs fans, this one’s televised by KSBY (11 a.m. Pacific).
And for those of you making the trip, well, I’d recommend packing the parka.
Stay cool,
• • •
P.S. Saturday's game is The Sports Network's "Game of the Week" in Division I-AA. You can read Matt Dougherty's preview here. His prediction? Montana 17, Cal Poly 13.