Of course I'm really happy that Lehigh helped me take home the inaugural "Engine 13" cup this week by doing something no team has ever done before - score 50 points in Andy Kerr stadium. It's an offensive performance that leaves you running out of superlatives. Sophomore QB Sedale Threatt played like a senior, with 100 yards rushing and 187 yards passing. Rath - 4 TDs. Turnovers - zero. Importantly, we got the important yards when we needed to thanks to the inspired play of the "O" line. If there was a stat called "key yards", Lehigh would have a bunch of them.
The defense clamped down in the second half and got the turnovers that iced the game. After a disappointing first half, the defense came alive and got the job done. If there's something I'll be looking for next week, it's progress on defense. If Lehigh wants to win the Patriot League and make a run in the I-AA playoffs, they will have strive to be more consistent there.
Special teams I mentioned yesterday - the punting and kicking games were outstanding. Overall, it's been our best game of the year, but I feel we can get even better.
Threatt had the following quote on lehighsports.com's game writeup that is worth reprinting:
“We had a great week of practice, and we knew in order to be successful we had to play Lehigh football. It all comes down to our execution,” Threatt explained after the game. “This win is nice, but come Sunday, all focus is on Georgetown.”
Sedale, you're wrong about one thing. Come MONDAY, all focus is on Georgetown. Today's a day to revel in a huge win.
With this huge win, I'm thinking Lehigh will probably jump up 3, maybe 4, spots in the national rankings. If you've been paying attention to the national I-AA football scene, you'd know that it's been a strange year with upset after upset every week. With the exception of a couple teams, the whole I-AA bracket would appear up for grabs.
The traditional "power conferences" have been beating each other up. It's very clear that no conference should have 4 bids, and some tranditional power conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the SoCon may in fact be single-bid conferences this year (if everything falls perfectly). The at-large field looks as wide-open as ever.
Unthinkable early in the year, but might an 8-3 at-large Patriot League team make the playoffs? If the playoffs started today, the answer would clearly be "no", but if the craziness continues, it may be worth considering.
To refresh everyone's memory, there are 8 automatic bids into the I-AA playoffs from 8 conferences: the Atlantic 10, Big Sky, MEAC, SoCon, Patriot, Gateway, Southland, and OVC conference winners. There are then 8 at-large bids that comprise of the best remaining playoff-eligible teams. These are teams that have at least 7 "division I" wins - against I-A or I-AA teams.
If you want to be an at-large team like Colgate, Lafayette or Lehigh, what are you rooting for? First of all, you want to minimize the number of at-large bids. You want teams like UMass to lose twice, putting them at 7-4. You want a team like Montana St. to beat Eastern Washington (in essence eliminating them), and then turning around and losing to Montana. You want the Gateway teams to continue to bash each other, perhaps allowing a team with 2 conference losses to take the title. You want Furman to cruise to the title (eliminating Georgia Southern on the way), while rooting hard or Western Carolina to keep the "Old Mountain Jug" by beatting Appalachian St. Finally, you want at-large Cal Poly to lose as well.
Theoretically 7-4 teams would merit consideration as well as 8-3 teams. Colgate and Lafayette, however, have some impressive scalps this year - Colgate beat UMass, and Lafayette beat Richmond, two teams still in the hunt for the Atlantic 10 title. Lafayette, should they lose to Lehigh, may - just may - sneak into the the playoffs at 8-3. Their two losses to Princeton and Harvard might hurt, but they may merit consideration against 7-4 teams if everything breaks right.
Basically, the playoff field is still incredibly wide open. It's something worth discussing in the weeks ahead. Of course, Lehigh has to beat Georgetown first before we worry about the playoffs. There's still work to do, especially on defense. It's time to start now.