The Division III bracket was released tonight via D3Football.com, complete with some familiar names and interesting storylines.
The story of the bracket is how many rematches of conference foes come right off the bat like the top right of the bracket – a rematch of two of the best that the American Southwest Conference has to offer in Mary Hardin-Baylor and Hardin-Simmons.
Eight undefeated teams remain in the hunt for the perfect season, including top ranked Mount Union, Mary Hardin-Baylor, St. John’s, Whitworth, UW-Whitewater, Trine, Frostburg State, and Brockport.
The five teams that the committee chose with their at-large bids were Bethel, Centre, Hardin, Simmons, John Carroll, and Muhlenberg.
Last year, Mary Hardin Baylor lost in the title game to Mount Union 12-0. The way the bracket is set up there could be a rematch of last year’s game OR, if UW-Whitewater could knock of Mary Hardin-Baylor in the semis they would set up a blast-from-the-past showdown with Mount Union. The Purple Raiders and Warhawks haven’t met in the Stagg Bowl since 2014, but there was a long run from 2005-2014 where the two historically dominant teams met in the national title game nine of those ten seasons, trading national titles along the way.
One of the more interesting storylines of the bracket comes from the HCAC. Hanover punched their ticket to the playoff by beating Franklin 23-20 after converting a fourth down needing less than a yard. It was Hanover’s first win over Franklin dating all the way back to 2004, and it meant an HCAC title, and trip to the playoff at 7-3. To make that even more interesting? Hanover head coach Matt Theobald spent 13 seasons on the Franklin staff before taking over the Hanover program back in 2016.
It’s tough to imagine a Stagg Bowl without Mount Union in it, but is this the year they slip up and someone else capitalizes? Only time will tell.