VALDOSTA -- Chances for a playoff game at home seemed bleak for Valdosta State after its loss to North Alabama two weeks ago. Now that scenario seems probable.
Valdosta State's 30-0 win Saturday over Arkansas Tech, coupled with Catawba's 41-36 loss to Carson-Newman, vaulted the Blazers to No. 2 in the South Region rankings released Monday.
North Alabama remained at No. 1 in the region after a 48-21 win at West Georgia. Carson-Newman's win at home moved the Eagles to No. 3 and dropped Catawba out of the top four to No. 5. Southern Arkansas remained at No. 4 after beating Harding, 24-19.
The No. 2 South Region ranking for the Blazers means Valdosta State would host the first-round playoff game if it can win Saturday at home against West Georgia. If the current rankings stick, the Blazers would host Carson-Newman in the first round Nov. 22. Valdosta State downed the Eagles 31-28 last season at home in the quarterfinals.
The NCAA Division II football playoff bracket will be released at 1 p.m. Sunday. ESPN News will broadcast the bracket announcement, with Valdosta State planning to show the broadcast in the Continuing Education building.
Catawba may have the biggest beef with the regional committee after falling from second to fifth in this week's poll. The Indians trailed Carson Newman 31-3 at halftime after coming up a half-inch short of the goal line on its final play of the first half. That play may have cost Catawba a playoff berth. The Indians rallied in the second half, outscoring Carson Newman 33-10, before losing 41-36.
"Your goal every year is to get to the playoffs, but it's so difficult," Valdosta State head coach Chris Hatcher said. "There's going to be one team with a loss that may not get in this year."
Catawba has two losses, but only one Division II loss. The Indians other loss came to Division I-AA No. 5 Wofford. Valdosta State, North Alabama and Carson Newman all have wins over Division I-AA opponents. Catawba may also have been punished for its strength of schedule, the weakest among the top five teams in the South Region.
According to unofficial calculations by The Valdosta Daily Times, based on NCAA regulations, Valdosta State has 104 strength-of-schedule points to Southern Arkansas' 100.
VSU was helped by two September road wins over Delta State and Southern Arkansas and its home win over Albany State to open the season. All three teams have win-loss records above the 70 percent level, which earns teams more points. Southern Arkansas also had two road wins over teams above the 70 percent.
Carson-Newman (96), North Alabama (95) and Catawba (94) are close behind. While all those teams also have big wins, they also each played a game against a school lower in Division II, which earns teams few points.
The South Region committee will submit its top four choices for the playoffs after this weekend's games to the NCAA Division II national committee. The national committee (the four regional committee chairs) can change any rankings if it sees fit.
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