It’s hard to tell if the KCAC football season is upside down or right side up.
Parity is the optimum word in the 10-team conference, as there are now five teams tied for the lead at 2-1, while the other five teams are a game back at 1-2.
Going into last week, third-ranked (NAIA) Tabor appeared to be the clear-cut favorite, especially since it was matched against Southwestern, the only winless team through four weeks.
So what happens? The Moundbuilders absolutely stoned the Bluejays’ high-powered running attack for a 27-6 victory, which turned everything into a hullabaloo. As we head into the fourth week of the season, no team can believe it’s out of the race.
Tabor, Sterling, Friends, Saint Mary and Ottawa are the 2-1 teams. McPherson College, Bethany, Southwestern, Bethel and Kansas Wesleyan are the 1-2 teams.
McPherson College’s losses are by 13 points to Bethel (the Threshers scored a late touchdown for cosmetic purposes and the Bulldogs were depleted with injuries), while it was tantalizingly close to upsetting Ottawa, losing in double-overtime after having taken a lead. While the Bethel game could come back to haunt it — the Bulldog team of the last two weeks in no way resembles the team that lost to the Threshers — Mac has to believe it’s still in the hunt. It still has to play four of the teams that are 2-1, so it has some control of its destiny.
The Bulldogs should be aided by the schedule. After a tortuous start — four of five games on the road including energy-sapping trips to Bacone, Okla., Olathe and Ottawa — they play four of their last six at home, where they have won their only game.
Friends and Saint Mary come to town in the next two weeks, so the Bulldogs know they have their title aspirations staring them square in the eye. The only two road games remaining are at Tabor and Sterling.
I really don’t know who’s the strongest of the 10 teams. Tabor is showing the effects of losing starting quarterback Simon McKee, out with an injury. Its punishing ground game, though, could work to its advantage as colder weather approaches.
Having seen Ottawa, the Braves have a three-headed offensive monster in Michael Behr, Luke Lundy and Josh Stangby. However, their defense is quite suspect against the pass.
Sterling is the defending champion, but was manhandled by Tabor and probably should have lost on Saturday to Bethany. The Warriors had to pull a rabbit out of their hat in the final seconds for a 42-39 victory, even though Bethany had more than a 2-1 advantage in total yards. It’s not often a team goes over the 500-yard mark in a game and gives up under 300, yet still loses the game as the Swedes did.
Friends was part of the “Big 4” during the preseason along with Tabor, Ottawa and Sterling. But it lost at home to Sterling, though righted itself in impressive fashion against Kansas Wesleyan.
The other 2-1, Saint Mary, is probably the team that won’t be hanging with the others. Its weaknesses are more pronounced and its win at Bethany, to me, is the second-biggest surprise of the season after Southwestern-Tabor.
Of the 1-2s, Bethany is a team nobody wants to play. But you have to wonder about its self-discipline, given it’s turned the ball over 11 times in two conference games. There’s scary talent on this team, but it’s going to have to fix its spate of mistakes.
As for the other 1-2s, if McPherson College continues its improvement and gets some of its injured players back, look out. Kansas Wesleyan is tough to prepare for because of its exotic offense, but is not very strong defensively, while I don’t believe Bethel will win much more, maybe not at all. Then there’s Southwestern and how do you ever handicap the Builders after what happened Saturday?
Hopefully some sense will be made of everything over these final six games. It should be fascinating to see how it plays out. My guess is we won’t have a clear-cut champion and could perhaps wind up with co-champions or even tri-champions.