No. 16 Trinity University at No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor
When: Noon, Saturday at Crusader Stadium in Belton, Texas
The Matchup: The 600-mile rule strikes again. If you follow NCAA Division III football, you know the story by now.
The NCAA has a rule for playoffs that if two teams are located within 600 miles of each other, the visiting team will bus to the game. Why does this matter? It’s all about the money.
The NCAA splits the travel costs with teams during the playoffs. Most of the NCAA’s money is from Division I sports, so the lower levels have a smaller budget with which to work.
So, we have two conference champions, who both deserve to host a playoff game, meeting in the first round this week. I won’t be changing the NCAA with this piece, so let’s focus on the game.
These programs have an extensive history, but this will mark the first game between the Tigers and the Cru since 2013. The past meetings have been remarkably close, with UMHB holding a 5-4 overall edge against Trinity.
The teams have met five times in the playoffs, with UMHB holding a slim 3-2 edge against the Tigers. However, the Tigers defeated the Cru in the first round in 2002, which is the last time the Cru lost in the opening round of the playoffs.
The last time these teams met in the playoffs was in 2007, with the Cru defeating Trinity 52-23 in Belton. However, this will mark the first game for Trinity in the beautiful Crusader Stadium.
On the field and statistically, these teams are very close. However, both teams possess great defenses and offenses capable of scoring enough points to defeat anyone.
This game should be three or four rounds later, but the only thing that matters to both teams on Saturday is advancing the ability to play another week.
Players to Watch:
Tucker Horn, QB, Jr, Graham, Texas (Graham HS)
Caleb Harmel, LB, Jr, Burton, Texas (Burton HS)
Harris Good, DL, Jr, Fort Worth, Texas (Paschal HS)
Kyle King, QB, Sr, Milano, Texas (Milano HS)
Jacob Mueller, LB, Sr, Fort Worth, Texas (Boswell HS)
E’Monte Smith, DE, Sr, Austin, Texas (Connally HS)
Key to Victory: The winner of this game will control the line of scrimmage. The offensive line that can assert its will against the opposing defensive line more often will leave victorious.
Which is a fancy way of saying the team that establishes the running game will win. The main reason the run game is so important is to keep the linebackers honest for play-action passes.
Both teams possess a talented linebacker corps capable of making the quarterback miserable if the offense is behind the chains.
Prediction: I genuinely believe this could be one of the best games of the season at any level.
Trinity does not turn the ball over with only four turnovers this year. Quarterback Tucker Horn has been great, throwing for 33 touchdowns and only one interception.
However, this game comes down to the rushing attack, and UMHB averages 5.9 yards per rush attempt. That will be the difference in a close, low-scoring affair.
Mary Hardin-Baylor by 7
Best of the Rest:
Saturday, Nov. 20
Texas Southern at Alabama State, 2 p.m., ESPN+
No. 23 Minnesota Duluth at Angelo State, 1 p.m., LSC Digital Network
Other Small College Games:
Saturday, Nov. 20
Prairie View A&M at Texas A&M, 11 a.m., SEC+
No. 1 Sam Houston at Abilene Christian, 1 p.m., ESPN+
No. 19 UIW at Houston Baptist, 2 p.m., ESPN+
No. 22 SFA at Lamar, 4 p.m., ESPN+
Central Arkansas at Tarleton, 6 p.m., ESPN+
Sterling College at SAGU, noon, SAGU Sports Net
No. 14 Tyler at No. 2 New Mexico Military Institute, 3 p.m.
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