Four Downs: How good is Trinity? How bad is Mary Hardin-Baylor?

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Week 2 of the Non-FBS season left us questioning the future for Trinity and Mary Hardin-Baylor after the Tigers big 35-16 win over the Cru. Wins by Abilene Christian and UIW set up an intriguing showdown in Abilene next week, and it’s time to place Texas A&M-Kingsville into the top 25.

First Down: How good is Trinity?

The real question is whether the Tigers have entered the narrow list of Division III teams with the necessary ingredients for a run to the Stagg Bowl. The road to the national title game recently included a trip through UMHB. However, the Tigers showed tonight that they are the best team in Texas right now, placing them in the national title conversation.

Trinity defeated the Cru by being more physical at nearly every position on the field. More importantly, the Tigers defensive line was immovable and in the backfield all night on passing downs, while the offensive line provided Tucker Horn plenty of time to find his receivers.

Second Down: How bad is Mary Hardin-Baylor?

Frank Rossi of @D3FBHuddle on X/Twitter did quick research following the game and noted this is the first time the Cru has started a season 0-2 since 1999. That was the second year of the program. UMHB has three 0-2 starts to a season in history, and Trinity has been one of the losses in all three games. The Cru has never started a season 0-3, and that streak will be tested against perennial powerhouse Wisconsin-Whitewater.

An argument can be made for UMHB being the best 0-2 team in the country. Some have begun to wonder whether Hardin-Simmons is now the American Southwest Conference favorite. I’m not ready to go that far. The problem for the Cru is along the offensive line. They aren’t the dominating and physical force we’ve come to expect. They will likely finish inside the top 10, but that’s not the standard at UMHB. This team isn‘t bad. They’re just not in the national title conversation right now.

Third Down: The setup of an FCS showdown next week

Next week, one of the most intriguing games in FCS will happen in Abilene when ACU hosts UIW. The Wildcats have cruised to wins over their first two opponents. ACU has morphed into head coach Keith Patterson’s football personality. The Wildcats are big, mean, and physical. However, the Cardinals are likely the best team they will play so far, and ACU wants to send a message to the country before meeting conference foe Central Arkansas in two weeks.

Interestingly, both teams have a common opponent - Northern Colorado. ACU won 31-11 at home in Week 1, while UIW defeated UNC 42-7 in Greeley, Colo., in Week 2. Neither of those results matters next week. Beating ACU in the Cardinals third straight road game to start the season would send a message that UIW is ready for the Southland. A win for ACU would give the Wildcats a nice boost for a potential at-large berth to the playoffs.

Fourth Down: Time for Texas A&M-Kingsville to enter the top 25

I understand the Javelinas won seven consecutive games to open the 2022 season before dropping their final five contests. This isn’t 2023, and this Javelinas team is worthy of a spot in the top 25. TAMUK went on the road in Week 1 and defeated Colorado Mesa 30-10. That CMU team defeated FCS San Diego this week. Meanwhile, the Javelinas held a 10-point lead throughout most of the game in a 20-17 win over No. 20 West Georgia.

Granted, I don’t have a vote in any of the national polls. But if I did, I’d have Texas A&M-Kingsville in my top 25. I’d put every Texas DII team in the top 25 every week, and that’s likely why I will never have a vote.

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