Keith and I rank the conferences every summer and they get tweaked after we get through the bulk of non-conference play. We don’t have comments on the Around the Nation page yet (probably a 2009 item) but I thought we’d bring them over here to see what people thought.
1. WISCONSIN INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (WIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 1st of 27
Non-conference record so far: 14-7
Verdict: Still at the top of the heap, given the depth (La Crosse and River Falls have accounted for five of the seven non-conference losses) and caliber of play and players. Whatever Northwestern (Minn.)’s win over River Falls took away in respect, UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh’s wins over top 10 NAIA programs St. Xavier and Ohio Dominican restored.
2. OHIO ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (OAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 2nd
Non-conference record so far: 7-3
Verdict: Heidelberg, Otterbein adding weight to OAC’s usually tough top half, but conference still can’t match the WIAC’s strength from top to bottom.
3. AMERICAN SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE (ASC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 3rd
Non-conference record so far: 8-8
Verdict: Hardin-Simmons’ early resurgence keeps ASC up high, though Mississippi College’s loss to Millsaps was a bad one.
4. COLLEGE CONFERENCE OF ILLINOIS AND WISCONSIN (CCIW)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 5th
Non-conference record so far: 19-5
Verdict: Wheaton, North Central, Elmhurst and Illinois Wesleyan are a combined 12-0 and only 1-2 North Park has a losing record. The Thunder beat Bethel and the Cardinals beat Ohio Northern in the most significant non-conference games.
5. EMPIRE 8 (E8)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 4th
Non-conference record so far: 10-8
Verdict: St. John Fisher’s 33-3 loss to Mount Union of the OAC is the only significant non-conference result, but this is the same conference that sent three teams to the playoffs last season, so it holds its ground for the most part.
6. MINNESOTA INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (MIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 7th
Non-conference record so far: 13-2
Verdict: Only non-conference losses have been to now-ranked teams (Concordia-Moorhead to Willamette, Bethel to Wheaton). Depth, as seven of nine teams are off to winning starts.
7. NORTHWEST CONFERENCE (NWC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 6th
Non-conference record so far: 11-10
Verdict: Championship days of 2004 and 1999 looking more distant, but first automatic playoff bid should keep conference play spirited. In key non-conference matchups, NWC went 1-1 vs. MIAC, 0-2 vs. WIAC and 0-1 vs. ASC. Redlands of the SCIAC also dealt Whitworth a convincing defeat.
8. NEW JERSEY ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (NJAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 8th
Non-conference record so far: 3-4
Verdict: Top team no longer an automatic Stagg Bowl contender, but conference is stronger top to bottom, even with new additions.
9. MIDDLE ATLANTIC CONFERENCE (MAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 15th
Non-conference record so far: 13-11
Verdict: Big move up the rankings is a bit deceiving, since middle group of conferences are very evenly matched. MAC gets the edge by virtue of its record so far, including a 4-2 record vs. the ACFC, including Delaware Valley’s two big wins over then-top-10 Wesley and Salisbury. Six 2-1 teams have helped MAC go 2-2 vs. Centennial. Against the ODAC, USAC and NJAC, the MAC is 2-1 vs. each, plus 1-0 vs. the Liberty League but 0-3 vs. the Empire 8.
10. ATLANTIC CENTRAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE (ACFC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 9th
Non-conference record so far: 6-6
Verdict: ACFC goes as Wesley and Salisbury go, and each has a key MAC win (Widener, Albright) and loss (Del Val).
11. CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE (CC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 11th
Non-conference record so far: 10-8
Verdict: Four of the eight losses are by the bottom two teams, Gettysburg and Juniata. Illustrating the parity among middle conferences, CC is 8-8 combined against the MAC, ODAC and Liberty League.
12. OLD DOMINION ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (ODAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 12th
Non-conference record so far: 14-9
Verdict: Success came early in non-conference schedule, with five wins against the USAC in Week 1. ODAC is 3-2 vs. Centennial, but the CC took the even matchups (Franklin & Marshall 24, Washington & Lee 0; Johns Hopkins 39, Randolph-Macon 31, 3OT).
13. LIBERTY LEAGUE (LL)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 13th
Non-conference record so far: 10-10
Verdict: In the middle of the 27 ranked conferences, LL is .500 against modest competition so far. Hobart’s win over Carnegie Mellon kept the LL in front of the UAA.
14. UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (UAA)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 14th
Non-conference record so far: 8-5
Verdict: Four-team UAA is 5-2 in the first season of its scheduling agreement with the NCAC, with Chicago accounting for both defeats. Washington U.’s 30-27 win against Wittenberg of the NCAC is a significant non-conference win.
15. SOUTHERN COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (SCAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 18th
Non-conference record so far: 9-6
Verdict: Trinity and Millsaps account for three of the wins in a 4-1 mark vs. the ASC, and the ASC teams beaten have a combined 2-10 record. The rest of the SCAC’s non-conference wins have come against teams from the HCAC, SLIAC and outside Division III.
16. IOWA INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (IIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 10th
Non-conference record so far: 6-8
Verdict: Slow start and lack of a dominant top 25 team hurt the IIAC more than any other conference in our re-ranking, but there’s still not much difference in strength among the middle third of Division III conferences. The IIAC could get credit for much of its damage coming against the MIAC (0-4) and CCIW (1-1), but it was only 1-2 against the MWC. The other four wins were against the Northern Athletics Conference, the UMAC and a non-division team.
17. PRESIDENTS’ ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (PAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 17th
Non-conference record so far: 8-10
Verdict: For a nine-team conference, the depth isn’t there in terms of power teams. It’s Washington & Jefferson and the occasional challenge. PAC teams are 0-4 vs. the OAC, 0-2 vs. the CC and 1-1 vs. the ACFC. The wins are against teams from the NCAC, HCAC, UAA plus an independent and a non-Division III.
18. USA SOUTH ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (USAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 16th
Non-conference record so far: 10-12
Verdict: Bulk of where they’re placed is the result of a 5-7 record against ODAC teams. Three wins came against independents or non-Division III teams, while the USAC is 1-2 vs. the MAC and 0-2 vs. the SLIAC.
19. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (SCIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 21st
Non-conference record so far: 8-6
Verdict: A 5-6 mark vs. the NWC is decent, and Redlands has bowled a couple non-conference strikes, against Dubuque of the IIAC (46-9) and Whitworth of the NWC (38-7). But three of the SCIAC’s non-conference wins have come against Lewis & Clark and Principia, who haven’t beaten a Division III team other than each other since 2004.
20. NORTH COAST ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (NCAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 19th
Non-conference record so far: 7-11
Verdict: Beyond the top teams, the strength is questionable, and even the numbers back it up: 2-5 vs. the UAA, 1-3 vs. the PAC. The two wins against the MIAA were Wittenberg beating defending champ Olivet and Denison beating Kalamazoo.
21. MICHIGAN INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (MIAA)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 22nd
Non-conference record so far: 11-16
Verdict: It wasn’t just Trine’s win against HCAC champ Franklin that moved the conference up a spot. MIAA teams are 6-2 against the HCAC this season. They are also 0-7 against the CCIW and winless against the PAC, IIAC, OAC and WIAC.
22. HEARTLAND COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (HCAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 20th
Non-conference record so far: 10-12
Verdict: The rise of Franklin to give Mount St. Joseph a consistent challenger and top 25 threat helped last season, but re-ranking was not as kind. The 2-6 MIAA mark was offset by a 2-1 mark against the OAC, but the overall win total is less impressive than it looks. Its three wins against the NCAC were all against struggling Earlham.
23. MIDWEST CONFERENCE (MWC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 23rd
Non-conference record so far: 5-4
Verdict: Monmouth’s win against Loras of the IIAC was intriguing, but the MWC is judged by its most successful team, St. Norbert. Wartburg defeated the Green Knights 44-20 in the MWC’s most significant chance to make a move upward.
24. NEW ENGLAND FOOTBALL CONFERENCE (NEFC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 24th
Non-conference record so far: 0-6
Verdict: The good vibes from Curry’s playoff win against the Empire 8 champion last season can only go so far; One of the other 15 teams must win a non-conference game at some point, although chances are few.
25. UPPER MIDWEST ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (UMAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 27th
Non-conference record so far: 7-6
Verdict: Down to five teams, including brand new St. Scholastica, Northwestern (Minn.)’s defeat of UW-River Falls of the WIAC is alone enough for a bump up a couple notches.
26. ST. LOUIS INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (SLIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 26th
Non-conference record so far: 8-13
Verdict: The addition of former independents LaGrange and Huntingdon give conference travel budgets a boost, but it’s done the same for the SLIAC’s profile in its first season back on the football field since 1999. The other six teams, however, are just 4-12 in non-conference action.
27. NORTHERN ATHLETICS CONFERENCE (NATHC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 25th
Non-conference record so far: 4-20
Verdict: With five teams at 0-3 and only 2-1 Aurora with a winning record, this new mix of former Illini-Badger Football Conference, UMAC and MIAA teams has a long way to climb.