The Final Frontier

Ok, so the title is a hokey pun, but trust me, I’m doing my best, as this is going to be a post about sports. For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I’m beyond out of my league, I’m completely bonkers for even trying this, but here goes. Here’s the current standing for the league:

At this point, it’s quite clear that the Frontier Conference has had upsets that no one expected, and is, honestly, it’s the toughest league in the NAIA. With traditional powerhouse Carroll College falling short for the first time in well over a decade, some other teams have not only risen to the top, they’ve proved that it’s not just a fluke and are tough and ready to go.

First up is Montana Tech. Currently leading the league with an 8-1 record, the Diggers have not only managed to beat their traditional rival in their win over Carroll the second game of the season, and other than their initial loss to the Mounties of Eastern Oregon, they’ve conquered everyone else – including an at-home win over the Southern Oregon Raiders.

Speaking of… the SOU Raiders are second in the league, and will face Tech once more, but this time at home, next weekend. The Raiders have a five-game winning streak at home, capped by their win last week against the very tough, but unable to pull through, Fighting Saints’. The Raiders are lead by their sophomore quarterback, Austin Dodge, who once again proved that he’s not only able to pass a lot, he’s accurate on a level that you’ve got to see to believe.

Next week these two teams face off in what has to be the NAIA game of the week, and I promise it’s going to be a great game. You’ll be able to watch it online at the Frontier Conference Game of the Week.  Kick-off is at Noon, Mountain Time, and remember that Daylight Savings Time ends this week, so you might want to fire up your viewing a bit early so you don’t miss anything. (I hate the time-change, it always messes with me.)

That’s not the only great game that’s in store, and the three other Frontier Conference games to be played are also going to be viewable on that site.

  • Eastern Oregon University Mounties versus UM Western Bulldogs
  • MSU Northern Lights versus Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears
  • Dickinson State University Bluehawks versus Carroll College Fighting Saints

It’s going to be an amazing Saturday all around. Here’s how I see it playing out.

Eastern Oregon has been very unpredictable this season. With their early win over Tech, they proved they can work together and manage the game, driving up a win, but they’ve gone on to a 4-5 record, with losses including a trouncing by Southern Oregon, 68-22, and they’ve already lost to Western 16-3. That and the game is at Western. I think the UM Western Bulldogs will win this game, especially given their win over Rocky two weeks ago. But that’s just my gut, the stats say that Eastern Oregon should win this game. Go figure, my gut really doesn’t know much about sports, so take it as you will. I still think Western can win this game.

Both MSU Northern and Rocky Mountain are coming off wins, but only Rocky had a win that severed a 26-game losing streak against a foe that, while falling a bit this year, is still a very tough team. MSU Northern won against Dickinson State, the team at the bottom of the league. The Bluehawks have managed only conference one win all season, against MSU Northern back in September, so while this was vindication for the Lights, it’s still not a convincing challenge.

Rocky beat Carroll, handily. That’s huge. I know I’m not stepping too far out on a limb this week by saying that Rocky should win this game, although they are going to have to work for it, certainly. It’ll be a great game to watch, although the outcome has no real effect on the post-season. I believe that Rocky will win over Northern.

And then we have Dickinson State University at Carroll College. The Saints should win this, but given that even the team with the worst record in the Frontier is still tough-as-nails, I’m not going to say it’s a given. I expected todays Carroll at Rocky game to be tough fought, but with the Saints still rising to the top. I didn’t expect them to be manhandled by the Bears, and they kinda were. Again, the Frontier is a rough place to be, and this year, more than many before, it’s amazing how good all the teams really are. I think the Saints will win it, but again, it’s going to be a great game to watch.

So next week will be the final games of the regular season, and for many of the teams in the Frontier, it’ll be the final game, period. I expect that Tech will win the conference, thereby earning the automatic berth into the post-season, regardless of the outcome of the game. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Raiders will swoop in and steal the win from the Diggers, and we’ll end the season like this:

Given that, I expect that the Frontier will have at least two teams in the post-season – Montana Tech and Southern Oregon will go on to play for the championship, and believe me, either team is good enough to win it. I honestly wish the Saints would get in, as they are, again, a great team, but having lost three games in the conference, it would take a miracle of voting by the rest of the NAIA, and while there’s a slim chance, the truth of the matter is that it’s not going to happen.

So after a 12-year streak of conference championships, the Saints have faltered a bit, and let another take the lead, and even a second team to sneak past them. But it’s just one year, it’s not the end of the world. Because, as every team in the Frontier knows, it’s not how you win, it’s how you pick yourself up after you’ve lost. And you can’t win them all.

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