There’s a lot of football left to go in Shaun Hayes’ first season as Maryville College’s head coach.
How much more remains to be seen until the Fighting Scots (6-1, 3-1 USAC) run out their early November slate.
Despite the punishment poll voters laid on MC following its only loss, Maryville controls its own fate over the final three weeks of the regular season. The Scots host LaGrange, travel to Huntingdon and close out hosting Greensboro. If they win out, they at worst split the conference title with Huntingdon and own the head-to-head tiebreaker that should put the Scots in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
Winning out may be Maryville’s only route. The USA South’s strength index is weak, it’s record against other conferences even weaker — three teams went 0 for 3 in the nonconference portion and only the Scots went undefeated. Bottom line: it would take an odd set of circumstances for an at-large bid to come the conference’s way, and an 8-2 Maryville squad likely doesn’t make it without an automatic-qualifier.
Here’s what Maryville faces the final three weeks.
LAGRANGE: The Panthers (2-4, 2-1) have been close almost every week — close wins, close losses and close to playing their conference opener. After an extra week off when the trip to Averett was cancelled by Hurricane Joaquin, LaGrange has had a 2-1 October. The Panthers pass first, pass last and only run when coming on to the field but it proved enough to win over Ferrum and Greensboro.
The Scots have the ability to win a shoot out on the ground or in the air, as they showed against Ferrum. If MC doesn’t give the ball away, it goes into November alive and kicking.
HUNTINGDON: The Hawks (6-1, 4-0) are the must win of the must-win games. Huntingdon leads the USA South and must pick up a loss for Maryville to contend for the title. The best candidate for that left on the HC schedule is Maryville.
The teams match up well on paper, with similar personnel types and under Hayes, MC has a little more diversity in its offense that more closely mirrors the Hawks. In what could be the de facto USAC title game, MC has the edge at quarterback, with lots of experience and depth, while Huntingdon has more experience among the playmakers on the receiving end. It may not be who shines brightest but who doesn’t blink and make the mistake that decides it.
GREENSBORO: The Pride (2-5, 1-3) have the toughest backend schedule in the league, hosting Huntingdon and Methodist before closing out with the trip to Maryville. As weary as the Scots might be after Week 10, Greensboro is likely going to be worse off.
Greensboro always give MC its best shot and has pushed good MC teams to the limit before, but win or lose the week before, MC will have something to prove in the finale.
UPS, DOWNS: Before the loss to N.C. Wesleyan, the Scots were consistently showing up as No. 29 or 30 in the D3 polls. After the loss, Maryville dropped to only a few votes and dropped out completely despite winning both games since. At the same time, Berry College, also 6-1, has climbed up the polls to hang around Maryville’s old spot. That’s the same Vikings squad MC crushed in the opener, building a five-touchdown lead before blooding some reserves against Berry starters for a 26-point win.