The D1A Playoff Story In Numbers
The D1A Playoff Story In Numbers
There was no D1A playoff this past spring of course, so we were denied the 10th season of what was a new form of high-level men’s college championship.
But we do have nine years of data to look at to see which teams have enjoyed the most success since the what used to be called the College Premier League started in the 2010-11 season. We went through all of the playoffs since the competition began, looking at the quarterfinals since 2011, and then also the additional 1st round since 2016. The first two years of the additional round had only eight teams playing to face teams that had earned a bye to the quarterfinals. Only in 2018 and 2019 have we seen a fully-populated Round of 16.
Remember, also, that the Varsity Cup ran for several years and various college teams opted to compete in that postseason instead of the D1A playoffs. That’s one reason why you won’t see Cal or BYU at the top of the win column.
OK, enough about all that, let’s to the stats:
Most Wins All-Time: Life University, 21
The Running Eagles have made the playoffs every season, and while they lost their opener in 2011, they have done superbly well since then, winning 21 out of 26 games.
High Winning Percentage All-Time: Cal, .818
Cal played in the first D1A playoff (and won), and the last two (making the final each time). Their only losses are to Life in the last two finals.
Most Championships All-Time: Life University, 4
Well, it stands to reason that the team that logged the most victories probably got those victories on the way to championships. Life has made the final seven times, and won four times. Behind them is Saint Mary’s, which five finals appearances and three championships. BYU and Cal are the other teams that have won it all.
Most Point Scored All-Time: Saint Mary’s, 1,113
This might be a surprise because Life has won more games, but a few more of Life’s 26 matches have been defensive battles, while the Gaels, win or lose, always get points. In 23 games, going 17-6, Saint Mary’s has scored 1,113 points, or 48 points per game. That per-game mark is not the best, though, as Cal’s average of 49.8 is a little higher. Only BYU is also above 40.
Most Points Allowed All-Time: Saint Mary’s, 493
Live by the sword, sometimes die by the sword. Saint Mary’s playoff games average almost 70 points between the two opponents. The per-game mark, however, isn’t likely going to go to a team that wins more than it loses. Our minimum number of games to qualify for an average like this is two games for every three years of playoffs, or 9 games total. Penn State, in six playoffs games, has gone 2-4 and given up 55 points per game.
Fewest Points Per Game All-Time: Life University, 16.8
It’s not even close. Saint Mary’s and Cal both have per-game averages just over 21, but Life is a try better per game.
Most Times Making The Semis Without Making A Final: Lindenwood, 5
Yeah, sorry Lindenwood, you probably don’t to dwell on this too much but it’s really a testament to the Lions’ consistency.
Most Close Losses (7 points or fewer): Arkansas State, Life University, 4
Only twice has Life lost a game that wasn’t within a converted try. Same goes for Arkansas State, who always seems to be in a tight game, and with a 6-6 playoff record and points for and against almost equal, is basically even-money in every game.
Best Team Ever: Life University, 2017-18 Season
For the most part, the finals have been very close, and many semifinals also close. Seven of the nine finals have been decided by a converted try or less. One other (2014) was in doubt until the very end when Saint Mary’s iced it to make it 21-6 over Life.
But in 2018, Life beat Cal 60-5. Not only that, the Running Eagles beat Central Washington by 80, Army by 34, and Penn State by 55. Their average playoff game score was 65-7. They completely dominated a playoffs that saw close games almost everywhere else you look.
Beat Playoff Season Ever: 2019
There are always blowouts in the early rounds and this year was no exception, but we did have a couple of very tight contests, and all of the quarterfinals were competitive. Lindenwood vs Arkansas State and Life vs Navy were both back-and-forth affairs. In the semis, Life had all it could handle against Lindenwood, while Cal beat Saint Mary’s on the final play of the match.
Life then won late in a back-and-forth thriller with Cal in the final.
How would 2020 have panned out? We'll never know, but it was looking to be very tight.
Look at the charts above (click on the images to enlarge), and you'll see a general trend toward closer playoff games over time. That's a function of more and more programs finding their feet in recruiting, coaching, and preparation.