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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | Northridge Football

Matadors Control Own Playoff Future

October 27, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ

Despite two consecutive Big Sky Conference losses, Cal State Northridge remains alive for a Division I-AA football playoff spot.

The conference champion qualifies automatically for the playoffs and the Big Sky runner-up has participated every year since the division went to a 16-team format in 1986.

Northridge (4-3, 3-2 in conference) controls its destiny. By winning its final three Big Sky games, the Matadors would finish no worse than second place regardless of what any other team does.

They could even end in a three-way tie for first place and get the automatic pass to the playoffs because of the Big Sky's tiebreaking rules.

Here are the scenarios:

Northridge, with four games to play, has to beat Big Sky foes Weber State on Saturday, Portland State on Nov. 7 and Idaho State on Nov. 21 to finish 6-2 in conference play. The Matadors play a nonleague game Nov. 14 at Southwest Missouri State.

By losing to Northridge, Weber State and Portland State each could do no better than 5-3.

Montana State has four Big Sky games remaining, including tough ones against Eastern Washington and Montana. The Bobcats would win the championship with a 7-1 record by sweeping, possibly leaving Northridge and Montana tied with 6-2 records.

But if the Bobcats lose at Montana on Nov. 21, and if Montana wins its previous two games, those teams would finish 6-2 and in a three-way tie with Northridge.

The Big Sky's first tiebreaker, head-to-head results, would not produce a winner. Northridge defeated Montana, Montana would have defeated Montana State and Montana State defeated Northridge.

But the Matadors would hit the jackpot on the next tiebreaker--head-to-head results against teams in descending order of finish. That likely would be Portland State, Weber State or Eastern Washington, and Northridge would have defeated each. Montana lost to Weber State and Montana State lost to Portland State.

In that case, Northridge would be the Big Sky's No. 1 team for playoff-seeding purposes.

"Obviously, the only thing that's important is Weber State," Northridge Coach Ron Ponciano said. "You can't get too caught up looking ahead."

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Easy come, easy go.

The Matadors dropped out of the top 20 in both I-AA polls after losing to Montana State, 32-26, on Saturday.

Northridge was ranked No. 16 two weeks ago, its highest I-AA ranking ever, and No. 24 last week.

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Safety-turned-linebacker Kenny Knoop's college career is over because of a torn knee ligament he suffered in the Montana State game.

Knoop, a senior from Burroughs High and Glendale College, will have surgery in the next few days, a team official said.

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