In today's world of college football, there seems to be a preoccupation with numbers. Statistics and streaks are simply part of the charm of college football, and it's what fans love to talk about.
One team in Division II has had bragging rights on many amazing stats and streaks this past decade. Longest winning streak in Division II history. Most number of appearances as No. 1 in the coaches poll. Coach with the highest win percentage among all active coaches in the NCAA (regardless of division). Four national titles. Six Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles.
Grand Valley State University has been the dominant program in Division II since their rise to the top starting in 2001. GVSU has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments during that time, and the Lakers probably aren't finished adding to their list of accolades. But when a team who hasn't lost a conference game in five years loses, it's news. Actually, it's big news. Here are a couple of numbers that might pique your interest.
GVSU went 1,813 days without losing a GLIAC game, which included 48 GLIAC games.
The team that handed GVSU their defeat on Saturday, Hillsdale College, hadn't beaten the Lakers in 5,474 days. The last team to beat the Lakers in a GLIAC contest was Northwood, on October 23, 2004.
During that time, GVSU strung together a NCAA Division II record 40 consecutive wins—an impressive number considering playoffs are involved.
GVSU's head coach, Chuck Martin, in his sixth year at the helm, is 67-6 (.918) overall, and 51-3 (.944) in GLIAC games.
Those are some numbers. Any program, at any level, in any sport would love to have numbers like those. When a team like GVSU loses a game, it affects more than the GLIAC standings. It affects all of Division II.
Heading into last weekend's game against Hillsdale College, GVSU was ranked No. 1 in the nation, and No. 2 in the NCAA's Super Region three rankings. GVSU dropped to No. 8 in the coaches poll, and dropped to an astonishing No. 9 in the Regional Rankings—which means GVSU would not make the playoffs, if they began today.
The next few weeks are critical for GVSU, and they host Findlay in a matchup of two of the remaining three one-loss GLIAC teams. After a trip to Ashland, Ohio on Oct. 24, the Lakers finish their regular season with games against one-loss Northern Michigan (Oct. 31 at GVSU), and two-loss Wayne State (MI) on Nov. 7 (also at GVSU). While GVSU needs a little help to climb high enough to host a playoff game or two come November, GVSU does have its playoff destiny in its own hands.
Both Wayne State (MI) and Findlay are ranked above GVSU in the region (No. 6 and No. 7, respectively). GVSU will also receive a boost in their strength of schedule rating, as all remaining opponents have winning records. Only one team, Minnesota State, is unbeaten (7-0). Should GVSU survive the rest of their schedule, they are sure to be a lock for a post-season berth.
Finally, a curious phenomenon takes place with the GVSU faithful when GVSU loses a game. There are calls for the head coach to be fired (keep in mind, he has a .918 win percentage). There are doomsday predictions (as if not winning the National Championship is the end of the world). There is the foretelling of the "end of an era." But take heart, Laker Nation. I don't believe GVSU is on the verge of falling off a cliff. I don't believe GVSU will even miss the playoffs this year. Will GVSU win a title this year? No one can say. But as a token of solace, remember this Laker fans: GVSU has won four national titles with two of them coming with one loss during the season.
We all love numbers, statistics, streaks, and everything they entail. 6-1 is just another set of numbers that GVSU now has to live with for now—just like the rest of the nation was forced to live with GVSU's 40-0 mark, or the way the GLIAC lived with GVSU's 48-0 mark over the past five years. Tomorrow, the sun will rise. And next Saturday, the Lakers will take the field as a new team, with new goals, and a new determination.