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Random Football and the Burned-0ver District: Friday Night Game Thread

Upstate New York vs. the World; World favored by a lot

The Gagliardi Trophy is awarded to the outstanding player in Division III. By kickoff tonight, that might be North Central QB Luke Lehnen. Or it might not.
Ryan Coleman,

Hey everybody: @MNW is jammed with real-job responsibilities, but he foolishly gave me the go ahead to rip off (and water down heavily) his patented column. After all, it’s bowl season, and bowls are exhibitions. So, just treat what follows as its own sort of exhibition.


Do you have any strong thoughts about the state of New York, setting aside NYC? Do you want to make some up just because we’re in the wacky period of bowl season, and it would make tonight more interesting?

Both (SUNY-) Cortland and (SUNY-) Albany are in action tonight. Now neither Cortland nor Albany is technically in what was called the “burned-over district,” but let’s not let that stop us. (Cortland is basically in-between the two shaded areas on the map wikipedia provides.)

Okay, okay, I’m not really here to discuss revivalism in central and western New York, and I don’t even necessarily want to invite you to contribute any thoughts about the failed prophecies of William Miller or how the Millerites became today’s Seventh Day Adventists. That said, the “Great Disappointment” is a concept most of us can relate to pretty easily, huh?

Honestly, if we’re talking Second Great Awakening, I’m less fascinated by New York in the 1820s and 1830s, and more by Tennessee and Kentucky in the 1790s and 1800s. The Shakers, man! Your random book reference of the night is Richard McNemar’s first-hand account of the Kentucky Revival at Cane Ridge in 1801. Here’s the description provided at the site of a major online bookseller:

“The latest addition to the Restoration Movement Library, ‘The Kentucky Revival’ is a first-hand account of the 1801 Cane Ridge revival, the founding and dissolving of the Springfield Presbytery, the departure (apostasy) of Richard McNemar and John Dunlavy from the Christian Church to the Shakers, and the letters back and forth between Barton W. Stone and Richard McNemar, where Stone pleaded for McNemar to come to his senses.”

I don’t know how to turn “Cane Ridge, KY” into “Circle K,” but strange things were afoot there a couple of centuries ago.

Can you picture 20,000 people getting together in the middle of nowhere in Kentucky in 1801 and then, you know, shaking in a proto-Pentecostal sort of way? The first generation of the American republic was a wild, wild time and it’s chronically understudied. But, yeah, this has taken us far afield from upstate New York.


My other hook was going to note that North Central College is in Naperville, IL, and that I, who grew up in the middle of nowhere, went to a college with a heavy population of “Chicagoans.” Approximately 75% of the people I met in college who said they were from Chicago were actually from Naperville. (The rest were from Schaumburg.) Google tells me it would take just under 2 hours by transit to get from the North Central campus to Wrigley Field, so all those kids I met in college can stick it.*

*Except for the one guy who was actually from Chicago proper and played a CYO basketball championship game against a team that featured both Donovan McNabb and Antoine Walker. He was cool, and that’s a helluva story.

Anyway, we’re really off topic, so let’s try a segue.


Tonight, 20,000 people or so will get together in practically the middle of nowhere in South Dakota (am I repeating myself?) to watch South Dakota Sate host Albany for a spot in the FCS championship game. At the same time, about 300 miles east of the site of the revival at Cane Ridge, Cortland and North Central will battle for the D-III title in Salem (Salem!!!), Virginia.

So, while FBS bowls kick off tomorrow, if you’re somebody willing to tune into an expected beatdown in hopes that a compelling battle emerges, you have two chances tonight. Will either David slay their Goliath?


(1) North Central (14-0) vs. (11) Cortland (13-1): 6:00 CST, ESPNU

I can’t find any odds, but I’m sure there are some on the dark web. Suffice it to say that North Central is a big favorite. This is Cortland’s first trip to the title game. This was Cortland’s first trip to the semifinals. Cortland’s other quarterfinal appearances were in 2008 (lost to Mount Union by 27) and 1988. But the Red Dragons at least have a kick ass team name to fall back on. And Cortland is an underrated variety of apple.

The North Central Cardinals have a much more boring team name, but if you’re a regionalist, you’ll probably cheer for them. They were tested by UW-LaCrosse and Wartburg in the last two rounds, but prior to that, only two teams had come within 40 of them. They also won the title last year and in 2019, and were runners-up in 2021. Given Covid, that means this is their fourth straight title game appearance. With the Mount Union/UW-Whitewater wars having ended, and Mary Hardin-Baylor falling off, North Central is the new dominant team.


(5) Albany (11-3) at (1) South Dakota State (13-0): 6:00 CST, ESPN2

Great Danes vs. Jackrabbits is a cool mascot showdown, but upstate New York’s other hope is a 19.5 point underdog to FCS’s new dominant force. Did SDSU get a challenge from Villanova? Yeah, somewhat. Is Albany going to win? Likely not. But they did register an impressive road win over Idaho last week. And the fact that their path to the FCS title would either go Idaho-SDSU-NDSU, or Idaho-SDSU-Montana creates an easy rooting interest if you have any general animosity toward the upper Great Plains/Mountain Time Zone part of the country.

Albany’s record is a little deceptive since two of the losses were to FCS teams Marshall and Hawaii. And, hey, they got a trip to Hawaii! (A trip to Brookings in December isn’t likely to be as pleasant) The Jackrabbits had two one-score games in the regular season, and Villanova hung with them. But they also beat NDSU and South Dakota by a combined 51 in the regular season, and both are probably on Albany’s level. Could be a defensive struggle, though.

No snow in the forecast, which is bad for us, the viewers.


If the football proves unfulfilling, #5 UConn at #10 Gonzaga in hoops is a good nightcap.