The JCGridiron.com Dirty 30 Rankings are as close as they have ever been at this point in the season. With a handful of regular season games remaining and bowls games left to be played, Iowa Western still enjoys a narrow lead at the top.
At least 10-12 teams still have a shot at the national title in 2012, and that will likely narrow dramatically in the coming weeks as the regular season will conclude for many this coming weekend while conference playoffs are also deciding post-season champions.
Iowa Western sits at No. 1 in the rankings for the second straight week and is heavy favorites to pull off the double-double this weekend when they host the Midwest Football Conference title game against unranked Ellsworth. The Reivers have played arguably the softest schedule of any program in the top-20, but have been the most impressive throughout, blowing out opponent after opponent. That continued over the weekend when they completely dominated North Dakota State College of Science, 65-0, in the MFC semifinals. Iowa western will host Ellsworth again this weekend in the conference playoff finals after beating the Panthers 65-14 two weeks back for the regular season title.
No. 2 City College of San Francisco is edging closer to Iowa Western given the much tougher schedule, and nearly caught the Reivers over the weekend with an impressive 35-7 win over Santa Rosa. San Francisco has yet another big game this weekend when they host No. 14 Butte for the NorCal title. Another advantage for CCSF is a potentially difficult post-season schedule should they win on Saturday.
Butler remained at No. 3 after a solid 58-17 win over Garden City in the post-season Jayhawk semifinals. The Grizzlies are in a similar position to Iowa Western in that they have played a very watered down schedule in 2012, but have another chance to boost their reputation with No. 22 Hutchinson coming to town for the conference finals. A win there will likely give them a 1-2 matchup against Iowa Western for the NJCAA title, but it will take impressive wins in both games to hold off some of the programs around them in the rankings.
One program in a very good spot is No. 4 Mt. San Antonio, who has the best schedule remaining should they run the table and win the California state title. The Mounties will face off this weekend against No. 7 Riverside, and could have as many as three more games to follow in the California playoffs should they keep on winning.
Mississippi Gulf Coast moved up one spot to No. 5 in the rankings after a dominating 43-17 win over a very good No. 20 Northwest Mississippi program in the state semifinals. They now get a chance at the state championship when they host No. 12 Copiah-Lincoln this weekend, but with one loss on their resume could be closed out of the NJCAA title game.
Despite a perfect 10-0 record out west, Ventura College dropped one spot to No. 6 after a lackluster win over a 1-win Pasadena City program this past weekend (27-14). The Pirates have won a number of close contests playing a very solid schedule this season, and still have a very good shot at the national title should they run the table. Ventura has potential matchups against three top-10 programs in the coming month, and with wins against all of them would be very hard to keep out of the No. 1 spot. The bottom line is, the Pirate defense is very good, which should give them a puncher's chance.
One more critical battle will take place this weekend when No. 9 ASA hosts No. 11 Nassau in the Northeast title game. Both programs saw their contests canceled this past weekend due to hurricane Sandy, but a win for either this weekend should give them a potentially great bowl bid and a shot at claiming the Dirty 30 national title.
Things have gotten bit crazy in the Western States Football League, and the potential for a three-way tie is becoming more of a reality with No. 13 Snow traveling to No. 10 Arizona Western in the regular season finale. A victory by Snow would give the Badgers the outright title, but a loss would have Arizona Western watching the scoreboard as No. 28 Glendale travels to Mesa. The Matadors need to beat Snow and have Glendale lose to Mesa in order to win the outright conference title. An Arizona Western win combined with a Glendale win would create a three-way tie for the WSFL title.
The Southwest Junior College Football Conference has been a puzzling conference this season, as upstart No. 8 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M shocked the conference by winning the regular season championship. NEO will host No. 17 Navarro in the conference playoff finals, and a win could potentially provide them with a very formidable opponent for a bowl game. The lone blemish on the 2012 schedule was a 65-59 loss to Tyler earlier in the season in a game where they led by a big margin at one point. Unfortunately, it was a big blemish and they would need impressive wins this weekend and in a bowl game to have any legitimate shot at a national title.
A hearty congratulations goes out to No. 39 Central Lakes after beating previously ranked Rochester in the Minnesota state title game over the weekend. The Raiders lost their opening game of the season in a nail-biter to Northland College and proceeded to rip off 10 straight wins, including two wins over perennial power Rochester. Central Lakes is likely to receive a bowl bid as a result, but won't find out where that will be for a couple of weeks.
Premier games this weekend:
No. 14 Butte at No. 2 San Francisco
No. 7 Riverside at No. 4 Mt. San Antonio
No. 30 Sierra at No. 18 American River
No. 38 Fullerton at No. 21 Santa Ana
No. 22 Hutchinson at No. 4 Butler
No. 12 Copiah-Lincoln at No. 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast
No. 17 Navarro at No. 8 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M
No. 11 Nassau at No. 9 ASA
No. 13 Snow at No. 10 Arizona Western
To view the entire JCGridiron.com Dirty 30 Rankings, click on the appropriate link in the above grey box.