For the seventh straight year and the 17th time overall, the University of North Alabama football team has advanced to the post-season with a chance to compete for the NCAA Division II National Championship.
With an 8-2 overall record and coming off back-to-back wins over West Georgia and Valdosta State, UNA was selected for the 24-team Division II playoff field announced Sunday. The Lions, seeded fifth in Super Region 2, will play on the road at fourth seeded West Alabama (8-3) on November 19. Kickoff time is Central.
UNA lost 31-26 at to West Alabama back on October 27 in Livingston.
"I'm thrilled for our players," said UNA Head Coach Terry Bowden. "It will not be difficult to get our players up and motivated to play a team that we lost to in the regular season."
Bowden has led each of his three squads at UNA to the post-season but says it never gets old. "Playoffs never get old," he said. "There are 125 teams that don't get in and only 24 that are still playing so we are excited to be in that group. We know that everybody is one-and-done at this point and every game could end your season. Having played West Alabama just three weeks ago and having played three close games with them over the last three years, I expect us to practice well and be well prepared for this one."
The winner of the UNA-West Alabama game will advance to face top seeded Delta State on November 26 in Cleveland, Miss. In the other half of the Super Region 2 bracket, third seeded North Greenville hosts sixth seeded Albany State, with that winner traveling to face seconded seeded Mars Hill on November 26.
The 17th playoff appearance by UNA ties with fellow playoff participant Pittsburg State for the most appearances by any current Division II institution. North Alabama has a 28-13 all-time playoff record which also gives the Lions the second most playoff wins of any current Division II institution. UNA has competed in the playoffs in 1980, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, winning National Championships in 1993, 1994 and 1995. The Lions also reached the Championship Game in 1985 and have reached the semifinals in 1980, 1983, 2003, 2005 and 2008.
This will mark the 18th time that UNA has played the same team twice in a season. The first was in 1986 when North Alabama and West Alabama played each other twice during the regular season so each could fill out a 10-game schedule. UNA won both contests, winning 14-3 at a neutral site in Hamilton and 21-17 in Livingston. The other 16 times combined a regular-season meeting and a playoff meeting. UNA has an all-time 11-6 record in rematch games where it has faced the same team twice. UNA is 10-6 in playoff games that were rematches. In ten of the 17 previous pairings, the team that won the first meeting also won the second. All but two of UNA's all-time rematches have been against GSC schools. The exceptions were when the Lions played Albany State twice in 1995 and Carson-Newman twice in 2009.
Since Division II expanded its playoff field to 24 teams in 2005, UNA has only had to play first round games twice in six appearances. Both were on the road and the Lions won both of those games. Both were road wins at Valdosta State as the Lions downed the Blazers 40-13 in 2005 and 43-20 in 2010. Both times UNA aveneged regular season losses to the Blazers. UNA received first round byes in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
UNA has completely dominated the all-time series with West Alabama, holding a 47-16-1 advantage. The two schools have played every season since UNA reinstated its football program in 1949 and the 64 all-time meetings and 47 UNA wins are the most for the Lions with any opponent. The Tigers have tried to turn the tide with wins over the Lions in 2009 and this season.