Top Teams in the Pioneer League Since Fall of 2017

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This is the seventh post in our 24-part Super Squad Series, recognizing the best programs over the last three years in every single Division I FBS & FCS Conference, as well as the upperclassmen & staff who’ve anchored them.


Congratulations to the San Diego Toreros for having the best football program in the Pioneer League for the last three years!

Special recognition goes to the 31 student athletes who were on the roster each of these three seasons, 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20:

Alex Ayala, Michael Hawkins, Michael Bandy, Reid Sinnett, Alex Farina, Mason Randall, Alex Spadone, Bryce Fledderman, Jojo Binda Jr., Daniel Tolbert, David Tolbert, Bryan Kelly, Emilio Martinez, Cassius Johnson, Brandon Micale, Zach Nelson, Dominic Graziani, Kama Kamaka, Kyle Bilchik, Marcus Vaivao, Nolan Bisogno, Aidan Valencia, Myles Wilson, Trent Forster, Joel Daul, DJ Wright, Chris Reese, Bennett Dondoyano, Jake Cirame, Kevin Glajchen, Nick Friedel

Before getting deeper into our winners’ accolades, here are the conference runners-up, from worst-to-first:


10th

Morehead State Eagles, #244

1.9 Super Squad Rating

Morehead State Eagles logo

Record:

12-22 Overall
8-16 Pioneer League
0 Championships

Average Power:

28.7

Best Finish:

#235 Overall
(2018-19, 2019-20 Season)

The Eagles never did horrendously, tallying three, four, and five wins the three different seasons; but based on scores and their competition, they were one of the most consistent(ly poor) teams in Hierank’s rankings from Fall 2017 to Jan 2020, finishing at #240, #235, #235 out of 256 total Division I teams each respective season.

The Eagles also gave up more points than any other Pioneer League team, both overall and in all but in the 2019 season, where they gave up third-most, and enough still to earn them last place on our list.


9th

Jacksonville Dolphins, #237

2.1 Super Squad Rating

Jacksonville Dolphins logo

Record:

12-21 Overall
7-17 Pioneer League
0 Championships

Average Power:

31.7

Best Finish:

#202 Overall
(2017-18 Season)

Jacksonville is moving in the wrong direction. After a season near the top of their league (and still with a negative PF-PA spread), the Dolphins have dropped to be among the Pioneer‘s worst squads two years running.

If they don’t improve this Fall, they risk being last on next year’s list.


8th

Valparaiso Crusaders, #230

2.2 Super Squad Rating

Valparaiso Crusaders logo

Record:

9-25 Overall
8-16 Pioneer League
0 Championships

Average Power:

32.7

Best Finish:

#174 Overall
(2017-18 Season)

Valparaiso, despite finishing with a bit better 2020 Super Squad legacy than Jacksonville before them, is another team moving in the wrong direction, and at an even steeper decline.

The Crusaders are the first on this list to break into the Division I Top 200 with a winning season in 2017, but have since dropped to #248 after being the Pioneer League‘s worst team last year, with one win and scoring only 15.6 points per contest, compared to their opponents’ 32.

This is another squad that could find themselves last on our 2021 list if they don’t get their act together by Fall.


7th

Marist Red Foxes, #227

2.3 Super Squad Rating

Marist Red Fox logo

Record:

13-20 Overall
12-12 Pioneer League
0 Championships

Average Power:

33.5

Best Finish:

#171 Overall
(2018-19 Season)

The Red Foxes have been a consistent middle-of-the-road threat to their opponents in the Pioneer League the last three years.

2018 was their most-threatening year, breaking into the Top 175 while both other years they finished in the deep #230’s, despite only having one fewer win.

The relative-weakness of the Pioneer League is illustrated quite well in Marist’s 2019 season, where they went .500 within the conference, but got smoked each time in a score totaling 17-113 in the three contests that they ventured out.


6th

Stetson Hatters, #219

2.4 Super Squad Rating

Stetson Hatters logo

Record:

17-15 Overall
11-13 Pioneer League
0 Championships

Average Power:

34.4

Best Finish:

#157 Overall
(2018-19 Season)

Stetson has to be the most-improved team in one season of all that we’ve covered so far. The Hatters flipped their script from finding only two wins in 2017, to giving up only two losses the following year. In this W-L record reversal, they improved 92 positions from #249 in 2017 to a #157 final 2018 ranking.

This rise did not hold perfectly steady the next year, but the Hatters still played much better in 2019 than they did in 2017, grabbing seven wins and going .500 in the conference.

They should ascend next year’s list assuming they show up at least better than they did in 2017, given how that season dragged them down in our rankings.


5th

Butler Bulldogs, #218

2.4 Super Squad Rating

Butler Bulldogs logo

Record:

13-21 Overall
8-16 Pioneer League
0 Championships

Average Power:

34.7

Best Finish:

#113 Overall
(2017-18 Season)

Butler is the third team on our list to steadily trend in the wrong direction, all three seasons, dropping from #113 in 2017, to just missing the Bottom 10, at #246 last year.

With a notably worse W-L record than the Hatters behind them, the Bulldogs still had marginally-better Hierank Power (34.7 vs 34.4) and average Ranking (#208 vs #209) over the three year span.

For some insight on why this was, Butler navigated significantly more difficult non-Pioneer schedules over the three seasons, even managing to be one of Stetson’s two losses in their 2018 performance peak.

Our scoring reasoning goes deeper into the fragility of Stetson’s wins vs the decisiveness of their losses, especially compared to their opponents in similar situations, as well as the fact that their biggest wins consistently came from non-Division I contenders, who they face at a rate of two or three per year.


4th

Davidson Wildcats, #210

2.5 Super Squad Rating

Davidson Wildcats logo

Record:

16-18 Overall
8-16 Pioneer League
0 Championships

Average Power:

35.5

Best Finish:

#171 Overall
(2019-20 Season)

Finally a team truly on the up! After a terrible 2017 season, finishing in our Bottom 10 at #250, with only two wins and none in the conference, the Wildcats have steadily improved 79 positions across two seasons to #171 with their 8-4 (5-3 Pioneer League) finish last year.

Along with trending in an encouraging direction, their average ranking (#205) was better than both Butler (#208 Avg) and Stetson (#209 Avg) behind them. Look for Davidson to either hold steady or move up this list next year.


3rd

Dayton Flyers, #169

3.5 Super Squad Rating

Dayton Flyers logo

Record:

19-14 Overall
15-9 Pioneer League
0 Championships

Average Power:

44.7

Best Finish:

#139 Overall
(2018-19 Season)

This Flyers squad has steadily improved in record each of the last three years, even though we rated awarded their peak rating in 2018.

Historically Dayton has the most championships in the Pioneer League with 12 and has been San Diego‘s only title contender for any since 2014. Recent years have been played respectably, but not like at the program’s peak in the 90’s and 00’s.


2nd

Drake Bulldogs, #154

3.9 Super Squad Rating

Drake Bulldogs logo

Record:

20-13 Overall
18-6 Pioneer League
0 Championships

Average Power:

47.3

Best Finish:

#124 Overall
(2017-18 Season)

Drake’s record the last three years look’s a lot like Davidson’s, except with a bit more consistency, and more Pioneer League game success.

The Bulldogs went 6-2 in the league each season, faltering all three years to an unstoppable San Diego team and one other opponent. Their chances of over-taking the Toreros for this title in 2021 are very slim and would likely require winning the league plus a few playoff games in the Fall.


WINNER

San Diego Toreros, #81

6.3 Super Squad Rating

San Diego Toreros logo

Record:

28-9 Overall
24-0 Pioneer League
3 Championships

Average Power:

57.6

Best Finish:

#64 Overall
(2017-18 Season)

As we jump forward 73 positions, our largest leap yet, San Diego’s dominance of the Pioneer League the last three seasons, and really the last fifteen, cannot be overstated.

The program has snagged the last six league titles, eight of the last nine, and eleven of the last fifteen, making them potentially the most dominant team for their conference in the last decade in all of college football. They currently hold one-less Pioneer League title than Dayton who leads the conference with twelve, but the Toreros‘ seven unanimous league titles do lead everyone in that category.

As for our Super Squad Series, San Diego is not only our first 3x unanimous conference title winner to be recognized, but they also never lost a league contest over this entire period.

They were so dominant that their closest final ranking to any of their conference contenders left them 26 Hierank positions ahead of second-place Drake in 2018, compared to ranking 73 and 76 positions better than runners-up Dayton and Drake the other two years.

Dominating as far back as any incoming freshmen will be able to remember, San Diego’s chances of repeating this award next year and for the foreseeable future are looking very sunny. Congratulations to the Toreros’ coaches, staff, administrators, all players, and especially the 31 young men present on the roster all three years to earn this title!

Super Squad Rankings

These are our up-to-date Division I Super Squad rankings after Week 7. Follow along as each Sunday we fill in more teams and announce the next Super Squad!

Full Super Squad Rankings San Diego


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