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Thank you to Brandon Misener for pinch hitting for me these last two weeks. I appreciate all the kind emails I have received from many readers as well.

As we approach the final month of the regular season, it’s becoming more apparent to me that there is a lack of a real concrete favorite to win the national championship like we had last year with Northwest Missouri State.

Northwest is still unbeaten and the number one team in our poll. They also have the best defense in the country, which puts them on the short list of title contenders. But the Bearcats have been bit by the injury bug and they simply lack offense. They have three victories this year by seven points or less and have managed more than 24 points in a game just twice. As things stand right now I’m taking the field over the Bearcats. That definitely would not have been the case either of the last two seasons.

Meet Marc Jones

One of the biggest surprises in D2 football this season is the rise of Gannon junior running back Marc Jones. As a freshman in 2015, Jones was at Findlay, where he rushed for 372 yards. He transferred to Gannon last year and finished third on the team in rushing with 455 yards.

We are just past the midway point in 2017 and Jones is on pace to have one of the best seasons of any running back in D2 history. He has already rushed for 1293 and 17 touchdowns, averaging 216 yards per game and 9.8 yards per rush attempt. He rushed for 354 yards three weeks ago against Slippery Rock and 261 yards and six touchdowns last week against Edinboro.

Jones has to be the favorite to win the Harlon Hill at this point. My other top contenders would be Shepherd senior quarterback Connor Jessop and Bowie State junior quarterback Amir Hall. Like Jones, Jessop wasn’t a starter on his team last year either.

News and Notes

-Midwestern State used a strong rushing attack to jump out to a 26 point lead, then held off a late Texas A&M-Commerce rally to beat the Lions 47-42 in a matchup of LSC unbeatens. MSU must go on the road for the first time this season to take on a dangerous Angelo State team in what could be a classic trap game. It will be interesting to see how the Mustangs react.

-Central Washington whipped Humboldt State 55-27 last week in a matchup of GNAC unbeatens. The more I observe the Wildcats, the more they appear to be a legit threat in Super Region Four this year. The CWU defense leads the nation with 25 sacks and the offense is balanced and can score points.

-Perhaps no injury is more significant in all of D2 football then that of Sioux Falls senior running back Max Mickey. Through the first half of the season he was the Cougar offense, averaging around 30 carries per game and was second in the country in rushing. Mickey suffered a leg injury in practice last week and his absence was felt in the Cougars 31-13 loss to Winona State.

-Another significant injury is the loss of Ferris State quarterback Reggie Bell. In his absence, the Bulldogs managed just three points in a loss to Ashland and 13 points in a win over Tiffin last week. I don’t think FSU will fare well against Grand Valley State on the 21st unless Bell returns to the lineup. It will be interesting to see if he can play this weekend as the Bulldogs visit Saginaw Valley State.

Top Games this Week

Shepherd (5-0) at Fairmont State (4-2)

The Falcons are far away the best defensive team in the MEC. They give up just 263 yards per game and have forced 18 turnovers. The problem is FSU struggles offensively, and those issues led to both losses. Shepherd is just the opposite as the Rams have an incredibly efficient offense but their youthful defense allows nearly 32 points per game. I don’t think the Falcons can score enough points to win this game, but it will be interesting to see what kind of problems they present for the Ram offense. Shepherd 27 Fairmont State 16

Bowie State (6-0) at Virginia State (5-0)

These have clearly been the top two teams in the CIAA this season. However, since they both play in the conference’s North Division, the loser of the game is most likely out of the running to reach the conference title game. These two teams both play great defense, but I think the difference will be BSU quarterback Amir Hall, who is having the best season of any signal caller in D2. Hall has already accounted for 30 total touchdowns and has a pass efficiency rating of 201. Bowie State 35 Virginia State 24

Wingate (5-0) at Catawba (5-1)

These teams play smart football. They have run first offenses, are good at playing the field position game and make you play a perfect game to beat them. Wingate is plus five in turnover margin and Catawba plus seven already this year. It stands to reason that this will be a close game where field position and turnovers will be the deciding factor. Wingate 21 Catawba 20

Indiana (6-0) at Slippery Rock (6-0)

This is an old school rivalry between two teams that don’t like each other much. They both have tremendous quarterback play with IUP led by Lenny Williams (14 TD passes, 179 pass efficiency rating) and Slippery Rock led by senior transfer Tannery Garry (2028 passing yards, 22 TDs). The difference between the two teams is that IUP has the much better running game and defense. I think Garry can keep The Rock in it, but the Crimson Hawks should prevail. Indiana 38 Slippery Rock 27

Washburn (5-1) at Fort Hays State (6-0)

The Tigers will be looking to start a season 7-0 for the first time in 100 years, but it will not be easy against a very solid Washburn team. The Ichabods have turned the ball over just four times through the first six games and they are excellent in the return game, which helps to create field position. The Tigers allow just 91 yards per game on the ground, but an injury to standout quarterback Jacob Mezera leaves his status in question for this game. I’m going with Washburn in a mild upset. Washburn 27 Fort Hays State 23

West Georgia (5-1) at West Alabama (5-1)

To me, UWA is one of the more surprising teams in D2 so far this season. They are unbeaten against D2 opponents and any doubt about the Tigers being for real was erased when they won at Delta State last week. UWG is a very good team as well, evidenced by the fact that they have rebounded from their only loss to Delta State with double digit wins over Albany State, North Alabama and Valdosta State. This should be a great game. West Alabama 27 West Georgia 24


[Q] Right to the point, this is the second week in a row the D2 poll published on your website has jumped two teams ahead of Shepherd and one of them has a loss.  In the AFCA poll, Shepherd is now ranked second in the country while only sixth in the D2 website poll.  Which will have a higher weight when it comes to the regional ranking in a few weeks?  On a side note, one of the reasons Shepherd has struggled on defense so far this season is because in the last game against West Liberty for instance, I counted as many as 5 freshmen playing full time in the defensive backfield and on the line.  How well they can jell in the next 4/5 weeks may well decide if they can advance far in the post season assuming they make the post season.  Have a good day.

[A] The AFCA and D2 polls are for entertainment purposes only. Neither poll has an effect on the regional rankings.

Shepherd has played better defensively these last two weeks and it will be interesting to see if the Rams can continue to develop on that side of the ball over the remainder of the season. However, I tend to believe that you are what you are defensively and if you have shown a tendency to get exposed at times it will eventually catch up with you again. Most likely for Shepherd, that will be in the playoffs.


Feel free to contact Bob at with any comments or criticisms or if you have a question you would like answered in the Mailbag.


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