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Last week was one of the more entertaining and surprising weekends of football I have seen in my years of covering D2. Nine teams in our Top 25 went down to defeat, a few in shocking fashion. Two other ranked teams- Minnesota-Duluth and Bloomsburg- escaped with overtime wins.

But what I most want to talk about this week is a win by a Top 25 team and to do so I*m going to have to break my own long-standing policy of not writing about games against teams outside of D2: Colorado State-Pueblo*s 47-21 win over FCS power Sam Houston State last Saturday deserves some ink.

SHSU is not your run-of-the mill FCS program. The Bearkats have played in two of the last three FCS national championship games and until last Saturday owned a 23-game home winning streak. The way the Thunderwolves performed in this game is beyond impressive: They owned a 27-0 halftime lead, holding SHSU to one yard of offense in the first half. It was 47-7 in the fourth quarter before SHSU added two late touchdowns against the reserves. This wasn*t a case of a team from a higher level overlooking someone and getting surprised, this was flat-out domination.

As I have said many times over the years, games against teams from outside of D2 ultimately mean very little when it comes to postseason selections. It*s even possible that this game could hurt CSU-Pueblo more than it helps as the Thunderwolves would have been better off playing a strong D2 team for the strength of schedule benefit.

But what this result does do is point out just how strong of a team the Thunderwolves are this season. It doesn*t appear to me that any other teams in the RMAC are going to be able to challenge CSU-Pueblo so it*s almost a forgone conclusion that this team will go 11-0 in the regular season for a fourth consecutive year. The difference this year over the previous three, however, is that the Thunderwolves now appear to have all the necessary parts to make a strong run at a national championship. This program has a lot of the same characteristics as Northwest Missouri did in the mid 90*s or Grand Valley State did in 2001 and we all know how things turned out for those teams.

The big challenge will be staying sharp and continuing to improve over the next two months against conference opponents that will be overmatched. If the Thunderwolves can do so, I believe they have a very good chance of playing in Kansas City in December.

Observations from Last Week

-Tiffin won its first road game in seven years, beating Saginaw Valley State 28-17. SVSU was a playoff team two of the last three years but it*s pretty obvious that the Cardinals are in a major rebuilding mode this fall.

-It wasn*t pretty, but Valdosta State was able to escape with a 22-17 win over Winston-Salem State in the rematch of the 2012 national championship game. The Rams had the go ahead touchdown taken off the board due to penalty with just over three minutes remaining or the result could have been very different. It*s interesting to me that WSSU rotates quarterbacks Rudy Johnson and Phil Sims on virtually every possession. I have to wonder how long they can continue with that setup.

-Azusa Pacific followed up the huge national TV win over Grand Valley State by laying a complete egg at Humboldt State last week. The Lumberjacks limited Terrell Watson to just 53 rushing yards and are off to a 2-0 start after going winless last year.

-IUP has issues. The Crimson Hawks managed just 176 yards of offense and had no answers for Kutztown receiver Anthony Kelly in a 44-7 loss. It will be interesting to see if the Crimson Hawks can be any sort of factor in the PSAC West Division. It*s not looking good right now.

-Two weeks into the season and St. Anselm is the only unbeaten team in the Northeast 10. The Hawks were picked ninth in the preseason league coaches poll and incredibly have now won two consecutive games for the first time in 10 years!

-When it comes to the polls, many times teams get the benefit of the doubt based on reputation and I think that is clearly the case with Minnesota-Duluth this season. The Bulldogs are 2-0 but have struggled in both games so far, needing a missed PAT to escape with a one point win over Augustana last week. In my opinion there is no way the Bulldogs are the fourth best team in the country right now.

Top Games this Week

Southeast Oklahoma (1-1) at Henderson State (2-0) TV: CBS Sports 8 PM EST on Thursday

SOSU doesn*t have a good enough defense to provide much resistance, so HSU star quarterback Kevin Rodgers should be at his best in front of the national TV audience. This is your chance to see one of the best passers in D2 history work his magic. Henderson State 50 Southeast Oklahoma 21

Ashland (2-0) @ Ohio Dominican (2-0)

Ashland has scored 107 points in its first two games, but ODU is a much stronger defensive team than what the Eagles have seen from their opposition thus far. AU freshman quarterback Travis Tarnowski is off to a good start but so is ODU*s Mike Miller, and Miller is a senior who has played in several big games. Ohio Dominican 31 Ashland 20

Stonehill (1-1) @ American International (1-1)

Both of these teams were expected to be near top of the Northeast 10 this season, so this is a huge early season conference game. So far this season, but teams have been strong defensively but have found points hard to come by. I will go with AIC in a tight one at home, but it wouldn*t surprise me at all to see Stonehill prevail. American International 21 Stonehill 19

Colorado Mines (2-0) at Chadron State (1-1)

The winner of this game steps to the forefront as the team to challenge CSU-Pueblo in the RMAC. The Eagles have played better competition but have struggled defensively. Mines quarterback Justin Dvorak is a dual threat and promises to cause enough problems to keep this game interesting. Chadron State 38 Colorado Mines 34

Central Missouri (1-1) at Northwest Missouri (2-0)

As I mentioned last week, UCM let one slip away at Missouri Western two weeks ago. The Mules are a very good team as evidenced by their blowout win over a ranked Emporia State team last week. The key to this game will be UCM running back LaVance Taylor. If the Mules can get him going like last week (he rushed for 288 yards and had six total touchdowns against Emporia State) they have a chance in this game. If the Bearcats are able to contain Taylor, UCM will have a hard time staying in it as the Bearcat defense has allowed just five completions and 27 total passing yards through two games. Northwest Missouri 38 Central Missouri 20

Tuskegee (1-1) at Winston-Salem State (1-1)

Neither of these teams can afford a second loss heading into league play in their respective conferences. WSSU won in blowout fashion when the two teams played last year but I expect this game to be much closer. In the end the passing of Ram quarterback Rudy Johnson will be the difference. Winston-Salem State 28 Tuskegee 20

Grand Valley State (0-2) at Ferris State (2-0)

After this game the schedule gets much lighter for the Lakers, who have a very good chance of running the table after this week. The problem is that if they don*t win this game, it will be next to impossible to make it to the playoffs. FSU has won two straight in this series and I expect the Bulldogs to make it three behind the running of quarterback Jason Vander Laan and a much improved defense. Ferris State 31 Grand Valley State 21

St. Cloud State (1-1) at Sioux Falls (2-0)

USF has been impressive so far as the have limited opponents to just 41 yards per game on the ground while scoring 93 points through two games. The Huskies are still trying to adjust to a new offense but they improved significantly last week in scoring 43 against Wayne State. This should be a very good game. Sioux Falls 28 St. Cloud State 26

Delta State (1-0) at Valdosta State (2-0)

The Blazers already have two quality wins but it*s tough to get a read on DSU, who had a bye last week. VSU has shown at inability thus far to stretch the field with the passing game, which has meant defenses have been able to key on Cedric O*Neal, who has just 90 rushing yards through two games. This should be a very good game. Valdosta State 24 Delta State 21

Midwestern State (1-0) versus Eastern New Mexico (2-0)

This is the nightcap of the Lone Star Football Festival held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and this should be an entertaining game between two teams that should be in the running for the LSC crown. MSU has a solid rushing attack but special teams mistakes cost them 14 points last week and those errors must be shored up when facing a solid ENMU team. Midwestern State 32 Eastern New Mexico 27

Mailbag

[Q] If Grand Valley loses to Ferris State this week and misses the playoffs again is it time for the administration to fire Matt Mitchell?

Josh

[A] How do you fire a coach that has won 75% of his games at the school and led the team to the national semifinals last season? Things would really have to fall apart (like a two or three win season) for it to get to the point where the administration would need to look at making a change.

I will grant you that I don*t think at this point Mitchell is as good of a coach as his predecessors Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin, but who in D2 is? Martin and Kelly have both gone on to be very successful at the D-I level. Brian Kelly was under fire in the 90*s for not having as much success at GVSU as many thought he should. And that was at a time when the GLIAC wasn*t near as strong as it is today. The school was patient with Kelly and he led them to uncharted territory as a program.

 

 
         
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