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To me having "tradition" in college football means that a school has sustained success going back several decades. In Division I, schools like Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, USC, Ohio State and Oklahoma fit into that category.

D2, however has only been around since the early 70*s. Many of the programs that dominated this division in the 70*s, 80*s and 90*s have left the division. The programs that the average fan today would consider a traditional power (Northwest Missouri State, Grand Valley State, Valdosta State) have for the most part only been powers nationally over the last 15 years or so. For that reason, many hardcore fans of D2 football today may be unaware of what transpired in this division 20 years or more ago.

So, it may come as a surprise to many of you to learn that there was a time when Ferris State absolutely dominated the same competition they are currently playing in the GLIAC. From 1992 to 1996 the Bulldogs made five consecutive playoff appearances and had a 43-game regular season unbeaten streak. During that period the Bulldogs were 3-0-1 against Grand Valley.

Of course as we all know, Grand Valley eventually overtook Ferris State in the conference on the way to dominating D2 football for nearly a decade. The Lakers owned an 11-game winning streak against FSU from 2000 through 2011.

The Bulldogs needed to find a way to turn the tables on the Lakers in the rivalry. They hired head coach Tony Annese prior to the 2012 season and he implemented a new offensive scheme that was a perfect fit for the talents of quarterback Jason Vander Laan. Last Saturday FSU pounded Grand Valley 42-17. It was the Bulldogs* third straight win in the series. Vander Laan has owned the Lakers, rushing for 563 yards in three career games against GVSU. Ferris State (3-0) now finds itself in a very good position to reach the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.

How long will the Bulldogs continue to have the upper hand in this rivalry? At least through 2015 would be a good bet as Vander Laan still has another year on campus. In the long run, Grand Valley has too many advantages to continue losing every year to their closest GLIAC rival. Enjoy it while it lasts, Bulldog fans.

Expanded Playoff Field?

The NCAA announced this week that the D2 Championships Committee has recommended that the playoff field be expanded from 24 to 28 teams. In addition, they are recommending that playoff rosters expand from 54 to 58 players. The recommendation must still be approved by the D2 Management Council and Presidents Council before it would take effect. If this happens, we would see a 28 team playoff field next year.

I think an expanded playoff field is a terrific idea, but quite frankly I*m surprised this is happening so soon. The division was very slow to expand from 16 to 24 teams in 2004 even though there was an obvious need for more playoff access many years prior. Kudos to the Championships Committee for being proactive. I would hope that if and when the expansion happens that we could finally do away with earned access and just allow every league to have at least one entrant in the playoffs.

Observations from Around the Country Last Week

-The University of Sioux Falls Cougars (3-0) served notice that they are ready to compete for the NSIC title this year after shutting out St. Cloud State 36-0 on Saturday. I really thought 2015 would be the year that USF would make a push in the conference so the Cougars are a year ahead of schedule.

-St. Anselm is the only unbeaten Northeast 10 team at 3-0 after knocking off Bentley 38-34 last Saturday. The Hawks should easily take care of Pace this week before getting into the heart of the league schedule with games against Merrimack and American International. St. Anselm*s performance so far is a huge surprise as the team hasn*t won more than two games in a season since 2004.

-New Mexico Highlands and Western New Mexico combined for 195 offensive plays and 1293 yards of offense in NMHU*s 59-38 win on Saturday. Cowboy quarterback Lance Orender was 56 for 78 passing for 620 yards and eight touchdowns. Orender has totaled 178 pass attempts through the first three games.

-Delta State*s 49-32 win at Valdosta State puts the Statesmen in great shape in the GSC and Super Region Two. The Statesmen (2-0) forced four turnovers and got 502 passing yards from Tyler Sullivan in beating the Blazers for the eighth time in their last nine attempts.

-Florida Tech (3-0) had its biggest win in the brief history of the program last week, knocking off a ranked Tarleton State team 37-31 in the Lone Star Football Festival at AT&T Stadium. The Panthers are definitely a program to watch in the next few years. As the only D2 program in Florida, the Panthers have a huge recruiting advantage.

Top Games this Week

Midwestern State (2-0) at Tarleton State (1-1)

These were the preseason favorites in the LSC, but MSU has looked much stronger so far, especially on the defensive side of the football. TSU is explosive offensively, but must limit the turnovers that cost them in their loss to Florida Tech last week. Midwestern State 35 Tarleton State 30

Minnesota-Duluth (3-0) at Winona State (3-0)

The task for the Bulldogs is clearly defined, but maybe not so simple to execute: stop the passing due of WSU quarterback Jack Nelson and receiver Josh Mikes. The pair has hooked up for 382 yards and five touchdowns already this season. The Bulldogs finally got their running game going in rolling up 462 rushing yards last week against Southwest Minnesota State. They will need to keep the running game going and leave the WSU offense on the sidelines as much as possible. Minnesota-Duluth 27 Winona State 24

Valdosta State (2-1) at North Alabama (2-0)

UNA comes into this game relatively untested while the Blazers have been in a pair of tough games over the last two weeks. Last week*s poor performance by the VSU defense is definitely cause for concern as they take on a UNA offense that is definitely run-first, but has seen improvement in the passing game this year behind the play of quarterback Luke Wingo. North Alabama 34 Valdosta State 27

Mailbag

[Q] I have never paid attention to Division II football, but now that I know someone that plays on a team I find myself following the division and learning the teams. What can be done to attract other new fans?

William

[A] I*m not sure there is anything that can be done or is even necessary. You said yourself that the reason you started following is because you knew someone who plays. I would guess that 98% of the fans that follow D2 football know a friend or family member that plays, or they attended or live in the immediate area of a D2 football playing school. Let*s face it, if you live in Oklahoma where OU and OSU football are king you probably aren*t going to pay much attention to small college football unless you fit into one of the above categories.

That said, there are some very good reasons to follow D2 football. To me, D2 is the highest quality college football available that doesn*t have the "trappings" that come with the major college game. Ticket prices are affordable, it*s generally family-friendly, and for the most part the players are there for the love of the game and not just an NFL audition. There is also very good competition in D2 in the sense that it*s not the same teams year after year that compete for the national championship like you tend to see in the lower divisions.

Contact Me

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

 

 
         
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