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