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Despite North Alabama*s 44-19 pounding of Valdosta State being the only game between ranked teams, last weekend was an exciting one in D2 football. Five games went into overtime, with several others being decided late in regulation. Ranked teams Midwestern State and Ferris State both survived upset bids by winning on the final play of their respective games.

As we move into the fourth week of the regular season, it is apparent to me that Northwest Missouri State, Grand Valley State and West Georgia are the class of D2 football so far this season. This should not come as a surprise to anyone as these three teams hold the top three spots in our poll and all three were in the national semifinals a season ago.

We should start to find out over the next month if any other teams are capable of challenging these three programs for the national title. Remember what I said in the preseason: it takes great defensive play and a balanced, efficient offense to win it all. As of right now, I don*t see any other teams that fit that profile.

News and Notes from Last Week

-A blocked extra point in the second overtime gave Colorado Mesa a huge win over Colorado Mines 41-40. The Mavericks were able to get the victory despite being out gained by over 250 yards. CMU is now in the driver*s seat in the RMAC.

-American International beat Pace 3-0 on Saturday in a game that featured just 379 total yards of offense and 18 punts. A game like this would not have raised many eyebrows 20 years ago, but this score is quite the anomaly now.

-The wildest game last week was Edinboro*s 54-51 2OT win over West Chester. The two teams combined to score 44 points in the fourth quarter alone, with the Rams rallying from four double digit deficits in the final 12 minutes to tie the game. With the win the Scots now have a 3-0 record which is impressive when considering that they did not win a game last year.

-Central Missouri wide receiver Jaylen Zachary is one of the most dangerous weapons in all of D2. Through three games Zachary has 263 receiving yards and four touchdowns in addition to returning both a punt and a kickoff for a score. Last week in UCM*s 38-34 win over Missouri Western, he returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a score and caught the winning touchdown pass.

-After a rough first two games, new West Georgia starting quarterback Will Gardner got going a bit in his team*s 34-24 win over Delta State, throwing for 207 yards and four touchdowns. The Wolves have the defense and running game going, so if Gardner can continue to improve his performance this will be another big season for UWG.

-Grand Valley State continues to look dominant as the Lakers thrashed Northern Michigan 51-24 last week. So far this year, GVSU averages 618 yards of total offense per game, with running back Marty Carter averaging an incredible 13.1 yards per carry. This kind of production reminds me of the Curt Anes led Laker teams of 2001-2002.

Top Games this Week

Gannon (3-0) at Slippery Rock (3-0)

Both of these teams had some rebuilding to do coming into this season and have passed some early tests. The winner of this game will be in a pretty good position to challenge for the title in what is looking like a loaded PSAC West division. Both teams have a run first philosophy on offense and like to try to stop the run on defense. I think SRU has more overall talent. Slippery Rock 29 Gannon 20

IUP (3-0) at Edinboro (3-0)

I thought I would mention this game because both teams are undefeated. However, I don*t think the Scots will be able to provide much resistance against an outstanding IUP offense that scored 128 points through two games. IUP 54 Edinboro 28

California (2-0) at Seton Hill (3-0)

The Vulcans lead the nation in total defense, as they allow just 104 yards per game. Cal will however, will be tested as SHU senior quarterback Christian Strong has thrown for 1287 yards and 11 touchdowns already this year. The Griffins are a senior dominated team and they could easily win this game if the Vulcans don*t come ready to play. California 34 Seton Hill 29

Bentley (2-1) at LIU Post (3-0)

Along with Assumption, these are the only teams still unbeaten in Northeast 10 play so this is a fairly big game. These two teams are pretty similar on paper, with Pioneers being slightly better offensively but the Falcons do a better job forcing turnovers. Should be a good game. LIU Post 30 Bentley 27

Emporia State (2-1) at Central Missouri (3-0)

UCM*s early season gauntlet of games continues with this match up against ESU. The Hornets started to really click offensively in their win over Missouri Southern last week, but the best thing that can be said about them so far is that they do not beat themselves: They are plus six in turnover margin and have committed 13 fewer penalties than their opponents. It will take another well played game to counter a talented UCM team. Central Missouri 31 Emporia State 27

Colorado Mines (2-1) at Western State (2-1)

A once proud program, WSC has not had a winning season in 14 years. However, the Mountaineers did beat CSM last season and just knocked off a Chadron State team they had not beaten since 1997. This game will feature two legit Harlon Hill candidates in WSC running back Austin Ekeler and CSM quarterback Justin Dvorak. This is also WSC*s homecoming so this should be a very entertaining game. Colorado Mines 34 Western State 27

Ashland (3-0) at Ferris State (3-0)

Ashland has not lost a regular season game since the 2014 finale. FSU has won 28 straight regular season games, dating back to midway through the 2013 season! Something will have to give on Saturday as both of these teams will have good reason to come in confident and expecting to win.

Even though this is homecoming at FSU, I am giving the edge to Ashland. The Eagles have been the more consistent team so far this year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Ashland 27 Ferris State 23

Augustana (3-0) at Minnesota-Duluth (2-1)

The Bulldogs have really struggled defensively this year, as they give up over 40 points per game and have allowed 13 touchdown passes. That is not a good way to go into this game, as they face an outstanding passer in Augie senior Trey Heid. However, the Bulldogs are also very good offensively and I expect them to use their running game to play keep away from the Viking offense. Augustana 35 Minnesota-Duluth 34

Bemidji State (3-0) at Sioux Falls (3-0)

These have been the two best teams in the NSIC so far this season so I*m expecting a great game. BSU is not quite as explosive as USF offensively, but the Beavers have a very solid dual threat quarterback in Jordan Hein and a very balanced offense with eight different receivers having caught at least five passes so far.

I expect the Beavers to score some points, but to win the game they will have to contain the USF rushing attack which averages 371 yards per game and nearly nine yards per carry. Running back Max Mickey and quarterback Luke Papilion have been a deadly combo on the ground so far this year. Sioux Falls 33 Bemidji State 31

Texas A&M-Kingsville (2-1) at Texas A&M-Commerce (2-0)

The Javelinas proved that they are back to be a team to be reckoned with by nearly upsetting Midwestern State last week. They stayed in that game by holding the ball for 41 minutes and keeping the Mustang defense on the sidelines. They will have to do that again to contain one of the most explosive offenses in D2. Texas A&M-Commerce 41 Texas A&M-Kingsville 26

Mailbag

[Q] How likely so you think it is that the national championship game remains in Kansas City?

[A] Very likely. I think last year*s record attendance shows the potential that the game has and frankly, with MIAA teams making it so frequently the chances of having continued record crowds are quite good. The facility is outstanding and is about the right size for the event. Having the game in a city with a major airport is also makes it much easier for those trying to attend the game.

I will say that the folks in Florence did a great job of making the game feel like an event with their hospitality and the fact that the D2 Football Hall of Fame and Harlon Hill are both located there. I think it lacks that "event" feel a bit in K.C. but it is something that is very hard to replicate in a larger city.

I think the only way the NCAA gives major consideration to moving the game is if we see a run of bad weather have a major effect on things. A couple of big snowstorms (something that is certainly possible in December in K.C.) could make them re-think the idea of having the game held this far north.

Contact

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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