Who is playing for second in the country?
That was the thought running through my mind
after watching the Valdosta State Blazers demolish a very good West Georgia
defense to the tune of 395 rushing yards in a 47-31 victory on Saturday night.
As we enter the 2018 playoffs, Valdosta State
is a heavy favorite over the field in my opinion: The Blazers have crushed every
opponent while playing a tough Gulf South Conference schedule. They average 52
points and 536 yards per game, including an incredible eight yards per rushing
attempt. Defensively they have racked up 38 sacks and returned four
interceptions for touchdowns.
But the biggest reason I think VSU is such a
heavy favorite is that the Blazers have so many playmakers on offense that it’s
impossible to key on any one area or player. Consider this: despite averaging
269 rushing yards per game, the Blazers do not have a single player with more
than 89 rushing attempts! Also consider the fact that no VSU player has more
than nine touchdowns, but eleven players have scored at least three! That is
simply incredible stuff.
Valdosta State received the top seed in Super
Region One and in two weeks will play the winner of West Alabama and Bowie
State. It will be interesting to see if anyone in D2 can slow down the Blazers
News and Notes
-Sioux Falls junior running back Gabe Watson
won the D2 regular season rushing title, finishing with 1,957 yards to edge out
freshman sensation Jaleel McLaughlin from Notre Dame College, who finished with
1,883. However, there is a good chance that McLaughlin will pass Watson overall
because NDC reached the playoffs while USF finished at 7-4.
-Missouri S&T (9-2) will be playing in its
first postseason game since the 1950 Corn Bowl after beating Truman State 34-33
to qualify for the Mineral Water Bowl. The Miners’ opponent will be Minnesota
State-Moorhead (8-3), which reached its first postseason game in 24 years by
gutting out a 13-10 win over St. Cloud State on a brutally cold day in Moorhead.
Exciting times for both of these programs.
-A single yard made a huge difference in the
Northeast 10 on Saturday. LIU-Post defensive back Jake Carlock tackled New Haven
receiver Brett Huber on the 1-yard line on the game’s final play, preserving a
17-13 win and giving the Pioneers the outright conference title. Both teams did
end up making the playoffs, with LIU-Post (10-0) the two seed in Super Region
One and UNH (8-2) earning the six seed.
-The CSU-Pueblo defense finished third in the
country in total defense (227 yards per game) and fourth in the country in
scoring defense (11.9 points per game). Those two statistics in and of
themselves are impressive. But add in that five of the top 16 offense in the
country come from the RMAC and the fact that the Thunderwolves did so well
defensively becomes mind boggling. The second-best defense in the league-
Colorado Mines- allowed 377 yards per game.
-Arkansas-Monticello scored 10 points in the
final 1:04 of the game to stun Southern Arkansas 20-17 and spoil the Muleriders’
playoff hopes. Harding should be sending thank you notes to UAM- without the SAU
loss Harding would have been out.
Playoffs Round One
Super Region One
Hillsdale (9-2) at Kutztown (9-1)
Defending teams that throw the ball well has
been a problem all year for Kutztown. The Golden Bears give up 266 passing yards
per game and will be facing a tough to contain passing due in Hillsdale senior
quarterback Chance Stewart (2961 passing yards, 24 touchdowns) and receiver Trey
Brock (1080 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns).
KU has a very good offense and is playing at
home which matters, but I think Hillsdale prevails in a close one. Hillsdale 33
Slippery Rock (9-2) at LIU-Post (10-0)
Earlier this season I wrote about the
incredible journey that led quarterback Roland Rivers to SRU. Last week Rivers
suffered through the most humbling game of his college football career, as he
completed just 6 of 31 passes, threw three interceptions and was sacked five
times in a 33-10 PSAC championship loss to West Chester.
Rather than have the season end with that loss
and have the memory linger all offseason, The Rock caught a break by being
selected as the seventh seed in this region. Unfortunately, that also means
dealing with another stout defense in LIU-Post. The Pioneers have forced 25
turnovers overall and allowed a total of just 36 points in five home games this
fall. LIU-Post 24 Slippery Rock 14
New Haven (8-2) at West Chester (10-0)
UNH senior quarterback Ajee Patterson- a
four-year starter- became the school’s all-time leading passer last week with
9,592 passing yards. It will be interesting to see what he can do against a WCU
defense that dominated Slippery Rock last week and every other top offense it
has faced this season.
I think the Chargers are good enough to hang
around for a while in this game, especially if Patterson has a great game. But
in the end, I think WCU’s offensive balance and lights out defense will
prevail. West Chester 31 New Haven 19
Super Region Two
West Alabama (8-3) at Bowie State (9-2)
Last season BSU hosted Delta State in the
opening round and put quite a scare into their GSC foe, taking a 35-31 lead into
the fourth quarter before losing 45-35. The key player from that team was junior
quarterback Amir Hall, who is back again and having another fine season,
averaging 319 passing yards per game.
Unfortunately for Hall and BSU, this team is
not as good or as explosive offensively as the one last year. UWA also has an
experienced quarterback in Harry Satterwhite and Tigers seem to be peaking at
the right time of the year after struggling a bit defensively early on. West
Alabama 31 Bowie State 21
Florida Tech (8-3) at Lenoir-Rhyne (10-1)
After losing the season opener at West Alabama,
Lenoir-Rhyne has rattled off 10 straight wins on the strength of an offense that
has eclipsed the 50-point barrier on five different occasions. While still
primarily a run-based offense, this Lenoir-Rhyne team is unique offensively and
obviously hard to stop. The Bears can hit defenses from all different angles as
seven players have between 268 and 600 rushing yards.
I think FTU has a chance in this game if the
Panthers can play error free football on offense and not give LRU any short
fields. A couple of mistakes, however, and things could get out of hand. Lenoir-Rhyne
35 Florida Tech 24
Wingate (8-3) at West Georgia (10-1)
The Wolves will have to regroup after the
humbling loss to rival Valdosta State last week, but this might be just the game
to get back on track. Wingate rolls in a six-game winning streak after losing
three straight in September. There is no doubt that the Bulldogs are an improved
team, but I don’t think they will be able to stand up to a physically superior
UWG team for four quarters. West Georgia 35 Wingate 20
Super Region Three
Harding (9-2) at Ferris State (11-0)
After the results of last season, Harding is
starting to become that program that nobody wants to run into in the playoffs.
The flexbone option attack that the Bisons run controls the clock and field
position and is so difficult to prepare for because it’s the opposite approach
to most of today’s college offenses.
Last year the Bisons went to Ferris State and
upset the Bulldogs 16-14 on a last second field goal to win SR3. There is a good
chance that both teams are better this season which makes this an intriguing
first round game. Ferris State quarterback Jayru Campbell is as talented as any
player in D2 and I think he will be the difference maker in a hard-fought game.
Ferris State 23 Harding 17
Northwest Missouri State (9-2) at Grand
Valley State (10-1)
With ten national championships between them,
this will be a battle of two of the most storied programs in D2 history. These
two teams have meet five times previously in the playoffs, the last coming in
the 2013 national semifinals. Northwest currently holds a 3-2 advantage in those
A team that can throw the ball downfield
effectively has the best chance against the Northwest defense and that’s
exactly what senior quarterback Bart Williams and the Lakers like to do. For the
Bearcats to win they must run the ball effectively to open up the rest of their
offense. I think this will be a tight, fairly low-scoring game but I will go
with Grand Valley: The Lakers are 21-2 all-time in home playoff games. Grand
Valley State 20 Northwest Missouri State 16
Fort Hays State (9-2) at Indianapolis (9-1)
Both of these teams entered the playoffs
unbeaten a year ago- and both lost first round games at home. The Greyhounds and
the Tigers should have motivation to not let that happen again.
I had a chance to see the FHSU defense in
person a couple of weeks ago and the Tigers are for real on that side of the
ball. However, FHSU has a pretty one-dimensional offense that doesn’t run real
well and that will be a problem in the playoffs. Indy running backs Al McKeller
and Toriano Clinton have combined for over 1900 yards on the ground this fall
and I think they give the Greyhounds a slight advantage. Indianapolis 27 Fort
Hays State 24
Super Region Four
Azusa Pacific (8-3) at Tarleton State (10-0)
APU quarterback Tyrone Williams Jr. has played
some of his best football in the tough road games this fall, including a 425
yard, 5 touchdown passing performance in his team’s rally from 14 points down
to beat Central Washington last week.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, I think that is
the only thing they have to hang their hat on going into this game. The TSU
offense averages 521 total yards, 316 rushing yards and 48 points per game. The
Texan defense is also likely to make the going tough on Williams. Tarleton State
41 Azusa Pacific 20
Texas A&M-Commerce (9-2) at
The defending national champion Lions have been
up and down offensively all season as they have struggled to replace Harlon Hill
Trophy quarterback Luis Perez and his nearly 5,000 passing yards in 2017.
However, TAMUC does have a very solid defense and the confidence and experience
gained from winning three road playoff games last year.
For the Bulldogs, it’s all about defense.
They lead the nation in total defense (199 yards per game) and rush defense (59
yards per game). Offensively, the Bulldogs are more diverse than they were
during their national championship years of 2008 and 2010. UMD spreads out the
carries and targets many different receivers in the passing game. Some of that
is necessitated by the loss of quarterback John Larson and top receiver Jason
Balts to season ending injuries.
I expect this to be a hard-fought game but it’s
tough to go against that UMD defense in predicted 23-degree weather.
Minnesota-Duluth 24 Texas A&M-Commerce 16
CSU-Pueblo (10-1) at Colorado Mines (10-1)
CSM leads the nation in total offense at 578
yards per game while CSU-Pueblo is third in total defense, allowing just 227
yards per game. However, none of that matters much since these two conference
rivals met back on September 15th with CSU-Pueblo on the short end of a 35-21
score despite having a decided advantage from a statistical standpoint.
In the first meeting two long Cameron Mayberry
touchdown runs accounted for nearly half of the Orediggers’ total offensive
production. I expect the CSU-Pueblo defense to key on Mayberry in this game. If
the Thunderwolves can hang onto the football, I think they win a close one. CSU-Pueblo
27 Colorado Mines 24
[Q] In your opinion, what was the biggest
playoff snub this year?
[A] I can usually tell by the volume of email
complaints in my mailbox on selection day how people felt about the process in a
given year. Complaints were minimal this year, so the committee must have done a
I would have liked to have seen Ohio Dominican
get selected instead of Slippery Rock in SR1, especially after The Rock laid a
big egg against West Chester on Saturday in the PSAC title game. However, the
resumes of both teams were similar, so that hardly rises to the level of a
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