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I need to take a mulligan.

Just last week I declared that Northwest Missouri State was basically a lock to secure a second consecutive national championship. Then Saturday happened. The Pittsburg State Gorillas rolled into Maryville, MO and took it to the Bearcats, dominating in all phases of the game on the way to a 35-17 victory.

Both coaching staffs have national championship pedigrees, but it was clear from the opening snap that the Gorillas had a better game plan on this day. From the two recovered onside kicks, to the pass plays to beat the press coverage that Northwest loves to play, to the varied pressures that stymied the Bearcat passing game, the Gorillas were prepared and they executed at a high level.

Despite the resounding defeat, all is not lost for Northwest. The special teams issues are easily correctable. It*s obvious that the Bearcats don*t have the same talent level in the secondary as years past, but they do have an exceptional front seven and a more conservative approach to pass coverage behind them would still make it difficult for opposing offenses.

But what does concern me about Northwest is the offense: There just aren*t enough playmakers. Of the 17 points scored on Saturday, 10 were gifts from Pittsburg State on dumb penalties that kept drives alive. The other seven were scored at garbage time. While I believe PSU has the best defense in the country, the Bearcats needed to have a better showing than this to prove to me that they can win it all in December.

For 6-1 PSU, it was a great win, obviously. But the Gorillas have warts as well, namely a lack of a consistent running game. Still, a defense as good as the one I saw on Saturday and some continued playmaking by senior quarterback Anthony Abenajo and his receivers would make this a dangerous team come playoff time.

And while it*s too early to talk many specifics when it comes to the playoffs, I will say this: any team with two losses is most likely out of the running in Super Region Three. PSU was already in playoff mode and it showed last week. Northwest must adopt that same mindset as another loss would mean the defending national champs would be watching from home in December.

Observations from around the Country

-Ferris State took it to Ohio Dominican, winning 34-19 in a battle of GLIAC unbeatens. The Panthers did a decent job of containing FSU quarterback Jason Vander Laan, but that just opened things up for other players like running back Jahaan Brown, who ran for 124 yards on just 13 carries. The Bulldogs have my vote as the top-ranked team in the country this week.

-Shepherd had surrendered 42 points all season before allowing 35 in a loss to Notre Dame College on Saturday. The loss knocked the Rams into a tie with NDC for second place in the MEC behind 7-0 Concord. Shepherd will host Concord to conclude the regular season on November 15th.

-I wasn*t sure which way the CSU-Pueblo season would go after losing two weeks ago to Fort Lewis, but the Thunderwolves responded in a big way by crushing Chadron State 43-13. Up next for CSUP however is a trip to unbeaten Colorado Mines. The Thunderwolves have played poorly in two of their three conference road games this fall so it will be interesting to see which team shows up Saturday.

-With California beating IUP and Slippery Rock*s surprising loss to Mercyhurst, California in essence has a two game lead in the PSAC West Division race. Unbeatens West Chester and Bloomsburg are set to battle in the East Division on Saturday.

-American International*s last minute meltdown in a 31-24 loss to New Haven on Saturday has opened up the race in the Northeast-10: AIC fumbled the ball away twice and allowed two UNH touchdowns in the final 1:54 of the game.

-West Georgia stopped Delta State twice on downs inside the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter and survived 17 penalties to knock off the previously unbeaten Statesmen 24-16. This now sets up quite a race in the GSC, especially if the Wolves can win at North Alabama this Saturday.

-Carson-Newman beat Tusculum 55-35 on Saturday, earning head coach Ken Sparks his 323rd career victory to match Bear Bryant for sixth on the all-time college football wins list. Sparks is in his 35th season as the C-N head coach.

Top Games this Week

American International (5-2) at LIU Post (5-2)

These two teams are tied atop the Northeast 10 standing with one conference loss each. Both teams are capable of scoring points, but AIC is so much better defensively that they have to be the favorite, even on the road. American International 30 LIU Post 20

Ferris State (7-0) at Michigan Tech (6-0)

GLIAC Game of the Year, Part II. MTU wasn*t all that impressive in starting 5-0, but the Huskies smack down of Grand Valley makes this a game worth watching. Plus FSU is coming off an emotional road win over Ohio Dominican and will now have to travel 7 ½ hours the other direction to take on MTU. For all of these reasons I expect this to be FSU*s biggest test of the year, but one they will pass. Ferris State 27 Michigan Tech 21

West Chester (7-0) at Bloomsburg (7-0)

As far as 7-0 teams go, it*s really hard to determine just how good these teams are. BU has a quality win- 24-21 in overtime- over PSAC East leader California early in the season, but WCU hasn*t played a PSAC team with a winning record. I give a slight edge to WCU because of the experience of senior quarterback Sean McCartney, but BU*s defense and running game are sure to make this a good one. West Chester 31 Bloomsburg 28

CSU-Pueblo (6-1) at Colorado Mines (7-0)

The Thunderwolves haven*t given up more than 23 points in a game all season. Mines has scored 42 or more in all but one game. Something is going to have to give. As I mentioned earlier, the Thunderwolves have struggled some in road conference games so it will be interesting to see what happens. This should be an entertaining game. CSU -Pueblo 31 Colorado Mines 27

Harding (6-1) at Henderson State (7-0)

Harding will have to recover from last week*s overtime loss to Ouachita Baptist to get right back up to play another top-notch opponent. HSU hasn*t been the offensive juggernaut at times this season that they were in 2012 and 2013, but the Reddie defense has been outstanding all year. However, the Harding option rushing attack will provide a significant challenge. Henderson State 27 Harding 20

West Georgia (6-1) at North Alabama (6-0)

Two weeks ago UWG looked awful in a 40-6 loss to Valdosta State. Last week they looked great in taking down previously unbeaten Delta State. Which team will show up in Florence? I don*t think UNA has a great team this fall, but the Lions have been consistent and have found ways to win close games. North Alabama 27 West Georgia 24

Mailbag

[Q] Now that the Lone Star Conference has a playoff to determine its conference championship, does the NCAA playoff selection committee have to put the LSC champion in the national playoffs?

Warren

[A] First an explanation to the readers on what the LSC is doing: The league will play regular season games over the next two weeks. Then, starting on November 8th, the top four teams in the conference standing will begin a two week playoff with the semifinals on the 8th and the championship game on the 15. There are obviously several conferences that have league title games, but this is the only league I know of in college football that has gone to a two week playoff.

To answer the question on whether the champion will be awarded a playoff berth, the answer is no. In D2, conference championships have no bearing whatsoever on who gets selected for the playoffs.

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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