Winningest Active DII Coaches
Pittsburg State broke through to win its first national championship since 1991 a season ago, while the likes of Minnesota-Duluth and Northwest Missouri State didn't make it to the national title game in Florence, Ala. Will that change this season? Check out the top teams to watch in 2012.
If the Division II football bracket looked a bit strange in 2011, it was missing a team that had made every postseason field since 2000. Grand Valley State looks to bounce back from an 8-3 season in 2012. The Lakers won their final seven games a year ago, but the 1-3 start proved to be too much to overcome. The offense is loaded behind junior quarterback Heath Parling. He was No. 1 in the nation in passing efficiency and led an offensive attack that put up 42.4 points per game.
Grand Valley State Athletics
Not many teams came close to Midwestern State's gaudy numbers in 2011. The Mustangs led the country in total offense (531.9 yards per game) and was tied with Northwest Missouri State for the nation lead in scoring (48.6 points per game) en route to a 10-1 season. The only blemish came in a second round 38-31 overtime defeat to Northwest Missouri State. Back are senior quarterback Brandon Kelsey and running back Keidrick Jackson to lead the explosive offense again in 2012.
Minnesota-Duluth couldn't follow up its dominant 2010 national championship season with another a year ago, but the Bulldogs still made a run to the quarterfinals as a No. 4 seed. UMD has won 52 of its last 57 games en route to the last five NSIC championships. The always stout defense gets a key member back in Joe Akey after missing all of 2011 with an injury. Akey led the team in sacks in 2010 with 6.5.
There is not a worse way to end a season than to lose to your bitter rival. Northwest Missouri State had to deal with the pain of losing to Pittsburg State in the 2011 tournament, only to see the Gorillas go on and win the national championship. The Bearcats return one of the top quarterbacks in the country with Trevor Adams, and bring back running back James Franklin who averaged 95.1 yards per game on the ground. That duo should once again have them near the top of the rankings once again after leading the nation in scoring a year ago.
Northwest Missouri State Athletics
Pittsburg State finally broke through to win its first national championship since 1991 last season. Dynamic All-American quarterback Zac Dickey is gone and in steps sophomore Anthony Abenoja. Starting running back Briceton Wilson has 300 carries for 1,527 yards and 14 scores in two seasons with the Gorillas. On the other side of the ball, Nate Dreiling made a team-leading 139 tackles with 17.0 tackles-for-loss and 3.0 sacks in 2011.