Top 10 Preview
Homecomings and winless opponents common themes
Florida Tech at No. 1 Valdosta State, 3 p.m. ET Saturday
Valdosta State welcomes the Gulf South Conference's newest member to Bazemore-Hyder Stadium as Florida Tech visits the Blazers.
Valdosta State (3-0, 1-0 GSC) features a balanced offensive attack as the Blazers average 200.0 rushing yards and 241.7 passing yards per game. The Blazer offense, which is averaging 38.0 points per game, is led by running backs Cedric O'Neal and Austin Scott, who have combined for 522 yards and five touchdowns in the first three games.
Quarterback Cayden Cochran has passed for 717 yards and eight scores while wide receiver Willie Downs has caught 14 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, Valdosta State surrenders just 8.0 points, 126.7 rushing yards and 194.7 passing yards each contest. The Black Swarm defense has recorded 11.0 sacks and 26.0 tackles for loss and is led by linebacker Justin Williams, who counts 5.0 tackles for loss among his 25 tackles on the season. Defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil has proven to be disruptive up front as he has tallied 2.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and forced three fumbles.
Florida Tech (1-3, 0-2 GSC) averages 358.2 yards of total offense per game. The Panthers pass for 233.0 yards and rush for 125.2 yards per contest while scoring 18.3 points a game. Wide receiver Xavier Milton has caught 31 passes for 407 yards and two scores in his first four games while running back Trevor Sand is averaging 69.8 yards per game.
Defensively, Florida Tech allows 33.2 points, 205.8 rushing yards and 246.2 passing yards each game. Chris Stapleton leads the defensive unit as he has 37 tackles on the year, including five for loss. The linebacker has also broken up two passes and forced two fumbles. Fellow linebacker Justin Arcune has 30 tackles, including one for loss, and has both forced and recovered a fumble this season.
No. 2 Minnesota State-Mankato at Concordia-St. Paul, 1 p.m. ET Saturday
On the heels of its Homecoming victory last week, Minnesota State-Mankato will look to keep things rolling when it travels to Concordia-St. Paul.
Minnesota State-Mankato improved to 4-0 with a 42-14 win against Northern State last week. The Mavericks mustered 607 yards of total offense, including 447 yards on the ground.
Connor Thomas currently leads the Maverick rushing attack with 267 yards, to go along with four touchdowns. Jon Wolf ranks second on the team with 260 rushing yards and four touchdowns, as well.
Wolf has thrown for 664 yards and six touchdowns through four games this season. Dennis Carter leads MSU with 263 receiving yards and three touchdown catches.
Saturday's encounter between Minnesota State and Concordia-St. Paul will mark the eighth time the Mavericks and Golden Bears have crossed paths. MSU currently leads the all-time series with a 5-2 record. The Mavericks have won the past two games, including a 30-10 victory last season.
Concordia-St. Paul improved to 3-1 as it defeated Minnesota State-Moorhead 36-34.
Tre Spears leads the Golden Bear rushing attack with 490 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Ronald Zollicoffer has posted 194 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Jared Russo has completed 47 of 80 passes for 622 yards and six touchdowns, compared to four interceptions. Cordell Smith leads the team with 141 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Gabe Boyce has tallied 121 receiving yards and two touchdowns, as well.
No. 3 Northwest Missouri State at Northeastern State, 3 p.m. ET Saturday
Northwest Missouri State looks to open the season with a fifth consecutive victory when it plays at winless Northeastern State, which is celebrating its Homecoming.
Northwest Missouri State running back Billy Creason continues to find his way into the end zone, scoring twice against Nebraska-Kearney last Saturday. In the past two weeks, Creason has recorded five of his six touchdowns this season.
The Bearcat rushing offense ranks fifth in the MIAA with a 218.2 yards per game average. Northwest is 20-0 all time when outrushing its opponent, which has occurred in all four games this season.
Quarterback Trevor Adams continued his strong senior campaign with three touchdowns and 224 yards passing against Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday. On the season, Adams has passed for 676 yards and six touchdowns. His 184.4 pass efficiency rating ranks third among Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association signal callers.
Wide receiver Clint Utter has been a go-to target. Utter leads the Bearcats with 17 catches and four touchdowns on the season. He is averaging 18.9 yards per catch and 80.5 yards per game.
Northeastern State linebacker Langston Jones has compiled 53 tackles through four games so far this season. He is third in the entire NCAA in both total tackles and tackles per game (13.3).
Northwest Missouri State (4-0, 3-0 MIAA) and Northeastern State (0-4, 0-4 MIAA) have only met three times. The Bearcats have taken all three meetings by a combined score of 120-13.
Central State at No. 4 West Texas A&M, 4 p.m. ET
West Texas A&M returns home for Homecoming versus Central State. The Buffs enter with a 4-0 record, while the Marauders are 0-4. West Texas A&M is coming off of a 69-7 drubbing of Texas A&M-Kingsville last week, while Central State lost 73-6 to FCS foe Tennessee State.
In the past two games, the Buffs have scored 60-plus points in each for the first time in school history. West Texas A&M scored a 62-28 win against Texas A&M-Commerce before beating Texas A&M-Kingsville. The 69 points were the most since scoring 75 in a 75-13 win against Azusa Pacific in 2008. West Texas A&M is 15-1 all time when scoring more than 60 points.
West Texas A&M is 42-26-2 all-time in homecoming games and has won the past eight, outscoring the opposition 322-171.
Kicker Sergio Castillo Jr. set a school and Lone Star Conference career record last Saturday as he became the all-time leader in scoring with 343 points. Castillo entered the game at Texas A&M-Kingsville with 328 points, just four points behind school-record holder DeWayne Miles (1997-2000). Castillo kicked four extra-points in the first half and broke the record with a 41-yard field goal with 16 seconds remaining in the first half. Later in the game, Castillo broke the conference scoring record which previously was held by Abilene Christian's Matt Adams (2005-08) with 339 points. Castillo is 48 of 59 for his career in field goals (.814) and 199 of 202 in extra-points (.985).
Wide receiver/kick returner Nathan Slaughter continues to have an amazing season in the return game as he returned a kick 95 yards for a touchdown to open the second half against Texas A&M-Kingsville. It was the second consecutive game Slaughter has returned a kick for a score as he had 100-yarder against Texas A&M-Commerce the week before.
Central State has been outscored 195-52 thus far (48.75 ppg to 13). Quarterback Michael Wilson has 243 rushing yards on the season and 203 passing yards, while Zachary Thomas leads the team in receiving yards per game at 42.0, while Aaron Wade leads the team in receptions per game at four. Jonathon Jones leads the team in solo tackles averaging 4.3 per game and tackles for loss at 1.0 per game. As a team, the Marauders are 17th nationally in passing yards allowed at 171.5 per game. They are 18th in punt returns at 16.33 yards per return.
Fort Lewis at No. 5 Colorado State-Pueblo, 4 p.m. ET Saturday
Fort Lewis is the Homecoming opponent for Colorado State-Pueblo.
Fort Lewis comes into the game with a 2-2 record (1-1 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference). The Skyhawks are coming off a 38-28 win against Western New Mexico last week. Backup quarterback Max Baiz started and completed 15 of 27 passes for 207 yards and three scores. Aaron Holt caught three passes for 80 yards and two scores.
The Skyhawks’ defense was led by Derik Wetzel, who notched 12 tackles (11 solo). All 11 of Joey Alvarez's tackles were solo stops, including one tackle for a loss. Jamal Campbell added 10 tackles (nine solo), forced a fumble and recovered it.
The ThunderWolves are 4-0 and 2-0 in the RMAC following a 48-7 win against Adams State. After Colorado State-Pueblo was held to just 7 rushing yards in the first half, Cameron McDondle rebounded to go for 126 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, Darius Allen led the way with eight tackles, four sacks (the second-most in school history) and a forced fumble in the end zone.
No. 6 Missouri Western State at Central Oklahoma, 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Missouri Western State looks to go to 4-0 in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association play for the second consecutive year when it travels to take on winless Central Oklahoma. Currently the Griffons (4-0 overall) have won seven consecutive MIAA games dating to last season.
The Griffon rushing attack continued to rack up the yards going for 240 yards against Fort Hays State. Raphael Spencer, Dominic Thomas and Dalton Krysa all had rushing touchdowns in the game. When the Griffons rush for more than 200 yards in a game they are almost perfect. The Griffons are 3-0 this year when racking up more than 200 yards on the ground.
Central Oklahoma (0-4, 0-4 MIAA) is averaging 29.8 points per game but giving up 49.8 points per game. It is averaging 188.8 yards on the ground per game and 486.8 total yards per game, but the Bronchos give up 541.8 yards per game and 335.2 yards per game through the air. The Bronchos have turned the ball over nine times to its opponents three.
2012 All-MIAA performer Josh Birmingham leads the MIAA and the Bronchos on the ground. He averages 120.8 yards per game and has scored 10 touchdowns.
Central Oklahoma quarterback Adrian Nelson has completed 57.2 percent of his passes for 1,192 yards, averaging 298 yards per game. He has tossed four touchdowns but has thrown six interceptions. His favorite receiver is Marquez Clark, who has caught 32 passes for 597 yards and four touchdowns. He is averaging 149.2 yards per game.
Missouri Western State and Central Oklahoma played two of its three contests as non-conference games when the Bronchos were part of the Lone Star Conference. Last season was the first meeting as MIAA opponents. MWSU leads the series 3-0.
Millersville at No. 7 Indiana (Pa.), 2 p.m. ET Saturday
Indiana (Pa.) will play host to Millersville for Homecoming. The Crimson Hawks enter the game with a 4-0 record (2-0 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West) and a 10-game regular-season win streak. Millersville (0-4, 0-2 PSAC East) is on an eight-game losing streak.
IUP leads the PSAC in nearly every defensive category, allowing 6.8 points per game. The Crimson Hawks have allowed opponents only 27 points in four games while scoring 125. The IUP defense has only given up four TDs in as many games, also tops in the PSAC. As a defensive unit, the Crimson Hawks are first in the conference in interceptions, picking off their opponents 10 times and adding one pick-6.
Terrell Hollowaypicked off three passes in the first half of last week’s game against California (Pa.)., including two in the end zone.Carl Fleming’s 12.0 tackles per game leads the conference and is tied for ninth in the nation.
Millersville is last in the PSAC in scoring offense, managing only nine points a game with only four TDs in as many games. The Marauders are led by QB Connor Casey, who has two passing touchdowns and four interceptions, completing 57 of 114 attempts.
The run game has struggled, as well, with only one rushing touchdown. Ian Sadon has the lone TD and is averaging 3.5 yards a carry and 54.8 yds a game.
The defense for the Marauders is also struggling, allowing the most points per game(48) in the PSAC. Their opponents have outscored them 192-36 in four games.
IUP leads the all-time series 12-5, including the past four games.
No. 8 Henderson State at Northwestern Oklahoma State, 2 p.m. ET Saturday
Henderson State will make its longest road trip of the year as the Reddies will travel nearly 500 miles to Alva, Okla. to face Northwestern Oklahoma State.
Henderson State (4-0, 3-0 Great American Conference) will attempt to run its streak to 19 consecutive regular-season wins against Division II opponents.
Henderson State’s explosive offense averages 697.3 yards and 66 points per game. Kevin Rodgers, a two-time national player of the week selection, averages a nation-best 456.8 yards passing per game and has tossed 16 touchdowns. Last week against East Central, Rodgers threw for a HSU- and GAC-record 595 yards, completed 42 of 50 passes and had four touchdowns.
Darius Davis leads the GAC in receiving, averaging 130.0 yards per game. Dustin Holland
follows with 382 yards on 23 receptions for an average of 16.6 yards per catch. Robert Jordan needs 110 receiving yards to become HSU’s all-time leading receiver.
Ryan McDonald leads the GAC in rushing averaging, 108.8 yards per game.
Henderson State’s opponents are averageing just 62 yards a game on the ground, third-best nationally.
Northwestern Oklahoma State (0-4, 0-4 GAC) will try to avoid falling to 0-5 for only the fifth time in school history. The Rangers, who haven’t dropped three in a row at home since 1995, are in their first full season in the conference. Offensively, they are last in the GAC in total offense, averaging just 252.5 yards per game. The Rangers average 11.0 points per contest.
Northwestern Oklahoma State has used two quarterbacks this season. L.T. Pfaff has completed 30 of 53 passes for 441 yards and two touchdowns. Reid Miller has completed 18 of 49 for 155 yards.
The Ranger defense ranks ninth in the GAC allowing 490.2 yards per game. They are giving up 44.0 points per game.
It will mark the second time the teams have met with Northwestern Oklahoma State winning 56-7 in 2002.
No. 9 Bloomsburg at Gannon, noon ET Saturday
Bloomsburg will try to ruin homecoming for Gannon in a game where two of the top three rushers in Division II will square off. Bloomsburg’s Franklyn Quiteh ranks first with 788 yards while Gannon’s Jansen Jones is third in the nation at 657 yards.
In addition, Saturday’s game boasts two high-scoring offenses. Bloomsburg (4-0, 2-0 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East) ranks second in the PSAC at 43.5 points per game while Gannon (3-1, 2-0 PSAC West) is fifth, averaging 40.0 points per contest. Behind Quiteh, who averages 197 yards a game, the Huskies are averaging 272 yards rushing per game, more than 100 yards better than any other PSAC team. Quiteh has rushed for 100 or more yards in 36 of his 39 games with the Huskies, including 21 consecutive contests.
The Huskies have been nearly as good at stopping the run as they've been on the ground themselves – Bloomsburg's run defense ranks first in the PSAC and fifth in Division II by allowing 65.8 yards per game. The Huskies are surrendering just 17.5 points per game. The Gannon defense allows 34.8 points per game.
The Golden Knights rank third in the PSAC in passing at 295.8 yards per game while Bloomsburg has allowed 278.0 yards on average through the air. Gannon QB Liam Nadler broke the school’s single-game record for completion percentage in a 45-25 win at Clarion last week, completing 22 of 26 (84.6 percent). He threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns . Nadler has helped Gannon score 160 points through four games, representing the most points through four games in school history.
Abilene Christian at No. 10 Pittsburg State, 3 p.m. ET Saturday
Pittsburg State (4-0) plays host to Abilene Christian (3-2) in the Gorillas' Homecoming game.
This season, Pittsburg State is currently ranked second nationally in scoring (56.3 ppg) and seventh in total offense (547.7 ypg). The Gorillas currently rank ninth nationally in rushing, averaging 300.5 yards per game with 15 touchdowns. The Gorillas have also averaged 304.5 passing yards in their first four games with 15 touchdowns and just one interception.
In a victory against Lincoln last week, Pittsburg State QB Tony Abenoja established single-game records for passing yards (442), passing touchdowns (5) and total offense (463 yards). He currently leads Division II with a 204.7 passer rating. He also ranks third nationally in completion percentage (.731) and is tied for fourth in points responsible for (23.0 ppg).
Wide receiver/return specialist John Brown captured Pittsburg State's all-time receiving record with a nine-catch, 237-yard performance against Lincoln. He now holds both the school’s career receptions record (148) and receiving yards mark (2,722 yards).
Abilene Christian is in its first season transitioning to become an FCS institution. The Wildcats are averaging 467.2 yards per game of total offense and 49.4 points.
Running back Charcandrick West has tallied 402 yards on 74 carries (5.4 ypc) with eight touchdowns to lead the Wildcat rushing attack. Quarterback John David Baker has completed 103 of 158 passes for 1,338 yards with 17 touchdowns and one interception. Wide receiver Darian Hogg has been Baker's go-to target through five games. He has hauled in 26 catches for 464 yards (17.8 ypc) and five touchdowns.