Nov. 25, 2009

By Amy Farnum

Grand Valley State at Minnesota-Duluth, 12 p.m. CT

In a rematch of last year’s NCAA quarterfinal overtime thriller, Grand Valley State will travel to defending NCAA Division II champion Minnesota-Duluth as the Lakers try to avenge their 19-13 loss to the Bulldogs last November.  

UMD went on to win the school’s first-ever NCAA Division II championship in any sport with a 15-0 record.  The Bulldogs are 27-1 in their last 28 games.  The Lakers are in the regional title game for the ninth straight year, and are 25-4 in their last 29 playoff games since 2001.

It will be a meeting between two of the nation’s top rushing teams, and will feature some of the best running backs in Division II.  UMD junior Issac Odim, the 2009 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Offensive Player of the Year, has set school single-season and career marks for rushing, rushing touchdowns, scoring and overall touchdowns. He has rushed for over 100 yards in all 12 games, and ranks second in Division II in scoring (16.0 ppg) and fourth in rushing (145.1 ypg).  

Odim is one of nine 2009 Harlon Hill Trophy finalists, along with GVSU senior quarterback Brad Iciek, who ranks fourth in the nation in passing efficiency (174.14) and is currently third all-time in Division II in the statistic (169.09).

In addition to Iciek, the Lakers boast the skills of junior running back James Berezik, who became the school’s leading rusher against Hillsdale last week.

The game will be televised live on the Grand Valley Sports Network by Comcast Cable (900) state wide and WXSP of Grand Rapids.

Carson-Newman at North Alabama, 12 p.m. CT
It will be a familiar scene in Florence, Ala., this weekend as Carson-Newman faces North Alabama for the sixth time in NCAA Division II playoff history.

The Eagles are 1-4 all-time against the Lions in the playoffs with their lone victory coming in the 1997 first round.  C-N has never won a game at Braly Stadium in eight chances, including a 31-14 loss to the Lions on Sept. 5.

C-N has been one of the most productive teams in the nation on offense in their last four games, averaging 662.25 yards per game.  The Eagles also lead the nation in rushing (356.42 ypg).  North Alabama is not far behind, and rank 18th in total offense (432.92 ypg) and seventh in passing (318.75 ypg).  Both teams are averaging over 40 points per game and rank eighth in the nation in turnover margin (1.08).  

UNA is 10-4 all-time in rematch games. In 10 of the 14 previous meetings, the team that won the first contest also won the second. It is only the Lions’ second rematch against a non-Gulf South Conference school.

California (Pa.) at West Liberty State, 12 p.m. ET
It will be tough for West Liberty State to top its offensive performance in the Hilltoppers’ 84-63 victory over Edinboro last weekend, but they will attempt the feat against California (Pa.) on Saturday.  

West Liberty quarterback Zach Amedro passed for a school-record 540 yards and six touchdowns against Edinboro as the two teams combined for an all-time NCAA Division II record 1,394 yards of total offense.  Amedro led the Hilltoppers to victory in the program’s first NCAA playoff appearance, but Edinboro quarterback Trevor Harris also left his name in the Division II playoff record book as he completed 50-of-76 passes for 630 yards and five touchdowns.

Cal senior wide receiver AJ Jackson became the school’s single-season leader in receptions (89), receiving yards (1,246) and receiving touchdowns (15) after grabbing seven catches for 108 yards and a TD against Shippensburg.  He ranks 14th in the nation in receiving yards per game (95.85).

The Vulcans lead the all-time series against West Liberty State 11-8, but the two teams have not met since the 1993 season. Cal is lowest remaining seed of the final eight teams left in the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Northwest Missouri State at Central Washington, 12 p.m. PT
Coaches always say defense wins championships and Central Washington certainly has a good one in its favor, but Northwest Missouri State will undoubtedly test the Wildcats in the NCAA quarterfinal game this Saturday.

Central Washington – the lone unbeaten team in Division II with a school-record 12 victories -- boasts the top scoring defense (11.17 ppg) and rushing defense (55.25 ypg) in Division II, while the Wildcats’ total defense average of 237.33 ypg ranks second.

Northwest will challenge the Wildcats’ defensive efforts with the second-ranked scoring offense in the nation (43.75 ppg) and fifth-ranked total offense (485.67) in Division II.

The Wildcats will be making their second NCAA quarterfinal appearance in the past three years.  CWU fell to Grand Valley State in 2007.  Northwest has advanced to the national title game in each of the last four years, but the Bearcats have not won the Division II trophy since back-to-back championships in 1998-99.