football-d2 flag

Wayne Cavadi | | September 1, 2017

No. 7 Shepherd hosts MEC rival Notre Dame in Week 1 DII Showcase

  The Notre Dame Falcons are coming off a program-best nine win season.

An opening night upset of Indianapolis over No. 2 Grand Valley State. The two-time defending champion Northwest Missouri State extending its winning streak to 31 games with a dominat 34-0 victory over rival Emporia State.

NCAA Division II football is off and running, hot out of the gates.

DII football returns to ESPN3 this season. The DII football Showcase features 11 weeks of intense action, streamed right to your television set. Week 1 gets the season started with a bang, featuring a Mountain East Conference rivalry pitting two teams with postseason aspirations against each other as well as a Great American Conference showdown.

RELATED: Full 2017 DII Showcase schedule

Let's breakdown each game.

Notre Dame (OH) at Shepherd | Noon ET

The Shepherd Rams are coming off yet another strong season in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The Rams reeled off their second consecutive 13-1 season, landing themselves in at least the semifinals both years. It should be no surprise that Shepherd is projected to win the Mountain East.

There will be a new face leading the charge on offense. Senior Connor Jessop replaces 2016 Harlon Hill finalist Jeff Ziemba at quarterback. He hopes to keep the Rams' MEC winning streak alive and return to the playoffs. Shepherd hasn't lost in the regular season since 2014. The Rams have gone 20 straight games in the MEC without a loss. The last loss? A 35-34 defeat at the hands of Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio.

Notre Dame College is just one of two teams to beat Shepherd in Mountain East play. Ever. The Falcons placed second in the MEC preaseason coaches poll, coming off their best season in program history. Two of the conference's best offensive weapons return behind an offensive line returning four of its five staters. This could be NDC's best chance to capture its first MEC title, and there's no better test than aganst the reigning champs.

2017 outlook:

Notre Dame (OH)  Shepherd             
2016 recod: 9-2 2016 record: 13-1
Head coach: Mike Jacobs (2nd season) Head coach: Monte Carter (31st season)
Preseason ranking: NR Preseason ranking: No. 7

Impact players (2016 stats):

Malik Grove, QB: 2,714 passing yards, 32 TD, 3 INT; 766 rushing yards, 3 TD

DJ Greene, RB: 1,039 rushing yards, 7 TD

Vincent Ellis, DL: 11.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks

Impact players (2016 stats):

Jabre Lolley, RB: missed 2016 due to injury but is MEC's all-time leader in TDs (41)

Myles Humphrey, DE: 23.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks

Connor Jessop, QB: as backup: 658 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT

2016 by the numbers:

Notre Dame (OH) Shepherd             
31.9 points per game (2nd in MEC) 38.6 points per game (1st in MEC)
21.5 points allowed per game (3rd in MEC) 18.9 points allowed per game (1st in MEC)
439.5 yards per game (2nd in MEC)

457.9 yards per game (1st in MEC)

373.9 yards alllowed per game (3rd in MEC) 301.6 yards allowed per game (1st in MEC)

East Central at Oklahoma Baptist | 1 p.m. ET

The transition, albeit a rocky one, is complete. Oklahoma Baptist begins its first season as a fully-affiliated NCAA program Saturday at home in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The Bison return 10 offensive starters which should help them take a big leap forward. Defensively, Oklahoma Baptist returns just one starter, however have some experienced players coming back as well.

East Central (OK) is coming off a disappointing season on paper, but it perservered through an injury-riddled season. They get a fresh start in 2016, with several new faces at key offensive positions. Oklahoma Baptist vs. East Central should be an evenly-matched game and a good test for both right out of the gates.

2017 outlook:

East Central Oklahoma Baptist
2016 record: 1-10 2016 record: 2-9
Head coach: Tim McCarty (11th season)

Head coach: Chris Jensen (4th season)

Preseason ranking: RV (3 votes) Preseason ranking: NR

Impact players (2016 stats):

Tre'von Jackson, RB: 285 rushing yards, 2 TD  

Camnik Campbell, LB: 125 tackles, 5.5 TFL    

Impact players (2016 stats):

Dezmond Stegall, QB: 2,255 yards, 19 TD, 307 rushing yards, 3 TD

Isaiah Mallory, RB: 1,083 yards, 9 TD

2016 by the numbers:

East Central Oklahoma Baptist
19.8 points per game (11th in GAC) 23.1 points per game (10th in GAC)
36.7 points allowed per game (9th in GAC) 40.2 points allowed per game (12th in GAC)
338.5 yards per game (11th in GAC) 353 yards per game (10th in GAC)
456.4 yards allowed per game (9th in GAC) 479.2 yards allowed per game (11th in GAC)

The Battle of the Mascot: Week 1

The Fighting Okra. The Boll Weevils. The Vulcans. Half the fun of rooting for college sports, is the pride in rooting for the mascot. Sometimes, they are a bit more fun than others. 

RELATED: What is a Fighting Okra?

Each week, we will dig deep and try to find the best mascot/nickname battle of the week. Week 1 had a GAC rivalry in a battle for Arkansas.

The Southern Arkansas Muleriders traveled to Russellville, Arkansas in a showdown against the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys. The Muleriders were the preseason favorites in the GAC. SAU finished 9-2 last season, posting one of the best seasons in program history.

That didn't bother the Wonder Boys, as they pulled off the opening night upset, defeating the Muleriders 28-21. In a GAC full of fun nicknames, you can be sure that you'll see both again in an upcoming Battle of the Mascot. 

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners