DII football: Texas A&M-Commerce, Midwestern State Top 10 clash highlights games to watch
Another week, another shakeup in the Top 25. Twenty teams shuffled spots in this week's Division II football poll. With three more ranked matchups on tap, we're bound to see more changes in Week 6.
Let's take a look at five must-see games on Saturday's slate.
No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce (4-0) at No. 10 Midwestern State (3-0)
Texas A&M-Commerce is enjoying a historic season. Boasting the highest ranking in the program's history, the Lions are well rested and focused coming off an idle week. Quarterback Luis Perez leads the 19th-ranked scoring offense in DII football, putting up 39 points per game. After a rough first game against North Alabama's tough defense, Perez has absolutely exploded, throwing for 13 touchdowns and just one interception over the past three weeks.
Midwestern State has fought through adversity all season. Nothing has stopped them yet, though. The Mustangs' offense is ranked No. 12 in DII, scoring 41 points a game. While they don't have a standout statistical superstar, they have plenty of pieces that work well together. Running backs Adrian Seales and Vincent Johnson have combined for 630 yards and nine touchdowns out of the backfield, and Layton Rabb is proving he can chuck it, coming off a career-best 326-yard performance.
While this game may have the makings of a shootout, let's not forget that A&M-Commerce's defense has allowed seven points or fewer in three of its four games. The Lions have the 13th-best total defense in DII, allowing a stingy 269.8 yards a game. This could play out to be one of the games of the year, and whoever is left standing will very likely be the Lone Star Conference champion.
No. 22 Winona State (5-0) at No. 6 Sioux Falls (5-0)
Winona State was late to the party, entering the Top 25 for the first time last week. The Warriors are off to their first 5-0 start in 14 years.
Now they face their biggest test of the season.
Sioux Falls has been steamrolling everyone in its path. The Cougars have outscored their opponents 159-31 in their first five games. The defense surpassed the mighty Northwest Missouri State Bearcats last week and are now the No. 1 scoring defense in DII. Giving up just 204.8 yards per game, Sioux Falls is second in yards allowed per game.
When you add in Max Mickey, the Cougars are a tough team to beat. The senior running back has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in every game this season, and has run for at least 150 yards in four straight. He has a five-game touchdown streak in 2017 as well. Mickey is second in rushing in all of DII football.
But don't count out the Warriors. They, too, are armed with a Top 10 defense, ranked sixth allowing just 11.6 points a game. Whereas Sioux Falls hands it to Mickey, Winona State has four backs who have eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the season, combining for 11 touchdowns and over five yards per carry.
No. 17 Humboldt State (4-0) at No. 13 Central Washington (5-0)
The Great Northwest Athletic Conference was supposed to be Azusa Pacific's for the taking. With 18 returning starters and the 2016 breakout of quarterback Andrew Elffers, the Cougars were poised to repeat as GNAC champs and a second trip to the DII postseason.
Humboldt State and Central Washington felt otherwise.
Both teams defeated APU in consecutive weeks, Humboldt State winning 30-19 on its opening night, and Central Washington downing them a week later on a last-second field goal.
One thing is certain. Points will be scored in Ellensburg, Washington on Saturday. The Jacks have scored 72, 49 and 56 points in their last three games, while Central Washington is coming off a 62-0 performance against Simon Fraser.
Humboldt State has the second-best scoring offense in DII, averaging an astounding 51.8 points a game. Central Washington is allowing just 17.8 points a game, 25th-best in DII. The X-factor could very well be Humboldt State's Ja'Quan Gardner. The Jacks' running back has run up 600 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground this season. If he can crack CWU's No. 6-ranked rushing defense (68.2 yards a game), the Jacks could pull off the upset.
West Alabama (RV) at No. 9 Delta State
Delta State is one of the surprise teams of 2017, cracking the Top 10 last week. West Alabama has one loss this season, taking the FCS-program Samford the distance and nearly pulling away with the upset. Both teams are a perfect 3-0 in the Gulf South Conference.
In fact, they are the last two undefeated teams in the GSC. This game is huge.
West Alabama has the best offense in the GSC. The Tigers score 45.8 points a game, with seven more touchdowns than the next closest team. That team, of course, is Delta State. Last season these two teams both went over 500 yards of total offense in a 54-42 victory for the Tigers.
Adams State at No. 14 Colorado State-Pueblo
Colorado State-Pueblo is flying high after an upset of then-No. 8 Colorado Mesa last weekend. While Adams State is 3-2 and unranked, Colorado State-Pueblo will have its hands full with one of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference's best offenses.
The Grizzlies' No. 1 RMAC offense against the ThunderWolves No. 1 RMAC defense. This is the kind of matchup that becomes more of a chess match than a football game.
Adams State quarterback Nick Rooney has been sensational. He's thrown for 1,484 yards, 16 touchdowns and just one interception. He has a dangerous tandem on the outside that provide reliable targets. Wide receiver Chad Hovasse has 553 yards and six touchdowns, while Marquese Surrell has 528 yards and six more touchdowns. If someone shuts them down James Holtrop is waiting, with 289 yards and six touchdowns of his own.
Colorado State-Pueblo is the opposite, as its offense will grind it out with the run game. Running back Marché Dennard has three-straight 100-yard, two-touchdown games while Austin Micci has chipped in 332 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Defensively, Brandon Payer has been everywhere. He leads the team in tackles (52), sacks (3.5), tackles for loss (8) and forced fumbles (2). If the Grizzlies can't keep tabs on him, Rooney could be in for a long day.
Cornerback Darius Williams saw his interception steak come to an end against CMU last week, but the ThunderWolves' defensive back will be key against the Grizzlies' dynamic pass attack this week. Grab the popcorn. This should be a good one.
Northwest Missouri State watch:
The Bearcats are going for No. 36 in a row. They will be on their home turf in Maryville hosting Central Oklahoma. While the Bronchos may not look like an intimidating force at 2-3, they have a potent offense. Quarterback Chas Stallard is coming off a record-setting week, throwing for 442 yards and six touchdowns against Emporia State. Stallard is eighth in passing yards in DII, and his 15 touchdown passes are tied for seventh. This is exactly the kind of team that pulls off an upset if Northwest Missouri State slips.
The problem is, the Bearcats rarely do that.
Battle of the Mascot Week 6
Last week, Washburn continued its impressive season, downing Pittsburg State on the road. The Ichabods move to 4-1 on the year, their lone loss coming in a tightly contested battle with Northwest Missouri State.
WEEK 1: Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys 28, Southern Arkansas Muleriders 21
WEEK 2: South Dakota School of Mines Hardrockers 35, Dixie State Trailblazers 14
WEEK 3: Califoria (Pa) Vulcans 29, Millersville Marauders 13
WEEK 4: Southeastern Oklahoma State Savage Storm 41, Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils 21
WEEK 5: Washburn Ichabods 35, Pittsburg State Gorillas 20
Who's on deck for Week 6?
Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys at Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils
So both these teams already had their shot in the Battle of the Mascot. But no way can you pass up a game between the Wonder Boys and Boll Weevils. When you add in that the game is at the Cotton Boll ... come on, you can't make that up if you tried.
It's actually a very big game. The Wonder Boys are coming off their first loss of the season. It dropped them from No. 11 all the way to No. 24. The Weevils will be looking to get back to .500 in this all-Arkansas battle.