DII football preview: Northwest Missouri State goes for 37, GSC and MIAA clashes highlight 5 games to watch
Last week six ranked teams, including three in the Top 10, lost on Saturday, leading to a complete shakeup in this week's DII Football Top 25.
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Week 7 got started with a bang, as two of DII football's Top 25 kicked off the action on Thursday night. No. 2 Shepherd moved to 6-0 against Fairmont State, while No. 18 Sioux Falls got back in the win column, downing Wayne State. Don't fret DII football faithful, there's plenty of action in store for Saturday.
No. 1 Northwest Missouri State at Northeastern State
It's not often an 0-6 team is involved in must-see TV, but anyone who stands in the way of history deserves a look.
The Bearcats head to Tahlequah, Oklahoma looking for their 37th consecutive victory. The RiverHawks have a bit of October 14 history on their side. According to their athletics department, Northeastern has never lost in Tahlequah on games played on October 14, and have won the last five games played on that date. Of course, the RiverHawks history against the Bearcats doesn't favor them. Since rejoining the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in 2012, Northeastern State is 0-5, falling by a combined score of 288-61 to the Bearcats.
While Northwest Missouri State's offense is more than capable, the Bearcats are a defensive powerhouse. They are tops in DII in scoring defense, allowing an absurd 7.3 points a a game, all while allowing just 203.3 yards a game, also best in DII. They are tied for most sacks with 25, with seven defenders recording at last two sacks. The Bearcats have mutliple ways to get in the backfield and disrupt the flow of the game. They remain the most dangerous team in DII.
No. 22 West Georgia at No. 23 West Alabama
West Alabama remains a perfect 4-0 in the Gulf South Conference, all alone in first place. The Tigers defeated nationally ranked Delta State last weekend, and face their second Top 25 team in as many weeks. Luckily for the Tigers, they are undefeated when facing off against fellow Top 25 opponents, defeating North Alabama earlier in the season as well.
There is simply no tellng what to expect in this game. West Alabama is the GSC's top scoring offense, dropping 43 points per game, which is sixth-best in DII. West Georgia? They have the top defense in the GSC, allowing a mere 14.2 points per game, 12th-best in the division.
Quarterback Harry Satterwhite leads the Tigers offense (and GSC) with 1,480 yards passing and 10 touchdowns, but after him it is a balanced attack. West Alabama has three running backs with more than 200 yards on the ground, and Donta Armstrong leads a receiving corps that is six deep, with four already over the 200-yard mark this season.
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Willie Candler makes the GSC's second rated offense go, throwing for 1,405 yards and totalling 13 touchdowns. West Alabama needs to keep Chad Price out of the backfield. The defenseive end already had seven tackles for a loss this season, with 4.5 sacks.
Both teams come into the game streaking. West Alabama has won four in a row, while West Georgia is on a three-game run. Should the Tigers come out victorious, they give themselves a lot of breathing room in the GSC.
Washburn (RV) at Fort Hays State No. 8
It's surprising not many people are talking about Washburn this season. One year after finishing 7-5 in a very balanced MIAA, they are 5-1, in second place and trailing all but two teams for top position. One of those teams is Northwest Missouri State, responsible for the Ichabods lone loss in a tightly contested battle.
The second is Fort Hays State.
Fort Hays State is surprising in its own right. After a dominating Week 2 upset of then No. 13-Central Missouri, the Tigers have continued to roll, a perfect 6-0 on the season.
Both teams are incredibly balanced. Washburn has the No. 2 scoring offense, paired with the third-best scoring defense in the MIAA. The Tigers? No. 4 and No. 2 respectively. Fort Hays State has one of the more explosive offensive weapons in the MIAA. Running back Kenneth Iheme is on an absolute tear, going off for 421 total yards and three touchdowns the past two weeks. Washburn will have to figure out a way to stop him to have a chance. Even then, quarterback Jacob Mezera and wide receiver Monterio Burchfield can beat you through the air.
If Washburn pulls out a win on the road, you can be certain the Ichabods will find a way into the Top 25. Fort Hays State needs this win to keep up with the Bearcats. The Tigers will face Northwest Missouri State November 4 in the game that could possibly tie the DII football record for most consecutive wins. It could also decide the MIAA.
Henderson State at No. 19 Southeastern Oklahoma State
Sure, Henderson State was a ranked team earlier this year and have faded from the polls behind a few unexpected losses. But the Reddies are a huge threat to the surging Savage Storm when they head to Durant, Oklahoma this Saturday.
That's because Henderson State hasn't lost a road game since October 29, 2011.
The Reddies won their 29th straight road game last weekend and they look to hit the big 3-0 against the Savage Storm on Saturday. Southeastern Oklahoma State continues to impress on its climb up the national rankings. Should they win this weekend, the Storm will match its win total from last season with four games remaining.
This is the start of a tough run for the Great American Conference's top dogs. After a road-tested Henderson State, the Storm faces Southern Arkansas, Harding, Arkansas Tech and East Central. All four of those teams were either ranked or receiving votes at one point in 2017. Southeastern Oklahoma State will have to weather its own storm if its postseason push is to continue.
Azusa Pacific at No. 25 Humboldt State
This was the season Azusa Pacific was supposed to take the next step forward in its DII journey. Armed with a team almost entirely stocked with returners, the Cougars dropped back-to-back games against Humboldt State and Central Washington. Now winners of three in a row, they are surging as they head into the second go-round in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Humboldt State dropped its first loss of the season last weekend to Central Washington. That loss gave Azusa Pacific new life as a win in Arcata, California this weekend gets them right back in the GNAC race. Cougars quarterback Andrew Elffers seems to be back on track, throwing for 658 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception over the three-game winning streak. Azusa Pacific's defense will have to be atop its game as the Jacks bring DII's No. 4-ranked scoring offense and No. 5-ranked total offense to town. Quarterback Robert Webber is deadly through the air and Ja'Quan Gardner is emerging as one of the better backs in DII.
This should be a tightly contested matchup with tremendous postseason implications.
Battle of the Mascot Week 7
Last week was a repeat performance in the Battle of the Mascot. The Wonder Boys, who won in upset fashion in Week 1, were returned the favor in Week 6. The Boll Weevils rose victorious in a one-point victory that bumped Arkansas Tech from the Top 25.
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
WEEK 6: Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils 46, Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys 45
Who's on tap for Week 7?
No. 21 Delta State Statesmen (Fighting Okra) at West Flordia Argonauts
Delta State is officially the Statesmen, but many know them as the Fighting Okra. They are also one of the best teams in DII football this season. This week they travel to Pensacola to take on the upstart West Florida Argos. Both teams have just one loss atop the GSC, so this will surley be a heated battle.