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Wayne Cavadi | | October 27, 2017

Southern Arkansas and Azusa Pacific look to get back in DII football playoff mix in this week's showcase

DII Football: Top Plays from Week 8

The first Division II football regional rankings of the 2017 season were released on October 23rd and the DII football playoffs are right around the corner.

RELATED: Five more upsets lead to yet another new look Top 25

For those teams that are sitting outside the Top 7 in each of the four Super Regions, the playoffs have already begun. Every win matters. This week's DII football showcase features two teams -- Southern Arkansas and Azusa Pacific -- that are in must-win situations, which makes the stakes that much higher.

Here's everything you need to know about this week's matchups.

Southern Arkansas (6-2) at Henderson State (4-4), 3 p.m. ET


Henderson State is amid one of the more remarkable runs in NCAA football. The Reddies have won 30 straight games on the road, having never lost a road game in the Great American Conference era. 

The trouble is they struggle at home. The Reddies are 0-4 in their Arkadelphia, Arkansas home, and this week they welcome the red-hot Muleriders to town.

Most thought Southern Arkansas would contend for the GAC title after an impressive second place finish last season. Two early season losses knocked the Muleriders from the national rankings, but a current four-game winning streak has them tied atop the GAC standings once again. Barrett Renner has a stable of wide receivers, with four recording at least 300 yards and multiple scores this season. Michael Nunnery is clicking out of the backfield, so the Muleriders can beat an opponent in a bevy of ways. 

The Muleriders have a strong defensive front, led by Anthony Washington and Davondrick Lison who have combined for 12 sacks this season. They will have their hands full with quarterbacks Evan Lassiter and Andrew Black in the Reddies backfield. The Reddies defense will have to be on their A-game Saturday, or their home struggles may continue.

2017 outlook:

Southern Arkansas Henderson State
2016 record: 9-3 2016 record: 8-3
Head coach: Bill Keopple (9th season) Head coach: Scott Maxfield (13th season)
Preseason ranking: 22 | Current ranking: RV Preseason ranking: RV | Current ranking: NR

Key players:

Barrett Renner, QB: 2,176 yards, 24 TD

Michael Nunnery, RB: 633 yards, 8 TD

Anthony Washington, DL: 44 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 5 sacks

Key players:

Evan Lassiter, QB: 1,474 yards, 6 TD

Sheldon Watson, S: 50 tackles, 4 Int., 1 TD

Sam Johnson, DE: 34 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks

2017 by the numbers:

Southern Arkansas Henderson State
Points: 34.6/ game Points: 21.6/ game
Rush yards: 174.4/ game            Rush yards: 124.9/ game                                             
Pass yards: 273.1/ game Pass yards: 259.9/ game
Total offense: 447.5 yards/ game Total offense: 384.8 yards/ game
Points allowed: 24.1/ game Points allowed: 24.4/ game
Total defense: 315.4 yards/ game                  Total defense: 349.5 yards/ game

Azusa Pacific (5-3) at Central Washington (8-0), 4 p.m. ET


Azusa Pacific is desperately in need of a signature win. 

There were high hopes in Glendora, California entering the season. Fresh off a Great Northwest Athletic Conference title, armed with a breakout quarterback in Andrew Elffers and an army of experienced returners, the Cougars came into 2017 with the highest preseason ranking in program history.

The Cougars offense has met expectations. They are a Top 10 scoring offense and ranked 21st in yardage. Azusa Pacific has simply dropped big games, losing twice to No. 18 Humboldt State and once to this weekend's foe, Central Washington. The last two losses have come by a total of four points.

Central Washington has exceeded preseason hopes on both sides of the ball. While expectations are always high on offense in the wild west, the Wildcats have the No. 12 scoring defense and No. 4 total defense in DII football. FCS-transfer Reilly Hennessey has three wide receivers that make plays at his disposal, while tight end Kyle Self is a huge red zone target. Hennessey can also run, joining Christian Cummings and Austin Pernell with over 400 yards rushing each this season. This team is loaded on offense and defense.

Grab the popcorn. Another wild west shootout in Ellensburg, Washington may be in the making.

2017 outlook:

Azusa Pacific Central Washington
2016 record: 9-3 2016 record: 7-3
Head coach: Victor Santa Cruz (12th season) Head coach: Ian Shoemaker (4th season)
Preseason ranking: 13 | Current ranking: RV Preseason ranking: RV | Current ranking: 8

Key players:

Andrew Elffers, QB: 2,035 yards, 22 total TD

Kurt Scoby, RB: 678 yards, 12 TD

Weston Carr, WR: 1,097 yards, 10 TD

Key players:

Reilly Hennessey, QB: 1,671 yards, 22 total TD

Christian Cummings, RB: 594 yards, 5 TD

Kevin Haynes, LB: 68 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks

2017 by the numbers:

Azusa Pacific Central Washington
Points: 41.9/ game Points: 39.4/ game
Rush yards: 194.1/ game            Rush yards: 237.3/ game                                             
Pass yards: 272.4/ game Pass yards: 220/ game
Total offense: 466.5 yards/ game Total offense: 457.3 yards/ game
Points allowed: 19.6/ game Points allowed: 15.8/ game
Total defense: 365.6 yards/ game                  Total defense: 262.3 yards/ game

Battle of the Mascot Week 9:

Week 8 was upset city in the Battle of the Mascot. Edinboro was able to knock Slippery Rock from the Top 25 with a 49-39 victory. Fighting Scot running back Walter Fletcher went off for 241 yards and four touchdowns.

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

WEEK 7: Delta State Statesmen (Fighting Okra) 28, West Florida Argonauts 25

WEEK 8: Edinboro Fighting Scots 49, Slippery Rock The Rock 39

Who's up in Week 9? 

It's a Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association central showdown. The Bronchos of Central Oklahoma welcome the Mules of Central Missouri to Edmond, Oklahoma. The Mules just re-entered the Top 25 last week and look to keep their good fortunes rolling. Can the Bronchos buck them back out of the rankings with the upset?

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