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Wayne Cavadi | | October 30, 2017

DII football rankings: A new No. 1 highlights 5 takeaways from the Week 9 AFCA Poll

  Minnesota State had another big win this past weekend over NSIC rivals Winona State.

Nearly every week of the 2017 DII football season has been a whirlwind in the Top 25.

There was another huge upset this past weekend as the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats saw their remarkable run come to an end. A span that included two national championships, 38-straight DII wins and 34-straight Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association victories was halted by rival Pittsburg State.

RELATED: Pittsburg State backup QB Thomas LePage leads upset of No. 1 NWMSU

The Bearcats are still plenty good. But there is certainly a new look to the Top 25 this week. Let's breakdown the poll and take a look at what stood out the most.

No. 1 is Mavericks' Country

An honor nearly two years in the making. For the first time since October 15, 2015, the Minnesota State Mavericks are the No. 1 team in DII football. Sitting at a perfect 9-0, the Mavericks certainly have the resumé to prove they belong.

Minnesota State battles in the tough Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. It has handed two ranked teams losses this season, the most recent was this past Saturday in a Top 10 showdown against then-No. 10 Winona State. The Mavericks defense was dominant, forcing five turnovers (scoring on one) and six sacks. Balanced with a stout running attack, the Mavericks are looking strong heading into the postseason.

Bearcats down to No. 8

It speaks volumes for the success of a program when they fall seven spots and are still a Top 10 team in DII football.

Northwest Missouri State slipped seven spots to No. 8 after this week's loss. Grand Valley State's DII record of 40-straight wins is safe, and falling two games short of tying the record surely stings a bit.

Let's face the reality. The Bearcats have one focus, and that's their third straight national championship. Even in the surprising loss, this defense still looked impressive, allowing just 236 total yards. If the offense can get back to full health, the Bearcats are still the premiere force to be reckoned with in DII football. 

They will have to get back at it quickly, however. They face off against undefeated, No. 6 Fort Hays State this Saturday in what is sure to be the game of the week.

Shepherd, Indiana (Pennsylvania) earned first place love

Whereas Northwest Missouri State was almost always a unanimous choice for the top spot, three teams earned votes this week. Minnesota State earned the most points, ekeing out the No. 1 seed past No. 2 Shepherd and No. 3 IUP.

Shepherd actually had more first place votes, but fell just short in points. The 8-0 Rams had yet another impressive victory this past weekend, winning by 31 points. Connor Jessop has simply been remarkable behind center. The quarterback has thrown at least three touchdowns in every game this season, totaling 30 touchdowns all while throwing four interceptions. The Rams defense has been susceptible to points, but Jessop can lead this team down the field in a hurry.

IUP wrapped up the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title this past weekend with a 42-26 win over Gannon. It is the first time in 24 years that the Crimson Hawks are 9-0.

This is about as well-balanced a team you will find in the DII ranks. Lenny Williams, Jr. is a threat at quarterback through the air and on the ground. He has a bevy of wide receivers and running backs to use as weapons in his arsenal. IUP also has a Top 15 scoring defense, accustomed to shutting down the high-flying offenses of the PSAC. They may be the No. 3-ranked team in DII for now, but the Crimson Hawks will be a huge threat come mid-November.

Indianapolis is in the Top 5

Let's just stop and admire what the Greyhounds have done the past three weekends. They have won 55-0, 45-0, and 42-3. In layman's terms, that is a lot to a little. Not a bad way to cap a program-best winning streak at all.

Freshman running back Al McKellar is turning into a real nice piece that makes this UIndy engine rev. He seems to be finally comfortbale. After a 206, one touchdown opening night in which he scored the game-winner in the Greyhounds' upset of GVSU, he cooled off a bit. He's found his groove of late, running for 357 yards and seven touchdowns over this three game romp by the Greyhounds.

The No. 5 spot ties the highest ranking in program history. They lay another blowout down this week, the Greyhounds are looking at history.

Welcome to the Top 10

Another Greyhounds team cracked unfamilair terrioty this week. Assumption makes its 2017 debut in the Top 10, and they did it in impressive fashion.

Assumption dominated in its most recent victory defeating Stonehill 68-0. That is what you can expect from this team that is rolling in all facets of the game. Deonte Harris may be the best punt returner in DII history when the season is done and kicker Cole Tracy is a beast. He kicked four field goals this past weekend, three of which were 40 or more yards, including a program record 53-yarder.

This team is clicking everywhere. Their first Top 10 nod in program history is well-deserved.

Weekly fun with numbers:

196-19 - Combined record of the new Top 25. 

- Number of teams that are a perfect 9-0. 

10 - Ranked teams that remain undefeated through Week 9.

MORE: Breaking down the Top 25 by the numbers

- No. 8 Northwest Missouri State joins No. 9 Texas A&M-Commerce as the only Top 10 teams with a loss.

23-2 - Win-loss record of the new Top 25 this past weekend. Winona State fell the most -- dropping from No. 10 to No. 18 -- after losing to new No. 1 Minnesota State. The Bearcats were right behind with their seven spot drop.

- Number of teams that remained the same this week. The enitre Top 10, aside from No. 9 Texas A&M-Commerce, saw a shift this week. Colorado Mesa held at 15, while Grand Valley State, Bowie State, Eastern New Mexico and Findlay held at No. 19 to No. 22 respectively.

83-2 - Combined record of the new Top 10.

2 - Number of Top 25 matchups this weekend. As we already mentioned, No. 6 Fort Hays State and No. 8 Northwest Missouri State could finish as the game of the year. No. 19 Grand Valley State heads to Ashand, Ohio in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference battle for the ages. The No. 11 Eagles could complete their rise to the Top 10 while the Lakers are in need of a signature win. 

RELATED: The Rock's Marcus Martin is NCAA's all-time sack leader

Conference breakdown

There wasn't major change in the conference breakdown as 24 of last week's Top 25 remained in tact. West Georgia continued its acrobatic Top 25 act, jumping back in for a third time this year. This week's only newcomer bumped Central Missouri out of the rankings.

Conference Teams in Top 25
NSIC 3 (Sioux Falls, Minnesota State, Winona State)
LSC 3 (Midwestern State, Texas A&M-Commerce, Eastern New Mexico State)
GLIAC 3 (Grand Valley State, Ferris State, Ashland)
MIAA 2 (NWMSU, Fort Hays State)
GNAC  2 (Central Washington, Humboldt State)
CIAA 2 (Virginia State, Bowie State)
RMAC 2 (Colorado Mesa, Colorado State-Pueblo)
GSC 2 (West Alabama, West Georgia)
NE-10 1 (Assumption)
GLVC  1 (UIndy)
MEC 1 (Shepherd)
SAC 1 (Wingate)
PSAC 1 (Indiana (Pa))
GMAC 1 (Findlay)

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