The 2018 DII football showcase schedule was released on Friday, August 24. The 19 games that will be showcased on ESPN 3 or NCAA social media are all highly-anticipated matchups.
There's no time wasted in getting the action started, with both the defending national champions and reigning runners-up highlighting the opening night matchup. Picking just five games out of the bunch as the most exciting was no easy task, but here’s a look at five we can't wait to see this season.
Opening night: Thursday, August 30, 2018
Two games are scheduled for 8:05 p.m. on opening night. One will be coming at you from Memorial Stadium in Commerce, Texas. The defending national champion Texas A&M-Commerce Lions open up against the Javelinas of Texas A&M-Kingsville. The Lions all-world quarterback Luis Perez, winner of the 2017 Harlon Hill Award, is graduated and in NFL camp, so a new era is underway. The Lone Star Conference is always heavy at the top, and a victory against a conference rival on opening night will send a loud message to the rest of the LSC that the Lions are back. For the Javelinas, who finished just 2-6 in LSC play last season, they can make an opening night statement by taking down the defending champs. Talk about sending a message.
In Pensacola, West Florida opens its season out of conference, hosting Carson-Newman. Unlike the Lions, the Argos return many of the key figures from their historic run to Kansas City, reaching the championship game in their second season as an official DII football program. Playing in an absolutely stacked Gulf South Conference, it is important for the Argos to get out to a hot start in 2018. Unfortunately, standing in their way is an extremely tough Carson-Newman squad. This team finished 2017 winning three in a row for an 8-3 record, earning them the No. 22 spot in the preseason poll. You want opening night action, you need to look no further than Blue Wahoos Stadium on Thursday night.
A GLIAC showdown on September 29
Ferris State enters the season at No. 8. Ashland enters the season at No. 15. Two of the three Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference teams to make the preseason top 25, this game doesn’t simply have major conference implications, it has postseason chances written all over it.
Last season both Ashland and Ferris State made the postseason, with Grand Valley State just missing. Clearly, every loss matters.
The Bulldogs have been to consecutive national quarterfinals, and with eight returners on offense from last year, they have the experience and pedigree to make it a third year in a row. The Eagles have a tough schedule, with four top 25 matchups on the slate, including two back-to-back to open the season against No. 4 IUP and No. 23 Ohio Dominican. Depending on the results of those two games, the Eagles may be playing for their postseason lives, which makes this a matchup to be sure not to miss.
A battle for Colorado on October 13
Little is more fun than the annual Colorado State-Pueblo and Colorado Mesa showdown. Perennial Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference contenders, the winner of this one often finds their ways to the postseason. Last year it was the ThunderWolves, the year before it was the Mavericks turn. Who rises up this year?
Rounding out the awards is your 2018 #RMACfb Preseason Offensive POTY, Eystin Salum of @CMUMavericks! Salum finished last season with the highest pass efficiency in the RMAC, completing 137-of-245 of his pass attempts, and 20 were for TD. pic.twitter.com/KZnhjYHSMq— RMAC Sports (@RMAC_SPORTS) July 26, 2018
This is usually a battle of top 25 teams as well, although this season Mesa finds itself just outside the top 25. With quarterback Eystin Salum, the 2017 RMAC offensive player of the year, returning under center, the Mavericks offense should be just as exciting as last year. They will need to be, facing a ThunderWolves defense that was best in the RMAC in 2017 and has a bevy of returners from that squad.
Linebacker Brandon Payer and defensive back Darius Williams are two of several ThunderWolves that should be put on All-American watch. Williams led a very opportunistic secondary that picked off 23 passes and scored five touchdowns last season. This is the perfect chess match that could have conference champion implications attached to it.
The Deonte Harris Show comes to primetime October 27
Assumption’s Deonte Harris was one of our DII football impact players for the 2018 season at NCAA.com for a reason. He is one of the single most exciting players to watch in the sport, whether he’s returning kicks or catching long touchdown passes. With his quarterback Marc Monks returning under center for another season, Harris should have plenty of chances for highlight reel plays, making it well worth it to tune in. The Greyhounds, who went deep into the playoffs last year, are the projected Northeast-10 champions.
It was by a mere point, however, as plenty of people see the power LIU Post has to contend in the conference. The Pioneers have some big shoes to fill under center as big-armed Yianni Gavalas has graduated but running back Malik Pierre and wide receiver Michael Richardson return to give the new quarterback some exciting pieces to work with. The NE-10 will likely be won in this game, what more reason do you need to watch?
A new vs. old guard MIAA matchup
The last two winners of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, widely regarded as the premier DII football conference, square off in a late-season battle with playoff hopes on the line. Both these teams made the postseason last year, but for one it was business as usual, while the other it was of historic proportions.
Fort Hays State was one of several feel-good stories of the year, getting off to their best start in a century and defeating Northwest Missouri State for the MIAA title. Though they lost some big pieces on both sides of the ball, the leadership of quarterback Jacob Mezera returns along with new-found postseason experience. What is there to tell you about Northwest Missouri State that you don’t already know?
All the Bearcats do is win, winners of three of the last five DII football national championships. Their defense makes for some ugly football games, allowing just 9.33 points per game and 212.8 yards per game. If you’re going to beat the Bearcats, it’s going to be a tightly contested battle, as they lost all three of their games by a mere 14 points last season. Both of these teams enter the season tied at No. 5 in the poll. With revenge on the mind, this will be a showdown you don’t want to miss.