The Week 6 scoreboard will not deprive DII football fans of any excitement. Four top 25 showdowns are on the bill, while No. 11 West Florida visits an old, but familiar, DII foe. Let’s take a look at five games you should pay attention to on an action-packed DII football Saturday.
No. 25 Central Washington at No. 24 Azusa Pacific 🎥 WATCH LIVE
Both the Wildcats and the Cougars enter the game perfect in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play. That means first place is on the line in this weekend’s DII football showcase.
There should be no shortage of offense Saturday night as Central Washington comes in averaging 40.2 points per game and Azusa Pacific amassing 35.0 points per game. Both of these squads have losses to FCS schools on their resumes, the Wildcats losing to Eastern Washington, and Azusa Pacific losing to North Alabama. The similarities between the two are piling up and that makes for good football.
Check out the video recap of last week’s hard-fought win over Humboldt State. pic.twitter.com/igzRGNQZRW— APU Football (@apufootball) October 2, 2018
The quarterbacks for each team are exciting to watch. Central Washington’s Reilly Hennessey is coming off a 436-yard, three-touchdown day in a losing effort, but has also shown some wheels near the end zone, rushing for four touchdowns on the season. Azusa Pacific’s Tyrone Williams, Jr. has thrown for 1,366 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 219 yards and four touchdowns as well. The Cougars defensive front is very aggressive, tied for the second most sacks in DII, so Hennessey will have to be at his best and may be more effective scrambling than slinging.
Last season, Central Washington swept the series, winning both games by a combined score of 51-39. This has the makings of a shootout and whichever offense has the ball last may win.
No. 16 Northwest Missouri State at No. 8 Pittsburg State
This is a good old-fashioned Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association rivalry with plenty of history on the line. Just how close is this historic grudge-match? The Bearcats own a 26-25 record in the all-time series.
One doesn’t have to look further than 2017 for how thrilling these games have become. Northwest Missouri State went into Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kansas amid a 38-game winning streak that included two undefeated seasons and two national titles. The Gorillas rose victorious, not only ending that historic 38-game streak but a 34-game MIAA winning streak as well. Who was the last team to beat the Bearcats before that 34-game streak started you ask? Yes indeed, it was the Pittsburg State Gorillas.
Now, both teams are once again looking like serious contenders for the national title. Northwest Missouri State’s freshman quarterback Braden Wright is one of the more dynamic playmakers in DII football, averaging 242.4 yards per game in the air and 57.8 more per game on the ground. These aren’t simply the top two scoring defenses in the MIAA, but both are in the top 11 in all of DII football. This one should come down to the wire, and with a share of first place on the line, you can be sure it will be one to remember.
No. 6 Ouachita Baptist at No. 19 Harding
Ouachita Baptist is enjoying a historic season, reaching its highest DII ranking in program history. Harding is doing Harding things once again, its top-ranked rushing offense causing trouble for everyone in its way.
Both of these teams are atop the Great American Conference standings. The Tigers have been perfect thus far, while the Bisons have dropped one game to undefeated Southern Arkansas. The outcome of this game will go a long way in deciding the eventual GAC champion.
Evenly matched, Harding enters the game averaging 336.8 on the ground, most in DII football, and piling up 41.8 points per game, best in the GAC. On the other side of the ball, Ouachita Baptist allows just 10.4 points per game, tops in the GAC and third in DII football. While these are two of the best rushing offenses in the land, they are also the two of the best rushing defenses in the GAC.
Kris Oliver is the man to watch on Ouachita Baptist. He enters the game the active leader in DII football rushing yards with 3,213 in his career. Tristan Tucker and Cole Chancey lead the ground attack for the Bisons. This game may come down to the one big pass play, and that’s where the opportunistic Tigers defense may come into play. They already have 11 interceptions and two touchdowns on the season.
No. 9 Texas A&M-Commerce at No. 4 MSU Texas
Last season, the Lions rumbled to the national championship behind a 14-1 record. They didn’t win the Lone Star Conference title, however. That’s because a 47-42 loss to MSU Texas was the lone blemish on their otherwise impressive resume.
These two LSC powerhouses are off to hot starts. Layton Rabb and company have the Mustangs out to a perfect 5-0 start with a big signature win over 2017 national runners-up and then-No. 2 West Florida. The offense is putting up nearly 45 points per game, and the big arm of Rabb is a large reason why. He’s thrown for 1,675 yards, 18 touchdowns, and no interceptions thus far. Having Vincent Johnson in the backfield helps to take the pressure off. The senior running back is averaging 102 yards per game with seven touchdowns.
There was a big changing of the guard in Commerce with many of seniors responsible for the title lost to graduation. Preston Wheeler and Kane Wilson have both seen time behind center this season, but it was Wilson who exploded for 373 yards and five total touchdowns last week in his tune-up for this big LSC clash. This is a big test for the new-look Lions, especially in the unfriendly environs of Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls. If they pull out a win, they let everyone in DII know all is just fine in Commerce.
No. 11 West Florida at North Alabama
North Alabama may have jumped to the FCS this fall, but these two teams know each other well. The Lions defeated West Florida in its inaugural season 51-3 handing them the worst loss of its history to that point. The Argonauts returned the favor last year, handing North Alabama its worst loss of the season, winning 30-7.
The Lions are adjusting well to life in the FCS, currently 3-2 overall and 1-0 against former DII foes, defeating Azusa Pacific 37-35 two weeks back. West Florida hopes to change that.
The Argos come in on a three-game winning streak. Backup quarterback Sam Vaughn has come in and played very well in the injured Mike Beaudry’s stead. Last week against a tough Delta State team on the road, Vaughn led a comeback victory as the Argos defense also clamped down in a 24-0 second half to secure the 30-21 victory. Picking up a win on the road this week against their old Gulf South Conference foe would be a big momentum boost heading into next week’s showdown with No. 5 West Georgia.