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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | October 13, 2018

GLIAC superpowers collide on a DII football Saturday featuring two top 10 matchups

Week 6 in DII football was one for the books. Four top 25 matchups went down, and when the final whistle blew the lower seed won all but one of them. The action doesn’t stop in Week 7, as two top 10 matchups are on the bill.

This late in the season, these rivalries become so much more. They become make-or-break games with postseason hopes on the line. Here's what you should keep an eye on this Saturday in DII football.

No. 14 Colorado State-Pueblo at Colorado Mesa

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The first game of the Week 7 DII showcase is a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference clash of two teams that are seemingly always DII football powers. Colorado Mesa has been in and out of the top 25, while the ThunderWolves are hoping to jump closer to the top 10 with another signature victory in Grand Junction on Saturday.

This game is packed with some of the most exciting players to watch in DII football. Mavericks quarterback Eystin Salum is one of the most dangerous dual-threats in DII. Salum leads the Mavs in rushing (387 yards) while passing for 1,343 yards and scoring 13 combined touchdowns on the season. His reliable target Peter Anderson has had four 100-yard performances in a row, including a 266-yard, two touchdown performance again Chadron State on Sept. 22.

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The ThunderWolves make their presence felt on the ground, with a top 10 rushing attack in DII football. Marche Dennard leads the way, coming off a monster 213-yard, three touchdown week against New Mexico Highlands. Austin Micci is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield as well. CSU-Pueblo also shines on defense, with linebackers Brandon Payer and Kyle Rosenbrock having big seasons.

As with most RMAC games, this should be an exciting, high-scoring affair that comes down to the wire.

No. 5 West Georgia at No. 10 West Florida   🎥 WATCH LIVE

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Two top 10 teams, both undefeated in Gulf South Conference play, collide in Pensacola, Florida Saturday night. Calling this a big game is an understatement.

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This is a game featuring two exciting quarterbacks under center. West Florida’s Sam Vaughn is settled in and firing on all cylinders with 13 touchdowns in the past four weeks, including two this weekend as the Argos took down FCS foe North Alabama. West Florida’s defense will have to clamp down on the Wolves quarterback Willie Candler. Candler has thrown 15 touchdowns this season to just one interception while rushing for three more.

Both squads also have exciting running backs to watch. West Georgia’s Devontae Jackson recently became the program’s all-time leading rusher and has scored in all but one of the Wolves six games this season. On the other side of the field, Chris Schwarz has been piling up the yards, posting back-to-back 100-yard performances over Delta State and North Alabama. The two help opposing defenses struggle that much more in containing two very good quarterbacks. 

This game could come down to whose defense steps up, and if that’s the case, West Georgia may have the advantage behind the No. 9 total defense in DII. This has all the makings of a classic.

No. 3 Ferris State at No. 2 Grand Valley State

Speaking of classics, the Anchor-Bone Classic never disappoints. This is the fourth season in a row that the annual showdown sees both Ferris State and Grand Valley State in the top 25, as the two perennial powerhouses clash in Lubbers Stadium for control of the GLIAC.

The Saturday evening version of the Anchor-Bone Classic is another matchup of exciting DII quarterbacks. Grand Valley State’s Bart Williams is tied for fifth in DII with 17 touchdown passes and has thrown just one interception. He has two big weapons at his disposal in Nick Dodson (454 yards, six touchdowns) and Austin Paritee (523 yards, eight touchdowns). No defense has yet to figure out Ferris State quarterback Jayru Campbell. He’s already racked up 2,019 total yards and 24 total touchdowns on the season. Freshman wide receiver Sy Barrett is breaking out in his debut, already with 484 yards and six touchdowns.

While Ferris State has the top-ranked total offense in DII football, its 558.2 yards per game leading to a GLIAC-best 44.3 points per game, the Lakers bring in the stingiest defense in the GLIAC, allowing just 12 points per game. Ferris State has taken five of the last six regular-season matchups, winning a tight 28-27 thriller last year. Expect both teams to bring it in a game with huge postseason implications.

No. 16 Tarleton State at No. 7 Texas A&M-Commerce

The Texans are off to their best start in five years. The Lions are coming off a huge win against their longtime nemesis MSU Texas. The loser of this top 25 matchup picks up their first Lone Star Conference loss of the season. No pressure, no pressure at all.

Both head coaches will have to be at their best, as this could be a chess match. Tarleton State enters the weekend the No. 1 scoring team in the LSC, averaging 45.0 points per game. The Lions? They have the best scoring defense in the LSC, allowing just 18.7 points per game. That very same defense helped contain then-No. 4 MSU Texas last week, holding the Mustangs to a season-low 19 points. 

This is the Texans first big test of the season, as they have yet to face a ranked team. Defeating the reigning national champions on their home turf certainly put DII football on alert.

What else to watch:

No. 18 Pittsburg State at Fort Hays State. Both teams are coming off losses last week. The Tigers were bumped from the top 25 after losing in the final seconds to Emporia State and will have a very tough test in the Gorillas to get back on track.

No. 8 Valdosta State at Florida Tech. The Blazers have scored more than 50 points for the past five weeks in a row. You should be watching this offense every week until further notice.

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