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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | October 19, 2018

DII football preview: A G-MAC top 25 clash highlights 5 games to watch this Saturday

Seven weeks are down in the DII football season. We are officially at the point of the season where every win matters — and every loss is magnified — when it comes to postseason dreams.

Let's take a look around the DII football schedule at five games that standout this Saturday.

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Central Missouri at Pittsburg State     WATCH ON TWITTER | FACEBOOK

Both of these MIAA powers have been in and out of the top 25 this season. Pittsburg State continues its tough run facing off against a team that spent at least one week in the top 25 for the third straight week. The results thus far have not been favorable, dropping their last two games by a score of 81-28. Pittsburg State will be at a huge advantage with its MIAA-best sack attack putting pressure on redshirt-freshman quarterback Jeremy Hunt. If the Gorillas want to win, it will start with that defensive front, responsible for 27 sacks and, in turn, causing nine interceptions this season. Cole Morris leads the way with 6.5 sacks, while Simanu’a Thomas and Morgan Selemaea have both chipped in 4.5 sacks.

Central Missouri had to hand the reigns over to Hunt when Brook Bolles went down with an injury in Week 1. Despite the Mules struggles since, Hunt has shown he is a very capable quarterback, giving the Mules plenty of promise for the future. Hunt has thrown for nearly 1,800 yards in six games with a combined 18 touchdowns on the season. Shae Wyatt and Kyrion Parker have both been reliable targets for the young QB, combining for 1,103 yards, nine touchdowns, and some awe-inspiring catches along the way. The Mules will have their hands full with Pittsburg State, but this could be the win that gets the momentum rolling for a strong end run.

Truman at Southwest Baptist        

Looking at Truman State’s record is a bit deceiving. Sitting at 4-3 may seem a bit underwhelming, however, the Bulldogs are on fire, winners of four in a row and a perfect 3-0 in GLVC play. Truman’s rush-heavy attack is led by quarterback Jaden Barr, who has accounted for 745 of its 1683 yards. Keep an eye on junior defensive lineman Sam Reeves. Reeves had two sacks last week, his second two-sack performance of the season, and is now just two shy of the program's all-time record. His eight sacks this season are tops in the GLVC.

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The Bulldogs will be facing off against a Bearcat team going through a rough patch this season. Not only is there a new quarterback under center, but Southwest Baptist has also had to play four of their first six games on the road. Combined, those aren’t favorable conditions for a team learning how to win. This week, the Bearcats play their second-straight home game, coming off their best-played game of the season last week. This team is looking to put its stamp on the 2018 season, and it can do so in front of its home crowd this weekend.

No. 25 Ohio Dominican at No. 17 Tiffin

The lone top 25 matchup of the week has huge Great Midwest Athletic Conference implications tied to it. Tiffin is one of the last undefeated DII schools standing, tied atop the G-MAC with Hillsdale, while Ohio Dominican is right behind with one loss this season at the hands of the Chargers. Should the Panthers fall to the Dragons, their postseason hopes are all but over, but should they win, the G-MAC is wide open.

These are two evenly matched teams on both sides of the ball. The Panthers redshirt-freshman quarterback Evan Ernst is transitioning well to a full-time role. He has four trusted receivers — David Turner, Cory Contini, Devanaire Conliffe, and Cedric Washington — at his disposal who all have at least 300 yards receiving with multiple touchdowns.  On the Dragons side, quarterback Nick Watson is having a big season, already at 1,950 yards with 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He, too, has valuable weapons at wide receiver as Charles Holland (660 yards, eight touchdowns) and Victor Talley (511 yards, six touchdowns) are both reliable. 

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With two of the better defenses in the G-MAC, this should be a battle to the finish. One big play, or one big mistake, could make the difference Saturday.

Azusa Pacific at No. 6 Colorado School of Mines

The Orediggers have dominated their way from unranked to No. 6 in the country behind one of the more high-potent offenses in DII football. The Cougars have been in and out of the top 25 this season, and are looking for a signature win to help their postseason chances. This in-region matchup could be just that.

This Mines offense is amongst the best in DII football. The Orediggers are undefeated and haven't really had to sweat yet — their closest margin of victory being 14 points. First-year quarterback Isaac Harker is running this offense nearly flawlessly, with Brody Oliver, Riley Hoff, and Sean O'Dell arguably the most dangerous trio of wide receivers in DII. Running back Cameron Mayberry just became the program's all-time leading rusher and is averaging more than 100 yards per game. There is simply no weak point on the Mines offense.

Receiver Weston Carr is the offensive star to watch for the Cougars, already with nine touchdowns on the season. Scoring points is not this team's problem by any means, as they scored more than 30 points in both of their losses this season. Willie Fair (five sacks), Josh Olave (four interceptions), and the rest of the Azusa Pacific defense will have to play their game of the season to help the offense keep up with the Mines high-octane attack.

No. 13 Colorado State-Pueblo at Adams State

The Thunderwolves are rolling, winners of four in a row and back in the top 15 of DII football. That said, Adams State’s offense is executing on all cylinders, which makes this game intriguing.

The Grizzlies can put up points with the best of them, averaging 42.6 points per game. CSU-Pueblo brings in the best defense in the RMAC, allowing just 15.1 points and 276.1 yards per game. There are only two offenses better than the Grizzlies in the RMAC, and the Thunderwolves have faced them both. They were able to hold South Dakota Mines (43.1 points per game) to a season-low 14 in a Week 5 victory, but couldn’t slow down the Orediggers top offense in a Week 3 loss, falling 35-21. 

Adams State is a matchup nightmare. If you figure out how to stop Tyree Harris, who has 801 yards rushing and ten touchdowns in 2018, quarterback Nick Rooney and his dangerous receiving duo of Chad Hovasse and Marquese Surrell are simply shredding opposing defenses. Rooney has passed for 11 touchdowns the past two weeks alone, while Hovasse has been red hot with 322 yards and eight touchdowns over the same span. On the other side of the ball, the Grizzlies will have to contend with the RMAC’s best rushing offense, as the Thunderwolves average 264.6 yards per game on the ground. Combined with their stingy defense, when CSU-Pueblo can get out in front, it is a tough team to beat.

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