Two weeks are left in the DII football season. For most of the top 50 teams looking to secure one of the top seven spots in each of the four Super Regions, the playoffs have already begun.
We’ll know a lot more after Week 10, as several conference championships are on the line. There is no shortage of action this DII football Saturday.
No. 20 Southern Arkansas at No. 4 Ouachita Baptist 🎥 WATCH ON TWITTER | FACEBOOK
Sure, this has plenty allure just being a top 25 matchup. But taking a look at the bigger picture, the Great American Conference title is at stake. A win from the Muleriders ties them atop the rankings at 9-1 with Ouachita Baptist, while an Ouachita Baptist victory puts them two games in front heading into the always tricky Battle of the Ravine.
These are two very different teams. Quarterback Barrett Renner leads one of the most explosive pass offenses in the GAC, while Ouachita Baptist makes its living on the ground with a top-10 rushing offense in DII football. This may play to the Muleriders' advantage with one of the best rushing defenses in the land, allowing a stingy 107.7 yards per game on the ground. Southern Arkansas will have to keep tabs on Tigers running back Kris Oliver, DII football’s fifth-leading active rusher with 3,544 career yards, while the Ouachita Baptist secondary will have its hands full with a red-hot Karonce Higgins. This should be one of the more memorable games of the season and one with major postseason implications.
No. 15 Tiffin at No. 25 Hillsdale
This is essentially the Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship game. Both teams enter the game undefeated in G-MAC play, and only one will leave that way in firm control of the conference. Hillsdale ends its season next week out-of-conference in a top 25 matchup against UIndy, while Tiffin takes on a Findlay team that’s very capable of an upset.
It will be tough for Tiffin as Hillsdale’s top-ranked defense in the conference also has the home-field advantage to help. The Dragons running back Kyle Brunson, leading the G-MAC rushing for 104.6 yards per game, will make that Chargers defense work. Hillsdale quarterback Chance Stewart is the top quarterback in the conference, but Tiffin’s Nick Watson is right behind him, setting up what should be an offensive explosion. Neither team was expected to be here, as both Ohio Dominican and Findlay entered the season nationally ranked. With both teams having a nothing-to-lose swagger, this one could come right down to the wire.
Fort Hays State at No. 10 Northwest Missouri State 🎥 WATCH ON TWITTER | FACEBOOK
There is certainly no love lost here. Fort Hays State ended the Bearcats' run atop the MIAA last season, and an upset in Maryville, Missouri, on Saturday would be tremendous for the Tigers' regional standing, currently locked in on the No. 7 spot. Northwest Missouri State (8-1) sits atop a logjam in the MIAA, with Fort Hays State and Pittsburg State right behind at 7-2. Super Region Three is absurdly stacked with top 25 teams, so every win, or loss, could change the course of the postseason.
We know the story with the Bearcats by now. They have built their legacy on top-ranked defenses and that hasn’t changed in 2018, their 12.0 points per game and 277.7 yards allowed per game tops in the MIAA. Thanks to the dynamic play of freshman quarterback Braden Wright, they also sport the top scoring offense in the MIAA, dropping 38.8 points per game and coming off a 62-point performance. Fort Hays State’s quarterback Jacob Mezera has shown he is a big-game quarterback and has little problem executing with this offense. As is every game in the MIAA, this will be one to remember.
WE ARE THE STORM. pic.twitter.com/GHFWrt1kQg— VSU Athletics (@BlazerAthletics) October 19, 2018
No. 7 Valdosta State at West Florida
West Florida opened up the first regional rankings on the outside looking in. After a 26-10 victory over North Greenville, the Argos are back in the hunt at No. 8 in Super Region Two. An upset victory over the top-scoring offense in DII football will certainly increase the reigning runners-up’s chances at another postseason run.
Last season, the Gulf South Conference sent four teams to the NCAA postseason, and this year could very well be three. West Florida is playing for its playoff lives, and Sam Vaughn and company hope to make a statement at home. The Blazers high-octane offense, averaging a mind-boggling 53.4 points per game, causes fits, but West Florida has done a good job of limiting opposing offenses allowing just 20.2 points per game. The Argos will have a tough time finding an answer for quarterback Rogan Wells, who’s having a monster season since taking over as the full-time starter. He's responsible for 32 touchdowns already this season. We know one thing. Every time someone told West Florida they couldn’t last year, they did. This is playoff football for the Argos, and we know there are currently very few better that can handle pressure like them.
Ashland at No. 9 Grand Valley State
Ashland’s season hasn’t gone as it hoped, entering the season in the top 25 and projected to put up a fight in the GLIAC. The Eagles have three losses, but that said, all three have come against top 25 teams. Despite the setbacks, they enter the game with the same 5-1 conference record as the rival Lakers and are hoping to play spoilers by taking their fourth win in their last five chances.
Ashland sports one of the toughest defenses in DII football, allowing just 243.9 yards a game. The Eagles will need to show up big time on Saturday, as quarterback Bart Williams leads an explosive Grand Valley State offense into battle. Williams is the GLIAC’s top passer, averaging 258.3 yards per game, while Nick Dodson and Austin Paritee provide reliable receivers on the outside. Dodson, who already has multiple 100-yard games this season, is also a concern on special teams, winning GLIAC player of the week after an 83-yard punt return started the scoring in last week’s victory in the Battle of the Valleys. There is plenty to prove for both of these GLIAC powers on Saturday, making this one to watch.
Keep an eye on: No. 21 Lenoir-Rhyne at Carson-Newman
Lenoir-Rhyne, who is atop nearly every statistical category in the South Atlantic Conference, can put its stamp on the 2018 season with a win against Carson-Newman on Saturday. Already guaranteed a share of the title, a Bears victory against a very formidable Eagles team all but seals the deal on a conference title.