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Wayne Cavadi | | September 8, 2019

DII football: Week 1 schedule, scores, and what to watch

Watch Daniel McCants rumble 99 yards to tie a DII football record

The DII football season opened Thursday night and it was nothing short of exciting. Ferris State clung to a one-point win, Ouachita Baptist got a game-winning field goal to hold off Harding 16-14, and a kickoff return for the ages highlighted opening night. 

WATCH: You won't believe Minot State's wild, 104-yard kickoff return touchdown

Reigning champion Valdosta State opened its season with a commanding win over Albany State, but it was the six DII football upsets over FCS programs that made headlines. Due to Hurricane Dorian, we have one more day of DII football this week as Florida Tech and Savannah State were moved to Sunday.

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Week 1 DII football schedule

Here's the complete schedule for the top 25 as well as those receiving votes on Sunday, as well as the results from Thursday's and Friday's opening weekend games. 

2019 SEASON PREVIEW: 5 bold predictions for DII football in 2019 

Sunday, Sept. 8

Thursday, Sept. 5 (all times ET):

Friday, Sept. 6 (all times ET):

Saturday, Sept. 7 (all times ET):

DII football season preview: What to expect

1. Can Valdosta State reach the DII football championship tournament?
Every preseason No. 1 since 2014 has two things in common. One is they were all the defending champions, and the second was they all made the DII football championship tournament that same year. The last team to enter a season No. 1 and not make the DII tournament was Valdosta State in 2013. Despite a brand new coach in Gary Goff, the Blazers are stacked with returners and there is little reason to think we won't see them vying for a spot in McKinney, Texas at the national championship game on Dec. 21.

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2. What does Notre Dame (OH)'s Jaleel McLaughlin do next?
The Falcons running back set rookie records in DII football in 2018, cruising to 2,421 yards and leading Notre Dame to the semifinals. A bulk of that team returns, including big offensive linemen Jimmy Burchett and Brandon Nicholson. McLaughlin is set up perfectly to make a run at Danny Woodhead's single-season record of 2,756 yards rushing set in 2006 at Chadron State. 

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3. Does Ferris State take home that elusive title?
There are several teams currently on multiple-season DII football tournament runs but few have been as successful as Ferris State's. The Bulldogs have reached at least the quarterfinals three years running, with a semifinals appearance in 2016 and the national runner-up in 2018. The one thing the program doesn't have is that national championship. With dual-threat quarterback Jayru Campbell back under center, this may be the Bulldogs best chance at a national title. 

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DII football players to watch in 2019

Ferris State's Jayru Campbell enters the 2019 season as the defending winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy. The Harlon Hill Trophy has been awarded annually since 1986 to the division's national player of the year, making it the Heisman Trophy of DII football. Campbell joins names like Valdosta State's Rogan Wells, Notre Dame (OH)'s Jaleel McLaughlin, and Mars Hill's Craig Rucker. Be sure to see our complete 28-player preseason watchlist by clicking on the link below:

The DII football players that could win the 2019 Harlon Hill Trophy

DII football preseason rankings: The top 25 

The AFCA preseason poll was released on Aug. 26. The four semifinalists from 2015 all begin the year as the top four teams ‚ÄĒ No. 1 Valdosta State, No. 2 Ferris State, No. 3 Minnesota State¬†and No. 4 Notre Dame (OH) ‚ÄĒ while the national quarterfinalists all populate the top 10.¬†

DII FOOTBALL HISTORY: Programs with the most titles | Complete history 

Here's a look at the top 25 and be sure to check out our instant reaction to the AFCA preseason rankings release.

Rank School 2018 record Points 2018 final ranking
1 Valdosta State (29) 14-0 792 1
2 Ferris State (3) 15-1 768 2
3 Minnesota State 13-1 686 3
4 Notre Dame (Ohio) 13-1 623 4
5 Ouachita Baptist 12-1 585 6
6 Northwest Missouri State 10-3 580 10
7 Tarleton State 12-1 549 5
8 Lenoir-Rhyne 12-2 524 8
9 CSU-Pueblo 11-2 463 7
10 Slippery Rock 11-3 446 12
11 Fort Hays State 9-3 419 22
12 Grand Valley State 10-2 418 14
13 Texas A&M-Commerce 10-3 385 9
14 Minnesota Duluth 11-1 342 13
15 West Georgia 10-2 330 16
16 Indianapolis 10-2 319 11
17 Colorado School of Mines 10-2 288 18
18 Harding 9-3 223 20
19 Hillsdale 10-3 220 15
20 Midwestern State 8-2 214 25
21 Wingate 9-4 175 24
22 West Chester 10-1 134 17
23 Ashland 6-4 129 NR
24 West Alabama 8-4 116 NR
25 Fairmont State 9-2 78 NR

DII football Week 1 preview: Top games to watch

FINAL: No. 1 Valdosta State 38, Albany State 3

The Blazers have the longest current winning streak in DII football at 15 straight games. Albany State, which is receiving votes, is an in-state foe, which brings a little extra to the table. All eyes will be on every Valdosta State game this season, especially in a Gulf South Conference with three top 25 teams, so be sure to watch how it gets the Gary Goff era underway on opening night. 

FINAL: No. 16 Indianapolis 24, No. 23 Ashland 9

UIndy has been top 25 and DII football tournament regulars the past two seasons. Ashland is back in the top 25 after missing out in 2018. The Eagles are no strangers to the spotlight, however, ending 2017 in the top 25 after a DII football tournament win against Northwest Missouri State. 

FINAL: Central Missouri 34, No. 11 Fort Hays State 31

While Northwest Missouri State is ranked higher in the top 25, the Tigers have given the Bearcats fits the past two seasons, winners of the last two meetings, making them serious contenders for another MIAA title. Central Missouri, no matter its ranking, is always a challenge in the MIAA. This is a good early-season test for both teams and a chance for the Tigers to make a statement right out of the gate.

FINAL: No. 5 Ouachita Baptist 16, No. 18 Harding 14

This checks all the boxes for a great opening night showdown. Great American Conference rivals. Check. A top 20 matchup on opening night. Check. DII football championship regulars. Check. What more do you need? Harding is riding a streak of three-straight seasons in the DII tournament, while Ouachita has gone two years in a row. It may only be Game 1, but there is a whole lot resting on the outcome of this game. 

ALL WE DO IS WIN: Longest DII football winning streaks | Longest home winning streaks 

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