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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | September 10, 2019

DII football rankings: Valdosta State holds at No. 1, five top 25 teams fall on opening weekend

Check out this week's DII football top plays

Week 1 of the 2019 DII football season is in the books. The reigning national champion Valdosta State Blazers sent a message behind a 38-3 victory, while the rest of the top 10 all walked away victorious. The rest of the top 25, well, it wasn't so easy for them as there was a bit of movement in the poll as well as three new comers.

WEEK 1: Scores, stats from opening weekend of the DII football season

Before we breakdown the latest poll, here's how the top 25 panned out after Week 1.

Rank School Record Points Previous
1 Valdosta State (31) 1-0 799 1
2 Ferris State 1-0 732 2
3 Minnesota State 1-0 718 3
4 Notre Dame (OH) 1-0 646 4
5 Tarleton State 1-0 644 7
6 Ouachita Baptist 1-0 643 5
7 Northwest Missouri State (1) 1-0 624 6
8 Lenoir-Rhyne 1-0 578 8
9 CSU-Pueblo 1-0 545 9
10 Grand Valley State 1-0 488 12
11 Slippery Rock 1-0 441 10
12 Minnesota Duluth 1-0 397 14
13 Texas A&M-Commerce 0-0 400 13
14 West Georgia 1-0 396 15
15 Indianapolis 1-0 355 16
16 Midwestern State 1-0 331 20
17 Colorado School of Mines 1-0 313 17
18 Wingate 1-0 208 21
19 West Chester 1-0 189 22
20 West Alabama 1-0 173 24
21 Central Missouri 1-0 105 NR
22 Harding 0-1 95 18
23 Pittsburg State 1-0 84 NR
24 Indiana (Pa.) 1-0 83 NR
25 Fort Hays State 0-1 67 11

Valdosta State, Ferris State, Minnesota State, Notre Dame (OH) hold strong at the top

Last year's DII football tournament semifinalists remained the top four ranked teams after opening weekend wins. Perhaps not surprisingly, Valdosta State had the most commanding victory of the bunch, going into halftime with a 28-3 lead. Rogan Wells was efficient, completing 23 of 26 passes for 215 yards and two scores while rushing for 50 more in the 38-3 victory.

DII vs. FCS: We tracked every upset, here's how they happened | Kentucky State's first win since 2017

Ferris State barely escaped Findlay who went for the win instead of the game-tying extra point in the closing minute of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs were minus 2018 Harlon Hill winner Jayru Campbell, but Travis Russell, arguably the best backup quarterback in DII football, filled in admirably with 289 total yards and two total touchdowns. 

Minnesota State and Notre Dame (OH) got off to a 1-0 start behind big games on the ground from two of the best running backs in DII football. The Mavericks Nate Gunn ran for 242 yards and three touchdowns while the Falcons Jaleel McLaughlin put up 166 yards and one touchdown. Both of their big days put them amongst the best overall performers from Week 1.

THE BEST OF WEEK 1: Team and positional stat leaders in the top 25 from opening weekend

Tarleton State, Midwestern State send message with FCS upset

The Texans and Mustangs weren't alone on Saturday, as six DII football teams took down FCS programs, but they were the lone top 25 teams to do so. 

No. 7 Tarleton State, who reached the quarterfinals undefeated last season, showed all is well in Stephenville, Texas. One would think losing Xavier Turner — who ran for 1,469 yards with 22 touchdowns in 2018 — would hurt, but Daniel McCants thought otherwise. All he did was run for 179 yards with two touchdowns, one of which was a DII football record-tying 99-yard romp. The Texans jumped two spots and are now a top 5 team in DII.

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

No. 20 Midwestern State showed it was well-deserving of its leap in the poll, downing Northwestern State 33-7. The Layton Rabb era may have come to an end, but new quarterback Zach Purcell looks just fine. He helped the Mustangs climb four spots in the poll to No. 16. Raise your hand if you're as excited as we are for the Nov. 2 showdown between the Texans and the Mustangs.

Five top 25 teams fall in Week 1

Two top 25 teams were going to lose entering opening weekend. Ouachita Baptist and Harding squared off in a Thursday night top 25 showdown as did Indianapolis and Ashland. 

No. 11 Fort Hays State suffered the largest upset of the weekend, but Central Missouri was quite the worthy adversary. Coming off an injury-ravaged 2018, the Mules entered 2019 receiving votes, but showed they are going to be a tough out for anyone. Central Missouri didn't claim its first lead until late in the fourth quarter, but FHSU's Chance Fuller and UCM's Brook Bolles provided a classic MIAA shootout on night one.

Hillsdale and Fairmont State both dropped opening week games to teams outside the top 25 and receiving votes. Those losses saw both teams drop out of the top 25 along with Ashland opening the doors for three new teams to enter the top 25 poll. 

Newcomers, risers and fallers in the top 25

Welcome to the party Central Missouri, Pittsburg State, and Indiana (Pa). We've already discussed why the Mules are a top 25 team, entering the poll at No. 21 after their impressive come-from-behind victory. If you read our 5 bold predictions for 2019you know that the Gorillas aren't a surprise to see in the top 25 as Pittsburg State enters the poll at No. 23 after a 37-35 victory over Central Oklahoma. Indiana (Pa) had been poll regulars the past few seasons, but needed a 24-13 victory over a New Haven team that was in the DII football tournament a year ago to enter the top 25. The Crimson Hawks sit at No. 24.

Fort Hays State dropped the most after its opening night loss, but still clings to the rankings at No. 25 falling 14 spots. Harding fell four spots to No. 22, while Hillsdale, Ashland, and Fairmont State left the top 25 entirely. 

The biggest risers were Midwestern State and West Alabama. Both schools jumped four spots after Week 1 wins. Wingate and West Chester both jumped three spots into the top 20. 

The MIAA reigns supreme in the top 25

With Central Missouri and Pittsburg State entering the poll, the MIAA now has four teams in the top 25. That said, the GLIAC is the only conference with two teams in the top 10 as Grand Valley State jumped two spots to No. 10 this week, joining No. 2 Ferris State. Here is how the conferences broke down.

CONFERENCE NO. OF SCHOOLS SCHOOLS
MIAA 4 Northwest Missouri State, Central Missouri, Pittsburgh State, FHSU
GSC 3 Valdosta State, West Georgia, West Alabama
LSC 3 Tarleton State, Texas A&M-Commerce, Midwestern State
PSAC 3 Slippery Rock, West Chester, IUP
GAC 2 Ouachita Baptist, Harding
GLIAC 2 Ferris State, Grand Valley State
NSIC 2 Minnesota State, Minnesota Duluth
RMAC 2 CSU-Pueblo, Colorado School of Mines
SAC 2 Lenoir-Rhyne, Wingate
GLVC 1 Indianapolis
MEC 1 Notre Dame (OH)

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