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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | September 24, 2019

College football rankings: How No. 1 Valdosta State has cemented its grasp on DII

Check out this week's DII football top plays

Valdosta State and Ferris State remain locked atop the latest DII football rankings at the No. 1 and No. 2 spot respectively. There was plenty of action up and down the top 25 this past weekend seeing 13 teams jump at least one spot.

Two top 25 teams — Colorado State-Pueblo and West Alabama — dropped this week after being on the wrong end of top 25 matchups, while one team fell out of the poll completely, welcoming Saginaw Valley State to the top 25. 

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Before we break down the DII football rankings, here's a look at the top 25.

1 Valdosta State (31) 3-0 797 1
2 Ferris State (1) 3-0 764 2
3 Minnesota State 3-0 723 3
4 Tarleton State (1) 3-0 701 4
5 Notre Dame (Ohio) 3-0 636 5
6 Ouachita Baptist 3-0 631 6
7 Northwest Missouri State (1) 3-0 617 7
8 Lenoir-Rhyne 3-0 561 8
9 Grand Valley State 3-0 542 10
10 Slippery Rock 3-0 481 11
11 Texas A&M-Commerce 2-0 468 12
12 Indianapolis 3-0 434 14
13 Minnesota Duluth 3-0 418 13
14 Colorado School of Mines 3-0 408 17
15 Midwestern State 3-0 364 16
16 West Chester 3-0 298 18
17 Wingate 3-0 280 19
T-18 Pittsburg State 3-0 221 22
T-18 Central Missouri 3-0 221 21
20 CSU-Pueblo 2-1 185 9
21 Indiana (Pa.) 3-0 158 24
22 Harding 2-1 137 23
23 Bowie State 3-0 104 25
24 West Alabama 2-1 55 20
25 Saginaw Valley State 3-0 53 NR

Valdosta State's impressive start

The Blazers entered 2019 with a 15-game winning streak. Through three games, those winning ways have continued, leaving the defending champs atop the DII football world in every poll so far this season. 

Valdosta State has played a tricky schedule to start and hasn't really had trouble with any team it's faced. The Blazers opened the season on the road against an Albany State team that was receiving votes in the preseason poll — and upset then-No. 15 West Georgia on the road this past weekend — and ran away with it, 38-3. Game 2 for the Blazers was the DII national showcase in which they defeated another school receiving votes in Ohio Dominican. The Panthers are 2-0 against solid competition outside of their lone loss to the Blazers, one in which Valdosta State won by 27 points.

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This past weekend, the Blazers sent a message by taking down then-No. 20 West Alabama — a team that has been to the last two DII football championships — by putting up 44 points. They headed into halftime with a 12-point lead and never trailed by less than double-digits the rest of the way. Paired with the aforementioned West Georgia loss, the Blazers are the lone undefeated team in the GSC overall in 2019.

The Blazers aren't simply winning games. They are playing good competition and winning those games by an average of 26.3 points per game. If there were any worries about the 2018 top scoring offense in DII football missing a step with the departure of offensive-guru head coach Kerwin Bell, they are gone. The Gary Goff era is off to a strong start and it should only continue. Are there teams worthy of the No. 1 spot right now? Of course, but right now the No. 1 spot is the Blazers until someone figures out a way to take it from them.

It's time to fear Central Missouri

The Mules are not a perfect team. They had to come from behind to upset nationally-ranked Fort Hays State on opening night and watched a 21-point fourth-quarter lead disappear on Saturday against Missouri Western before winning in overtime. But this offense is reaching a lethal level and is quickly getting a swagger that it can win any game at any moment. 

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The key is the re-emergence of quarterback Brook Bolles. The 2017 Harlon Hill finalist entered 2018 with lofty expectations but made all of six pass attempts before his season was cut short by injury. Thus far in 2019 he has thrown for 1,023 yards with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions and is averaging an additional 38.6 yards rushing per game with two touchdowns. 

The Mules trailed at halftime against then-No. 11 Fort Hays State and then this offense seemingly figured it out and has been clicking pretty much since. They have some tough games ahead, so the defense will need to tighten up, but Central Missouri is playing without much fear right now, and that makes them dangerous. 

Undefeated teams stuff the DII football rankings

Just three teams in the top 25 have been handed a defeat this year, all three coming in top 25 matchups. One was No. 22 Harding, which lost a tightly-contested 16-14 Great American Conference battle to No. 6 Ouachita Baptist on opening night. The Bison haven't allowed a score since, showing just how dominating the top 25 has performed this season.

With conference play open, there will certainly be some big tests each week for the undefeated teams across the nation inside and out of the top 25. No. 5 Notre Dame (OH) travels to Urbana University in a battle of 3-0 Mountain East Conference teams. It also features a matchup of two of the best running backs thus far in the Falcons Jaleel McLaughlin and Urbana's W.R. Sanders, Jr.

Colorado State-Pueblo saw its home winning streak end last week against then-No. 17 Colorado School of Mines and welcomes its second top 25 team to the ThunderBowl in as many weeks. That should put No. 11 Texas A&M-Commerce on high alert, which is looking to stay undefeated against a team very much looking to defend its home turf.

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No. 13 Minnesota Duluth travels to fellow undefeated Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference rival Bemidji State. The Beavers, who began the season 3-0 last year before falling to the Bulldogs in double overtime in Week 4, have not beaten Minnesota Duluth since 1999. Minnesota Duluth can't overlook this game based on history alone with Bemidji State looking to prove they belong amongst the NSIC elite.

No. 15 Midwestern State struggled in Week 3 but walked away victorious nonetheless. This week the Mustangs travel to Angelo State in a battle of 3-0 teams. The Rams are averaging 52.3 points per game this season and can't be taken lightly with an explosive offense, and thus far, tough defense.

No. 22 Harding hasn't allowed a touchdown in nine quarters but will be put to the test against a Henderson State team that has its offense clicking right now. With that early-season loss to Ouachita Baptist on its resume, Harding can't afford to drop another game to keep its playoff hopes alive.

The DII football top 25: Risers and fallers in Week 3

There wasn't a huge jump in this week's poll with so many of the top teams staying locked into the top 10, but there were a few teams that made noticeable leaps.

Conference rivals Pittsburg State and Central Missouri are climbing the poll steadily. The Gorillas made the biggest jump this week, leaping four spots to join the Mules tied at the No. 18 spot. Central Missouri climbed three spots from 21 as did Indiana (Pa) and Colorado School of Mines. The Orediggers' rise comes on the heels of taking down then-No. 9 CSU-Pueblo on the road, their first win in Pueblo since 2009.

Those same ThunderWolves made the biggest drop of the week, falling 11 spots to No. 20. West Alabama fell four spots to No. 24 after losing to Valdosta State, while West Georgia dropped from 15 to out of the poll.

That opened the door for Saginaw Valley State. The Cardinals are out to a 3-0 start and are looking to keep that momentum rolling until the Oct. 12 Battle of the Valleys against No. 9 Grand Valley State. 

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How the conferences fared in the latest poll

With Saginaw Valley State joining the mix, you can make the argument that — despite having the same amount of teams as three other conferences in the poll — the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference is the leader of the pack. The GLIAC has two undefeated teams inside the top 10 — the only conference that can boast that accomplishment — and now a third at the bottom of the poll.

The Lone Star Conference, Mid-Ameria Intercollegiate Athletics Association, and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference join the GLIAC with three teams apiece, with the MIAA schools quickly rising up the charts. The Gulf South dropped to the middle of the pack after losing West Georgia this week, while no new conferences entered this week's top 25.

Here's how the breakdown of the conferences in the latest rankings. 

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

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