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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | November 15, 2019

DII football bracketology: The 28-team field, predicted for 2019

DII football plays of the week

It's hard to believe that the DII football regular season is coming to a close. But with that bittersweet end comes the five-round DII football championship to decide the next victor of the national title. The selection committee will fill the bracket on Sunday, Nov. 17, and you can watch right here on NCAA.com at 5 p.m. ET. 

DII FOOTBALL SELECTION SHOW: How to watch and what to know

But why should they have all the fun?

Let's take a look at the four Super Regions and see if we can determine the 28 teams that will make up the 2019 DII football championship bracket. Last year, I waited until the bracket was released and predicted the results from each round (take a look, it wasn't all that bad). This year, we'll start a few days early.

2019 CHAMPIONSHIP: View the interactive bracket | Buy tickets | Complete fall championship guide

There are a few stipulations. First and foremost, these are my picks and mine alone. I looked at the some of the same criteria the selection committee will use ‚ÄĒ such as in-region winning percentage, strength of schedule, and DII winning percentage ‚ÄĒ but even then, it's¬†no easy task, especially with 11 undefeated teams remaining.¬†

Secondly, I've been keeping you up to date on the new bracket format this year. In simplest terms, the committee will be able to move teams in and out of their Super Regions should it reduce travel and expenses for both the schools and the fans. I'm not here to predict how the bracket will look, just the teams that will make it. Going through all the records was a lot in itself, we'll leave it to the committee's best judgment on how the bracket unfolds and simply try to shed some light where we can see the new strategy in place.

DII FOOTBALL RANKINGS: The top 25 heading into Selection Sunday | Final regional rankings

Lastly, the final weekend of the season hasn't been played yet. That means I need to predict the outcome of quite a few monumental tournament-deciding games just to predict how I think the bracket will unfold. 

Simply put, there was a whole lot of predicting going on here. So, let's get to it.

Super Region One

  • Who's in: No. 1 Slippery Rock,¬†No. 2¬†Kutztown, No. 3¬†Notre Dame (OH), No. 4 Indiana (Pa), No. 5 Shepherd, No. 6 West Chester, No. 7 Tiffin
  • First out: Ohio Dominican

Kutztown enters the weekend as the No. 1 seed, but on Thursday right here on NCAA.com, I predicted that Slippery Rock will win the PSAC Championship 35-31, which will bump The Rock to the top seed and earn a first-round bye. Now, despite the loss, I think Kutztown should hold on to the second seed. The Golden Bears have one win versus a ranked opponent, two against regional opponents, and a much tougher strength of schedule than the Falcons no matter if Notre Dame wins or loses this weekend. 

PSAC POWERS: What to know about Slippery Rock and Kutztown

IUP and Shepherd should both win and stand pat, but West Chester could have its hands full with a tough Cal (Pa) team, although I think the Golden Rams win. I also think Notre Dame (OH) ekes out a win over West Virginia State ‚ÄĒ something along the lines of 21-17 primarily because Jaleel McLaughlin should run wild against the 10th-best rush defense in the MEC¬†‚ÄĒ and even though Tiffin is currently 166 in toughest schedule, a victory over Findlay could get the Dragons in. If the Oilers defeat Tiffin, however, that final spot will depend greatly on what West Chester, Urbana and Ohio Dominican does.¬†

Super Region Two

  • Who's in:¬†No. 1 Valdosta State, No. 2 Lenoir-Rhyne, No. 3 Bowie State, No. 4 Wingate, No. 5 Carson-Newman, No. 6 West Florida, No. 7 Albany State
  • First out:¬†Virginia State

Not much should change from the final regional rankings this past Monday, except for the final spot. Valdosta State has not only defended its 2018 title with an undefeated run so far, but the Blazers have also defeated four regionally-ranked teams along the way and should handle a West Georgia team that was in the top 10 last week. They will edge out a Lenoir-Rhyne team for the top spot.

UNDEFEATED TRACKER: Who will finish the 2019 season without a loss?

The final spot was tough, however. Virginia State can't improve its stock but ended its regular season last week by bumping regionally-ranked Virginia Union from the field. The Statesmen have played the 13th toughest schedule so far, but Mississippi College is 4-5 and even a dominating victory by Delta State may not be enough to get them dancing. But Albany State had a tougher schedule than Virginia State, and improving to 8-3 by defeating an 8-2 Miles team to win the SIAC should boost Albany State up the rankings and into the final spot. 

Super Region Three

  • Who's in:¬†No. 1 Ferris State, No. 2 Ouachita Baptist, No. 3 Harding, No. 4 Northwest Missouri State, No. 5 Indianapolis, No. 6 Central Missouri, No. 7 Grand Valley State
  • First out: Henderson State

Here is where I ask you to take pity on me because when you look at the slate of games in Week 11, the playoffs have already begun in this Super Region. One wrong prediction on Week 11 games and this whole part of the bracket goes kablooey. 

No. 1 Ferris State is off, so let's get the easy part out of the way and say the reigning national runners-up will hold onto to the No. 1 spot. Harding and UIndy should win their games, so we know the two will be somewhere in the middle of the pack. Now the fun begins. 

2019 TOURNEY CHANGES: The new DII football bracket, explained

Current No. 2 Central Missouri travels to No. 6 Northwest Missouri State, while current No. 3 Ouachita Baptist heads to No. 7 Henderson State. Current first out Grand Valley State can definitely improve its stock by beating a very under-the-radar 7-3 Wayne State (MI) team that has played one of the toughest schedules in DII football. While it's hard to rule this exciting Mules offense out, let's give Northwest Missouri State the slight advantage at home. Now we have to figure out the Battle of the Ravine. Ouachita Baptist has won three straight and this series is dead even at 43-43-6. There's no way the Tigers can win again, right?

BATTLE OF THE RAVINE: 3 things to know about football's closest rivalry

But let's say they do. So that moves Ouachita Baptist to No. 2 and Central Missouri will fall, possibly below both Harding and UIndy who have played tougher schedules. Now, if Grand Valley State wins, which I think they will, we have two 9-2 teams in the Lakers and the Reddies, so the final spot will be as tough as it gets. I think the Lakers should eke it out, but that could go either way. Henderson State will have a slightly tougher opponent winning percentage, but Grand Valley State has a win against Delta State who is currently in the regional rankings. Should the Lakers get in, we'll likely see the new bracket format put to work as Colorado is closer than Arkansas.

Super Region Four

  • Who's in:¬†No. 1¬†Minnesota State, No.2¬†Tarleton State, No. 3 Colorado School of Mines, No. 4 CSU-Pueblo, No. 5¬†Texas A&M-Commerce, No. 6¬†Augustana (SD), No. 7 Sioux Falls
  • First out: Angelo State

This is a tough one to project, especially since Tarleton and Minnesota State have essentially been more like 1A and 1B since the first regional ranking. I thought that beating Sioux Falls last week would see Minnesota State leapfrog Tarleton into the No. 1 spot, but the two remained in place. Minnesota State's opponents' winning percentage will be .510 after this weekend, while Tarleton's will be .467, so that should give the Mavericks the edge. That said, Tarleton has beaten some regionally-ranked opponents rather handily, so this could go either way.

HOW IT WORKS: The essential guide to the DII football championship

The big game here is Texas A&M-Commerce at Angelo State. The winner of this game decides how the top 7 will fall, and I think it's the Lions that will come out on top, maybe something along the lines of 31-21. Texas A&M-Commerce has played one of the toughest schedules in DII and a win over regionally-ranked Angelo State boosts that which will allow them to leapfrog Augustana into the fifth spot. A Sioux Falls win should see the Cougars jump from first out to last in, and knock Angelo State from the postseason.

(Stats for toughest schedules taken from NCAA.org.)

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