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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | September 20, 2021

Minnesota Duluth and Midwestern State enter this week's DII football Power 10 rankings

2021 DII football predictions: Can anyone dethrone West Florida?

We are three weeks into the 2021 DII football season, and it has been nothing short of bananas. Week 2 saw two top-10 teams fall and this week, we have another. Newberry defeated then-No. 3 Lenoir-Rhyne in a 28-21 stunner — which means we have a new-look DII football Power 10 rankings for the second week in a row.

WHAT YOU MISSED: Week 3 Division II football recap and top performers

First, your weekly disclaimer: These are my rankings, and mine alone. As with all our Power 10 rankings, we pair insight from coaches, SIDs and insiders with what the selection committee tends to look at come tournament time — strength of schedule, win-loss percentage and stats of that nature — to come up with a fair version of the top 10. Moving forward, you can expect the new Power 10 every Monday throughout the season. 

As a reminder, we’re adding a bonus to the Power 10 report this season. When you read to the end of the Power 10 rankings, I will pick three games to watch each week and make a prediction for each one. I picked up my first loss of the season and moved to 5-1 with victories from Shepherd and West Florida’s, but more on that later. 

PRESEASON PICKS: The NCAA.com Preseason Power 10AFCA poll takeaways

The DII football Power 10 rankings (all games through Sept. 19)

No. 1 West Florida | Previous: 1
Not every win has to be a blowout from start to finish. West Florida showed poise on the road against Texas A&M-Commerce, coming from behind to improve to 3-0 for the first time in program history. Kudos to the coaching staff and defense this week. The Argos trailed 17-14 at the half and closed the game with 21-unanswered points. The Lions offense couldn’t muster much of anything in the second half. That ability to flip a switch means the Argos are never out of a ballgame.

No. 2 Ferris State | Previous: 2
The first two Bulldog victories were of the dominant variety, but Week 3 was quite the opposite. In one of the more exciting games of the week, Ferris State and Saginaw Valley State exchanged blows through overtime, where the Bulldogs held on to the 47-45 win on the final play. Jared Bernhardt missed this game with an injury, so we’ll be sure to monitor that situation, but Evan Cummins did just fine in his stead. The junior quarterback totaled 260 yards and six touchdowns.

No. 3 Slippery Rock | Previous: 4
We’ve had The Rock higher than most this season and a 57-7 Week 3 victory won’t change that. All-American wide receiver Henry Litwin bounced back after a down week (if a 60-yard receiving day is down) with 130 yards and a touchdown. There were many question marks with the departure of 2019 Harlon Hill Trophy-winner Roland Rivers III, but Andrew Koester seems to be answering them. Through three games, Koester is averaging more than 300 yards and two touchdowns per game with a rushing score in each of his three games this season.

No. 4 Valdosta State | Previous: 5
The Blazers jump another spot, now climbing two weeks in a row. They had to deal with some weather this past weekend, delayed more than two hours by lightning, but were able to move to 3-0 behind another lopsided victory. Valdosta State has outscored its opponents 125-17 thus far, and its defense showed why on Saturday forcing four turnovers. Ivory Durham is getting more comfortable in his first year as starting quarterback, throwing for a career-high 207 yards and all three Valdosta State scores.

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No. 5 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 6
Backup quarterback Mike Hohensee will be at the helm for the foreseeable future with starter Braden Wright having surgery. He showed Bearcat Nation everything should be just fine with a six-touchdown game this past Saturday. This defense is playing hungry as well and have allowed just one touchdown in each of their first two games. 

No. 6 Colorado School of Mines | Previous: 7
The Orediggers offense hasn’t missed a beat despite missing 2020. After their 76-0 victory this past Saturday, they have now scored 149 points on the season. Those 49.7 points per game are second to Missouri S&T in DII. As it has been, quarterback John Matocha and running back Michael Zeman lead the charge. Matocha has tossed 10 touchdowns and Zeman is a 100-yard machine making this Mines offense a tough one to stop. 

No. 7 Notre Dame (OH) | Previous: 8
Chris Brimm had a record-setting day under center for the Falcons this past Saturday. The Falcons put up 687 yards — a program record and third best in MEC history — while Brimm set a career high with a 449-yard, five-touchdown day. If there is one thing we know about Notre Dame (OH) it's that there is never a shortage of firepower on offense. 

No. 8 Ouachita Baptist | Previous: 9
The Tigers picked up their 30th consecutive GAC win this past Saturday. That is quite impressive when you consider that Harding and Henderson State are perennial postseason teams. Running back TJ Cole has been sensational, eclipsing the 100-yard mark and scoring at least one touchdown in every game, while also showing off his receiving skills last week with 72 yards. In such a run-heavy offense like the Tigers’ have, Cole is a game-changer that can dictate the outcome himself. 

Harlon Hill 2021: 23 preseason hopefuls to watch | The ultimate guide to the history of the award

No. 9 Shepherd | Previous: 10
Tyson Bagent threw for the most yards he has all season last week and it came against the No. 14 team in the country. When he is clicking, Shepherd is tough to beat — and that is exactly what he is doing. Through three games, Bagent has 1,177 yards passing, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions while completing 72 percent of his passes. Another tricky battle with former top-25 Kutztown awaits this weekend. 

No. 10 (tie) Minnesota Duluth and Midwestern State | Previous: NR
We welcome two newcomers this week. Minnesota Duluth enters the Power 10 party sitting at 3-0. Of course, the Bulldogs began their rise in Week 2 when they took down Minnesota State in a 20-point victory. Armani Carmickle is a wide receiver who wasn’t on the radar to open the season but should be now — he has 412 yards receiving and four touchdowns in three games.

All Midwestern State has done is take down top-25 teams in back-to-back weeks. First came top-10 Texas A&M-Commerce and then Angelo State this week. The Mustangs were sparked by a 21-0 second half and showed poise and the ability to adjust against two fantastic football teams. They also handed yours truly his first loss in his predictions this season. They could be the biggest surprise of the season… so far. 

  • Dropped out: Lenoir-Rhyne
  • Knocking on the door: Grand Valley State, Tiffin, West Georgia


3 games to watch: Week 4 breakdown, schedule and predictions

Last week: 2-1 (W: Shepherd, West Florida; L: Midwestern State) | Season: 5-1

What we said: See last week's predictions

Truman at Tiffin, 3 p.m. ET | Saturday, Sept. 25
If you follow me on Twitter, you now know I am all aboard the Cody Schrader hype train. The Truman back has had two monster games thus far in 2021, rushing for 217 yards on opening day and 173 yards last week. He has helped get this team to 3-0 and — in my opinion — a spot in the top 25. Tiffin has been outstanding and pulled off a gutsy win this weekend after star quarterback Nick Watson left injured. Miles Johnson came in and helped take down No. 12 UIndy in a huge statement victory. The health of Watson will play a huge factor in this game, but one thing to note: Tiffin held UIndy’s Toriano Clinton to his lowest rushing total of the season. With a healthy Watson and that rush defense, Tiffin should be able to move to 4-0. Prediction: Tiffin

FULL SCOREBOARD: Week 4 DII football scores

Catawba at Wingate, 6 p.m. ET | Saturday, Sept. 25
A good old-fashioned undefeated SAC showdown. Earlier this season, I said the SAC has become one of the toughest conferences in football, and Newberry taking down Lenoir-Rhyne showed how deep it is. On one side, we have Catawba which is outscoring its opponents by an average of 13 points per game thus far. Ken Avent gets the job done, leading the team in both rushing and passing. On the other side is Wingate, which has essentially dominated its three games in 2021. There is a great matchup between Nijere Peoples — one of the best under-the-radar backs in DII — and Catawba’s rush defense that has allowed just one touchdown on the ground all season. That’s where the game will be won, and I think Peoples is the guy to do it. Prediction: Wingate

Harding at Ouachita Baptist, 7 p.m. ET | Saturday, Sept. 25
This should be a good one based on history alone. Ouachita Baptist puts its 30-game GAC win streak on the line against a Harding team that is responsible for the Tigers’ last conference loss. The last three times these two teams have played have been nail-biters, with the victor winning by two points, four points and three points respectively. We already saw Minnesota State’s conference win streak go down this year, so I'm going upset — Harding edge’s out OBU by three. Prediction: Harding

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