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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | September 27, 2021

Northwest Missouri State jumps 2 spots; Grand Valley State, West Georgia enter the DII football Power 10 rankings

2021 DII football predictions: Can anyone dethrone West Florida?

What a week on the DII football field. Three Power 10 teams lost so we have quite the new look to our weekly rankings. West Florida, for the fourth week in a row, maintains the top spot despite not being able to play this week. 

WHAT YOU MISSED: Week 4 DII 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. 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. While I predicted one upset last week in Harding over Ouachita Baptist, Truman pulled off a stunning victory in the final seconds for a 1-1 week. 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. 26)

No. 1 West Florida | Previous: 1
The Argos saw their game canceled this week against Fort Lauderdale and stayed at 3-0. As expected, Austin Reed has been performing at an elite level with 911 yards passing and 10 touchdowns to just one interception. This defense does allow some points but makes great mid-game adjustments and really clamps down. The offense takes care of the rest, having scored at least 35 points in every game thus far. 

No. 2 Ferris State | Previous: 2
The Bulldogs hold steady, improving to 4-0 after a 38-0 victory over Davenport. This week, it was Mylik Mitchell's turn to take the majority of snaps at quarterback with Jared Bernhardt still sidelined. He looked strong in throwing for 194 yards and one touchdown. Evan Cummins threw for 138 yards and two scores as well. Tony Annese is a proven quarterback whisperer, and it is amazing the depth this team has under center.

No. 3 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 5
The Bearcats get the boost this week because this defense is looking like vintage Northwest Missouri State D. After this past week’s shutout, the Bearcats have now allowed just 14 points through three games. The problem is you can’t sell this offense short. Mike Hohensee looks like a seasoned veteran in his two games as starting quarterback and Al McKeller has been a fine fit at running back averaging 135 yards per game.

No. 4 Slippery Rock | Previous: 3
This team can score, and they make it look easy. The Rock has scored 98 points the past two weeks and quarterback Andrew Koester is settled in, averaging 311.5 yards per game over the season. Of course, having Henry Litwin — 497 yards and five touchdowns already — and Jermaine Wynn Jr. — who had his first multi-touchdown game of the season — at wide receiver helps. The PSAC has some very interesting teams this year, but right now, The Rock is the best of them.

No. 5 Valdosta State | Previous: 4
The Blazers were idle in Week 4 and remain 3-0. The defense has been outstanding allowing just two touchdowns and 17 points on the season. When the offense is scoring 42 points per game, it doesn’t much matter. The maturation of Ivory Durham into full-time quarterback is going very well. He has thrown for 542 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception while adding 185 yards and two more scores on the ground. 

NFL 2021: Every former DII football player on opening day rosters

No. 6 Notre Dame (OH) | Previous: 7
The Falcons played a close game on opening day and has plowed through the competition since. A week after the Falcons set the program record for total yards in a game, breakout running back Tyris Dickerson reeled off 208 yards and three touchdowns. Devanaire Conliffe is an exciting wide receiver to watch as well. Notre Dame (OH) has Charleston (WV) up next, which is a good test against the Mountain East Conference’s best defense to date.

No. 7 Colorado School of Mines | Previous: 6
The Orediggers drop a spot only because of a big scare on the road this past Saturday — but they survived. Kudos to the defense and coaching staff for completely changing the game in the second half. The Orediggers trailed 13-0 at the half but went on a 21-0 roll over the final 30 minutes. Michael Zeman pounded the rock as usual with 133 yards to lead the way. It wasn’t pretty, but 4-0 is 4-0.

No. 8 Grand Valley State | Previous: NR
The Lakers are cooking and have yet to score less than 34 points in a game. They have an arsenal of capable running backs, but Tariq Reid may have claimed the top spot after a big 131-yard, four-touchdown week. Saginaw Valley State is a tricky competitor this coming week and the Anchor-Bone Classic against Ferris State looms in October, but it sure feels like we are looking at one of the classic Grand Valley State football teams that is so hard to beat.

HARLON HILL 2021: 23 preseason hopefuls | The ultimate guide to the history of the award

No. 9 Midwestern State | Previous: 10 (tied)
The Mustangs also survived a close one this past week. They jumped out to an early 17-0 lead but allowed Eastern New Mexico to score 21 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Dillon Sterling-Cole found Kylan Harrison for the game winner and Midwestern State moved to 4-0. Sterling-Cole is one of 2021’s breakout performers thus far, throwing for 1,065 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first four games this season.

No. 10 West Georgia | Previous: NR
Welcome the third Gulf South team to the Power 10 party. The Wolves have built quite the resume in just four games. They have a pair of wins against top-25 teams and have a pair of shutouts in the past three weeks. This past Saturday, West Georgia blanked Shorter 56-0, and the Wolves now have the second-best defense in the Gulf South Conference, trailing only Valdosta State. West Georgia has a tremendous matchup against West Alabama this weekend in a battle of undefeated top-25 teams.

  • Dropped out: Minnesota Duluth, Ouachita Baptist, Shepherd
  • Just missed: Lenoir-Rhyne, Ouachita Baptist, Wingate, Bowie State

3 games to watch: Week 5 breakdown, schedule and predictions

Last week: 1-1 (W: Harding; L: Tiffin; No contest: Wingate) | Season: 6-2

What we said: See last week's predictions

Henderson State at Southeastern Oklahoma State, 3 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 2
If you thought that the last two undefeated teams battling for first place in the GAC five games into the season would be the Reddies and Savage Storm, give yourself a bow. But here we are. Henderson State is an offensive juggernaut having scored 55, 58 and 56 in its last three games. All-American wide receiver L’liot Curry is an absolute game changer. Southeastern Oklahoma State is averaging 34.5 points per game itself and has a very impressive win over top-25 Harding which just upset Ouachita Baptist this past weekend. The Storm is a very underrated team right now, but Henderson State showed last week if they have the ball last, the Reddies will find a way to win. That may just hold true this week. Prediction: Henderson State.

West Alabama at West Georgia, 6 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 2
West Georgia is seeing its third top-25 opponent in the first five weeks of the season. Thus far it has been a success, but at some point, they have to run out of steam, right? West Alabama does have the best scoring offense in the GSC, but the competition has been far less difficult than what the Wolves have faced. West Georgia’s defense has been very impressive, and this may be its biggest test yet. When you pair that with the home field advantage, I think it gives them a slight edge. Prediction: West Georgia.

West Florida at Delta State, 7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 2
West Florida had a no contest last week, and the last thing any team needs to face is a well-rested Argos team. That said, Delta State has been much more impressive than its 2-2 record may lead you to believe. The Statesmen took West Georgia to the wire two weeks ago, losing by one point. This past Saturday, they hung with a 3-1 FCS Jackson State team, losing by just a touchdown. This game will probably be closer than most people think, but I’m not going to be the one calling for an upset against the defending champs. Prediction: West Florida.

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