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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | October 4, 2021

Grand Valley State on the move; 3 new teams enter the DII football Power 10 rankings

2021 DII football predictions: Can anyone dethrone West Florida?

There were seven more DII football top-25 upsets this past Saturday. Once again, that list included multiple Power 10 football teams, including No. 6 Notre Dame (OH). While the top of the Power 10 looks the same, the bottom continues to be a revolving door in this wacky, wild and exciting DII football season. 

WHAT YOU MISSED: Seven top-25 DII teams fall on an absolutely bonkers Saturday

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. I was in person to watch West Alabama prove me wrong, but I still walked away 2-1 on the weekend and have an 8-3 record on the season. More on that in a bit.

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

The DII football Power 10 rankings (all games through Oct. 3)

No. 1 West Florida | Previous: 1
This week we saw what it takes to defend a national championship. The Argos trailed by 20 at the half to a Delta State team that has been in the top-25 this season. They came out of the locker room and reeled off a 29-3 second half to move to 4-0. As I said on Saturday, there isn’t a coaching staff with better halftime adjustments this season and there isn’t a quarterback more poised under any circumstance than Austin Reed. 

No. 2 Ferris State | Previous: 2
The Bulldogs are more of a 1B than No. 2 because their season has been simply remarkable. Three different starting quarterbacks — three different six-touchdown performances. This week it was Mylik Mitchell who broke the school record with 508 passing yards and those six scores. Circle your calendar now: Oct. 16 against Grand Valley State will be one of the games of the year. 

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No. 3 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 3
If you remember last week, the Bearcats jumped from No. 5 to No. 3 because of their defense. Well, they were at it again allowing just seven points in another rout this past Saturday. They are tied with Cal (Pa) for the best scoring defense in DII football, allowing a paltry 5.2 points per game. This is also a bit insane: For the second week in a row, the Bearcats allowed fewer than 10 yards rushing and 125 total yards. Yes indeed, this defense is dialed in and ready.

No. 4 Slippery Rock | Previous: 4
“This team can score, and they make it look easy.” That is what we said last week and coming off a 75-0 victory, nothing has changed. Henry Litwin, Jermaine Wynn Jr. and Cinque Sweeting are arguably the best “trips” in DII football at receiver and this week you have tight end Max Maciejewski pulling in 100 yards and a touchdown. Andrew Koester has plenty of weapons and filling the shoes of the most recent Harlon Hill Trophy winner has not been as hard as imagined. 

No. 5 Valdosta State | Previous: 5
The Blazers are scoring 43.5 points per game and allowing just 7.5 per game. That is enough to keep them in the top 5, but the individual talent has been exceptional as well. Here’s the thing: October is going to be brutal. The Blazers have Delta State, West Alabama and West Georgia in three of the next four weeks. If we see the Blazers still undefeated come November, we could have a potential Gulf South Conference 1-2 punch atop the Power 10 rankings.

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No. 6 Colorado School of Mines | Previous: 7
There are two ways to look at the Orediggers’ lofty ranking. You could be a glass-half-empty person and say the last two games have not been pretty wins. But if you’re like myself, you know that winning tight football games only makes you stronger. This week’s 20-14 overtime win over an unheralded — and previously undefeated — Western Colorado team speaks volumes to that. Michael Zeman is a top-15 back in DII football with 113.4 yards rushing per game and the defense is only allowing 10.2 points per game. The Orediggers are very much a force to be reckoned with this year. 

No. 7 Grand Valley State | Previous: 8
The Lakers scored over 40 points for the third consecutive game, but that’s not even the part that stands out most. This team is deep with so many weapons that can score. This past week, five different Lakers scored and none of them were Tariq Reid, who scored four touchdowns last week. When you don’t have to rely on a single weapon to score you are a dangerous team. The way the Lakers control the clock with the ground game and score at will is going to make them tough to beat. 

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

No. 8 Wingate | Previous: NR
The Bulldogs love to sneak under the radar. They did it in baseball, and while we had Wingate in our preseason top 25, it was Lenoir-Rhyne that we saw in the top 10. A thrilling pick-six sealed the victory for Wingate this past Saturday and it now sits alone atop the SAC at 4-0. Nijere Peoples is an exciting back with 360 yards through four games and Shaw Crocker is the steady presence at quarterback this offense needs. With 0-3 Limestone on deck, the Bulldogs have a good shot at staying in our Power 10. 

No. 9 West Alabama | Previous: NR
Entering this past Saturday’s game, both West Georgia and West Alabama were 4-0. I predicted that West Georgia — whose defense had two shutouts already and a win against Delta State — would win because the Tigers hadn’t played the toughest schedule to date. I admit I was wrong and this team is very, very good. Tyriq Martin was fun to watch at wide receiver and the defense allowed just three points in the second half to the former No. 9 team in the country. The Tigers are rolling, and the Gulf South Conference is heading for a bananas second half of the season. 

No. 10 Henderson State | Previous: NR
We also welcome the Reddies to the Power 10 this week. Now, Henderson State hasn’t faced Power 10 regulars Ouachita Baptist or Harding yet, but this past weekend, it took down previously undefeated Southeastern Oklahoma State. This offense can put up points and while the Reddies have played in some tight ballgames, there is enough firepower here that all they need is the ball last and they will find a way to win. 

  • Dropped out: Midwestern State, Notre Dame (OH), West Georgia
  • Just missed: Bowie State, Harding, Minnesota State, Ouachita Baptist, Shepherd

3 games to watch: Week 6 breakdown, schedule and predictions

Last week: 2-1 (W: West Florida, Henderson State L: West Georgia) | Season: 8-3
What we said: See last week's predictions

Frostburg State at Notre Dame (OH) — Saturday, Oct. 9 at noon ET
The Falcons have not lost two games in a row since 2015. One week after falling to Charleston (WV), Notre Dame will have to square off against a 5-0 Frostburg State to keep that streak alive. The Bobcats do allow points (20.4 per game to be precise) and we know that the Falcons love to score them (38 per game). But Frostburg State is excellent against the run, allowing just 71.6 yards per game for a top-15 mark in DII. That means the Falcons' quarterback Chris Brimm — coming off one of the worst games of a great career — will likely have to beat the Bobcats. I think we are looking at a possible overtime finish, but I also don’t think the Falcons drop two in a row. Prediction: Notre Dame (OH)

Bowie State at Chowan — Saturday, Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
We have spoken about Chowan’s quarterback Bryce Witt quite a bit the past three weeks. He’s totaled 23 touchdowns over that span. That is not a typo, DII fans, as Witt is coming off back-to-back eight touchdown games. We have not spoken much about Bowie State, but that is because this team is doing what it tends to do: win. Historically speaking, Witt has struggled against Bowie State, averaging 194 yards passing, 22 yards rushing, 1.5 total touchdowns and 1.5 interceptions in his previous two starts. I think Joshua Pryor and Demetri Morsell make it a tough day once again for Witt and Bowie State wins a close one. Prediction: Bowie State

Wayne State (NE) at Minnesota State — Saturday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. ET 
Here is your upset special of the week. The Wildcats have been playing very good football, taking down top-25 Minnesota Duluth and then-undefeated Winona State in the past two weeks. Are the Mavericks next? I think so. The battle here will be Minnesota State’s top rushing offense in the NSIC — and fifth in the nation — against a Wayne State team that has allowed just four touchdowns on the ground this season. Now, we admit this is a crazy pick — the Mavericks haven’t lost two games in a season since 2016 — but if you haven’t been paying attention, this has been a crazy season. Prediction: Wayne State (NE)

What else we’re watching:

  • Pittsburg State at Northwest Missouri State: If Pittsburg State wins, it moves to the top of the MIAA standings. That’s enough for us to watch.
  • Tuskegee at Morehouse: This battle is one of the oldest rivalries in DII football. Tuskegee won the last meeting.
  • East Central at Henderson State: East Central has won four in a row and will battle the Reddies for first place in the GAC. As we said, this is a crazy season — don’t be surprised by anything in this one. 
     

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