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Wayne Cavadi | | October 18, 2021

There's a new team atop the DII football Power 10 rankings after a weekend of top-10 upsets

How last year's lacrosse player of the year became Ferris State's QB1

For the first time this season, a new No. 1 tops the DII football Power 10 rankings. Former No. 1 West Florida fell to West Georgia in a tightly contested Gulf South Conference battle, opening the door for Ferris State to claim the top spot.

But there was a lot of movement this week with seven — yes, SEVEN — Power 10 teams losing. It comes as no surprise that we have a new-look rankings this week. 

WEEK 7 RECAP: No. 1, No. 2 fall as upsets rock the DII football landscape

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’ve added a bonus to the Power 10 report this season. When you read to the end of the Power 10 rankings, I pick three games to watch and make a prediction for each one. This past week, with the number of impact games, I predicted five outcomes and went 3-2 to move to 14-5 on the season. 

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The DII football Power 10 rankings (all games through Oct. 17)

No. 1 Ferris State | Previous: 2
The Bulldogs pulled off a huge victory against GLIAC rival and fellow Power 10 foe Grand Valley State this past weekend to remain undefeated. Jared Bernhardt was back under center and proved to be the same dual threat he was prior to his injury, throwing for more than 200 yards and eclipsing the century mark on the ground. This is the top scoring offense in the land, dropping 47.7 points per game, and the second-best total offense with 517.7 yards per contest.

FERRIS QB POWER: How Jared Bernhardt went from best in DI lacrosse to the DII football field

No. 2 Valdosta State | Previous: 5
The Blazers are right behind Ferris State, and I mean we are talking the thread that makes up a thread separating the two. Valdosta State won convincingly against former Power 10 school West Alabama this past weekend and may be the most balanced team in the nation. The Blazers' offense is one of the best — with top-3 marks in total offense (493.5 yards per game) and scoring offense (45.2 points per game) — but so is the defense. They allow just 7.8 points per game and if an opponent happens to get into the red zone, it’s no guarantee, with the top red zone defense in DII.

No. 3 Colorado School of Mines | Previous: 6
The Orediggers have been near the top of the rankings all season and as one of the few teams to remain undefeated after last week’s craziness, they deserve to be top 3. They already have some signature wins under their belt — defeating West Texas A&M when it was receiving votes as well as a thriller in overtime against nationally ranked Western Colorado. This Mines’ team has certainly earned this spot and have a tricky three-game swing coming up, so let’s see how it responds.

No. 4 West Florida | Previous: 1
I don’t mind taking some flak for keeping the Argos this high. West Georgia is not only a good team record-wise, but the Wolves have built a strong postseason resume this season as well. Austin Reed and Ka’Ron Ashley had West Florida in this one right until the end and the Argos simply ran into one of the best teams in DII football. We will see how the reigning champs bounce back against 2-5 Shorter this week. If we know one thing, this team always bounces back.

No. 5 Harding | Previous: NR
The Bison were among the first out of the Power 10 all season long, but this team is for real. Their lone loss was to 6-1 Southeastern Oklahoma State by one point and after this past weekend’s 49-21 victory over Henderson State, Harding has two victories over top-25 teams (Ouachita Baptist being the other) by three scores. The Reddies came in with one of the most explosive offenses in DII and this defense contained them. And when Cole Chancey gets going downhill and can control the tempo, it’s all but over. 

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No. 6 West Georgia | Previous: NR
The Wolves are no strangers to the Power 10 but fell from the rankings after a loss to West Alabama. Taking down the defending champs — the first team to do so in 11 tries — certainly helps. In a GSC that is a complete cluster at the top, the Wolves have put together a 3-1 record against nationally ranked teams and have also completely dominated the lesser competition they’ve played, posting two shutouts and outscoring their opponents 103-0 in those contests. I’ll take all the heat you want to give about this lofty jump — the Wolves are battle-tested as they await Valdosta State in two weeks.  

No. 7 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 3
I am probably being more kind than some of the other polls, but a one-point loss doesn’t change much, especially to 5-2 Washburn. This Northwest Missouri State team has battled adversity on offense and at the end of the day are still right on top of the MIAA. That makes the Nebraska-Kearney showdown in two weeks that much more important and likely decides the conference. What we have seen in 2021 is the DII football field is much more level than in past seasons. One loss does not define a team. How it responds will.

No. 8 Grand Valley State | Previous: 7
The Lakers picked up their first loss of the season and only dropped one spot. Odd, right? Let me explain. Grand Valley State was down 28-7 to Ferris State, a team that we already mentioned is among the best both offensively and defensively in the nation. Instead of rolling over, the Lakers adjusted and came all the way back taking the No. 1 team in DII to the wire and putting a real scare into them. There is real depth on this team and an impressive fight that makes no game out of reach. This was perhaps the most impressive loss of the DII season. 

No. 9 Bowie State | Previous: NR
Throw out the Bulldogs' one loss — it was a one-score defeat to an FCS team. Their DII resume speaks for itself. Bowie State has gone out of conference and won twice. Bowie State has played four conference games and for the most part dominated (kudos to Virginia State on a well-fought battle this past Saturday). Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs completely shut down the then-top offense in DII (Chowan) on its own turf. This week, they showed they could hold off a ferocious comeback and score when it mattered. We love Ja’rome Johnson and Calil Wilkins on offense, but still think players like Joshua Pryor and Demetri Morsell on defense are what makes this team special. 

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No. 10 Notre Dame (OH) | Previous: NR
This final spot was as tight as it gets. It came down to Slippery Rock, Ouachita Baptist and Notre Dame (OH). The Falcons get the edge for now because The Rock and the Tigers have lost to the best competition they played, whereas Notre Dame (OH) rebounded from its lone loss with a victory over then-undefeated and nationally ranked Frostburg State. As always, this elite offensive line plows holes for anyone in the backfield and when the Falcons can control the tempo and force an opponent to play their game, victory is all but certain. 

  • Dropped out: Slippery Rock, Wingate, West Alabama, Henderson State
  • Just missed: Ouachita Baptist, Shepherd, Slippery Rock, West Alabama

3 games to watch: Week 8 breakdown, schedule and predictions

Last week: 3-2 (W: Valdosta State, Harding, Ferris State; L: West Florida, Slippery Rock) | Season: 14-5
What we said: See last week's predictions

Cal (PA) at Indiana (PA), Saturday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. ET
There is another PSAC matchup — West Chester vs. Shepherd — that has PSAC-championship implications to watch, but the Coal Bowl is the game we’re picking. The Vulcans are off to a 6-0 start and had it not been for a no contest this past week, they likely would have propelled into the top 10. However, Cal has not seen some of the top PSAC teams just yet, whereas the Crimson Hawks have. IUP’s impressive three-score victory last weekend over Slippery Rock cannot be ignored. Plus, the home team has won in the last nine Coal Bowl meetings. Prediction: IUP

Augustana (SD) at Minnesota State, Saturday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. ET
If the Mavericks want to get back into it, a win against the Vikings would certainly do the trick. For top-25 Augustana, the key is which Kyle Saddler performs. Saddler struggled in the Vikings lone loss against Sioux Falls (who remains ahead of them in the NSIC South standings) but was sensational in this past weekend’s win over No. 23 Wayne State (NE). Despite the Mavericks' struggles in 2021, they still have the NSIC’s top offense. The problem may be that Augustana is the top NSIC defense. The NSIC has been Mavericks Country for a while. With so many strong teams, there may be a changing of the guard. This will go down to the wire. Prediction: Augustana 

Colorado School of Mines at Colorado Mesa, Saturday, Oct. 23 at 3 p.m. ET
While the Nyikos Cup is on the line, so may be the RMAC. Colorado Mesa comes into this one at 4-1 trailing the Orediggers by just a game in the standings. The Mavericks barely eke out the top offense in the conference honors, but it may be Colorado School of Mines' top scoring defense (just 13.6 points per game) that is the difference. The one battle to watch will be how Mesa’s top rushing offense (235.2 yards per game) fares against the RMAC’s best rushing defense (just 87 yards per game). This likely is the difference and what keeps the Orediggers undefeated. Prediction: Colorado School of Mines

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