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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | September 13, 2021

Top-25 upsets lead to new-look DII football Power 10 rankings

2021 DII football predictions: Can anyone dethrone West Florida?

One week after seeing no change in the DII football Power 10 rankings, four AFCA Top 25 upsets led to a shakeup this week. One thing that hasn't changed: West Florida is still No. 1 after a 63-14 victory over Southwest Baptist on Saturday.

WHAT YOU MISSED: Week 2 Division II football recap and top performers

If you haven't read my Power 10 rankings in the past, it is important to remember: these are my rankings, and mine alone. This is the first season of the DII football Power 10, but we've done men's and women's basketball, baseball and softball for several seasons. I've taken insight from coaches, SIDs and insiders and paired it 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. In my debut last week, I picked Minnesota Duluth, Grand Valley State and Indiana (Pa). That gives me a perfect 3-0 start to the season. We'll see how long that lasts.

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

The DII football Power 10 rankings (all games through Sept. 12)

No. 1 West Florida | Previous: 1
Austin Reed — our preseason frontrunner for the 2021 Harlon Hill Trophy — had another monster game and now has 637 yards passing with eight touchdowns and just one interception through two games. Transfer wide receiver David Durden is living up to the hype, averaging more than 100 yards per game with three touchdowns. D'Anthony Bell — a preseason All-American — is leading the defense as he should be. Simply put, this team looks to be in midseason form as it heads to Commerce, Texas for a rematch of the 2017 national championship game. 

No. 2 Ferris State | Previous: 3
Jared Bernhardt is good at football. This past weekend, the transfer quarterback used his legs for another impressive performance, rushing for 210 yards and two touchdowns. While we can talk all day how impressive the 2021 lacrosse player of the year's transition to the football field has been, we need to discuss the Bulldog defense. The unit is allowing just 98.8 yards rushing, 172.5 yards passing and 13.7 points per game. Tony Annese has put together an absolute monster once again. 

No. 3 Lenoir-Rhyne | Previous: 2
The Bears drop a spot this week because they were idle. That means nothing new to report, but it shows how highly we think of this squad. We are admittedly higher than other polls but wide receiver Dareke Young and freshman running back Dwayne McGee are game changers playing in front of an explosive and opportunistic defense. Lenoir-Rhyne opens SAC play this weekend.

No. 4 Slippery Rock | Previous: 4
The Rock came into the weekend at No. 4. The Rock won its game, albeit not in exciting fashion, so they get to keep their No. 4 ranking for yet another week. The defense dominated East Stroudsburg this past Saturday, allowing just 286 total yards and — minus a fourth-quarter touchdown when the game was already in hand — nearly posted a shutout. To put it in perspective, quarterback Andrew Koester threw for 277 yards, nearly topping all ESU by himself. 

No. 5 Valdosta State | Previous: 9
The Blazers jump four spots this week and there is good reason why. Through two games this season, they have outscored opponents 104-14. Ivory Durham seems to be the perfect fit for this offense. The quarterback is able to throw when they need him to while leading a rushing attack that has three capable rushers in himself, Seth McGill and Jamar Thompkins. This past weekend, Valdosta State rushed for 307 yards, topping its opponent's total yards by 33 yards on the ground alone. The Blazers are once again extremely balanced. 

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

No. 6. Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 7
The Bearcats jump a spot thanks to some major upsets despite being idle this week due to coronavirus protocols with their opponent. We don't know much about the Bearcats after just one game, but we know their defense looked great and they have a slew of playmakers on offense. They return to the field against an 0-2 Central Missouri team still searching for its identity. This could be the breakout game for the Bearcats' offense. 

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

No. 7. Colorado School of Mines | Previous: 8
Another team moving on up, the Orediggers won 31-21 over a New Mexico Highlands team that has been very impressive through two games. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Colorado School of Mines has been more impressive. Michael Zeman has a pair of 100-yard rushing games so far, scoring four total touchdowns. When opposing defenses have to focus on him at running back, quarterback John Matocha has the ability to go off — which he's done thus far throwing for seven touchdowns in two games. The defense has playmakers and get the job done, making the Orediggers a tough out. 

No. 8. Notre Dame (OH) | Previous: 10
The Falcons opened MEC play in dominating fashion, downing Wheeling 31-15. Chris Brimm has been more than efficient at quarterback, leading the offense as Tyris Dickerson settles in as the new workhorse running back. The defense rebounded nicely after a shootout with Ashland in Week 1, making the Falcons dangerous on both sides of the ball. 

No. 9 Ouachita Baptist | Previous: NR
The Tigers are a perennial top-10 power but have been the first out in the previous two rankings. Now, they make their 2021 debut after a convincing 41-3 victory over Southern Nazarene this past Saturday. With a victory over under-the-radar Oklahoma Baptist and Harding getting upset this past weekend, the GAC is OBU's for the taking. Per usual, you'll have to stop this rushing attack, as the Tigers have rushed for 602 yards through two games. TJ Cole leads the way with 250 yards while Kendel Givens has already scored six touchdowns on the ground.

No. 10. Shepherd | Previous: NR
There were a few teams separated by a needle for the final spot. This week, the Rams make their debut after dropping 56 points behind a dominating performance from quarterback Tyson Bagent. Bagent — who has been a Harlon Hill contender sine he's stepped on the DII football field — has already thrown for 709 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021. The Rams will show us if this ranking is true when they travel to Indiana, Pennsylvania for a top-25 showdown this weekend. 

Dropped out: Minnesota State, Texas A&M-Commerce

Knocking on the door: UIndy, Minnesota Duluth, Grand Valley State

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

Last week: 3-0 (Grand Valley State, Indiana (Pa.), Minnesota Duluth) | Season: 3-0

What we said: See last week's predictions

No. 9 Shepherd at Indiana (Pa.), 2 p.m. ET
What a start to the season for the Crimson Hawks. First, they opened in a top-25 showdown with Kutztown and now roll right into another one this weekend. IUP survived 29-26 behind a strong performance from quarterback Javon Davis (204 yards passing, two touchdowns) and preseason All-American receiver Duane Brown (151 total yards, one touchdown). We've already talked about Tyson Bagent and the Rams' juggernaut of a passing attack. This one is going to be another fantastic finish, but this week, IUP will fall just short. Prediction: Shepherd

No. 1 West Florida at Texas A&M-Commerce, 7 p.m. ET
This has storylines aplenty written all over it. This is a rematch of the thrilling 2017 championship game when Harlon Hill Trophy-winner Luis Perez led the Lions to a 37-27 victory. Perez was hands down the best quarterback in the land that season, and this year, the tables are turned. Austin Reed, who led the Argos to the 2019 title behind a record-setting performance, takes his undefeated Argos on the road looking to stay perfect. Can this Lions' defense shut down one of the best offenses in the country and get back in the win column? It's a tough chore for anyone right now, and until they prove otherwise, West Florida is the team to beat. Prediction: West Florida

Midwestern State at Angelo State, 7 p.m. ET
Two 2-0 schools who pulled off incredible comebacks last Saturday square off in the Lone Star state. We mentioned in our predictions that Chadron State could be a handful for the Rams' elite secondary, and it was, jumping out to a 24-0 lead. But quarterback Zach Bronkhorst led the Angelo State comeback, scoring 28 unanswered points for the 28-24 victory. Perhaps more impressively, the Mustangs trailed our then-No. 6 team — Texas A&M-Commerce — by 23 points in the second quarter only to win in the final seconds 31-30 for the major upset. The question here is defense because there is plenty of offense to go around for both teams. If that is the case, Angelo State has the slight edge, allowing 248.5 yards per game while the Mustangs allow 461. Prediction: Angelo State

Other games of note:

  • Washburn and its powerful offense (tied for second in DII football with 52.5 points per game) takes on Nebraska-Kearney fresh off an upset of top-25 Pittsburg State. The winner will move to 3-0 and the top of the MIAA standings. 
  • We're all aboard the UTPB train. Texas Permian Basin won again this past weekend and hasn't lost since 2019. The Falcons take on FCS foe Stephen F. Austin this weekend looking to extend the winning streak to eight games.
  • Carson-Newman was beaten by an exciting (and surprising) West Georgia team in Week 1 by a score of 45-7. After a week off, the Eagles have to face a Wingate team that looks really good to open SAC play. This could be a statement victory should they pull it off.

(Please note: Game times and the games themselves are subject to change due to COVID-19 protocols.)

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