Northwest Missouri State dominated Shepherd 34-7 to win their 5th Division 2 Football National Championship (Brian Davidson/Kansas City Star)
Northwest Missouri State dominated Shepherd 34-7 to win the 2015 Division 2 Football National Championship (Brian Davidson/Kansas City Star)

2016 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoffs Round 1 Predictions

The 2016 Division 2 Playoffs will begin on Saturday, November 19 with 12 games. The bracket can be found here and the top four teams California (PA), Northwestern Missouri State, North Alabama, and Grand Valley State received a bye to the second round.

The Northwest Missouri State Bearcats are the defending Division 2 National Champions and went undefeated in the regular season. The Bearcats have won 2 of the past 3 National Titles.

Super Regional One (California, PA.)

#5 Indiana (PA) (9-1) at #4 Fairmont State (10-1)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

This is an offensive versus defensive battle. Indiana averages 47 points per game while Fairmont State gives up 15.1 points per game. Indiana has three rushers with at least 575 yards in Samir Bullock (892 yards), Lenny Williams Jr. (594), and Chris Temple (658). Fairmont is led by quarterback Cooper Hibbs (2,855 yards with 18 touchdowns), but he is turnover prone with 12 picks on the season.

We will take the offense and Indiana (PA) to win this battle 24-20. They will use their run game to pound Fairmont and if they can force an interception or two from Hibbs, they will have a great chance to win. The winner of this contest will face #1 California (PA) in the second round.

#7 Winston-Salem (9-2) at #2 LIU Post (11-0)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Winston-Salem started 1-2, but has reeled of 8 wins in a row. LIU Post had the pleasure of defeating fellow playoff team Assumption twice during the year with latter coming in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship game.

This has a defensive feel to it because both teams allow 340 yards per game and less than 20 points per game. Interestingly, Winston-Salem is undefeated away from home (5-0). Despite that we will go with LIU-Post to win 21-17. The winner of this game will face either Assumption or Shepherd in Round 2.

#6 Assumption (9-2) at #3 Shepherd (10-0)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Shepherd returns to the Division 2 Playoffs coming off their crushing loss last year in the National Championship against Northwest Missouri State. Both teams feature powerful offenses and strong defenses. Assumption averages 37.7 points per game and give up only 284.6 yards and 17.2 points per game. Shepherd scores 39.9 points per game and allow only 281.5 yards and 16 points per game.

This game will come down to quarterback play and that is why we will go with Shepherd to win 28-14. Shepherd quarterback Jeff Ziemba has thrown for 2,623 yards (68.4% completions) with 20 touchdowns against only 3 interceptions this year. Assumption quarterback Marc Monks as thrown for 2,616 yards and 24 touchdowns, but is far less accurate at 58.1% and has thrown 10 interceptions. The winner of this game will play either Winston-Salem or LIU-Post.

Super Regional Two (North Alabama)

#5 UNC Pembroke (9-1) at #4 Valdosta State (8-2)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Both opponents should be used to playing tough opponents on the road this year. Pembroke faced Winston-Salem (20-17 win) and Tuskegee (21-16 loss) during the regular season. Valdosta State played North Alabama (44-19 loss) and Florida Tech (38-20 loss) away, but they get the home draw this time around.

This looks like a pretty even matchup between the schools. Neither team is overwhelming on offense or defense, but it may come down to 3rd down conversions. Valdosta State has allowed only 24% (34 of 141) on third down to their opponents while Pembroke has allowed 31.6% (43 of 138). Both offenses are converting over 40% of their 3rd downs.

We will go with UNC Pembroke to win 27-24 on the road. They have shown the ability to play well on the road, but this game could really go either way. The winner of this game gets #1 North Alabama in Round 2.

#7 Tuskegee (8-2) at #2 Newberry (10-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Tuskegee had a really good regular season going 8-2 with wins over FCS Florida A&M and fellow playoff participant UNC Pembroke. Newberry started with a loss to Florida Tech at home 42-28, but won 10 straight to close out the year.

Tuskegee will rely on their defense to win this game (they allow only 16.9 points and 255 yards per game). Only once did they allow more than 20 points and that was the regular season finale to Virginia State when they lost 45-35. If this is a shootout, Tuskegee may be in trouble. Newberry’s offense puts up 36.6 points and 464 yards per game.

We are going to go with Tuskegee to pull the upset here 20-13. The defense will be stingy enough to keep the Newberry offense in check. Last year, Tuskegee defeated both Catawba and North Alabama on the road in the playoffs. The winner of this game will play the winner of North Greenville and Florida Tech.

#6 North Greenville (7-4) at #3 Florida Tech (8-2)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

North Greenville’s four losses came to some pretty good teams: Newberry (29-28), UNC Pembroke (49-35), FCS Citadel (38-14), and North Alabama (52-21). They went 3-3 on the road, but all of those losses were by double digits.

Florida Tech had wins over Newberry (42-28), FCS Presbyterian (28-7), and Valdosta State (38-20). They did avoid North Alabama due to the game being cancelled, but may end up facing them should they make the Quarterfinals.

We are going to take Florida Tech to win this game 38-21. They have the better defense and they should be able to force stops against North Greenville. The winner of this game will play the winner of the Tuskegee and Newberry game.

Super Regional Three (Northwest Missouri State)

#5 Minnesota-Duluth (10-1) at #4 Emporia State (10-1)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Duluth started with a close 42-38 loss at Southwest Minnesota State and then reeled off 10 straight wins with their high-powered offense. It was the same story for Emporia State as they lost the opener to Northwest Missouri State 41-14.

Minnesota-Duluth has the better offense at 46.8 points and 542.7 points per game, but Emporia State has the better defense giving up 22.3 points (over 8 points less than Duluth’s defense). This game feels like it will a high scoring affair and it may come down to which defense can force a turnover or make a stop.

We will go with Minnesota-Duluth to win 45-42. Whichever team ends up winning this game gets the arduous task of facing Northwest Missouri State.

#7 Azusa Pacific (9-2) at #2 Sioux Falls (11-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Azusa Pacific owns two losses to fellow playoff teams Colorado Mines (27-23) and Colorado Mesa (33-24) with both games on the road. Sioux Falls was fortunate they did not face Minnesota-Duluth in conference play, but that would have been a wonderful game. They won most of their games comfortably with only 1 game decided by less than 10 points.

Azusa Pacific has a good offense putting up 37.6 points and 396.2 yards per game. Sioux Falls puts up 40.8 points and 532 yards of offense per game. The defensive tilt goes to Azusa at 14.4 points and 320 yards per game compared to 18.8 points and 358.5 yards per game for Sioux Falls.

We are going to take Sioux Falls to win this contest on the strength of Max Mickey’s legs. He has rushed for 1,550 yards and 16 touchdowns, but be weary of quarterback Luke Papilion. He has 906 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns to go along with 2,022 yards passing with 15 touchdowns. He does have 12 interceptions, but the better the run game is, the less likely they are to throw. Sioux Falls wins this 41-28. The winner of this game will face either Central Missouri or Harding.

#6 Central Missouri (9-2) at #3 Harding (11-0)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Central Missouri’s two losses this season came to fellow playoff teams. They lost at home to Emporia State 37-31 in double overtime and they were drubbed the following week by Northwest Missouri State 42-17. Harding had little trouble with their opponents with only 1 game decided by a touchdown or less.

Harding sports one of the better defense in Division 2 allowing only 11.2 points per game and 227.8 yards per contest. They give up just 69.7 rushing yards per game, which may spell trouble for Central Missouri because they average 169.1 yards per game on the ground.

Harding is going to try and shorten the game with their own ground attack. They have 7 different rushers with 300 yards or more on the season and go to the passing game only as a last resort. They have just 54 passing attempts on the year for 584 yards and 4 touchdowns. They average 388.5 yards per game on the ground while Central Missouri gives up 138.5 per game.

This game will come down to how well Harding runs the ball. If they get the run game going then it will be game over for Central Missouri. However, if Central Missouri can stop the run and obvious passing situations they have a chance. We will take Harding in this spot 28-21. The winner of this game faces either Asuza Pacific or Sioux Falls.

Super Regional Four (Grand Valley State)

#5 Colorado Mesa (9-2) at #4 Texas A&M-Commerce (9-1)

Game Time: 3 PM Eastern

Colorado Mesa has some big wins this year: Colorado Mines (41-40 in 2 overtimes), Colorado State-Pueblo (20-19), and Azusa Pacific (33-24). They also own two losses to Black Hill State (48-34) and Dixie State (38-31) with both of those teams finishing above .500.

Texas A&M-Commerce’s lone loss was a 26-25 heartbreaker to Midwestern State when they blew a 12 point lead in the final 3:30 and gave up the game winning touchdown with 28 seconds left.

As with most 4-5 matchups, this is a toss up. Both teams put up over 40 points a game, but defense is where the advantage is for Commerce. Mesa gives up 30.7 points per game and 463.3 yards per game while Commerce allows only 18.2 points and 381.1 yards per game. For that reason, we are going with Commerce to take this game 34-21. The winner of this game will play #1 Grand Valley State in Round 2.

#7 Midwestern State (8-2) at #2 Ferris State (9-2)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Midwestern State has that big win over Texas A&M-Commerce, but also lost to West Texas A&M (35-27) and Eastern New Mexico (30-28). They will also be traveling all the way to Michigan for this contest.

Ferris State has two losses to two very good teams. They lost at home to playoff snub Ashland 39-31 and to top regional seed Grand Valley State 35-23 on the road. The duo of quarterback Reggie Bell (1,081 yards and 15 touchdowns) and running Jahaan Brown (824 yards and 7 touchdowns) will lead the ground game. Bell also has 2,046 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions through the air.

We will take Ferris State to win this game 31-21 due to that rushing attack. Midwestern State allows 200 yards per game on the ground while Ferris State averages 267.4 yards per game rushing on offense. That is a recipe for success for Ferris State. The winner of this game will play either Colorado Mines or Southwest Baptist in Round 2.

#6 Colorado Mines (9-2) at #3 Southwest Baptist (10-1)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Colorado Mines had back-to-back losses against Colorado Mesa (41-40 in double overtime) and Western State (45-31) before winning their final 7 games. Southwest Baptist’s lone blemish was a 26-16 loss at home to Truman State. Outside of that game, they were pretty dominant to end the season.

This will probably a high-scoring game because both teams have good offenses and mediocre defenses. As such, it makes it difficult to pick a winner, but we will go with Colorado Mines to win 52-48 though the outcome could easily flip. The winner of this game will play either Midwestern State or Ferris State.

Check back next week for the NCAA Division 2 Football Playoff Predictions for Round 2.

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