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2016 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoff Semifinal Predictions

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2016 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoff Semifinal Predictions

The 2016 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoffs are down to the final four teams. Northwest Missouri State, Shepherd, North Alabama, and Ferris State are the four teams standing. Both games will be played on Saturday, December 10 to determine the National Championship participants and can be seen on ESPN3. An updated bracket can be found here.

The NCAA reseeded the teams after the quarterfinals to rank the teams one through four. The two higher seeded teams will play at home for the semifinal round. The rankings are below.

1. Northwest Missouri State (13-0)

2. Shepherd (13-0)

3. North Alabama (10-1)

4. Ferris State (12-2)

After going 10-2 with our first round predictions, we regressed to 5-3 in the second round, however, we went 4-0 in the quarterfinals to give us a record of 19-5 after the first three rounds. Below are the predictions for the two semifinal games in order of when they start.

#3 North Alabama (10-1) at #2 Shepherd (13-0)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

North Alabama has played two games in the Division 2 Playoffs after getting a bye in the first round and they have two big wins. They defeated UNC Pembroke 41-17 in the second round after they pulled away with the final 31 points of the game. Jacob Tucker had 337 total yards and 4 touchdowns in the win. Their quarterfinal game was far easier as they held North Greenville to 181 yards of offense and forced 5 turnovers. Tucker had 296 total yards and 3 touchdowns on offense in the 38-0 win.

Shepherd has played three games and the offense has been strong in each one. In the first round, they defeated Assumption 48-31 at home after 317 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions from Jeff Ziemba. In the second round game at LIU Post, Shepherd won 40-21 after keeping the Pioneers at bay for most of the game. Ziemba threw for 375 yards with 4 touchdowns (no picks) while Brandon Hlavach had 177 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing.

Shepherd’s quarterfinal game was also on the road and they were close to being run out of the building. They trailed 17-0 less than midway through the first quarter, but responded with 21 straight points. They fell behind again at 30-21, but scored another 20 straight points to win 41-30. Ziemba threw for 200 yards with 3 touchdowns (1 pick) while Hlavach ran for 159 yards and a touchdown.

There are no surprises here. North Alabama will be led by Tucker on offense and their defense. Shepherd will be led by Ziemba passing and Hlavach running the ball. Ziemba did take a big hit late in the game so keep an eye on him to see how he plays early on. Shepherd averages 40.6 points and 328.3 passing yards per game while North Alabama allows 13.4 points 186.9 yards passing per game. That will be the matchup to watch.

Shepherd’s defense allows 18.6 points and 295.1 yards per game, but those numbers have been higher in the playoffs. The Rams have allowed 27.3 points and 340 yards per game in their three playoff contests. North Alabama should have success with Tucker.

This is such an intriguing game. Has North Alabama faced an offense like this since their season opener against FCS Jacksonville State? Can Shepherd get the defensive stops they need to win this game? Remember, Shepherd made the National Championship last year though it did not end very well for them.

We like Shepherd, with that playoff experience, to win a close game over North Alabama. The Rams win 34-31 to play in their second straight national championship.

#4 Ferris State (12-2) at #1 Northwest Missouri State (13-0)

Game Time: 3:30 PM Eastern

Ferris State started the first round at home against Midwestern State. They ran wild with 362 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground (5 by Trevor Bermingham alone) in their 65-34 win. In the second round, it was Bermingham again leading the way with 392 yards and 2 touchdowns passing along with 3 rushing touchdowns to a 38-17 win. In the quarterfinal, Ferris State defeated rival Grand Valley State on the road 47-32. Once again, Bermingham had a big day with 4 rushing touchdowns.

Northwest Missouri State had a bye in the first round and easily won their second round game at home against Emporia State. They allowed negative 30 yards rushing that day in their 44-13 win. Their quarterfinal matchup was against run happy Harding and the Bearcats handled that quite well. Harding came into the game averaging 381.5 yards per game, but the Bearcats held them to 119 yards on 43 carries. Harding attempted only 6 passes all game, completed zero of those, and were picked off twice.

Ferris State will easily be the most challenging opponent Northwest Missouri State has faced in the playoffs. The Bulldogs average 493.3 yards per game (263.9 rushing and 229.4 passing) and put up 38.8 points per game. Their lowest output of the season was 410 yards against Findlay (242 yards rushing and 168 yards passing) when they won 20-17. Northwest Missouri State highest total yards allowed were 360 to Northeastern State. The Bearcats easily won 74-29 when they had 662 yards of offense themselves.

The Bearcats will be led by Kyle Zimmerman, who has 3,582 yards (69%) with 36 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions through the air. Phil Jackson (800 yards and 8 touchdowns) and Cameron Wilcox (583 yards and 11 touchdowns) will lead the rushing attack. Zimmerman also has 263 yards and 7 touchdowns rushing this year.

The Bearcats will focus on stopping the run. They allow 68.2 yards per game on the ground. The Bulldogs average 263.9 yards per game on the ground and have no shortage of options. Quarterback Reggie Bell has 1,156 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing (also 5 fumbles lost), Jahaan Brown has 952 yards and 7 touchdowns, and Bermingham has 405 yards and 18 touchdowns are all a threat.

We like Northwest Missouri State to win this game. If they can stop the run, they can feast on the Ferris State passing offense. However, if Ferris State can get the rushing attack going, this game may be close. The Bearcats win this game 31-17 and play for their third national championship in the past four seasons.

Check back next week for a preview of the 2016 Division 2 National Championship.

2016 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoff Quarterfinal Predictions

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2016 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoff Quarterfinal Predictions

Eight teams remain in the hunt for the 2016 NCAA Division 2 National Championship including all the top seeds in each Super Region. An updated bracket can be found here via the NCAA’s website.

After going 10-2 with our first round predictions, we regressed to 5-3 in the second round. Below are the predictions for the each of Quarterfinal games.

Super Regional One (California, PA)

#3 Shepherd (12-0) at #1 California (PA)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Shepherd won their opening round game over Assumption 48-31 by building a solid halftime lead of 28-16. They did the same thing in round 2 against LIU Post (26-7 at half), but their offense was unstoppable with 591 yards (375 passing and 216 rushing). Jeff Ziemba threw for all 375 yards with 4 touchdowns and no picks while Brandon Hlavach had 177 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.

California had a bye in the first round and they even fell behind 17-0 to Indiana (PA) after 7 seconds into the second quarter. That was no problem as they outscored the Hawks 44-6 the rest of the game to win 44-23. Michael Keir threw for 274 yards and 4 touchdowns with no picks to lead the Vulcans.

Both teams have potent offenses with California averaging 51.4 points and 458.5 yards per game while Shepherd averages 40.6 points and 480.4 yards per game. Both defenses give up less than 300 yards and 20 points per game.

We know that Shepherd’s chances go through quarterback Jeff Ziemba. He has only five interceptions on the season with 68.3% completions and when he is passing the ball well, the offense is very difficult to stop. Consider that Ziemba’s worst game last year was the National Championship against Northwest Missouri State. He played hurt, the Bearcats zoned in on him, and he just could not get much going. He finished 11 of 16 for 136 yards with a touchdown and a pick. In addition, if Brandon Hlavach can have another big rushing game, the offense will probably have 40+ points.

California will be led by quarterback Michael Keir. Keir has 2,953 yards (65.6%) with 39 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this year. The offense was not overwhelming with 364 total yards, but they did not turn the ball over and converted all six of their red zone attempts against Indiana (PA).

This should be a good game and we will go with Shepherd on the strength of Ziemba and the team’s playoff experience. We will take the Rams to win 34-30.

Super Regional Two (North Alabama)

#6 North Greenville (9-4) at #1 North Alabama (9-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

North Greenville opened the playoffs with an impressive 27-13 win over Florida Tech on the road. They scored 24 points in the final 30 minutes and forced three interceptions. In round 2, the Crusaders had a 28 point first quarter and cruised to a 45-26 win over Tuskegee. Will Hunter threw for 272 yards with 3 touchdowns (1 pick) and the offense had 239 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground.

North Alabama had a bye in round one and last week took care of UNC Pembroke 41-17 at home. UNA actually trailed 17-10 midway through the second quarter after Pembroke defense recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Jacob Tucker had 284 yards with 2 touchdowns and a pick along with 53 yards rushing and two touchdowns to lead the offense while Dre Hall had 9 catches for 135 yards and a score.

This is a rematch of the October 22nd game that North Alabama won 52-21. That game was close at halftime with UNA holding a 24-14 lead. Tucker ended up having a field day with 510 yards of total offense and 5 touchdowns. Dre Hall had 10 catches for 162 yards and a score as well.

North Alabama has both the better offense and defense. The questions are can Greenville play defense well enough and can the offense score enough points? That is a tough task and we like North Alabama to win this game 45-28.

Super Regional Three (Northwest Missouri State)

#3 Harding (13-0) at #1 Northwest Missouri State (12-0)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Harding opened the playoffs with a 48-31 over Central Missouri thanks to 355 rushing yards as a team. Park Parish accounted for 291 yards of total offense with 3 touchdowns. They needed overtime in the second round to defeat Sioux Falls 27-24. Harding erased a 10 point deficit in the final 5 minutes.

Northwest Missouri State had a bye in the first round and then easily dispatched Emporia State 44-13 in the second round. They held Emporia State to -30 yards rushing and gave up 327 yards through the air.

This game will come down to the Bearcats rush defense against Harding’s vaunted rush offense. Harding averages 381.5 yards per game on the ground while Northwest Missouri State allows only 63.9 yards per game. Only once all year have the Bearcats allowed more than 100 yards rushing and that came against Lindenwood. The Bearcats won that game 47-12.

It is not hard to envision how this will go. The Bearcats will load up the box to stop the run and it will force Harding to pass the ball. Harding has a grand total of 828 yards passing this year so it could be a disaster of a game if they have to throw a lot. Harding may hit 100 yards on the ground, but that will not be enough. The Harding defense will need to limit the Bearcats on offense and create turnovers resulting in short fields. The Bearcats have just 11 turnovers all season (7 lost fumbles and 4 interceptions).

We like Northwest Missouri State to win this contest rather easily. The Bearcats maul Harding 38-7 at home.

Super Regional Four (Grand Valley State)

#2 Ferris State (11-2) at #1 Grand Valley State (12-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Ferris State opened the playoffs with a resounding 65-34 win over Midwestern State. Trevor Bermingham had 252 yards of total offense with five rushing touchdowns and there were two defensive interceptions returned for touchdowns as well. Round two was a more pedestrian game in a 38-17 victory. Colorado Mines was still within a touchdown late in the 3rd quarter, but a passing and rushing touchdown from Bermingham (392 yards passing, 44 yards rushing, and five total touchdowns) made it a flattering scoreline in the end.

Grand Valley State had a bye the opening round and then blew the doors off Texas A&M-Commerce in the second half to win 55-32 in the second round. The offense had 598 yards with 311 yards passing from Bart Williams (4 touchdowns and 1 pick) and 217 yards rushing by Marty Carter (1 touchdown).

Here we have yet another regular season rematch occurring in the playoffs. These two teams met on October 8 at Grand Valley State and the outcome was 35-23 in favor of GVSU. The Lakers took a 28-6 lead into halftime while Ferris State closed the deficit to 28-23 midway through the fourth quarter. A Williams to Nick Dodson 39 yard touchdown pass iced the game.

In that game, Ferris State dominated offensively. They had 29 first downs (21 for GVSU), 201 yards rushing (118 for GVSU), and 369 yards passing (232 for GVSU). Ferris State had five turnovers to 3 for the Lakers. It was the missed opportunities for Ferris State that proved to be the difference.

Ferris State missed a field goal, had two drives end inside the GVSU red zone (one due to a lost fumble and the other due to a turnover on downs), and had an interception result in a defensive touchdown for Grand Valley State.

Reggie Bell was at quarterback for Ferris State that day and he threw for 343 yards with 2 touchdowns, rushed for 140 yards, but also had 2 interceptions and 2 lost fumbles. Bell has been hampered by injuries, which has led to Bermingham taking over. No matter who is playing at quarterback, if Ferris State commits five turnovers again then it may be another bitter loss to their instate rival.

This could be a shootout. Yes the defenses are good, but there are playmakers on both offenses. Bell, Bermingham, or even Jahaan Brown (866 rushing yards with 7 touchdown) for Ferris State will be up against Bart Williams (3,024 yards passing with 30 touchdowns and 10 picks) and running back Marty Carter (1,807 yards with 19 touchdowns).

We like Ferris State to get revenge and win over their Michigan rivals. The Bulldogs will not turn the ball over as much and the offense will racking up yardage. In a close game, Ferris State wins 45-42.

Picks

The four predicted winners are Shepherd, North Alabama, Northwest Missouri State, and Ferris State.

Check back next week for the semifinal predictions for the 2016 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoffs.

2016 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

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2016 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

The dust on the opening round of the 2016 Division 2 football playoffs has barely settled, but the second round is already upon us. After 12 games in the opening round, there will be 8 this week with the top four seeds (California (PA), Northwestern Missouri State, North Alabama, and Grand Valley State) will join the fray.

An updated bracket for the Division 2 Playoff can be found hereIn round 1, we went 10-2 with our incorrect predictions being North Greenville and Emporia State. We hope to go 8-0 with our picks below.

Super Regional One (California, PA)

#5 Indiana (PA) (10-1) at #1 California (PA) (10-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Indiana demolished Fairmont State 62-13 in round one thanks to 372 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns from the team. Chris Temple had 20 carries for 147 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground. California had a bye last week, but had to be keeping an eye on their familiar opponent’s offensive outburst. These two teams met on October 8 where California won 31-28 with last minute field goal.

Indiana is averaging 48.4 points per game while California has put up 52.1 points per game. Indiana averages 502.8 yards per game (287 on the ground and 215.8 through the air) compared to 468 yards per game for California (194.4 on the ground and 273.6 passing).

The defenses are where this game will be determined. California allows 100 yards less per game at 258.6 than Indiana does at 365.1. Still, if Indiana can get their vaunted ground attack going and control the clock, they will have a very good chance at an upset. California’s rush defense has allowed 81.5 yards per game, but Indiana racked up 235 yards on the ground in their regular season meeting.

We feel like this will be another close game as was their meeting back in October. We will take Indiana to pull the upset with their rushing attack 35-31. The winner of this game will face either Shepherd or LIU Post.

#3 Shepherd (11-0) at #2 LIU Post (12-0)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Shepherd had a strong outing against Assumption and won 48-31 with Jeff Ziemba throwing for 317 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions while receiver Billy Brown had 12 catches for 193 yards and 3 touchdowns. LIU Post had to survive a furious Winston-Salem fourth quarter rally to win 48-41. Jeff Kidd threw for 320 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception while David White (134 yards) and Malik Pierre (117 yards and 3 touchdowns) both had good games rushing the ball.

This feels like an offensive battle and both teams will score points. Which defense will make the stops necessary to win? Can LIU Post get a big game out of their quarterback and running backs? If they do, that might spell trouble for Shepherd. Jeff Ziemba will need to keep the mistakes to a minimum as that could be the turning point.

We will take Shepherd to win this game 49-48 in close battle. The winner of this game will play either Indiana (PA) or California (PA) in the quarterfinals.

Super Regional Two (North Alabama)

#5 UNC Pembroke (10-1) at #1 North Alabama (8-1)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

UNC Pembroke went on the road last week and upset Valdosta State 24-21. It was not easy as quarterback Patrick O’Brien had a horrendous outing with 5 interceptions, but Rontonio Stanle had 122 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The defense forced 4 of their own interceptions as well. North Alabama had a bye and certainly had to like what they saw.

UNC Pembroke has an above average offense (34.6 points and 398.4 yards per game) and a mediocre defense (22.2 points and 329.8 yards per game allowed). North Alabama averages 40.4 points and 449.4 yards per game on offense while giving up 14.4 points and 324.6 yards per game on defense. North Alabama’s lone loss came to FCS Jacksonville State, one of the top teams in the 2016 FCS Playoffs.

We like North Alabama to win here 34-17. Pembroke does not have enough weapons on both sides of the ball to win especially if the offense has another turnover filled day. The winner of this game will play either Tuskegee or North Greenville.

#7 Tuskegee (9-2) at #6 North Greenville (8-4)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Tuskegee went on the road last week and survived a thriller 35-33 against Newberry. Kevin Lacey had an efficient day going 13 of 17 for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns while Kenny Grant rushed for 139 yards and 1 touchdown. North Greenville had an impressive road win as well defeating Florida Tech 27-13. Will Hunter threw for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead the offense while the defense forced three interceptions.

This does not feel like either team will overpower the other. Tuskegee has the better defense giving up 18.4 points and 264.5 yards per game (North Greenville at 24.8 points and 392.4 yards allowed per game), but North Greenville has the better offense at 32.6 points and 417.8 yards per game (Tuskegee at 27.7 points and 353.5 yards allowed per game).

Greenville’s Will Hunter does not turn the ball over much (just 3 interceptions this year) while Kevin Lacey of Tuskegee has 6 picks this year. If either team can force a turnover or two, that may be just enough. We will take Tuskegee to win this game 27-24.

Super Regional Three (Northwest Missouri State)

#4 Emporia State (11-1) at #1 Northwest Missouri State (11-0)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Emporia State crushed Minnesota-Duluth in their opening round game 59-26. Braxton Marstall had a stellar game throwing for 481 yards with 5 touchdowns and no picks. Two receivers finished with nearly identical stat lines: Louis Dailey had 6 catches for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns while Morris Williams had 4 catches for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Northwestern State, the defending National Champions, had a bye last week and they have already defeated Emporia State once this year by a score of 41-14. That game was on the road and this one will be played at home. The Bearcats held Emporia State to 183 yards of total offense, but keep in mind that game was the opening contest for both teams.

The Bearcats have not had a close game all year. The closest score was a 28-7 win over Fort Hays State on November 5. The offense averages 49 points and 498.5 yards per game. The defense allows 13.1 points and 246.6 yards per game. The one possible flaw for the Bearcats is that they have lost 7 of their 11 fumbles. Kyle Zimmerman has thrown for 3,056 yards with 34 touchdowns against 2 interceptions in 2016.

We like Northwest Missouri State to win the rematch, but in a closer contest. We think the Bearcats take this game 42-28 and they will face the winner of Harding at Sioux Falls in the Quarterfinals.

#3 Harding (12-0) at #2 Sioux Falls (12-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Both teams saw their rushing attack lead them to victory in their first round games. Harding took care of Central Missouri 48-31 thanks to an unstoppable ground game. Park Parish had 118 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing while Eric Simmons finished with 91 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. As a team, Harding had 355 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing on 5.8 yards per carry.

Sioux Falls won 34-21 over Azusa Pacific after a scoreless first quarter. Max Mickey led the way with 164 yards and 3 touchdowns while Justin Fulks had 90 yards and a touchdown rushing. Sioux Falls had 318 yards and 4 touchdowns on 5.4 yards per carry.

To no one’s surprise, this will be a game decided by rushing. Harding averages 385.7 rushing yards per game and allow 68.4 yards per game. Sioux Falls averages 322.8 rushing yards per game and allow 106.8 yards per game on defense. If one offense ends up with a stagnant rushing game, then the passing attack advantage goes to Sioux Falls. They average 205.7 yards per game through the air compared to 63.1 per game for Harding.

Max Mickey is up to 1,714 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns while quarterback Luke Papilion has 964 yards and 16 touchdowns for Sioux Falls. Harding’s quarterback Park Parish has 1,028 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing while teammate Michael Latu had 825 yards and 14 touchdowns. We will take Sioux Falls to squeak by at home 28-24. The winner of this game faces either Emporia State or Northwest Missouri State.

Super Regional Four (Grand Valley State)

#4 Texas A&M-Commerce (10-1) at #1 Grand Valley State (11-0)

Game Time: 1 PM Eastern

Texas A&M-Commerce won their opening round game 34-23 over Colorado Mesa at home with solid outings from quarterback Luis Perez (205 yards and 2 touchdowns with no picks) and running back Ovie Urevbu (109 yards rushing). They are rewarded with a trip to Michigan to face Grand Valley State who had a bye for the opening round.

Statistically, these teams are similar. Commerce puts up 40.5 points and 450.2 yards per game on offense compared to 39.7 points and 483.4 yards per game for GVSU. On defense, Commerce allows 18.6 points and 392.8 yards per game compared to 17.8 points and 347.4 yards per game for GVSU. The rushing attack advantage goes to Grand Valley State while Commerce has the passing advantage.

Luis Perez has 3,007 yards with 29 touchdowns against 3 interceptions. He will need to keep the turnovers down as he has for much of the season to keep Commerce in this game. GVSU will be led by quarterback Bart Williams (2,713 yards with 26 touchdowns and 9 interceptions) and the legs of Marty Carter who has 1,590 yards and 18 touchdowns.

With this being a home game for Grand Valley State along with their rushing advantage, we will take them to win 31-24. Carter has rushed for at least 100 yards in the last 6 games and we expect that to continue. The winner of this game will face either Colorado Mines or Ferris State.

#6 Colorado Mines (10-2) at #2 Ferris State (10-2)

Game Time: 12 PM Eastern

Both schools scored 60+ points in their opening round game. Colorado Mines defeated Southwest Baptist 63-35 after rushing for 405 yards and finishing with 614 total yards of offense. Zac Guy had 23 carries for 214 yards with 4 touchdowns rushing and Sam Seeton had 142 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground.

Ferris State won 65-34 over Midwestern State, but they started slowly and trailed 20-10 early in the second quarter. Quarterback Trevor Bermingham had a field day throwing for 126 yards and a touchdown, but did most of the damage on the ground. He had 5 rushing touchdowns along with 126 yards on 26 carries.

Colorado Mines puts up a lot of points and yardage with averages of 50 points and 576.8 yards per game. Their defense gives up a some points and yards too at 26.5 points and 414.8 yards per game. Ferris State averages 38.2 points and 494.3 yards per game while giving up 22.4 points and 354 yards per game.

We are going to call for a shootout here, which should be no surprise. We will take Ferris State to get it done 56-48. The winner of this game will face either Texas A&M-Commerce or Grand Valley State.

Picks

Below are all the picks in order of super regional.

Super Regional One (California, PA)

Indiana (PA) and Shepherd

Super Regional Two (North Alabama)

North Alabama and Tuskegee

Super Regional Three (Northwest Missouri State)

Northwest Missouri State and Sioux Falls

Super Regional Four (Grand Valley State)

Grand Valley State and Ferris State

Check back next week for our Quarterfinals predictions for the 2016 Division 2 Football Playoffs.