SR1 Champion California (PA) VS SR4 Champion Northwest Missouri State by J. Naracon
HOW THEY GOT THERE: California enters semifinal play with an upset victory over West Liberty 57-35, while Northwest Missouri State narrowly won over Central Washington after a blocked extra point sealed their fate, 21-20. Cal suffered three losses in regular season play, all of which were non-conference games. NWMS only lost to Abilene Christian, which they later defeated in round two of the SR4 playoffs.
KEY MATCHUP: It has been said that offense is for scoring points, but defense is for winning games, and the two defenses of this game will definitely decide the victor of this semifinal matchup. Both teams have made their way to the QB for numerous sacks. NWMS outranks Cal with 43 sacks to the Vulcans’ 34. Sean Paddock and Roberto davis have led the Bearcats with 6.5 and 6 sacks respectively. However, The Vulcans have recorded more tackles for a loss than the Bearcats, 95-83. Team leaders in this category for the Vulcans include Thomas Mulabah and Dontey Brown, with 10.5 and 9.5 tackles for loss. While NWMS ranks higher nationally in total defense, Cal shut down the number one offense in the nation with the defeat of West Liberty. With the championship game one win away, both teams will have a tighter defensive strategy than usual, and the matchup will be an exciting one to observe.
PREDICTION: When the victory of a game means a team advances to a championship, you never know what to expect. Both teams will do whatever they can to seal the win. However, after reviewing the playoffs, the Vulcans have not played a team with a worse overall record. They have either had the same, or a worse record than their opponent, yet they have come out of all three games victorious, including the last game’s three-touchdown win over West Liberty, the number one offense in the nation. Although defense will be strong for both teams, California gets the trip to the NCAA Division II Championship, with a final score of 27-24.
SR2 Champions Carson-Newman Eagles vs SR3 Champions Grand Valley State Lakers by Brice Burge
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Eagles pulled off a 24-21 win for their first ever victory at University of North Alabama, a team that was considered by some the favorite to win the championship. Grand Valley also won on the road this weekend at the defending-no-longer Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs 24-10 in a game reminiscent to the Colts-Bears Super Bowl a couple of years ago. The Eagles are bringing with them a twelve game winning streak as they have not lost since week 2 at UNA, while the Lakers are running full off revenge victories over UMD and Hillsdale, the last two teams to beat the Lakers (UMD in last year’s SR3 final and Hillsdale in week 7).
KEY MATCHUP: CN ball control offense vs. GVSU front seven. You either live or die by the veer offense style of the Eagles, but with a high tempo offense, you can always spend the time to slow down your attack. If the Eagles can keep the Laker Offense off the field and plow through the front seven early in the game to attack the injury depleted GVSU secondary, CN can win this game very decisively. However the GVSU D-line showed the Bulldogs who was the best team in the Midwest by holding UMD to only 156 yards on the ground with two sacks and helped cause four interceptions.
PREDICTION: The Eagles shocked a lot of people with being able to handle the Lions passing attack and I think they will have one more surprise in them this week: the ability to pass from the pocket. Everybody knows that the secondary from Grand Valley is not as strong as it should be and to attack the secondary while providing the run from the veer option should give a balanced offensive attack, something Grand Valley hasn’t seen most of the year. Carson Newman scores a TD within the final 5 minutes of the game to give the Eagles a 28-27 win.