The Division II semifinals are here, and it’s time for us to break down each matchup. By dinnertime on Saturday, we’ll know which teams are headed to Florence, Ala., (for the final time) to play for the Division II national championship.
West Chester (13-1) at Lenoir-Rhyne (12-1), 12 p.m. ET, ESPN3:
The case for West Chester… West Chester figures to have its way through the air, with a passing offense closing in on 4,000 passing yards and 40 touchdowns squaring off against Division II’s 75th-ranked pass efficiency defense. The Golden Rams have also achieved 326 first downs this season (second-most in Division II), which should help them keep the Lenoir-Rhyne offense off the field. West Chester is better equipped to win a shootout, and is 7-0 on the road this seaon.
The case for Lenoir-Rhyne… The Bears lead Division II in rushing offense, averaging 372.2 yards per game and 6.06 yards per carry on nearly 62 carries per game with 47 total touchdowns. They also stop the run, ranking among the top dozen nationally, allowing just a shade over 100 yards per game. Opponents can move the ball on Lenoir-Rhyne, averaging nearly 22 first downs per game, but the Bears’ defense doesn’t break, ranking seventh nationally in scoring defense at 16.2 points per game. The Bears have also won 12 straight games, are undefeated at home and have won 19 of their last 20 home games.
Grand Valley State (12-2) at Northwest Missouri State (13-0), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3:
The case for Grand Valley State… It’s going to take an upset. Everything Grand Valley State does, Northwest Missouri does better. One edge Grand Valley State has that come certainly come in handy? Experience in close games. While Northwest Missouri has blown people away – they’ve played one game decided by less than nine points, and it was on September 14 – the Lakers won second round and quarterfinal games by scores of 34-30 and 35-28. The longer it stays close, the more the game favors the underdog.
The case for Northwest Missouri State… Just do you. The only undefeated team left in the Division II playoffs, Northwest Missouri has won games by an average of 30 points per game. They’re basically Division II’s version of Florida State. The Bearcats rank in the top 10 nationally in passing efficiency, scoring offense, total defense, pass efficiency defense and scoring defense. They also rank sixth in third down offense, 12th in third down defense, 13th in red zone offense, sixth in first downs and, if all else fails, 14th in turnover margin.