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Wayne Cavadi | | November 16, 2022

The 2022 DII football championship bracket previewed and predicted

DII football: 2022 selection show

It's the most wonderful time of the year. The road to McKinney, TX, and the 2022 DII football championship game begins Saturday, Nov. 19 with play in all four Super Regions.

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Twenty-eight teams heard their names called on Sunday's selection show. As always, it came with some question marks from passionate fan bases and even insiders but narrowing down the field is no easy task. What does the selection committee look for and how exactly does the DII football championship tournament work? Don't worry, I got you covered with the definitive guide to the DII football playoffs here

Below you'll get a Super-Region-by-Super-Region look at the teams to beat, teams to watch, and as always, my predictions.

While I take current numbers into play, if you've ever read my predictions before, you know I am a firm believer in the adage "history repeats itself." For example, last year there were only four first-round upsets. Two came in Super Region Two and a pair came in Super Region Four. If you go back to 2017, there have been hardly any upsets in Super Region Three, and the bulk of first-round upsets (eight to be precise) come in Super Region Two — which doesn't even include all of the upsets on West Florida's unranked run to the 2019 title. Super Region Four is right behind with seven, so if you are looking for upsets based on history... I think you know where to look. Is this the year history continues the trend, or rewrites itself?

DII FOOTBALL INSIGHT: Final Power 10 rankings and Final 15 Harlon Hill hopefuls

Some quick facts about this year's bracket:

  • There are three first-timers in the 2022 DII football championship, two of which reside in the tricky Super Region Two. Benedict, Limestone and Davenport all make their respective debuts.
  • Not only does Super Region Two have two newbies, there is only one — ONE — returning team from last year's bracket. That is the West Florida Argonauts, but more on them in a bit. 
  • Ferris State is back in the mix. The Bulldogs look to be the first repeat champions since the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats of 2015-16.
  • Speaking of the mighty Bearcats, it took until the last weekend of the season, but sure enough Northwest Missouri State made it to the dance. It is the Bearcats 18th straight season in the DII football championship — the longest current streak and 10 better than the next closest.
  • I began covering DII football back in 2016. The Harding Bisons were a postseason staple. Despite yet another strong season, Harding was a victim of the stacked Super Region Three and saw its playoff streak come to an end at five, the longest such streak that was broken this year. 

Now, let's get to it.

Super Region One

  • Team to beat: No. 2 Shepherd. Yes, Shepherd lost its bid at a first-round bye in the PSAC championship to the very same IUP team that is now No. 1. But Indiana (PA) is very good, and PSAC teams don't have the best history of beating teams twice in the same season (see Shepherd/Kutzown in the Super Region One final a year ago). Also, remember, if you would, how Tyson Bagent played last November and December... it is whole other-level type stuff.
  • Team to watch: Notre Dame (OH). See below.
  • Intriguing first-round matchup:  Notre Dame (OH) vs. No. 4 Ashland. This is a rematch of Week 1, when Ashland stunned the Falcons in dominating fashion, 31-14. It set the tone for Ashland's breakout season — and return to the bracket after a four-year hiatus — and left Notre Dame (OH) scrambling to continue its postseason success. If Ashland is healthy, the Eagles are a very strong team on both sides of the ball (scoring 31.8 points per game with the seventh-best scoring defense in DII behind it), but as already mentioned, beating a team twice in the same season is no easy task. This should be the best first-round matchup in this part of the bracket. 
  • My picks:

Super Region Two

  • Team to beat: No. 3 West Florida. As we already discussed, there is simply no match for the experience the Argos bring to this part of the bracket. Winners of two championships since 2017 and coming off a stunning first-round exit last year, West Florida and its potent offense (No. 4 in scoring in DII) is on a mission. I think Limestone finding its way to the second round would be a sensational story, and I would love to have the Saints as my sleeper, but I unfortunately don't see it happening this year. The Saints are a very good team, but this West Florida offense, if healthy, is something to watch.
  • Team to watch: No. 1 Benedict. It's not often you make your DII football championship debut coming off an 11-0 season and gain the No. 1 seed in a part of the bracket that has sent a representative to the championship game in each of the past five seasons. That's why the Tigers are so intriguing. We don't have much on them historically speaking and even their conference, the SIAC, doesn't have much history. If we can get a Virginia Union/Benedict second-round matchup, it could be one of the best games of the tournament.
  • Intriguing first-round matchup: No. 4 Virginia Union vs. Wingate. Wingate certainly has a target on its back as one of the last teams in this Super Region to make it in the bracket. Virginia Union has the nation's leading rusher — yes, ALL of college football — in Jada Byers. Now, the reason that this is so intriguing is that the Panthers have had a week off... was that a positive or negative this time of year? The Panthers had a big win over Valdosta State earlier this year, so we know they can play out of conference in this part of the bracket. 
  • My picks: (Note: I DO think there are still upsets as history dictates, but I think they come in the second round.) 

Super Region Three

  • Team to beat: No. 1 Grand Valley State. Gasp. It's not the defending champion Bulldogs? If we are lucky, we will have a rematch and the Lakers and Bulldogs will have to go toe-to-toe in yet another thriller, but this is without a doubt the year the Lakers are the team to beat here. The depth all over the field is simply remarkable, matched only by a few teams... and their arch rivals are certainly one of them. Also worth noting — Grand Valley State has the top-ranked scoring defense in DII... and played four teams that made the bracket. 
  • Team to watch: Northwest Missouri State. See below.
  • Intriguing first-round matchup: No. 4 Ouachita Baptist vs. Northwest Missouri State. The Bearcats certainly haven't been the team offensively we have seen utterly dominate in year's past, but the defense has been pretty dominant. That is especially true against the run, where they are allowing just 56 yards per game, second fewest in DII football. Running back TJ Cole (and his running mate Kendel Givens for that matter) is having a simply remarkable season, but the Bearcats have had the cheat code on taking down run-heavy teams (like the Tigers' rival Harding) in recent years, which makes this a game to watch. Take note — if Toriano Clinton is healthy for UIndy, that matchup against a stout Pittsburg State defense will make for a very interesting game as well. 
  • My picks:

Super Region Four

  • Team to beat: No. 1 Angelo State. Here's what I wrote in the final Power 10 rankings just a few days ago: "I mentioned earlier this season that I felt the Rams were playing so well because they were playing with purpose. Angelo State was not happy with how its 2021 season ended and made sure to leave no doubt that it was on a mission to get back, have another shot at Colorado School of Mines, and advance to the semifinals." Well, now the Rams have that chance, and after beating the Orediggers once earlier this season, are hopefully (for our viewing pleasure) heading to the rubber match.
  • Team to watch: No. 2 Colorado School of Mines. The AFCA coaches poll never let the Orediggers live down the first two losses of the season, but finally let them back in the top 10 the last week of the season. The truth is, there are maybe a handful of teams better in all DII football. That's it. Mines lost two games to the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in DII, both of which came down to the final play and each game was decided by a field goal. Coming into the season with a new coach and some new pieces... that seems pretty impressive. The momentum the Orediggers have finishing off their romp through the RMAC with an 80-point scoring extravaganza in the finale doesn't bode well for anyone in Super Region Four. Having to play RMAC rival CSU Pueblo, which they stomped earlier in the season, will be a test, but one I think they should pass.
  • Intriguing first-round matchup: No. 3 Minnesota State vs. Wayne State (Neb). If we are being truthful, the way this region played out makes every first-round game intriguing. All three games are in-conference matchups so there is plenty of familiarity with each. You look at Bemidji State and this is a team that is just rolling, having won nine in a row after dropping its first two. The first win on that streak? Yup, its first-round opponent Winona State. However, the Wildcats are back in the tournament for the first time since 2008 and are looking for its first-ever DII tournament win. Minnesota State is back in the tournament after a one-year hiatus, but for the Mavs that feels like it's been forever. That makes this one a fun matchup to watch. Minnesota State is a DII football powerhouse and this year reaffirmed that, as the Mavs finished 9-2 and earned a home matchup. One of those losses? That's right, it was to Wayne State. These teams are pretty evenly matched (Minnesota State scores about two points more per game while Wayne State allows about two points less per game) and as I've said — beating a team twice is no easy task. This should be a good one.
  • My picks: (Note: If it turns out to be Angelo State vs. Colorado School of Mines, it will be one of the top games of the tournament. Both quarterbacks — the Rams' Zach Bronkhorst and the Orediggers' John Matocha — have both taken great strides this season and have unbelievable running backs behind them.)

The semifinals

DII football 2022 midseason review, postseason predictions

Remember, the final four teams get seeded Nos. 1-4 when the semifinals begin. If my predictions are right (which they likely won't be) I think the semifinals look as follows.

  • No. 1 Grand Valley State vs. No. 4 Shepherd
  • No. 2 Angelo State vs. No. 3 West Florida

From here, I think it is Grand Valley State's championship to lose. Of course, there are many twists and turns in November and December football. Sit back, grab the proverbial popcorn, and enjoy the ride.

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