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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | September 29, 2023

The Black Hills Brawl, a top-10 battle, and PSAC powers collide in must-see DII football in Week 5

Ferris State wins 2022 DII football championship over Colorado School of Mines

Buckle up, DII football fans. Week 5 has a lot of intriguing โ€” a potentially highly impactful โ€” matchups. Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines add to the lore of DII football's most-played rivalry, multiple PSAC powers collide, and Minnesota State and Bemidji State meet in a clash of Power 10 teams.

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DII football Saturday: Week 5 games to watch

East Stroudsburg at Kutztown,  Noon ET | WATCH

The Warriors are undefeated with a nationally-ranked win under their belt. Kutztown is coming off a major top-15 upset of historic proportions after holding the explosive Shepherd Rams offense to a field goal โ€” their lowest output in nearly 30 years.

East Stroudsburg just recorded its 500th win in program history after improving to 4-0 this past weekend. The Warriors have been winning games with a nice balance, leading the PSAC in scoring offense at 41.3 points per game while holding at second in scoring defense at 15.8 points per game. Kutztown got off to an 0-2 start but has certainly righted the ship with consecutive double-digit victories. The Golden Bears have been propelled by its defense which has recorded six turnovers and five sacks on its mini two-game winning streak. Only two undefeated teams are remaining in the PSAC; Kutztown would love to make that one. 

Northwest Missouri State at Central Missouri, 2 p.m. ET | WATCH ($)

The Mules are amid a nine-game losing streak to the Bearcats, but we've seen longer such streaks already snapped this year. Northwest Missouri State got back on track last week โ€” after a two-game losing streak started by Emporia State's 29-year losing streak to the Bearcats being snapped โ€” in a 59-0 thumping after seeing its own streak of 242 straight weeks in the AFCA top 25 come to an end. Read that again: 242 straight weeks of being a nationally-ranked football team. That's simply amazing.

Central Missouri is the breakout team of 2023 so far. Quarterback Zach Zebrowski โ€” who was the Week 2 NCAA.com player of the week โ€” leads DII football in yards passing and touchdown passes and is the leader of the MIAA's top-scoring offense. Northwest Missouri State seems to be still searching for its identity, but we can be 100 percent certain Jay Harris is the real deal at running back. The Bearcat is averaging 115 yards rushing and a touchdown per game thus far. Central Missouri has one loss on its record, and that was by one point to No. 3 Pittsburg State โ€” a game the Mules could have taken to overtime but opted to go for the win and a two-point conversion as time expired. A win over the Bearcats will help them keep pace with red-hot Pittsburg State and Emporia State atop the MIAA.

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Minnesota State at Bemidji State, 3 p.m. ET | WATCH

The last time these two met was the opening day of the 2022 season. That game saw the Mavericks pull away in the final minutes for a thrilling 37-34 victory. With both teams a perfect 4-0 and securely in the Power 10 rankings, this should be another exciting football game to remember.

It will be interesting to see how the two head coaches match up. Minnesota State enters the weekend as the top-scoring team in the NSIC, putting up 44.8 points per game. Bemidji State is the top-scoring defense, allowing a paltry 11.8 points per game thus far in 2023. The Beavers are relentless against the pass, averaging five sacks per game and six total interceptions so far, but the showdown will be in the rushing game. Shen Butler Lawson Jr. has looked unstoppable for Minnesota State, leading DII football with 667 rushing yards and nine scores. Bemidji State does have the best rush defense in the NSIC but will face its biggest test of the season on Saturday. This could be where the game is won and lost.

Southern Arkansas at Southern Nazarene, 3 p.m. ET | WATCH

If you've never seen the Storm's quarterback Gage Porter play, well, that's enough to tune in alone. The dual-threat quarterback stuffs the stat sheet and makes memorable plays on what seems like a weekly basis. But there is more to this game, as both teams are 3-1 and fighting to stay near the top of the tightly contested GAC standings. 

Despite a tough opener against Harding, Porter leads the GAC in rushing and has also thrown for more than 600 yards and three touchdowns. These offenses are similar in attack in that both quarterbacks lead the charge more with their feet than their arms. One battle to watch will be how well Southern Nazarene can protect Porter as Southern Arkansas has the second-most sacks in the conference. Keep an eye on Dawson Scott who already has 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss for the Muleriders. He can be the difference maker in keeping Porter contained. 

Indiana (PA) at Slippery Rock, 6 p.m. ET | WATCH

The other major clash in the PSAC this weekend is a top-25 battle. Indiana (PA) and Slippery Rock are as close to DII football championship tournament regulars as it comes and it seems most years, the PSAC championship game involves one of the two... if not both. 

Slippery Rock said it best last year: The Rock doesn't rebuild, they reload. Without fail, they lose a quarterback and top wide receiving duo... and move forward with yet another dangerous quarterback-wide receiver combo. This year, it is Brayden Long โ€” who's already thrown for 1,053 yards and 14 touchdowns โ€” and Kyle Sheets, who has reeled in 418 yards and six touchdowns through four games. That's what makes this an intriguing matchup โ€” this potent Rock offense is going up against the best-scoring defense in the PSAC. IUP went through a major makeover on offense, and while it continues to adjust and settle in, the defense has kept the Crimson Hawks very much alive in the PSAC picture. They only have one interception this year, so IUP may have to get a little bit more aggressive this weekend to keep The Rock from rolling. 

HISTORIC RIVALRIES: The Black Hills Brawl and 10 other most-played rivalries in DII football history

The Black Hills Brawl: South Dakota Mines at Black Hills State, 8 p.m. ET | WATCH 

Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines are set to square off for the 137th time in their program's history. That makes this rivalry the most played in the history of DII football. The rivalry from the Mount Rushmore State began with a Yellow Jackets' 18-0 shutout of the Hardrockers on a late November day way back in 1895. The Yellow Jackets also had the most recent victory in 2022, but it's the Hardrockers that lead the all-time series, 65-61-11.

This year, Black Hills State could really use the win. Colorado School of Mines and Western Colorado are both undefeated and in the top 25, but right behind them in the RMAC standings is the Yellow Jackets. A win over their long-time rival would help keep pace in a tough RMAC. Jayden Johannsen, SD Mines' dynamic quarterback, will do his best to prevent that. The true dual-threat quarterback threw for 350 yards and two scores in last year's loss but is coming off back-to-back four-touchdown games in 2023 and looks to keep that momentum rolling in the next chapter of this historic matchup. 

4 more to watch

  • Mars Hill at Limestone: Mars Hill is one of two remaining undefeated SAC teams and Limestone has won two in a row. If the Saints want to return to the postseason, this is a must-win.
  • Southwest Minnesota State at Valparaiso: Do the Mustangs have one more DII football-over-FCS upset left for the season?
  • Fort Valley State at Allen: The SIAC is going to be an all-out war in 2023, so this is a huge game for two of its stronger teams. Both of these teams are scoring more than 30 points per game, so expect some fireworks.
  • Grand Valley State at Saginaw Valley State: The Lakers return from a week off to The Battle of the Valleys. SVSU is amid a two-game losing streak to nationally ranked competition and will want to turn that around against the Lakers to try and keep its season alive.

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