The Flor-Ala’s Division II football playoff predictions

The staff at The Flor-Ala took the liberty of researching the 2016 Division II football playoff field and making predictions based off that research.

DII football simply does not get much coverage from the media, so the aim of  our bracket predictions is to help our readers who may not be familiar with DII football outside of the Gulf South Conference, gain a knowledge of teams from around the country.

Now, on to the region by region breakdown from our experts, Sports Editor Andrew Fulmer and Managing Editor Mike Ezekiel.

Super Region 1

Super Region 1 is one of the strongest regions this year. Four teams enter the playoffs with double-digit wins, including three undefeated teams in California (PA), LIU Post and Shepherd. Defense is the name of the game in this region, and while Cal. (PA) has had a great year with its 5th ranked defense, it is the Shepherd Rams that come out on top.—AF

Shepherd is becoming a mainstay in the Division II playoffs, and I believe they are the best team in this region, despite being the No. 3 seed. They will host Assumption in the first round, and I “assume” they will win this one. I expect two upsets in them first round of this super region. Winston Salem State has not lost since September, but will have a tough contest with undefeated LIU-Post. Also, I like No. 5 Indiana University Pennsylvania to beat No. 4 Fairmont State, then upset No. 1 seed California (PA) in a close game. But Shepherd’s experience will herd it to the semifinals.—ME

Super Region 2

Region 2 is the most bizarre region at first glance. The only team to make it to the playoffs with four losses, North Greenville, is in this region. Only one team, Newberry,  has double-digit wins this season. No. 1 seed North Alabama played only nine games due to Hurricane Matthew. Despite the short schedule, UNA wins this region behind an efficient offense and staunch defense.—AF 

North Alabama is the clear front-runner in this region, and it appears to be head and shoulders above the competition. Many expected Gulf South Conference foe Florida Tech to have a lower seed, but a head-to-head win over Valdosta State gave it the No. 3 position. I like both FIT and VSU to represent the GSC with wins in the first round over North Greenville and UNC-Pembroke. The stars should align for the UNA/FIT dream match in the quarterfinals many fans have dreamed about, but did not get to watch due to Hurricane Matthew back in October. I like UNA to get through this super region unscathed.—ME 

Super Region 3

Region 3 gives region 1 a run for its money when it comes to competitiveness. Not only is this region home to the defending national champion Northwest Missouri State, but it is also home to the best defensive team statistically in the Harding Bisons. The Bisons are allowing just 227. 8 yards per game, but they fall to the defending champs as they continue their 26 game winning streak into the semifinals.—AF 

Northwest Missouri State locked up the top seed in this region and along with UNA have the most playoff bids in Division II history with 21. Statistically, the Bearcats are one of the greatest teams in D2 history, which is saying something for a team who is a mainstay in the national championship year in and year out. Emporia State, Harding and Sioux Falls are three teams I see giving NWMSU a run for its money, but after a 69-10 win over Pittsburg State a couple of weeks ago, I’m convinced the Bearcats will again be in Kansas City.—ME 

Super Region 4

For those who like high-octane offenses, this region is for you. Five of the top 15 offenses in Division-II are in this region, including the No. 1 total offense Colorado Mines. Despite having the top offense, the Orediggers fall to the balanced attack from Southwest Baptist. Grand Valley State has the most playoff experience in this region and it begins to show. The Lakers emerge as the Region 4 champions.—AF 

I love finding the upset picks, and Ferris State seems to be that team. Many were shocked to see the Bulldogs jump to the No. 2 seed from No. 6 as a two-loss team, but strength of schedule had a big part in that. Grand Valley State is the popular pick here, considering they are undefeated and are the super region’s defending champions. Last season, FSU beat GVSU in the regular season, and GVSU got its revenge in the playoffs.This year, the Lakers own a 35-23 win, and the old adage “it’s tough to beat a team twice” applies here in my estimation. I like Ferris to upset Grand Valley on their way to the semifinals. But also watch for Texas A&M Commerce, who happens to be another dark horse with an explosive offense.—ME 

Semifinals and championship

North Alabama defensive coordinator Chris Willis said this team is a great second half team. I think  that trend continues throughout the semifinals. The Lions get a hard fought win over the defending champions Northwest Missouri State in the semifinals. Grand Valley State should advance to the finals against Shepherd for an interesting matchup. GVSU has a rich football history, but coach Monte Carter’s Shepherd team defeats the Lakers to earn a chance to play UNA for the national championship in Kansas City. Shepherd gives UNA stiff competition, but the Lions prevail to become the 2016 National Champions, giving the Lions their fourth championship in school history.—AF

Champion: North Alabama

Northwest Missouri will likely be the favorite in every game they play this season, as they have torn through every team they have faced this season. As mention before, they have one of the best statistical seasons going in the history of NCAA football, and it’s tough to go against that. But, UNA coach Bobby Wallace said he sees something in this team that he never saw in his three national championship teams from 1993-95, and that is complete dominance in every phase of the game. Not to be a homer, but I have to agree with “Big Wobby” on this one. This team is special, and Dec. 17 will be its special day.—ME

Champion: North Alabama