While FCS football awaits the anticipated debut of their Spring season next Saturday with Tarleton State-McNeese State opening things up, few people know that the NAIA and Division 3 open their seasons this Saturday. This will probably be one of the only times that Division 3 and NAIA have a college football slate all to themselves, so I figured I’d help everyone out with a watch grid.
Early Time Slot Outlook
The early time slot is the heaviest of the day with seven games. Put your attention on Mary-Hardin Baylor as they take on Bellhaven. The Crusaders are an elite program in Division III, winning the Stagg Bowl in 2018, and going 12-1 last year, before falling to perennial power Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Trinity vs Austin has star power to it and could be fun as well. Tossing the ball for Trinity is Wyatt Messex, standing at a diminutive 5’8″. Do not let the size fool you though, he can throw the ball well, throwing for 26 touchdown passes in 2019. Austin counters with a star on the other side of the ball in Keegan Nichols, who had a whopping 20.5 tackles for loss in 2019.
Rounding out the early slot are games that could be interesting in their own right. Hendrix has an accomplished signal caller in Miles Thompson, who won the Southern Athletic Association’s Player of the Year award back in 2017. Despite fighting through injuries throughout his career, he has amassed over 6600 passing yards and 60 touchdowns as well as 915 rushing yards and 15 scores.
In Southwestern College vs East Texas Baptist, watch Southwestern’s gun option at work as they averaged 232 rushing yards per game on their way to a 4-6 2019 record. Fans of defense can tune into the NAIA matchup of Reinhardt vs Point to see a stout Reinhardt unit that allowed only 15.9 points per game in 2019.
The 3:30-7 PM slot is considerably thinner with only three games, but there solid choices. Leading the pack is Pacific Lutheran vs Puget Sound on the west coast. If you enjoy points, this might the game for you. Murdock Rutledge threw for 296 yards per game in nine starts for Puget Sound, reaching the end zone with 26 passes. Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound also have a quality rivalry dating back to 1931, and even being held in neutral sites such as the Tacoma Dome for years.
On the NAIA side, linebacker lovers can watch Bluefield vs Union. DaMarcus Wimbush had 146 tackles in 2019 and was an NAIA All-American the last two seasons. He could end up on an NFL roster this Summer if he continues his trajectory. The last game in the slate is St. Ambrose vs Roosevelt. If you like history, tune in as Roosevelt will play their first game ever as a program.
Prime Time: America Meet Robert Shufford
In a country that prides itself on free will. Football fans have only one choice come Saturday night. Birmingham Southern vs Rhodes. Yes, there is a disparity of records, but watch because one of the best running backs in America will take the field.
Robert Shufford will lead the Birmingham Southern backfield after running for 1834 yards in 10 games, with four 200-yard performances. For his efforts, he was a first-team All-American and was a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, the award for DIII player of the year.
Against a Rhodes team fresh off a 1-9 2019 finish, Shufford may have a legendary performance against the Lynx. Last year, Shufford had 133 yards on only 14 carries. Imagine what he could do with a full workload.
Sure this game might get out of hand early, but what else are you going to watch, the NFL Honors? Just get updates for the awards on Twitter.
Spring football lovers should rejoice tomorrow for an opportunity to see schools that hardly receive due recognition and the players that represent them. Who knows, if you follow this watch grid, one of these school may gain a new lifetime fan.