Courtesy of GLIAC Director of Media Relations Jeff
BAY CITY, Mich. – Names and faces change, but the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's (GLIAC) pursuit of excellence continues on the gridiron. This season, the GLIAC welcomes two new member institutions in Ohio Dominican University and Lake Erie College as the league expands from 12 to 14 teams. The fresh look for the GLIAC extends to new leadership in several programs. On the sidelines, the conference boasts new faces in familiar places as long-time assistant Matt Mitchell begins his first fall as head coach at Grand Valley State University, Bob Bartolomeo takes command at the University of Indianapolis, Bill Conley gets his start at ODU while Mark McNellie commences his fourth season at LEC, but his first in the GLIAC.
With several new coaches and two new teams, the GLIAC begins in familiar fashion: Grand Valley is atop the mountain followed closely by Hillsdale and Saginaw Valley State – all playoff teams in 2009. In the 2010 GLIAC Football Preseason Coaches' Poll, the Lakers garnered 169 points and 13 of 14 first-place votes. The Chargers and Cardinals are tied for second with 148 points. Hillsdale was awarded the remaining first-place vote. Ashland placed fourth in the poll with 113 points, Northwood fifth with 111, Findlay sixth with 102, Northern Michigan seventh with 101, Wayne State eighth with 91, Michigan Tech ninth with 87, Indianapolis 10th with 78, Ferris State 11th with 48, Tiffin 12th with 32, Ohio Dominican 13th with 27 and Lake Erie 14th with 19.
The GLIAC continues its reputation as a top Division II conference. That point was made stronger by several strong playoff records last season. In the 2010 Sporting NewsDivision II Preseason Top 25 poll, the conference was well represented as GVSU ranked second, Hillsdale was slotted 13th and Saginaw Valley placed 20th. Grand Valley, a perennial national power, advanced to the 2009 NCAA Division II National Championship Game, but dropped a 30-23 decision to Northwest Missouri State in Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala. The Lakers were hardly the only team to advance to the NCAA Tournament last fall. Hillsdale earned a bid to the Division II version of the big dance and defeated Minnesota State-Mankato in the first round 27-24 in overtime. The Chargers advanced to the second round of the playoffs before they were stopped by Grand Valley. The Lakers avenged their lone regular-season loss (which came at Hillsdale's hands) with a 44-27 victory in Allendale. Saginaw Valley also earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament, but was eliminated in the opening round in a 35-20 loss to Nebraska- Kearney.
Tied for Second, Saginaw Valley State University (9-3
overall, 8-2 GLIAC)
Overview: Saginaw Valley State is a program that is back on the rise to heights it experienced during the last decade. A year ago, Jim Collins wrapped up his second season at SVSU and he has continued to quietly lead the Cardinals up the ladder of contention in the GLIAC. In the fall of 2009, Saginaw Valley earned a trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time since 2005 led by an experienced group of student-athletes focused on big things. Saginaw Valley's season, however, came to an end at the hands of the University of Nebraska-Kearney in
the first round of the playoffs.
Offense: Saginaw Valley welcomes back some experienced hands to lead the offensive unit. At quarterback, the Cardinals welcome back Chuck Dowdell, an athletic quarterback who can beat you with his legs, but has the arm to make some things happen in the passing game, too. Dowdell passed for 2,260 yards with 13 touchdowns with a 56.8 completion percentage. He ranked second on the team in rushing last season with 655 yards and eight touchdowns. Nick Gallina led the league in yards per catch last season at 19.4. He had 25 receptions for 486 yards
and four touchdowns.
Defense: In the backfield, this season, look for Carlton Downs to be a playmaker for the Cardinals. He led the GLIAC in interception returns as he had four picks and returned them for a total of 66 yards. Jav'ae Ingraham (25 total tackles and three interceptions for 38 yards) and Matt McDaniel (19 total tackles and a fumble recovery) help strengthen what could be a strong secondary. On the line, Brandon Williams could be a factor for the team this season.
Special Teams: Matt McDaniel could be a factor in the return game for the Cardinals as he had 18 returns for 350 yards. Austin Borchard, a sophomore last season, converted 6-of-10 field goals. He was 4-of-6 from between 20 and 29 yards and 2-of-4 from between 30 and 39 yards.
Coaching: Jim Collins returns for his third season running the show for the Cardinals. In 2009, he led the program back to the NCAA Division II Tournament where the season ended with a first-round road loss at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Prior to his arrival at SVSU, coached Division III Capital University to a 44-13 record in five seasons.
Key Dates: Saginaw Valley opens the season with a non-conference home game against California (Pa.) on Sept. 4 at 12 p.m. On Sept. 25, SVSU faces Northwood in the Axe Bowl. The Cardinals are at Hillsdale on Oct. 2 and host Grand Valley State on Nov. 13 in the Battle of the Valleys.
Complete Preseason Poll (Place, Team, First Place Votes, Points)
1. Grand Valley State (13) 169
2. Hillsdale (1) 148
Saginaw Valley State 148
4. Ashland 113
5. Northwood 111
6. Findlay 102
7. Northern Michigan 101
8. Wayne State 91
9. Michigan Tech 87
10. Indianapolis 78
11. Ferris State 48
12. Tiffin 32
13. Ohio Dominican 27
14. Lake Erie 19