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The Division II football season is suddenly right around the corner. In a matter of weeks, two-time defending champion Northwest Missouri State takes on Emporia State on opening night of the DII football season.

RELATED: A2017 AFCA preseason poll

The American Football Coaches Association released its preseason poll on Aug. 14. Here are some early reactions.

A view from the top… again

There’s no surprise at No. 1. Two seasons, no losses, a 30-game winning streak and back-to-back championships. Northwest Missouri State finished 2016 as No. 1 and that’s where it deservedly opens 2017.

“Three-peating” may not be so easy. While the team at the top may be the same, there will be a new man calling the shots on the sidelines. Rich Wright will be taking the reigns of the best DII football team in the nation.

MORE: For new head coach Rich Wright Northwest Missouri State football is a family affair

Wright takes over for Adam Dorrel, who built the Bearcats’ current dynasty and is now getting his shot with Division I Abilene Christian. Wright, of course, is no stranger to Northwest Missouri State, having been its defensive coordinator for the past six seasons.

Yes, he’s the same defensive coordinator that led the best defense in DII football last season, as the Bearcats allowed a stingy 240.9 yards per game.

To say the Bearcats are in good hands is an understatement.

Also gone is starting quarterback Kyle Zimmerman. Jonathan Baker is the top candidate for the job and already has a big star on his resume. Baker stepped in last year during the semifinals and led the Bearcats to victory with Zimmerman on the bench. It’s safe to say he has the moxie for the spotlight.

The Bearcats lost 16 starters but return 13. We’ll find out just how good the new-look Northwest Missouri State team is in its opener against a tough opponent in Emporia State.

Ain’t life grand?

Grand Valley State finished 2016 ranked the fourth-best team in DII football. They enter 2017 sitting at No. 2. That’s because its offense should be pretty exciting to watch.

The Lakers had the 13th best total offense in 2016, and a lot of those key pieces will return.

Junior running back Marty Carter will have plenty of eyes on him this season. He had a monster 2016 leading DII with 1,908 yards rushing while adding 20 touchdowns on the ground. If a team figures out how to tie Carter down, returning quarterback Bart Williams will have plenty in his arsenal to counter.

Williams looks to build off a 3,334-yard, 33-touchdown campaign with returning receivers Nick Dodson (a team-best 13 touchdowns) and Urston Smith, who averaged nearly 23 yards per catch.

GVSU’s quest for a conference crown presents no easy road, despite being projected to win the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. You can be sure No. 3 Ferris State and Ashland will have their say at the end of the season.

The farewell tour begins

North Alabama is preparing for its jump to the FCS, but it still has some time to make its presence felt in Division II before going out.

The Lions made it all the way to the championship game before, like many before them, Northwest Missouri State crushed their dreams of a national title. A DII football powerhouse in the mid-1990s, UNA fell just short of restating their claim, losing 29-3 to the Bearcats in 2016. The Lions open 2017 as the No. 6 team.