For the second straight week, Northwest Missouri State's regional ranking matches its national ranking.
Ranked fourth in the newest AFCA Division II Poll, the Bearcats also moved up one spot to No. 4 in the Super Region 3 rankings Monday.
Northwest is the first of three MIAA teams to appear in the top six and the highest of four in the top 10.
The Bearcats took over the spot previously held by their upcoming opponent Emporia State. The Hornets' 57-28 loss to Missouri Western caused them to drop to No. 6. Western rose four spots to No. 5.
All three teams share the conference lead and would be in the playoffs if they started today.
Pittsburg State (6-2) made its first appearance in the top 10 at No. 10, but its chances of making the playoffs are very slim with only two games remaining against Lindenwood and Missouri Southern.
There was a change at the top of Super Region 3, with Henderson State (Ark.) going up to No. 1 and Minnesota-St.-Mankato dropping to No. 2. Both teams won their games Saturday to improve to 9-0.
GAC member Harding remains the No. 3 team in the region at 7-1.
Occupying the three spots behind the MIAA's trio are Northern Sun members Minnesota-Duluth (8-1), Winona State (7-2) and Sioux Falls (8-1). All three teams dropped a spot in the rankings due to the ascension of Missouri Western (8-1).
Minnesota-Duluth is seventh followed by No. 8 Winona State and No. 9 Sioux Falls.
Shippensburg is the top-ranked team in Super Region 1. Miles (Ala.) and Ashland (Ohio) own that distinction in Super Regions 2 and 4.
The final set of region rankings come out Monday, and the playoff brackets will be unveiled Nov. 11.
With 21 interceptions through the first nine games, Northwest Missouri State has already surpassed their totals from the past two seasons.
The Bearcats picked off 15 passes in 14 games last year and 14 during the 2010 season over a span of 14 games.
Northwest needs four more interceptions to match the 2009 national championship team's season total of 25.
The Bearcats currently have four more interceptions than anyone else in the MIAA and their plus-15 turnover margin ranks first as well. Northwest's Nate DeJong (5 INT's), Brandon Dixon (4 INT's), Travis Manning (3 INT's) and Brian Dixon (3 INT's) are all among the league's top 15 interception-getters.
Three of the four had interceptions in Saturday's 56-6 win over Washburn. As a team, the Bearcats picked off a season-high six passes. In each of the last five games, Northwest has made at least two thefts.
Young held out
Northwest Missouri State had another huge offensive day Saturday despite the absence of one of its starting receivers.
Page 2 of 2 - Sophomore wideout Bryce Young, whose in the midst of a career-best year, was forced to miss his first game because of an injury. Dorrel said his status will be re-evaluated on Thursday.
Young is Northwest's third leading receiver with 26 catches and ranks second on the team with 413 yards. He's also scored two touchdowns.
Senior John Hinchey started in Young's place and caught four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.
It was Hinchey's third consecutive game with at least four catches.
After taking over for starter Trevor Adams in the third quarter, Northwest Missouri State back-up quarterback Brady Bolles had to leave Saturday's game against Washburn with a serious-looking leg injury.
It occurred on a first down rushing play that netted a 1-yard gain. Bolles appeared to get his leg caught under a pile of bodies and stayed down on the turf for a short period before being helped off by teammates. He didn't return.
Dorrel wouldn't comment on the severity of the injury or anything else related to it.
Junior Tyler Seals played the rest of the game at quarterback and didn't attempt a pass. If Bolles is forced to miss any time, Seals would be the primary back-up.
Just one issue
About the only area Northwest Missouri State struggled in Saturday was penalties.
The Bearcats were flagged 11 times for 88 yards, marking the second straight game they've accrued more than 80 penalty yards.
On three different occasions, the Bearcat punting unit was whistled for an illegal formation for having five players lined up in the backfield. This happened twice on Kyle Goodburn punts that went into the end zone, adding five yards of field position for the Ichabods.
Dorrel said it was an issue that would get fixed in practice this week.