Bearcats RB Kelvin Austin fights for the end zone in a game against Truman State. (courtesy Northwest Missouri State)

Unless you live in Northwest Missouri, you may not be aware of the Division II football rivalry between the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats and Missouri Western Griffons. Northwest’s campus is located in Maryville, and Western’s campus is just 45 miles south of there in St. Joseph.

This week, the 7th ranked Bearcats (2-1) host 8th ranked Missouri Western (4-0). Those are national rankings. Yes, two of the top 8 schools in the country are from the state of Missouri. As a side note, Central Missouri is also a top Division II football school in the same conference as these two schools.

Griffons' RB Michael Hill leaps for the goal line against Pitt State (courtesy Missouri Western Athletics)

The Bearcats are three time National Champions under head coach Mel Tjeersdma winning the title in 2009 to add to their back to back championships in ’98 and ’99. Missouri Western was 5-0 last season when they played Northwest and were tied 21-21 at the half before losing to the Bearcats by 14 points.

Beating up on the competition is nothing new to Northwest. They’ve won 39 straight conference games including four against the Griffons in that stretch. They are two games away from tying the conference record which the Bearcats set by winning 41 games from 1997-2001.

However, Missouri Western is turning the tide. This is the second consecutive season they’ve started 4-0 under head coach Jerry Patridge and with 99 career wins, he knows his 100th win against their biggest rival could kick start a great season that he hopes leads to the Division II national playoff scene.

There is a renewed buzz around the Griffon football program that started this July when the Chiefs opened their training camp on the Missouri Western campus that features an indoor practice facility, an upgraded weight room, state of the art locker room and athletic training facility that would rival a good portion of Division I football programs.  The Griffons have played in post season football in six of the last seven seasons.

Click and download my interview with both coaches as they talk about the rivalry between these two schools, the magnitude of a game like this so early in the season and more of what they expect this season.

Bill Pollock’s interview with Jerry Partridge and Mel Tjeersdma (11:00)