FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) -- Lenoir-Rhyne is the feel-good story of Division II: A third-team quarterback is pressed into action and leads a team making only its second appearance in the playoffs all the way to the championship game.
Unbeaten Northwest Missouri State, by contrast, is a powerhouse program and the title game's most frequent visitor. The two teams will play for the championship Saturday in a matchup of programs with very different postseason pedigrees, and one common characteristic: Neither has lost in a while.
''I think we're putting Lenoir-Rhyne on the map a little bit,'' Bears quarterback Josh Justice said. ''We made it to the second round last year and this year we're in the national championship.
''I think everyone nationwide is hearing our name and putting little ole Lenoir-Rhyne University on the map.'' If you're looking for Lenoir-Rhyne on a map, it's in Hickory, N.C.
Justice has played a big role in the playoffs for the Bears (13-1), who haven't lost since an opening defeat to Concord.
The senior opened the season as a third-teamer but starter Miles Freeman went down late in the season and replacement Teverrius Jones was hurt in the second round, both against Carson-Newman.
The team hasn't missed a beat with Justice taking over.
''We inserted him into a talented group of players for our offense, and he has stepped right in and excelled,'' Lenoir-Rhyne coach Mike Houston said.
Now, Lenoir-Rhyne, a school with 1,900 students, will face its biggest challenge. Northwest Missouri State (14-0), which has an enrollment of nearly 6,500, is trying for its second 15-0 season and the fifth in Division II history. The Bearcats are playing in a record eighth championship game and have won three titles, the latest in 2009.
''This is the best football team that we've seen this year,'' Houston said.
Here are five things to watch in the championship game:
BEARS' ATTACK: Northwest Missouri's challenge is stopping a spread flexbone offense that's similar to the system employed by Navy and Georgia Tech. The Bears lead the nation in rushing at 377.9 yards per game and didn't attempt a pass in the semifinals against West Chester. Northwest Missouri coach Adam Dorrel, who faced a similar style in a 43-7 win over Missouri Southern, said it's about defending as a team not 11 individuals.
''To me the problems you're going to have against an offense like this is your guys try to do too much,'' said Dorrel, who is 35-6 since taking over at his alma mater. ''We focused on that this week, trying to be one-11th oriented on defense and tackle really well.''
JUSTICE SERVED: Justice threw what proved to be the winning touchdown pass in the final minutes of the Carson-Newman playoff game and ran for the decisive 22-yard touchdown with 2:38 left in a 42-39 quarterfinal win over North Alabama. He ran for 175 yards, three touchdowns and three two-point conversions in a 42-14 victory over West Chester.
''It's been extremely exciting, and also a little bit humbling, too,'' Justice said. ''Just seeing all the thing that God's doing with this team and the second chance He's given me. It's been lot of fun.''
TIGHT GAMES: Lenoir-Rhyne does have more experience in at least one situation - close games. Dorrel's Bears have hardly been challenged this season, winning all but two games by double digits. The three playoff wins have come by an average of 25.3 points. Lenoir-Rhyne has had two playoff games decided by seven points or fewer.
HANDLING HYPE: Dorrel said the only real advantage to having been here before is knowing how to handle the logistics of the trip. Both teams express similar philosophies on dealing with the high stakes: Keeping doing what got them here.
''We have to remain true to our identity as a team and what we've been doing all year,'' Northwest Missouri quarterback Trevor Adams said. ''It's a huge game. It's a national championship. Sometimes I think teams can look at that too closely and kind of lose sight of who they are.''
Added Justice: ''That's the biggest key. Don't let the hype get to us and just keep doing what we've been doing all year long.''
QUARTERBACK DUO: Northwest Missouri has two quarterbacks who have put up solid numbers and is second nationally in passing efficiency. Adams and backup Brady Bolles, who has played in every game, have collectively completed a nation's best 71.1 percent of their passes. Adams has thrown for 2,788 yards with 27 touchdowns against six interceptions. Bolles has passed for 1,119 yards and seven TDs and run for 559 yards and 11 scores.