National Champ North Dakota State an Overwhelming No. 1 in Stats Perform FCS Preseason Top 25
FCS

National Champ North Dakota State an Overwhelming No. 1 in Stats Perform FCS Preseason Top 25

One of the reasons the North Dakota State Bison don’t get caught looking ahead is because of the expectations that surround their program.

They’re already immense internally – they’re even bigger outside the program.

“It can be our greatest enemy,” fourth-year coach Matt Entz said if his team didn’t keep its day-to-day focus.

This year’s expectations are through the Fargodome roof again: The reigning FCS national champion, and a winner of nine of the last 11 titles, was voted an overwhelming No. 1 in the Stats Perform FCS Preseason Top 25 on Monday. The Bison collected 52 of the 54 first-place votes in the national media poll.

“Looking forward to it. New year, new group, different personality of a football team, and that’s exciting,” Entz said.

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North Dakota State returns 13 starters from a team that finished 14-1, including senior fullback Hunter Luepke, who was named the most outstanding player of the Bison’s 38-10 rout of Montana State in the national championship game.

Their only loss last season occurred within the Missouri Valley Football Conference to rival South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits (11-4), who have advanced to at least a national semifinal in four of the last five seasons, claimed the No. 2 preseason ranking.

The Big Sky Conference had the most ranked teams with six, led by No. 3 Montana (10-3) and No. 4 Montana State (12-3). Fifth-ranked Missouri State (8-4) helped the MVFC to five Top 25 selections, while CAA Football had the third-most with four, led by No. 6 Villanova (10-3).

Ten different conferences were represented in the rankings.

A national media panel selects the Stats Perform FCS Top 25. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.

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Stats Perform FCS Preseason Top 25

1. North Dakota State (14-1, 7-1 Missouri Valley), 1,348 points (52 first-place votes)

Season Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Drake

2. South Dakota State (11-4, 5-3 Missouri Valley), 1,285 (2)

Season Opener: Sept. 3 at Iowa

3. Montana (10-3, 6-2 Big Sky), 1,218

Season Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Northwestern State

4. Montana State (12-3, 7-1 Big Sky), 1,203

Season Opener: Sept. 3 vs. McNeese

5. Missouri State (8-4, 6-2 Missouri Valley), 1066

Season Opener: Sept. 1 at Central Arkansas

6. Villanova (10-3, 7-1 CAA), 997

Season Opener: Sept. 2 vs. Lehigh

7. Sacramento State (9-3, 8-0 Big Sky), 991

Season Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Utah Tech

8. Kennesaw State (11-2, 6-0 Big South), 959

Season Opener: Sept. 1 at Samford

9. Southern Illinois (8-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley), 915

Season Opener: Sept. 3 at UIW

10. Stephen F. Austin (8-4, 4-2 ASUN-WAC), 813

Season Opener: Aug. 27 vs. Jacksonville State (in Montgomery, Alabama)

11. ETSU (11-2, 7-1 Southern), 750

Season Opener: Sept. 1 vs. Mars Hill

12. Chattanooga (6-5, 5-3 Southern), 562

Season Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Wofford

13. Eastern Washington (10-3, 6-2 Big Sky), 538

Season Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Tennessee State

14. UIW (10-3, 7-1 Southland), 533

Season Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Southern Illinois

15. Jackson State (11-2, 8-0 SWAC), 515

Season Opener: Sept. 4 vs. Florida A&M (in Miami Gardens, Florida)

16. Holy Cross (10-3, 6-0 Patriot), 503

Season Opener: Sept. 2 at Merrimack

17. Southeastern Louisiana (9-4, 6-2 Southland), 440

Season Opener: Sept. 3 at Louisiana  

18. UT Martin (10-3, 5-1 Ohio Valley), 404

Season Opener: Sept. 1 vs. Western Illinois

19. Delaware (5-6, 3-5 CAA), 401

Season Opener: Sept. 3 at Navy

20. Weber State (6-5, 5-3 Big Sky), 391

Season Opener: Sept. 1 vs. Western Oregon

21. Northern Iowa (6-6, 4-4 Missouri Valley), 289

Season Opener: Sept. 3 at Air Force

22. Rhode Island (7-4, 4-4 CAA), 242

Season Opener: Sept. 1 at Stony Brook

23. Mercer (7-3, 6-2 Southern), 215

Season Opener: Aug. 27 vs. Morehead State

24. Richmond (6-5, 4-4 CAA), 166

Season Opener: Sept. 3 at Virginia

25. UC Davis (8-4, 5-3 Big Sky), 153

Season Opener: Sept. 3 at California

Others Receiving Votes (schools listed on two or more ballots): South Dakota (7-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley) 151, Eastern Kentucky (7-4, 4-2 ASUN-WAC) 129, Florida A&M (9-3, 7-1 SWAC) 78, William & Mary (6-5, 4-4 CAA) 66, Dartmouth (9-1, 6-1 Ivy) 59, Monmouth (7-4, 6-1 Big South) 23, Harvard (8-2, 5-2 Ivy) 19, Princeton (9-1, 6-1 Ivy) 18, Central Arkansas (5-6, 3-3 ASUN-WAC) 14, Furman (6-5, 4-4 Southern) 14, South Carolina State (7-5, 5-0 MEAC) 13, Sacred Heart (8-4, 6-1 Northeast) 12, Elon (6-5, 5-3 CAA) 8, North Carolina A&T (5-6, 3-4 Big South) 4

Stats Perform FCS Top 25 Voters – Stats Perform: Craig Haley, Gary Reasons. ASUN: John Bednarowski, Brian Morgan. Big Sky Conference: Doug Kelly, Tyson Rodgers, Larry Weir. Big South Conference: Brian Cleary, Mark Simpson. CAA Football: Matt Harmon, Scott Klatzkin, Rob Washburn. Ivy League: Rick Bender, Craig Larson. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference: Bill Hamilton, Maurice Williams. Missouri Valley Football Conference: Dom Izzo, Mike Kern, Randy Reinhardt. Northeast Conference: Sarah Boissonneault, Randy Brochu. Ohio Valley Conference: Mike Bradd, Kyle Schwartz. Patriot League: Eric Malanowski, Ryan Sakamoto. Pioneer Football League: Cody Bush, Jack Cronin. Southern Conference: Jeff Hartsell, Scott Keeler, Phil Perry. Southland Conference: Matthew Bonnette, James Dixon, Josh Yonis. Southwestern Athletic Conference: Ronnie Johnson, Andrew Roberts, Jacob Shames. Western Athletic Conference: Eric Danner, Dennis Driscoll. National Representatives: Josh Buchanan, Zack Carlton, Riley Corcoran, Sam Herder, Emory Hunt, Kyle Kensing, Brandon Lawrence, Zach McKinnell, Brian McLaughlin, Jon Passman, Kent Schmidt, Lawrence Smith, Phil Sokol, Reggie Thomas, Ralph Ventre, Jamie Williams.