Eastern will head into the 2011 season ranked where it ended its national championship campaign in 2010
The Eastern Washington University football program will start the 2011 season the way it ended the 2010 campaign as the No. 1-ranked football team in the NCAA Championship Subdivision.
But staying there will be a difficult task.
The Eagles have been installed as a prohibitive No. 1 by voters in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Preseason Top 25 released Monday (Aug. 15). They gained 90 of the 140 first-place votes and 3,377 points in the poll, which is selected by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.
Eastern Washington won its final 11 games of the 2010 season to win the 2010 NCAA Division I title, and was ranked No. 1 in polls at the conclusion of the regular season and the playoffs. Eastern opens its 2011 season Sept. 3 at Washington of the Pac-12 Conference, before playing two more road games at South Dakota (Sept. 10) and Montana (Sept. 17). The Eagles, who return 15 starters plus their two kickers from last season's 13-2 squad, play their home opener Sept. 24 versus Montana State.
The Bobcats and Eagles shared the Big Sky Conference title a year ago, and MSU is ranked sixth in the preseason poll. Perennial national powerhouse Montana, which won or shared the previous 12 league titles before last year, enters the 2011 season ranked 12th.
Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin knows the lofty predictions make the target on their backs even bigger after winning the national title. But it’s certainly an accolade he and his team are proud to have.
“It adds to the talk you're getting going into the season -- it adds to people maybe saying, 'Hey, there's a huge game for us on our schedule,” he explained.
"But ultimately as a team, it's what we wanted. It was part of our vision record-wise and over the years we've had a lot of success here, but our goals have been to try and keep taking it to another level. And if you do that, and you do wind up with a, quote-un-quote, target on your back, it means you've done something pretty darn good the year before or the years before."
Eastern quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, the most outstanding performer in the 20-19 second-half rally past Delaware in the championship game, is one of seven preseason All-Americans on the Eagle roster. The other six include safety Matt Johnson, his twin brother linebacker Zach Johnson, defensive tackle Renard Williams, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, center Chris Powers and offensive tackle Gabriel Jackson.
Appalachian State, which is coming off its sixth-straight season of at least 10 wins and a share of the Southern Conference title, collected 14 first-place votes and was picked second. William & Mary had six more first-place votes for 20 while finishing one spot behind at No. 3. Georgia Southern, which had 11 first-place votes, was fourth, and Delaware, which fell 20-19 to Eastern in the national championship game, was fifth, gaining a pair of first-place votes. Other Preseason Top 10 teams were No. 6 Montana State, No. 7 Northern Iowa, No. 8 Wofford, No. 9 Jacksonville State and No. 10 New Hampshire (one first-place vote).
North Dakota State led the next 10 at No. 11, followed by No. 12 Montana, No. 13 Lehigh, No. 14 Villanova (two first-place votes), No. 15 James Madison, No. 16 Richmond, No. 17 Stephen F. Austin, No. 18 Central Arkansas, No. 19 Southern Illinois and No. 20 McNeese State. Chattanooga was selected at No. 21, followed by No. 22 Liberty, No. 23 South Carolina State, No. 24 Sacramento State and No. 25 Massachusetts, which is playing its final season in the FCS before joining the Mid-American Conference of the FBS next year.
The Colonial Athletic Association had the most teams in the preseason poll with seven, followed by the Big Sky and Southern conferences with four each, and the Missouri Valley and Southland conferences with three each. The Big South, Mid-Eastern Athletic and Ohio Valley conferences and the Patriot League each had one team on the list.
During the regular season, the Top 25 will be released every Monday afternoon, except for the final weekend of the regular season, when it will be released Sunday morning, Nov. 20, due to its use as an official tool by the NCAA Division I Football Committee in selecting the 20-team playoff field.
The Sports Network and Fathead.com will release a final Top 25 following the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 7 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top-25 College Football Poll
|Team (First-place votes)||Record||Points||Previous Rank|
|1. Eastern Washington Eagles (90)||13-2||3,377||1|
|2. Appalachian State Mountaineers (14)||10-3||3,142||4|
|3. William & Mary Tribe (20)||8-4||3,110||10|
|4. Georgia Southern Eagles (11)||10-5||3,095||5|
|5. Delaware Blue Hens (2)||12-3||2,806||2|
|6. Montana State Bobcats||9-3||2,623||11|
|7. Northern Iowa Panthers||7-5||2,452||19|
|8. Wofford Terriers||10-3||2,357||6|
|9. Jacksonville State Gamecocks||9-3||2,028||12|
|10. New Hampshire Wildcats (1)||8-5||2,025||7|
|11. North Dakota State Bison||9-5||1,720||9|
|12. Montana Grizzlies||7-4||1,668||20|
|13. Lehigh Mountain Hawks||10-3||1,351||14|
|14. Villanova Wildcats (2)||9-5||1,262||3|
|15. James Madison Dukes||6-5||1,247||NR|
|16. Richmond Spiders||6-5||987||NR|
|17. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks||9-3||969||8|
|18. Central Arkansas Bears||7-4||961||NR|
|19. Southern Illinois Salukis||5-6||934||NR|
|20. McNeese State Cowboys||6-5||701||NR|
|21. Chattanooga Mocs||6-5||672||NR|
|22. Liberty Flames||8-3||630||21|
|23. South Carolina State Bulldogs||9-3||628||16|
|24. Sacramento State Hornets||6-5||587||NR|
|25. Massachusetts Minutemen||6-5||519||NR|
|Others receiving votes: Penn 456, Bethune-Cookman 425, Southeast Missouri State 341, Murray State 315, Western Illinois 247, Southern Utah 240, Jacksonville 215, Cal Poly 168, Stony Brook 163, Grambling State 146, Eastern Kentucky 139, Jackson State 76, Florida A&M 76, Colgate 75, Sam Houston State 75, Harvard 54, Indiana State 51, UC Davis 48, South Dakota State 40, Youngstown State 28, Central Connecticut State 26, Coastal Carolina 25, Dayton 21, Northwestern State 20, Northern Arizona 18, Elon 16, Yale 15, Weber State 13, Illinois State 12, Tennessee Tech 12, Rhode Island 11, Maine 10, Albany 10, Texas Southern 10, Northern Colorado 10, Furman 10, Brown 8, South Dakota 7, Old Dominion 5, Columbia 5, Missouri State 2, Robert Morris 2, Hampton 1, Duquesne 1, UT Martin 1.|