Ranked sixth in a coaches preseason poll last week, the University of Central Arkansas Bears are ranked a notch lower in the media poll.
The Bears, 9-3 last season, begin this season ranked seventh in The Sports Network poll as voted on by select media members throughout the country.
Sam Houston State, the team the Bears shared the Southland Conference title with last season, is No. 3 behind Montana State.
With two straight national championships in their pocket and a historical three-peat as their goal, the North Dakota State Bison enter the 2013 season as the clear No. 1 in The Sports Network FCS Top 25.
The poll’s national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries confirmed North Dakota State as the preseason No. 1 on Tuesday by giving the Bison 127 of the 134 first-place votes and 3,340 points.
Coach Craig Bohl’s squad returns 18 starters from a squad that won its second straight FCS title this past January. The Bison will try to join the 2005-07 teams at Appalachian State as the second program to win three FCS national titles in a row.
NDSU has finished with a 14-1 record in each of the past two seasons. The two- time reigning Missouri Valley Football Conference champion will feature a superb senior class, including quarterback Brock Jensen, a Walter Payton Award nominee, and linebacker Grant Olson and cornerback Marcus Williams, who are both nominees for the Buck Buchanan Award.
Montana State (11-2 last season), which has won a share of the last three Big Sky championships under coach Rob Ash, earned the No. 2 preseason ranking. No returning FCS player has gained more total yards over the last three years than Bobcats quarterback DeNarius McGhee, who returns for his senior season.
Sam Houston State (11-4), the two-time defending Southland Conference champion, had the No. 3 ranking despite having more first-place votes (five) than Montana State (one).
Coach Willie Fritz’s Bearkats also have eliminated Montana State in the FCS quarterfinals the last two seasons on their way to back-to-back championship game appearances. They return one of the more dangerous offenses in the FCS, led by senior running back Timothy Flanders.
Link to complete poll: