Picking the Eagles one spot higher than the media did, the Eastern Washington University football team has been selected third in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 Poll released on Monday (Aug. 19). Two weeks earlier, EWU was ranked fourth in the STATS preseason media poll.
North Dakota State, which has won seven of eight NCAA Division I titles since EWU won it in 2010, was a unanimous No. 1 pick by the coaches. James Madison was ranked second, followed by EWU in third. South Dakota State was fourth, a year after JMU bowed out of the FCS Playoffs in the second round and SDSU advanced to the semifinals where is lost to NDSU. Eastern fell to the Bison 38-24 in the NCAA Division I Championship Game.
The Bison had 644 points and received 23 first-place votes, but only 218 votes separated second through fourth. Eastern received two first-place votes and had 588 total votes, while JMU picked up one No. 1 vote and had 597 votes. South Dakota State received 579 votes.
Eastern is the preseason favorite to win the Big Sky Conference title in 2019. Since winning the league and NCAA Division I titles in 2010, Eastern has won Big Sky championships in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018, giving the Eagles a total of 10 league titles to go along with 13 all-time berths in the FCS Playoffs. Despite losing 25 seniors from last year's squad that finished 12-3 overall and 7-1 in the league, Eastern has another veteran squad with 22 seniors and 47 total letter winners back.
Jacksonville State is the only team EWU will play in 2019 who are ranked in the top 25 of the preseason poll. Jacksonville State from the Ohio Valley Conference is No. 6, and EWU plays against the Gamecocks in Jacksonville, Ala., on Sept. 14. Montana received enough votes to rank 26th, and Eastern takes on the Griz in Missoula on Oct. 26.
Other ranked teams from the Big Sky include No. 5 UC Davis, No. 9 Weber State and No. 15 Montana State. The Eagles shared the league title a year ago with the Aggies and Wildcats. Other notable ranked teams include Maine (No. 7) and Nicholls (No. 11), a pair of teams EWU beat in the 2018 playoffs, along with UC Davis.
Eastern has two weeks of practices remaining leading up to the team's opener at Washington on Aug. 31, and the home opener the next week on Sept. 7 versus Lindenwood. The Eagles play 12 games in 2019, including seven on the road and five at home at Roos Field, where EWU won all eight of its games in 2018.
More on AFCA FCS Preseason Top 25 . . .
The Bison of North Dakota State are the preseason favorites to win the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title again, as voted on by the coaches in the AFCA FCS Coaches' Top 25 Poll. James Madison, who made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs in 2018, comes in at the No. 2 spot. The Dukes are followed by last season's national runner-up, Eastern Washington at No. 3, South Dakota State at No. 4 and UC Davis at No. 5.
No. 14 Colgate starts the FCS season off early as they host Villanova this coming Saturday, August 24. The Raiders went 10-2 last year with an appearance in the FCS quarterfinals. There is only one Top 25 matchup during the first full week of action as No. 19 North Carolina A&T plays host to No. 21 Elon. No. 24 Princeton, the only other undefeated team in FCS last year besides North Dakota State, begins defense of its 2018 IVY League title on September 21 versus Butler.
Rank - School (1st-place votes) – 2018 Record - Points – 2018 Final Rank – 2019 Season Opener - Head Coach
1. - North Dakota St. (23) - 15-0 - 644 - 1 - Aug. 31 vs. Butler - Matt Entz
2. - James Madison (1) - 9-4 - 597 - 10 - Aug. 31 at West Virginia - Curt Cignetti
3. - Eastern Washington (2) - 12-3 - 588 - 2 - Aug. 31 at Washington - Aaron Best
4. - South Dakota St. - 10-3 - 579 - 3 - Aug. 29 at Minnesota - John Stiegelmeier
5. - UC Davis - 10-3 - 537 - 8 - Aug. 31 at California - Dan Hawkins
6. - Jacksonville St. - 9-4 - 500 - 13 - Aug. 29 at Southeastern Louisiana - John Grass
7. - Maine - 10-4 - 473 - 5 - Aug. 30 vs. Sacred Heart - Nick Charlton
8. - Wofford - 9-4 - 437 - 12 - Aug. 31 at South Carolina St. - Josh Conklin
9. - Weber St. - 10-3 - 432 - 6 - Aug. 31 at San Diego St. - Jay Hill
10. - Kennesaw St. - 11-2 - 404 - 4 - Aug. 31 vs. Point - Brian Bohannon
11. - Nicholls - 9-4 - 385 - 14 - Aug. 31 at Kansas St. - Tim Rebowe
12. - Towson - 7-5 - 349 - 22 - Aug. 31 at The Citadel - Rob Ambrose
13. - Illinois St. - 6-5 - 290 - NR - Aug. 31 at Northern Illinois - Brock Spack
14. - Colgate - 10-2 - 272 - 7 - Aug. 24 vs. Villanova - Dan Hunt
15. - Montana St. - 8-5 - 271 - 17 - Aug. 31 at Texas Tech - Jeff Choate
16. - Indiana St. - 7-4 - 192 - 25 - Aug. 31 at Kansas - Curt Mallory
17. - Furman - 6-4 - 183 - NR - Aug. 31 vs. Charleston Southern - Clay Hendrix
18. - Southeast Missouri St. - 9-4 - 178 - 16 - Aug. 29 vs. Southern Illinois - Tom Matukewicz
19. - North Carolina A&T - 10-2 - 158 - 11 - Aug. 31 vs. No. 21 Elon - Sam Washington
20. - Northern Iowa - 7-6 - 157 - NR - Aug. 31 at Iowa St. - Mark Farley
21. - Elon - 6-5 - 155 - 19 - Aug. 31 at No. 19 North Carolina A&T - Tony Trisciani
22. - Sam Houston St. - 6-5 - 117 - NR - Aug. 31 at New Mexico - K.C. Keeler
23. - Delaware - 7-5 - 87 - 23 - Aug. 29 vs. Delaware St. - Danny Rocco
24. - Princeton - 10-0 - 85 - 9 - Sept. 21 vs. Butler - Bob Surace
25. - Central Arkansas - 6-5 - 66 - NR - Aug. 29 at Western Kentucky - Nathan Brown
Others Receiving Votes: Montana, 52; Yale, 41; Incarnate Word, 31; East Tennessee St., 23; Tennessee-Chattanooga, 23; Northern Arizona, 20; Idaho, 18; North Dakota, 17; Alcorn St., 16; Monmouth (N.J.), 13; Eastern Kentucky, 12; Dartmouth, 11; South Dakota, 9; Duquesne, 7; Stony Brook, 7; McNeese, 4; San Diego, 3; New Hampshire, 2; Southern, 2; The Citadel, 2; Lamar, 1.
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