August 19, 2008

Eagles Ranked Seventh in Preseason Poll

Aug. 19, 2008

A lofty preseason national ranking has been given to the Eastern Washington University football team, but the same is true for its Aug. 30 season-opening opponent.

The Eagles are ranked seventh in The Sports Network preseason NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) poll announced on Tuesday (Aug. 19). The Eagles are one notch ahead of Big Sky Conference rival Montana, which is ranked eighth.

Eastern opens the season on Aug. 30 against a Texas Tech team that was ranked 12th in last week’s Associated Press preseason poll for the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

"There is some merit to be near the top because that can help you when it comes to the playoffs," said first-year EWU head coach Beau Baldwin. "That can sometimes make it a little easier to stay in the top 16 rather than to have to climb all the way into it."

Texas Tech was 9-4 last season and defeated Virginia 31-28 in the Gator Bowl. The Red Raiders feature a prolific passing offense, averaging 470.3 yards per game last season to lead FBS and 529.6 yards of total offense to rank second nationally. Led by a pair of national honors candidates, quarterback Graham Harrell and receiver Michael Crabtree, the Red Raiders attempted an average of nearly 60 passes and just 19 rushes per game. 

"We’re excited for our first game of the year -- that will be a tremendous challenge at Texas Tech," Baldwin added. 

Eastern Washington was picked to finish second behind Montana by the coaches and the media in the Big Sky Conference preseason polls, but those positions were reversed nationally. The Eagles received 1,951 total points from The Sports Network in the poll of media and sports information directors, while Montana received 1,848 points.

Eastern finished the 2007 season 9-4 and ranked eighth in the final poll of the year. The Eagles lost in the FCS Playoff quarterfinals by three points to eventual national champion Appalachian State. The Mountaineers are the three-time defending national champion and begin the 2008 season ranked No. 1. The Mountaineers earned 97 of the 101 first-place votes, and 2,546 total points. North Dakota State is ranked second, followed by Northern Iowa, Richmond and Massachusetts.

James Madison is sixth, followed by EWU and Montana. Rounding out the top 10 are Delaware and McNeese State, which was unbeaten in 2007 until EWU beat them 44-15 in the first round of the FCS Playoffs.

Montana is gunning for its 11th straight Big Sky Conference title. Montana went 11-1 in 2007, losing in the first round of the FCS playoffs to Wofford. The Grizzlies, who play at EWU on Oct. 11, ended 2007 ranked 10th in the nation.

Three other Big Sky teams also received votes in the poll as Northern Arizona just missed out on cracking the top 25. The Lumberjacks earned 249 total points, most among teams not in the top 25. Montana State received 146 points (32nd), while Weber State received 17 (47th). 

 

More on The Sports Network Preseason Poll . . .  

For the second year in a row, Appalachian State was a near unanimous pick as the No. 1 selection in The Sports Network FCS preseason top-25 poll released Tuesday morning.

The Mountaineers, the three-time defending national champs, received 97 of 101 first-place votes and 2,546 points. It is the third consecutive year that ASU has opened the season ranked No. 1 by The Sports Network.

North Dakota State, the No. 2 team in the poll with 2,275 points, received one first-place vote and No. 6 James Madison was selected first by three voters. The poll was dominated by three major leagues -- the Colonial Athletic Association, the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the Southern Conference.

The CAA landed four teams in the top 10 (Richmond at No. 4, Massachusetts at No. 5 and Delaware at No. 9 to join James Madison) and six teams in the top 25. New Hampshire placed 16th and Villanova finished at 21.

The MVC also had six teams ranked, with Northern Iowa at No. 3, Southern Illinois 11th, Youngstown State 12th, South Dakota State 19th and Western Illinois 25th to join North Dakota State.

The SoCon placed five teams in the poll, with Appalachian State being followed by Wofford at No. 13, Elon at 15th, Georgia Southern at 17th and The Citadel ranked 23rd.

Other teams in the top 10 include two Big Sky schools at seven and eighth, Eastern Washington and Montana, and McNeese State of the Southland finishing at No. 10.

Cal Poly of the Great West came in at No. 14 and two Ohio Valley Conference teams, Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky, were ranked 18th and 20th. Completing the top 25 were No. 22 Central Arkansas of the Southland and the lone Ivy League representative, Harvard at No. 24.

The regular season top-25 poll will be released every Monday afternoon during the football year, except the final weekend when it will be released on Sunday morning to allow it to be used officially by the NCAA Division I Football Committee when it selects the 16-team playoff field.

The Sports Network will release a final top-25 poll following the national championship game, which will be held December 19 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Team (First-place votes) Record Points Previous Rank
1. Appalachian State Mountaineers (97) 13-2 2,546 1
2. North Dakota State Bison (1) 10-1 2.275 9
3. Northern Iowa Panthers 12-1 2,204 4
4. Richmond Spiders 11-3 2,162 5
5. Massachusetts Minutemen 10-3 2,148 7
6. James Madison Dukes (3) 8-4 2,078 12
7. Eastern Washington 9-4 1,951 8
8. Montana Grizzlies 11-1 1,848 10
9. Delaware Blue Hens 11-4 1,747 2
10. McNeese State Cowboys 11-1 1,687 11
11. Southern Illinois Salukis 12-2 1,286 3
12. Youngstown State Penguins 7-4 1,228 16
13. Wofford Terriers 9-4 1,158 6
14. Cal Poly Mustangs 7-4 1,081 24
15. Elon Phoenix 7-4 1,028 23
16. New Hampshire Wildcats 7-5 760 14
17. Georgia Southern Eagles 7-4 656 17
18. Eastern Illinois Panthers 8-4 622 18
19. South Dakota State Jackrabbits 7-4 547 19
20. Eastern Kentucky Colonels 9-3 487 13
21. Villanova Wildcats 7-4 396 NR
22. Central Arkansas Bears 6-5 374 NR
23. The Citadel Bulldogs 7-4 317 NR
24. Harvard Crimson 8-2 316 21
25. Western Illinois 6-5 299 NR

Others receiving votes: Northern Arizona 249, Fordham 212, Delaware State 198, Jacksonville State 195, Yale 170, Sam Houston State 166, Montana State 146, Furman 120, Liberty 115, Jackson State 79, South Carolina State 76, Holy Cross 74, Colgate 56, Grambling 55, Norfolk State 48, Coastal Carolina 44, Hampton 41, Southern 32, Northwestern State 30, Tennessee-Martin 30, UC Davis 22, Weber State 17, Lafayette 16, Alabama A&M 10, Texas Southern 9, Brown 9, Nicholls State 9, Dayton 6, Tennessee State 5, San Diego 4, Albany 4, Maine 1, Prairie View 1.

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