KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Union College will begin the 2009 football season as the 10th-ranked team in the land, according to the NAIA Football Top 25 Preseason Coaches' Poll released Monday.
The Bulldogs garnered 267 total points to come in at No. 10, three points fewer than No. 9 Friends (Kan.) University and 28 more than No. 11 Shorter (Ga.) College.
Union finished the 2008 season 9-3 overall and 5-1 in the Mid-South Conference East. In addition, the Bulldogs made their first-ever appearance in the NAIA Football Championship Series.
The Bulldogs will open the 2009 season at home on Sept. 5 against MSC East rival UVa-Wise. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.
Coming off its second title in the last three seasons, the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) earns the No. 1 spot in the NAIA Top 25 Preseason Poll. USF totaled 418 total points and 17 of the 18 possible first-place votes. USF rattled through the 2008 season with a 14-0 record and is searching for its fourth overall National Championship. Sioux Falls opens up its campaign with a Sept. 5 home game against Nebraska Wesleyan.
USF continues its recent trend of success in the polls with being ranked now either No. 1 or No. 2 for the last 32 consecutive polls. Overall, Sioux Falls has been ranked in the Top 25 in the last 105 straight polls.
The Cougars return several starters including senior quarterback Lorenzo Brown, who was named the 2008 National Championship Offensive Player of the Game. Fifth-year head coach Kalen DeBoer also welcomes back senior offensive lineman T.J. Wendt, a 2008 AFCA Coaches' All-America pick after helping the Cougars rank sixth in the country in rushing offense (235.6 ypg) and 10th in scoring offense (36.5 ppg). On defense, USF ranked first in the nation in all four major statistical categories including total defense (109.1 yapg) and held seven of its 14 opponents scoreless.
Checking in at No. 2 is Carroll (Mont.) with 402 total points and the remaining first-place nod. The Fighting Saints are gunning for their 10th straight Frontier Conference title under head coach Mike Van Diest. Carroll returns senior quarterback Gary Wagner but loses 2008 Rawlings-NAIA Player of the Year and two-time All-American Owen Koeppen on the defensive side of the ball.
With its 11th straight Top 10 ranking, Lindenwood (Mo.) comes in at No. 3 with 382 points. The Lions advanced to the school's first-ever semifinal appearance last year after an 11-2 log. LU is 21-4 the last two seasons which is a school-record for a two-year span. With 374 total points, No. 4 Saint Francis (Ind.) is seeking its eighth straight season of 10 or more wins. No. 5 Morningside (Iowa) lists 16 returners overall and was the No. 1 scoring offense last season with 48 points per game. However, the Mustangs will have to fill the hole of graduating quarterback Ian Gilworth. Morningside tallied 354 total points in the poll.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and independents.
To view the entire poll, click here.