HUNTSVILLE – The opening national poll from STATS FCS was released on Monday, with the Sam Houston State Bearkats tabbed as the No. 4 team in the country by the publication.
The Kats, who finished 12-2 and advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs in 2017, were selected last month as the preseason favorites to take the 2018 Southland Conference title by a league-wide vote of coaches and sports information directors.
They finished No. 4 in the final 2017 poll of the year and will open the 2018 season in that same slot, coming in behind defending national champion North Dakota State, James Madison and South Dakota State – all of whom advanced to at least the national semifinals a year ago.
Rounding out the top five is Kennesaw State, who the Bearkats defeated in the 2017 FCS quarterfinals. Jacksonville State, New Hampshire, Weber State, Eastern Washington and Wofford complete the preseason top 10.
Overall, eight FCS conferences placed teams in the preseason rankings, led by six from the CAA. The Missouri Valley had five while the Southland checked in with the third most with four. Joining Sam Houston in the top 25 were fellow league members Central Arkansas (16), McNeese (17) and Nicholls (18).
Since K.C. Keeler took over the program prior to the 2014 season, the Bearkats have been inside the STATS FCS top 25 poll each time it has been released. Additionally, the last poll without the Kats in the top 10 was on Nov. 9, 2015.
Sam Houston returns 41 letter winners from last year, including seven starters on both sides of the ball. Among those returning starters are four STATS FCS preseason all-Americans, three on the offensive side of the ball in wide receivers Davion Davis and Nathan Stewart, along with offensive lineman Mitchell Watanabe. Sam Houston will kick off the 2018 season on Sept. 8 when it hosts Prairie View at Bowers Stadium.
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