CHICAGO -- North Dakota State, who won the school’s first Division I football national title last year and the school’s ninth NCAA football crown overall, is ranked No. 1 in the 2012 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision preseason poll conducted by the staff of College Sporting News.
The Bison made the schoolâ€™s second playoff appearance pay off in their trip to Frisco, Texas to win the national title for the first time since winning the Division II title in 1990.
Finishing a close second to the Bison in the preseason poll is last year’s runner up in Sam Houston State.
The 2011 season showed the parity in the FCS, with NDSU and SHSU both making their respective school’s first national title game appearance.
While some of the traditional FCS powers will be in the fight for a national championship this season, the battle for the top prize should once again be wide open. In fact, 33 schools received votes in our staff poll.
Last year's playoff semifinalist Georgia Southern wound up in the third position, while Big Sky Conference co-champion and 2011 Division I playoff quarterfinalist Montana State was in the four spot.
The Colonial Athletic Association playoff quarterfinalist and 2004 champion James Madison comes in at the number five slot.
The remainder of the Top 10 had three-time national titlist Appalachian State in the #6 position, 2011 CAA champion Towson at #7, fellow CAA and recent FCS newcomer Old Dominion at #8, MVFC co-champion Northern Iowa at #9, and 2011 FCS playoff semi-finalist and two time FCS champion Montana rounding out the top 10.
Finishing just out of the top-10 at No. 11 is Lehigh, which has won two Patriot League championships in a row.
Eastern Washington, the 2010 national champions, which started the 2011 season with four straight losses but finished with six wins to end the season, is ranked 12th.
The national runner-up from the 2010 season to EWU was Delaware and the Blue Hens are ranked next to them at the number 13th spot.
The fourth CAA team in the poll is 2011 FCS playoff quarterfinalist New Hampshire at the 14th spot.
The SoCon’s third team in this year’s preseason poll is Wofford to finish out the top 15.
Defending Big South champion Stony Brook is 16th, who gave Sam Houston State their toughest contest before the national championship game in their quarterfinal loss to the Bearkats.
Next comes two MVFC teams in Youngstown State at #17 and Illinois State at #18. YSU handed national champion NDSU their lone loss last season and ISU was likely the last team to miss the playoffs despite having the favored seven-win total.
Maine is the final and sixth CAA team in the Top 25 at the #19 spot. The Black Bears are coming off a FCS playoff quarterfinal loss to Georgia Southern.
Rounding out the Top 20 is the Ohio Valley’s Eastern Kentucky, who may have been considered the last at-large FCS playoff team into the field a season ago.
Central Arkansas, who is coming off the team’s first FCS playoff appearance and playoff win, comes in at the #21 spot to begin the year.
Finishing out the poll is the MVFC's fifth team, Indiana State at No. 22, Liberty from the Big South comes in at 23, while the OVC’s Murray State appears at 24, and Stephen F. Austin makes the third team out of the Southland Conference at 25.
College Sporting News 2012 FCS Preseason Top 25
1. North Dakota State
2. Sam Houston State
3. Georgia Southern
4. Montana State
5. James Madison
6. Appalachian State
8. Old Dominion
9. Northern Iowa
12. Eastern Washington
14. New Hampshire
16. Stony Brook
17. Youngstown State
18. Illinois State
20. Eastern Kentucky
21. Central Arkansas
22. Indiana State
24. Murray State
25. Stephen F. Austin
Others receiving votes: Bethune-Cookman, Harvard, Chattanooga, Grambling State, Norfolk State, Southern Illinois, Villanova, Jacksonville State.
(By Kent Schmidt College Sporting News )