Bearkats ranked No. 1 in preseason poll

Joseph Brown | The ItemSam Houston football head coach K.C. Keeler talks about the upcoming 2021 season during the Western Athletic Conference Football Preview on Wednesday at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in The Woodlands. The Bearkats will open the season on Sept. 2 at Northern Arizona. See full story on Page 9A.

HUNTSVILLE – The defending FCS National Championship will start the year on top, as expected.

Sam Houston is the team to beat, returning its entire starting lineup from a spring season in which it went a perfect 10-0 and captured the FCS title for the first time. 

On Monday, the Bearkats gained 39 of the 50 first-place votes while being selected No. 1 in the Stats Perform FCS Preseason Top 25. It is the second time in school history the Kats have been ranked No. 1 in the nation entering the season, with the last time coming in the initial poll of the 2012 season.

"It's hard enough to win one; it's even harder to win two because you are the hunted," said eighth-year coach K.C. Keeler, the first coach to lead two different schools to the FCS title. He first won at Delaware in 2003.

The FCS seeks a return to normalcy this fall after the pandemic delayed much of the 2020 season to this past spring, with some schools not playing at all. 

A normal FCS season means the usual power programs are in national title contention. Right behind Sam Houston in the national media poll were the final three teams it beat in the playoffs – semifinalist James Madison, runner-up South Dakota State and quarterfinalist North Dakota State. Delaware, a semifinalist for the first time since it played in the 2010 championship game under Keeler, was fifth in the voting.

A national media panel selects the Stats Perform FCS Top 25. 

STATS PERFORM FCS PRESEASON TOP 25

1. Sam Houston

2. James Madison

3. South Dakota State

4. North Dakota State

5. Delaware

6. Weber State

7. Southern Illinois

8. North Dakota

9. Montana

10. Jacksonville State

11. Eastern Washington

12. Montana State

13. Monmouth

14. Central Arkansas

15. Southeastern Louisiana

16. Villanova

17. VMI

18. Chattanooga

19. Kennesaw State

20. Austin Peay

21. Northern Iowa

22. Nicholls

23. UC Davis

24. Missouri State

25. North Carolina A&T

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