February 21, 2018

Defending National Champions Picked to Repeat

College football fans are anticipating the start of the 2012 season; not only at the Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level but also in the NCAA’s three other divisions: Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) (the former NCAA Division 1-AA), NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III. Also, let’s not forget the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) season either!

Of the three NCAA classifications mentioned above, only D3 does not publish a preseason poll. The other division’s preseaon picks for No. 1 came with no surprise—as all three polls named their respective on-field national champion of 2011 as the favorite to repeat this season.

The FCS Coaches Preseason Poll have tabbed the North Dakota State Bison its favorite to repeat again this season, garnering 19 of the 26 first place votes in their preseason top 25. Should the Bison repeat this fall, they would be the first team from this division to accomplish the feat since Appalachian State was the division’s only three-peat champion, 2005-06-07.

In fact, repeating champions in the FCS/Division 1-AA is quite a task; as only three schools have done this a total of 11 times since the division began in 1978. Repeat champions include: Georgia Southern, 1985-86, 1989-90 and 1999-2000, Youngstown State in 1993-94, and the previously mentioned Appalachian State.

The final FCS Poll of a year ago saw North Dakota State, Sam Houston State (Texas) and Georgia Southern ranked 1-2-3. These same three teams not only were ranked in the same order in the preseason survey, but also were the only ones to receive nods for the top spot. Sam Houston State, second a year ago in the final poll, garnered six first place votes in the preseason poll with the Georgia Southern Eagles tallying the one remaining vote for the top-spot.

North Dakota State and Georgia Southern kick off their 2012 season September 1. The defending national champions kick off their back-to-back quest against Robert Morris with  the Eagles facing Jacksonville State. Sam Houston will begin its 2012 season a week later as it hosts Incarnate Word.

If past preseason poll history is an indicator, North Dakota State has an excellent chance at repeating as this division’s top team. Five schools selected No.1 in the preseason poll have gone on to be the division’s national champion at season’s end. These teams include: Georgia Southern (three times), Marshall and Appalachian State.

Weekly during the season, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) releases a NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III poll—with only D2 releasing a preseason survey. AFCA’s preseason poll had six teams garnering first place mentions; with the top three set to open their seasons August 30—the top two hitting the road.

Pittsburg State, the defending champion that collected 21 of the 30 first place votes in the poll, travels to Tahlequah, Oklahoma to meet Northeastern State in a game that pits two former NAIA rivals. Garnishing the second most votes for the top spot—with 5—was Minnesota-Duluth, last year’s preseason No. 1 selection. UMD will travel to Southwest Minnesota.

The above teams flipped-flop from the 2010 rankings. In fact, since the AFCA has taken over the coaches’ poll in 2000, No. 1 has finished the season as National Champion three times: 2002, 2003, and 2006—each time being Grand Valley State.

The remaining team to pick-up a first place vote and open its season August 30, is Northwest Minnesota. The team was third and will host East Central Oklahoma. Two days later, Winston-Salem (also the defending HBCU—Historically Black Colleges and Universities— No. 1 team) will host North Carolina-Pembroke Saturday afternoon.

The remaining teams won’t begin their current campaign until September 8 as Wayne State (Michigan) and Midwestern State (Texas), both will be on the road. Wayne State, last season’s runner-up, crosses the Michigan-Ohio State line to take on Ashland while Midwestern State travels a few hours across the Lone Star State to take on Tarleton State.

As mentioned, there is no official NCAA Division III preseason poll, but various sites and sources believe that Wisconsin-Whitewater and Mount Union are ranked 1-2 and will meet for the eighth consecutive season in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.

Defending champion St. Xavier (Illinois) has been picked as No. 1 in the 16th annual NAIA preseason poll for the first time in school history. St. X was the only team to receive first place votes. This ranking ties perennial NAIA powerhouse Georgetown (Kentucky), and former member Sioux Falls with a single early nod for the top spot. Carroll (Montana) holds the mark of three preseason No. 1 spots. Overall, according to a NAIA release, only four times has a school been ranked No.1 in every weekly NAIA Coaches’ Poll, preseason to National Champion: Georgetown (2001), Carroll (2003 and 2005) and Sioux Falls (2009).


Ranking the teams receiving first place votes:

Rank Team [Division] FPV Poll Points
1    Pittsburg State        [NCAA II]    21      720
2    Minnesota-Duluth       [NCAA II]     5      661
1    North Dakota State     [FCS]        19      640
2    Sam Houston State      [FCS]         6      623
3    Northwest Missouri St. [NCAA II]     1      613
3    Georgia Southern       [FCS]         1      592
4    Midwestern State       [NCAA II]     1      582
5    Wayne State            [NCAA II]     1      502
9    Winston-Salem          [NCAA II]     1      386
1    Saint Xavier           [NAIA]       11      236


For more on non-FBS college football visit Small College Football History.


Tex Noel is the Executive Director of the Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association.