What matters most is how a team finishes, but kicking off the season by being ranked in the Top 10 is a good place to start.
Based on their sparkling 2012 season, in which they went 12-2 and won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship, the IUP Crimson Hawks received one first-place vote and are ranked No. 10 in the country in the American Football Coaches Association Division II preseason poll, which was released Monday.
The Crimson Hawks, who open the season Sept. 7 at Southern Connecticut State, return 16 starters this season.
Valdosta State, last year’s national champion, is the preseason No. 1 team, with 26 first place votes. Minnesota State-Mankato (three first place votes) is second, while West Texas A&M (one), Northwest Missouri State (one) and Winston-Salem State round out the top five.
Winston-Salem State ousted IUP from the NCAA Division II playoffs last year with a 21-17 win in the Super Region One final.
Other PSAC schools in the preseason Top 25 are Shippensburg (No. 7) and Bloomsburg (No. 18).
The Crimson Hawks are ranked No. 7 by Lindy’s Football Annual and No. 22 by The Sporting News in their respective preseason polls.
IUP coach Curt Cignetti is 19-5 in two seasons at IUP, including an 11-3 mark in PSAC West play.