EIU Only Ohio Valley Conference Team Ranked in Sports Network Top 25

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Published on August 14 2013 1:41 pm
Last Updated on August 14 2013 1:41 pm
Written by Millie Lange

PHILADELPHIA – Eastern Illinois football will open the season as the only Ohio Valley Conference team ranked in the Sports Network Top 25 as the preseason poll was released on Tuesday.  The Panthers are ranked No. 21 by Sports Network as every preseason publication and poll has EIU as the OVC preseason favorite.

The Panthers were 7-5 last season and finished as the first team also receiving votes in the Sports Network Top 25 despite winning the OVC regular season title with a 6-1 record.  EIU advanced to the FCS playoffs for the 14th time in program history and the eighth time since 2000.

EIU will be led on offense by Walter Payton Award candidates Jimmy Garoppolo and Erik Lora.  Both players finished in the top ten in award voting last season, the first time that two players from the same school have finished in the top ten in award history.  The Panthers defense returns eight starters including All-OVC selections Nick Beard and Pat Wertz.

EIU opens the season on August 31 at San Diego State.  The Panthers home opener is Sept. 14 against Illinois State in the Mid-America Classic.  The Redbirds will open the season ranked No. 13 in the Sports Network preseason poll.  Season and single game tickets are now on sale by calling 217-581-2106 or online at www.eiupanthertickets.com

Two-time defending national champion North Dakota State was the preseason No. 1 with 127 first place votes.  Montana State was second with one first place while Sam Houston State was third collecting five first place votes.  Eastern Washington and Villanova rounded out the top five.

South Dakota State, Central Arkansas, Wofford, Georgia Southern and New Hampshire rounded out the top ten.  Georgia Southern collected one first place vote.  Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are not eligible for the FCS playoffs this season as they begin the transition to the FBS Sun Belt Conference.  Both schools are eligible to be ranked in the Sports Network Top 25; however the FCS Coaches Top 25 has not included either school this season.

Appalachian State was 12th in the preseason poll with Towson ranked just ahead of them at No. 11.  Illinois State, Cal Poly, Richmond, Stony Brook, Northern Iowa, Northern Arizona, James Madison and Montana filled in spots 13 through 20.

Eastern Illinois headed up the final five schools in the poll at No. 21 followed by Lehigh, Bethune-Cookman, Chattanooga and Coastal Carolina.

OVC members Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee State were listed as the first and fifth teams also receiving votes in the preseason poll.