Football ranked No. 5 in AFCA poll

By FHSU Sports Information

WACO, Texas – Fresh off the program’s first MIAA Championship in 2017, Fort Hays State Football enters the 2018 season ranked No. 5 in the AFCA Division II Top 25 Poll. The Tigers ranked No. 8 in the final poll last year and reached as high as No. 4 by the end of the regular season. By posting an undefeated record in one of the premier football conferences of Division II last year, the Tigers earned a spot in the Top 10 to start the season.

Defending national champion Texas A&M-Commerce starts the year at No. 1 in the nation. The Lions had a magical run to the national title last year after entering the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in Super Region 4. The Lions won three consecutive road games to claim Super Region 4 before knocking off Super Region 3 champ Harding University in the national semifinals at home. They went on to Kansas City to defeat West Florida for the national title.

By finishing as national runner-up, West Florida holds the No. 2 ranking to open the year. Last year’s Super Region 2 champion took three losses in the regular season before making a run to the national championship game. Minnesota State, the No. 1 seed in Super Region 4 last year, opens the season at No. 3 and Indiana (Pa.), the No. 1 seed in Super Region 1 last year, opens the season at No. 4.

After nearly tying in both MIAA Preseason Polls (Coaches and Media), Fort Hays State and Northwest Missouri State share the No. 5 national ranking to open the season. Both landed at 591 voting points in the poll. Fort Hays State ended Northwest Missouri State’s four-year run of winning or at least sharing the MIAA title last year when they won in an epic battle in Maryville by a score of 13-12. That win gave the Tigers the MIAA title outright one week before completing an undefeated regular season. The teams will meet in Maryville again this season, set for Week 10 once again.

Northwest Missouri State won two national titles in a row (2015 and 2016) before getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round last year. A high preseason ranking is nothing new for the Bearcats, grabbing a spot in the Top 5 of the AFCA Preseason Poll for the 14th consecutive year. The last time NWMSU entered a season ranked lower than No. 5 was 2004, when it started at No. 19 in the nation.

The Tigers are the new kids on the block though, making 2018 their second season appearing in the AFCA Division II Poll. The Tigers entered the AFCA poll (which began in 2000) for the first time in program history last year following a Week 2, 35-6 drubbing of then No. 13 ranked Central Missouri in Hays. Entering Week 3, the Tigers debuted in the poll at No. 21 and went on a steady climb to No. 4 by regular season’s end. After suffering their only loss of the season in the playoffs, the Tigers settled at No. 8 in the final poll of the season.

Lewis Field Stadium will be the site of an exciting season opener when Central Missouri comes to Hays on August 30 for a 7 pm kickoff. The Mules are No. 18 in the AFCA preseason poll, providing a Top 25 test right out of the gate for the Tigers. The MIAA has three teams in the Top 25, but has five more receiving votes

This is the third preseason Top 5 ranking for the Tigers this summer after gracing preseason magazine polls produced by Lindy’s and Street and Smith’s at No. 4.

Expectations of Super Region 3 teams are high once again as Harding, Ferris State, and Grand Valley State join Fort Hays State and Northwest Missouri State as representatives in the Top 10. See the full AFCA Top 25 Poll below.

Rank School (1st Place Votes) 2017 Final Record Points 2017 Final Ranking
1. Texas A&M-Commerce (13) 14-1 748 1
2. West Florida (14) 11-4 721 2
3. Minnesota State (2) 13-1 691 4
4. Indiana (Pa.) (2) 13-1 666 3
5t. Fort Hays State (Kan.) 11-1 591 8
5t. Northwest Missouri State (2) 9-3 591 16
7. Harding (Ark.) 11-4 550 6
8. Ferris State (Mich.) 11-2 503 5
9. Central Washington 11-1 494 7
10. Grand Valley State (Mich.) 8-3 478 NR
11. Midwestern State (Texas) 10-1 473 11
12. West Alabama 10-3 470 12
13. Indianapolis (Ind.) 11-1 402 13
14. Colorado State-Pueblo 9-3 401 17
15. Ashland (Ohio) 11-2 350 10
16. Shepherd (W.Va.) 10-1 332 14
17. Assumption (Mass.) 11-2 292 9
18. Central Missouri 9-3 209 NR
19. West Georgia 9-4 196 19
20. Sioux Falls (S.D.) 9-3 158 20
21. Winona State (Minn.) 10-2 134 15
22. Carson-Newman (Tenn.) 8-3 118 NR
23. Ohio Dominican 7-3 105 NR
24. Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) 9-3 102 NR
25. Findlay (Ohio) 10-3 101 22

Others Receiving Votes: California (Pa.), 89; Delta St. (Miss.), 74; West Chester (Pa.), 74; Colorado Mesa, 66; Bowie St. (Md.), 60; Virginia St., 51; Minnesota-Duluth, 41; Albany St. (Ga.), 39; Florida Tech, 36; Colorado Mines, 34; Shippensburg (Pa.), 31; Tuskegee (Ala.), 26; Wingate (N.C.), 25; Azusa Pacific (Calif.), 22; Valdosta St. (Ga.), 22; Pittsburg St. (Kan.), 21; Notre Dame (Ohio), 18; Eastern New Mexico, 17; Edinboro (Pa.), 15; Missouri Western St., 14; Bloomsburg (Pa.), 13; Emporia St. (Kan.), 11; Central Oklahoma, 9; LIU Post (N.Y.), 8; Slippery Rock (Pa.), 8; Augustana (S.D.), 5; Fairmont St. (W.Va.), 5; Humboldt St. (Calif.), 4; Catawba (N.C.), 3; Fayetteville St. (N.C.), 3; Hillsdale (Mich.), 3; Southern Arkansas, 1; Washburn (Kan.), 1.

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