KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For the first time since the NAIA moved to one division in 1997, two teams enter the season tied atop the NAIA Football Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Monday. Defending national champion Southern Oregon and national runner-up Marian (Ind.) share the post, with the Raiders grabbing eight first-place votes and 304 points, while the Knights collected five first-place votes and 304 points.
Southern Oregon enters the year looking to build off a historical 2014 campaign that concluded with the Raiders winning their first-ever NAIA national title. Prior to last season, Southern Oregon had never advanced past the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Series.
The Raiders return six starters on offense and seven on defense, highlighted by junior running back Melvin Mason and junior wide receiver Matt Retzlaff. Mason ran for 1,013 yards and 17 touchdowns last season with seven of those scores coming during the playoffs. Retzlaff was a key cog in Southern Oregon’s top-ranked passing attack with 56 catches for 785 yards and six touchdowns en route to Second Team All-Frontier Conference accolades in 2014.
Similar to the Raiders, Marian returns a highly talented squad, anchored by 2014 First Team AFCA-NAIA All-America offensive lineman Zachary Mitchell. The center played was vital to the Knight’s fourth-ranked pass offense and 17th-ranked scoring offense a season ago. Mitchell is a three-year starter for Marian.
Other key returners for Marian include All-Mid-States Football Association First Teamers Hayden Northern, Krishawn Hogan and Eric Price. Price was also named to the AFCA-NAIA All-America Second Team in 2014.
Both Southern Oregon and Marian open the season with tough road games, as the Raiders travel to No. 4 (tied) Carroll (Mont.) on Sept. 5 and the Knights play No. 4 (tied) Saint Xavier (Ill.) on August 29.
Morningside (Iowa) checks in at No. 3 with 289 total points, while Carroll and Saint Xavier are tied at No. 4 with 277 points, respectively. The Fighting Saints, who were picked as the favorite to win the Frontier Conference by the league’s coaches, also gathered one first-place vote.
No newcomers joined the Top 25 this week.
All 12 NAIA football conferences are represented in the preseason poll.
The first regular season Top 25 Poll will be announced Sept. 14.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and independents. For the entire 2015 NAIA Football Coaches’ Top 25 Poll schedule, click here.
For more information on NAIA football, please click here.
Notes (all information dates back to 1999): Southern Oregon is making its third all-time No. 1 appearance, while Marian (Ind.) its 10 … The Raiders were also ranked No. 1 in the 2015 Spring Poll and the 2014 Postseason Poll … Marian’s last No. 1 ranking came on April 18, 2013 – the 2013 Spring Poll … There were 38 different programs ranked in 2014 … Carroll (Mont.), Grand View (Iowa), Morningside (Iowa) and Southern Oregon all ranked No. 1 at least one time last season … Carroll owns the most top-billings with 58, followed by former member Sioux Falls (S.D.) (55), Georgetown (Ky.) (25), Morningside (17) and Saint Xavier (Ill.) (14) … With the 186-straight Top 25 streak of Saint Francis (Ind.) snapped in mid-October last year, Carroll owns the active lead with 182 … Missouri Valley is next with 117-straight mentions, followed by Morningside (100) and Saint Xavier (90) … Morningside holds the longest active streak of top 10 rankings, having been listed among the top 10 teams for 49-straight polls dating back to Sept. 19, 2011.
2015 NAIA Football Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll (August 10)
|RANK||LAST TIME^||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||2014 RECORD||TOTAL POINTS|
|T1||1||Southern Oregon (8)||13-2||304|
|T1||2||Marian (Ind.) (5)||11-3||304|
|T4||4||Saint Xavier (Ill.)||10-3||277|
|T4||5||Carroll (Mont.) (1)||10-2||277|
|6||6||Grand View (Iowa)||11-2||254|
|7||7||Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||10-3||240|
|8||9||MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)||9-2||227|
|17||17||Valley City State (N.D.)||9-2||105|
|19||18||William Penn (Iowa)||7-4||95|
|20||20||Robert Morris (Ill.)||8-3||90|
|24||23||Webber International (Fla.)||8-3||42|
Others Receiving Votes: Sterling (Kan.) 9; Saint Francis (Ind.) 9; Montana Western 9; Reinhardt (Ga.) 3.