George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
For the first time since the start of the 2006 NAIA football season, the Montana State University-Northern Lights will start a regular season unranked. But given the Lights' finish in 2007 and the presence of two NAIA powerhouses already in the Frontier Conference, it isn't surprising that Northern wasn't included in the NAIA 2008 Pre- Season Poll, which was released on Monday afternoon. Still, MSU-N, which capped of its third straight winning season by going 6-5 and finishing third in the final Frontier standings last November, did garner some respect from voting coaches in the pre-season poll. The Lights received three votes in the first poll, effectively making them the 30thranked team in the country to start the season. Meanwhile, as expected, defending NAIA national champion Carroll College topped the poll after the Saints received all 15 first-place votes. Carroll is narrowly in front of the University of Sioux Falls, S.D. the team the Saints edged 19-7 for the 2007 title back in December. Carroll has now been ranked in the top five in the last 40 straight polls dating back to November of 2004. The Saints have been No. 1 in 24 of those rankings. The No. 1 preseason slot has been a familiar one as Carroll, which went 15-0 last season, was the preseason favorite from 2003-2006. Sioux Falls held No. 1 in the 2007 preseason poll. No stranger to past preseason accolades this decade, Montana Tech will begin its season ranked No. 21. The Orediggers finished second in the Frontier Conference last year and they were picked by the coaches to finish there in 2008. Tech and Northern, which was picked to finish third this season, are both gunning to unseat the Saints from the perch of the Frontier Conference championship. Carroll has claimed seven straight Frontier titles. The top-ranked Saints open their season on Aug. 31 with a game against nationally-ranked Azusa Pacific in California. Azusa is ranked No. 23 in the preseason poll. The Orediggers open the season early, with a home game against Southern Oregon University on Aug. 28 in Butte. Meanwhile, the Lights, who will begin their fifth season under head coach Mark Samson, don't play their season-opener until Sept. 6 in Billings against Rocky Mountain College. MSU-N opens fall camp on Friday.