A young Montana State University-Northern football team already knows it will have a battle on its hands if it wants to compete for the 2014 Frontier Conference championship.
And the rest of the league’s coaches agreed.
Tuesday, at Frontier Conference Media Day in Great Falls, the Lights were tabbed to finish sixth in the Frontier Coaches Preseason Poll. Northern received 18 votes, the same amount as the UM-Western Bulldogs. Only league newcomer College of Idaho received fewer votes than the Lights and Bulldogs.
A year ago, Northern finished 4-6 in the Frontier Conference, and the Lights haven’t had a winning season in four years. The Lights went 5-5 in 2011. MSU-N tied for fifth in the league with UM-Western a season ago.
Defending Frontier champion Carroll College was picked to repeat as league champions by the coaches. The Saints have captured at least a share of the Frontier titled in 15 of the last 16 seasons. The Saints went 9-1 in league play, and went all the way to the NAIA semifinals.
Rocky Mountain College, another playoff team from a year ago, received 41 points in Tuesday’s poll, which was good for second. The Battlin’ Bears had a great run in 2013, going 7-3 in the Frontier and making their first playoff appearance in nearly two decades. Southern Oregon, which captured the 2012 Frontier championship, was picked to finish third. The Raiders went 7-3 in conference play a year ago.
The surprise team of last season was certainly Eastern Oregon, which won its last four games of the season to finish 6-4. The Mounties received 29 points in the preseason poll, placing them fourth, while Montana Tech, which was picked to win the Frontier a year ago, but slumped to a 3-7 season, was picked fifth in the poll.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams. First place was worth seven points, second place worth six points, third place worth five points, fourth place worth four points, fifth place worth three points, sixth place worth two points and seventh place worth one point.
The 2014 Frontier football season begins early, with UM-Western hosting Montana Tech and Eastern Oregon visiting Menlo on Aug. 23. The Lights open their 11-game schedule at Montana Tech Aug. 30 in Butte.
Frontier Preseason Football Poll
1. Carroll College 49
2. Rocky Mountain 41
3. Southern Oregon 37
4. Eastern Oregon 29
5. Montana Tech 24
6. MSU-Northern 18
6. UM-Western 18
8. College of Idaho 8