Aug 7, 2013, 2:50 PM EST
The college football season might still be several weeks away, but with preseason camps starting across CAA Football, it’s only fitting that the first preseason poll has been announced. In impressive fashion, CAA Football led all FCS conferences with six programs ranked in the top 25 of the 2013 Preseason FCS Coaches poll released on Tuesday.
It comes as no surprise that two-time defending national champion North Dakota State opens the season as the No. 1 ranked team. However, CAA Football not only had six squads in the rankings, but all six were featured in the Top 15 with an additional three also receiving votes.
Leading the league at No. 8 is New Hampshire, which is coming off its FCS-best ninth-straight playoff appearance. The Wildcats, who have also been ranked in every FCS poll since Sept. 13, 2004, finished last season 8-4 (6-2 CAA) and fell to preseason No. 5 Wofford in the second round of the postseason.
Closely following UNH is Villanova at No. 9. Longtime coach Andy Talley helped the ‘Cats rebound in 2012 and reach the postseason. Nova finished with an 8-4 (6-2) mark last year, with freshman QB John Robertson — winner of the 2012 Jerry Rice Award honoring the FCS Football’s top freshman — proved to be the difference-maker. The Wildcats, who earned CAA Football’s automatic playoff bid one year ago, return a wealth of experience on both sides of the ball.
The No. 12 spot in the poll belongs to the Towson Tigers. Last season, Towson battled its way through a monster schedule that included two FBS opponents on top of a challenging league slate. Head coach Rob Ambrose’s Tigers, led by RB Terrance West and LB Monte Gaddis, are poised to make a statement after being denied a spot among the field of 20 in last year’s playoffs.
The following three spots all belong to CAA Football squads, with newcomer Stony Brook ranked No. 13, Richmond at No. 14 and James Madison at No. 15.
SBU enters its inaugural season in CAA Football after finding plenty of success in the Big South Conference. The Seawolves lost their starting quarterback, running back and wide receiver from last year’s squad that defeated Villanova in the FCS playoffs, but coach Chuck Priore has stated his optimism given the addition of many transfers in the offseason.
Richmond had a turnaround season under first-year coach Danny Rocco in 2012. The Spiders earned a share of the CAA Football title with their 8-3 (6-2) record, but were also held out of the playoffs. Richmond features one of the league’s top pass catchers in senior captain Ben Edwards and its defense, while extremely athletic, is often overlooked.
CAA Football’s final ranked squad, James Madison, ended the 2012 season 7-4 (5-3). Sophomore quarterback Michael Birdsong shined as a true freshman last season and should be the answer for an offense which is under the guidance of first-year coordinator Mike O’Cain. Defensively, the team brings back the conference’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Stephon Robertson.
Other league squads also receiving votes were Delaware, Maine and UAlbany. For the complete poll, visit NCAA.com.