FINDLAY, OHIO – The last two NAIA football champions rank 1-2 in the Mid-States Football Association Mideast Division preseason poll which was conducted at last week's annual MSFA meeting at Olivet Nazarene University.
The University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne, Ind.), the 2016 NAIA champion, earned nine first-place votes and 87 points in a vote of the 13 Association coaches. Marian, the 2015 NAIA titlist, received the other four first-place votes and 81 points as the No.2 team in the Mideast.
Concordia University (Ann Arbor, Mich.) is No.3, followed by Siena Heights (Adrian, Mich.), Taylor University (Upland, Ind.), Missouri Baptist University (St. Louis) and Lindenwood-Belleville University (Belleville, Mo.).
In the Midwest League, Chicago-based Robert Morris University garnered the top spot with all but one first-place vote and 77 points after earning its first league title in its fourth season of play. Saint Xavier University, another Chicago institution and the 2011 NAIA champion, got the other first-place vote and 65 points as the second choice. Two votes separated No.3 St. Ambrose University (Davenport, Iowa) and the University of St. Francis (Joliet, Ill.), followed by Olivet Nazarene (Bourbonnais, Ill.) and Trinity International University (Deerfield, Ill.).
Marian (11-1 overall, 5-0 MSFA) won the Mideast title a year ago ahead of Saint Francis (13-1, 5-1). But the Cougars beat Baker, Kan. 39-17 in the NAIA Championship Series final for a 27-15 postseason record in its MSFA-high 16th postseason appearance in 19 seasons of play. Marian's bid for a second straight national title ended in a 17-0 NAIA quarterfinal loss to Baker (Kan.) and snapped a 20-game winning streak as well.
The back-to-back titles by Saint Francis and Marian gave the MSFA five of the last six championships after Grand View University of Des Moines, Iowa, no longer an MSFA school, claimed the 2013 title, Marian won its first crown in 2012 ahead of Saint Xavier's lone title. The MSFA also got titles from the University of Findlay (1995 & 1997) and Westminster College (1994) for eight overall since the Association's first season in 1993.
Saint Francis is ranked No.1 in the spring installment of the NAIA national poll, while Marian is No.5 and Robert Morris No.15. The NAIA preseason rankings will be released in early August.
Robert Morris, along with Olivet Nazarene, Missouri Baptist and St. Francis (Ill.) will kick off the 2017 season on Aug. 26 with Mideast and Midwest play beginning on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Mideast League Poll
Saint Francis, Ind. (13-1, 5-10), 9 first-place votes, 87 points
Marian, Ind. (11-1, 6-0), 4, 81
Concordia, Mich. (7-4, 4-2), 62
Siena Heights, Mich. (5-5, 2-4), 51
Taylor, Ind. (4-7, 2-4), 43
Missouri Baptist (3-8, 2-4), 26
Lindenwood-Belleville, Mo. (0-10, 0-6), 14
Mideast League Poll
Robert Morris, Ill. (7-4, 5-0), 12 first-place votes, 77 points
Saint Xavier, Ill. (5-6, 3-2), 1, 65
St. Ambrose, Iowa (4-6, 2-3), 46
St. Francis, Ill. (5-6, 2-3), 44
Olivet Nazarene, Ill. (4-7, 2-3), 25
Trinity International (4-7, 1-4), 16