HUNTSVILLE – For the fifth time in the past six seasons, the Sam Houston State Bearkats will start off the season in the top five of the STATS FCS national rankings after the publication released its initial poll on Monday.
The Bearkats come in at No. 3 in the opening poll of 2017, behind the teams who have combined to win the last six national championships – James Madison and North Dakota State.
Sam Houston collected 3,610 total votes, including seven of the possible 163 first-place votes available and was one of five teams to receive at least one first-place nod. The Dukes, who eliminated the Bearkats in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs on their way to a national title, will open up the season as the No. 1 team in the nation after capturing 134 first-place votes.
Meanwhile, the Bison received 19 first-place votes while checking in at the No. 2 spot. Following the Kats are South Dakota State and Eastern Washington to round out the top five. Sam Houston’s opening-night opponent, Richmond, checked in at No. 7, officially setting up at top-10 matchup on August 27 at Bowers Stadium between the Bearkats and Spiders.
Sam Houston finished the 2016 season with a 12-1 mark, including a 9-0 record in Southland Conference play in winning the league crown. The Kats held the No. 1 spot in the STATS FCS poll for the final six weeks of the regular season before going into the FCS Playoffs as the No. 5 overall seed. They defeated Chattanooga in the second round before falling to the eventual national champion Dukes in the quarterfinals.
The Kats were not the only Southland school to find their name in the top 25, with Central Arkansas checking in at No. 15 in the poll.
A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the STATS FCS Top 25. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.
The Top 25 will be released every Monday afternoon during the regular season, except for Sunday morning, Nov. 19, prior to the selection of the 24-team FCS playoff field. A final Top 25 will follow the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas.