Aug. 9, 2010

By Amy Farnum

NCAA.com

THE COACHES' PICK: Northwest Missouri State is the overwhelming favorite as the preseason No. 1 team according to the AFCA Division II Coaches' Poll after the defending NCAA champion Bearcats collected 22 of 26 first-place votes cast in the balloting announced on Aug 9.

There will be five games between Top 25 opponents in the opening days of the season that begins on Saturday, Aug. 28. The premier showdown will feature No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth at No. 5 Central Washington.

UMD is the two-time defending champion of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and boasts 2009 Harlon Hill Trophy finalist Issac Odim as its' offensive catalyst. Odim, a senior running back, set school records for rushing yards, touchdowns and 100-yards rushing games last season. Central Washington return seven starters from last year's squad that posted a school-record 12 victories and made its furthest advancement in the NCAA Division II playoffs, falling to eventual national champion Northwest Missouri State, 21-20, in the quarterfinals.

Action heats up on Thursday, Sept. 2 when No. 2 Grand Valley State hosts No. 11 West Texas A&M and top-ranked Northwest Missouri State opens its' title defense against No. 16 Texas A&M-Kingsville. Two days later, on Sept. 4, No. 6 California (Pa.) will travel to No. 14 Saginaw Valley State, No. 7 Abilene Christian visits No. 10 Washburn and No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha welcomes in-state rival No. 15 Nebraska-Kearney.

LOPERS LOOKING TO REPEAT: Nebraska-Kearney has been selected by the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference head coaches to repeat as league champion in 2010.

The Lopers were 9-0 in RMAC play last season, and 11-2 overall. The last time Nebraska-Kearney (Kearney State) claimed consecutive league titles was when the Lopers won five straight (outright or shared) Central States Intercollegiate Conference (CSIC) championships between 1976-80.

UNK is led by RMAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Rustin Dring. The junior running back ran for a school-record 1,648 yards with 11 touchdowns in his 2009 Offensive Player of the Year campaign.

The Lopers began preseason camp over the weekend as they prepare to open the year against Wayne State on Aug. 28.

A VIEW FROM THE TOP: After cruising through league play and compiling a conference-record 11 wins, West Liberty is the favorite to capture the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title this season.

The Hilltoppers, ranked No. 8 nationally, will be looking to claim their first back-to-back league titles since 1970-71 when they host Edinboro University on Sept. 4. West Liberty, which set a league scoring record with 47.3 points per game last season, intends to light up the scoreboard once again with several members of its' arsenal returning.

Senior quarterback Zach Amedro, the 2009 Harlon Hill Trophy runner-up, will look to build on his WVIAC record-setting season of 4,945 passing yards and 49 touchdowns that led Division II a year ago. Amedro's passing yards total was the second-highest in Division II history. The native of Moundsville, W.V., needs just 1,210 passing yards to surpass Glenville State's Joey Conrad as the league's career passing leader, and he will have one of his main targets back on the field in All-America tight end Ryan Travis, who caught school-record 104 passes in 2009.