SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- North Dakota State finished the 2011 football season as the No. 1 team in the FCS Coaches Poll, and will begin the 2012 campaign in the same spot. The defending national champions received 19 of the 26 first-place votes to earn 640 points overall.

The Bison have 13 returning starters, led by All-America cornerback Marcus Williams. On offense, quarterback Brock Jensen and 1,100-yard running back Sam Ojuri highlight the returnees. The Bison finished 14-1 last season and defeated Sam Houston State in the 2011 national championship game.

FCS COACHES POLL
Check out the full rankings.

Sam Houston State, who also finished 2011 with a 14-1 record, received six first-place votes (623 points) and will start the 2012 season where they left off, at No. 2.

Georgia Southern received one first-place vote after advancing to the national semifinals and begins the year ranked third. Montana State was tabbed fourth, while three-time champion Appalachian State rounded out the top five.

After finishing 10th last year, Old Dominion makes its first appearance in the preseason top 10 at No. 6. Northern Iowa, James Madison, Towson and Montana complete the top 10, respectively.

Ten conferences are represented in the poll. The Colonial Athletic Association has the most ranked teams with six, followed by the Missouri Valley with five teams. The Big Sky, Southern Conference and Southland all have three ranked teams. The MEAC, Ohio Valley, Big South, Patriot, and Ivy make up the remaining conferences. 

The FCS Coaches Poll is based exclusively on a voting panel of head coaches in the FCS under the cooperation of the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and is administered by the Southern Conference.