Valdosta State, fresh off of its third Division II national championship in 2012, opens up 2013 as the preseason favorite to win the national championship.

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This is the third time since the American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches’ Poll started in 2000 that the Blazers have begun the season ranked No. 1. Minnesota State-Mankato comes in at No. 2 with three first-place votes, followed by West Texas A&M, Northwest Missouri State and last year’s national runner-up, Winston-Salem, rounding out the top five.

There will be three key matchups in the first week of the 2013 season, highlighted by No. 4 Northwest Missouri State hosting No. 22 Saginaw Valley, and No. 7 Shippensburg traveling to No. 25 Shepherd.