ROCK HILL, S.C. — Carson-Newman got the nod on Monday as the team to beat in the South Atlantic Conference this year.
The 2012 NCAA Division II championship quarterfinalist Eagles were voted by the SAC’s football coaches as the favorite to win the conference title, receiving four first-place votes and 59 total points.
Lenoir-Rhyne, which also got four first-place votes, was second with a total of 55 points.
Carson-Newman went 9-3 overall and finished tied for second at 5-2 the league last season. The Eagles earned a first-round bye in the playoffs and defeated Lenoir-Rhyne the following week before falling to eventual national champion Valdosta State.
Longtime Carson-Newman coach Ken Sparks isn’t letting the preseason ranking affect the way he approaches the season.
“It doesn’t mean a hill of beans at this point,” Sparks said. “If you get too high or too low over some preseason poll, there’s something not right with your brain. We’re grateful for the ranking, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point.”
C-N was the nation’s top rushing team in 2012, averaging 378.6 yards per game on the ground. That attack was led by all-conference first-team selection Brandon Baker, who returns this year.
Lenoir-Rhyne ranked second in the nation in rushing offense and led the SAC in scoring defense by allowing just 17.3 points per game in 2012.
Wingate was third with 48 points, followed by Mars Hill in fourth, Newberry in fifth and Tusculum in sixth.
The Pioneers are looking to rebound from a 2-9, 1-6 year with preseason All-SAC first-team senior Bo Cordell at quarterback. Cordell passed for 3,244 yards and 23 touchdowns last year.
Catawba and Brevard occupied the two bottom spots in the poll.
The season gets under way Thursday, Sept. 5 when Tusculum hosts College of Faith and Carson-Newman welcomes Wayne State.
2013 SAC Football Preseason Coaches' Poll
|1. Carson-Newman||59 (4)|
|2. Lenoir-Rhyne||55 (4)|
|4. Mars Hill||39|