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Big Rapids, Mich. - The back-to-back NCAA Division II National Quarterfinalist Ferris State University football squad, which has been chosen as high as #3 nationally in one preseason national poll, has been picked again to finish near the top of the league as the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) unveiled its 2018 GLIAC Football Preseason Poll Tuesday with the Bulldogs second overall.
The announcement was made in conjunction with the launch of the GLIAC Media Day Central website, which includes video interviews, a preseason prognosis, infographics and more in addition to the complete poll conducted by the league's member head coaches.
Ferris State picked up 56 total points and two first-place votes to rank second just behind archrival Grand Valley State. The Lakers were first with 61 points and six top votes. The two squads were followed by Ashland in third place (54 points and one vote). Three teams were tied for fourth place overall in Northwood (35), Saginaw Valley State (35) and Wayne State (35) with Northern Michigan seventh (20), Michigan Tech eighth (19) and Davenport rounding out the list in ninth (9). Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Ferris State, which opens fall camp next week, has received preseason acclaim as a consensus top 20 team nationally from several sources this summer. The Bulldogs, who have been tabbed as high as #3 nationally by Lindy's Sports, are listed as one of the country's top three teams in at least one preseason national ranking for the third time in four years.
FSU will begin its seventh season this fall under head coach and two-time Football Gazette Regional Coach of the Year Tony Annese and is expected to contend for its fifth-straight NCAA Division II playoff appearance with the return of nearly 60 letterwinners from a year ago.
Offensively, FSU returns eight starters and is expected to be led up front by a pair of preseason All-Americans in guard Nic Sawyer and tackle Devon Johnson. Both Johnson and Sawyer were named to the Football Gazette All-America squad a year ago and have been multi-year starters up front for one of the nation's top offensive units.
Along with four returning starters on the offensive line, the Bulldogs also welcome back their top four receivers, including a pair of All-GLIAC honorees in senior wideouts Malik Taylor and Keyondre Craig. A trio of signal callers will battle for the starting quarterback position in fall camp.
Defensively, the Bulldogs must replace their top nine tacklers and three NFL hopefuls from one of the school's best units ever, but a number of highly-regarded prospects along with a few key newcomers are waiting in the wings for their chance to shine.
The Bulldogs will begin their 110th season of varsity competition this coming fall with their sights set on making a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs. FSU has made back-to-back NCAA Division II National Quarterfinal appearances and is one of only five teams in all of college football to win at least 11 games each of the past four years.
The Bulldogs along with Northwest Missouri State are the only programs in Division II football to make the playoffs each of the past four seasons.
In six seasons under Annese, the Bulldogs have become a national power on the Division II level. FSU has posted a 60-14 overall mark in the last six years and the Bulldogs have also posted the best winning percentage of all 21 collegiate programs in the state of Michigan along with the GLIAC since his arrival. Last summer, Hero Sports picked FSU as Michigan's Best College Football program regardless of division.
The schedule is expected to be a challenging one with a full 11-game slate. The Bulldogs will open the season at home under the lights at Top Taggart Field on Thursday, Aug. 30, with a non-conference matchup versus East Stroudsburg (Pa.) starting at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Following the season opener, the Bulldogs will host Findlay in week two in a potential non-conference battle of ranked squads before opening league action on Sept. 15 at Northwood. Overall, FSU will play five home games at Top Taggart Field and will also host GLIAC foe Michigan Tech on Oct. 6 in the "Battle At The Ballpark" to be played at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park.
Along with the first conference game at Northwood, the road slate also includes potential challenging matchups at Northern Michigan (Sept. 22), Grand Valley State (Oct. 13) and Saginaw Valley State (Oct. 20). FSU closes the regular-season with a long non-conference road trip to William Jewell (Mo.) on Nov. 10.