The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta State football team learned Monday it will open the 2013 season where it ended the 2012 season as the Blazers garnered the top spot in the first American Football Coaches Association poll, released earlier in the day.
VSU garnered 26 of the 32 first place votes in the poll and had 766 total points.
Minnesota State-Mankato, who Valdosta State defeated in the national semifinals last season, was second in the preseason poll with three first place votes and 726 points while West Texas A&M, who had one first place vote, was third at 707 points.
Northwest Missouri State also garnered a first place vote and 616 points for fourth place in the poll while Winston-Salem State, the 2012 national runner-up, was fifth with 599 points.
The 2013 season marks the third time in the history of the poll that the Blazers will open the season at No. 1 and is the 21st time overall that VSU has been tabbed the top team in the country.
If the Blazers are to repeat as national champions this season they’ll arguably need to play even better than a season ago.
With the number one ranking comes high expectations; VSU comes into this season with a big target spot on its back.
Luckily for the defending champions, the Blazers return eight players to a defense that was key to a championship run.
VSU lost one player at each level of the defense to graduation, Tyler Joesy on the defensive line, Ryan Smith at linebacker, and Matt Pierce at corner, but the appropriately named ‘Black Swarm’ shouldn’t see too much of a drop off.
Under head coach David Dean, the Blazers are 32-0 when holding the opponents to under 20 points.
The 21 weeks in the top spot are second-most among all NCAA Division II teams since the poll began prior to the 2000 season.
One Valdosta State opponent for the upcoming season was also in the poll as Gulf South Conference foe West Alabama was slated at No. 16 with 297 points.
VSU started the 2012 season at 2-2 with one of those losses at the hands of the Tigers.
Just because only one GSC team is ranked in the top 25 preseason poll doesn’t mean the Blazers are in for a stroll through the conference. The other GSC teams are right on the fringe of the top 25.
North Alabama (39 points), Delta State (26), Fort Valley State (4), UNC-Pembroke (2) and Texas A&M-Kingsville (2) all received votes in the poll.
Valdosta State kicks off its 2013 season Saturday, Sept. 7 when it faces Fort Valley State at 2:00 p.m. in Macon, Ga. at Henderson Field.