Eastern Washington tops FCS preseason Top 25

North Dakota State has won the last three Football Championship Subdivision national championships, and the Bison machine seemed to have gained speed the longer it churned - North Dakota State's undefeated march to the 2013 national title was perhaps its most dominant yet.

But 43 wins in their last 45 games were not enough to earn North Dakota State the No. 1 ranking heading into 2014.

Perhaps it's the loss of head coach Craig Bohl. Maybe it's the graduation of quarterback Brock Jensen - the rich man's A.J. McCarron - and 23 other seniors. Or maybe it's Tom Hanks syndrome - no matter how good they are, voters are just ready to see someone else on top. More than likely it's a combination of the three.

Either way, North Dakota State will have to suffer the indignity of beginning their quest for a fourth straight national championship with a preseason No. 2 ranking. 

Eastern Washington, the last team to beat North Dakota State in the FCS playoffs, and the last team other than the Bison to win the FCS crown, grabbed the top spot in The Sports Network's 2014 preseason Top 25 poll, which was released Friday. The Eagles narrowly edged out the Bison for the top spot, garnering 3,589 points to North Dakota State's 3,540. Southeastern Louisiana, New Hampshire and Montana rounded out the top five. 

Head coach Beau Baldwin and Eastern Washington will begin the defense of their No. 1 ranking a week earlier than everybody else, opening the entire college football season by hosting No. 17 Sam Houston State in a nationally-televised game on Aug. 23 (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The full list breaks down like this:

1. Eastern Washington 
2. North Dakota State 
3. Southeastern Louisiana
4. New Hampshire
5. Montana
6. Jacksonville State
7. Coastal Carolina
8. McNeese State
9. Northern Iowa
10. South Dakota State
11. Fordham
12. Villanova
13. Towson
14. Chattanooga
15. Tennessee State
16. Eastern Illinois
17. Sam Houston State
18. Montana State
19. William & Mary
20. Richmond
21. Furman
22. Bethune-Cookman
23. Northern Arizona
24. Youngstown State
25. Maine

Video: Go inside Penn State's special teams at training camp

Here's a good look inside of Penn State's fall camp special teams preparations with running backs coach / special teams coordinator Charles Huff.

"Let your effort correct your mistakes." he tells the team during a special teams meeting. "It's not personal if you're not on there tomorrow, okay? I like to win."

About 45 seconds into the clip, Huff gets philosophical on the importance of the special teams unit.

"When you're talking about special teams, you're talking about the biggest change of field position at a time. It controls, what we call here the 'hidden yardage', or the yardage when you turn over a punt on the -20 or when you start the defense inside of their own 10.

"That's why we put so much importance on the little things because this is the hidden yardage."

One of the things that I noticed when watching the video is that Huff has the kick / punt returners wear boxing gloves while catching simulated kicks from the JUGS machine, forcing them to get in position with their feet and body to catch the punt properly. It also makes sure that they're fielding the punt with their elbows pinned to their sides instead of reaching for it with their hands.

Then, towards the end of the video, one returner nearly manages catching a punt with four balls already in his arms, and coach Huff enthusiastically voices his disappointment. Looks like a lot of fun.

Southern Miss' lightning delay at practice last night led to a dance party

My college playing days aren't as far behind me as they seem, and I can clearly recall nearly everyone spending any break in the practicee-eat-film study routine was spent trying to catch some extra Z's...which is why I was somewhat surprised to see this video from Southern Miss.

After heading back into the locker room during a lightning delay, the guys at Southern Miss brought the same energy from the practice field into the weight room and held their own private dance party. It looks very similar to the locker room environment we saw after big wins last season at Michigan State and other programs across the country.

It would be hard to imagine this same scene a few years ago during their 0-12 campaign, so props to Todd Monken and his staff on starting to change the mindset in Hattiesburg. Hopefully that means a few more wins in 2014 as well. 

Jim Mora reminds you to keep your friends close and your conference rivals closer

I would give half my salary to be on the charter flights that go from major conference media days to Bristol for the ESPN car wash in late July. The conversations between coaches and their handlers, doors shut and 35,000 feet in the air, must be fascinating. 

Like, for instance, the time am innocuous comment by Jim Mora turned into a recruiting war between UCLA and Cal. 

As Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times tells it, as Mora boarded his cross-country charter flight from Los Angeles to the Mothership, he told whoever happened to be listening that his Bruins needed a punter. A few hours later, he landed to a text. 

"I just said, 'Our punter is leaving; I need a punter,'" Mora said. "When we landed, I had a text from Matt, 'Hey, Coach, Cal just offered me [a scholarship].' I went, 'Ah man, Sonny.'"

The "Matt" Mora references is Long Beach City College punter Matt Mengel, who unwittingly found himself in a virtual dual for his services as the coaches bussed to their Bristol hotel.

"Sonny was in the seat in front of me and I'm direct messaging back and forth with Matt," Mora said. "I'm sure Sonny was doing the same thing. It was hilarious."

The story has a happy, or, more accurately, a non-disastrous, ending. Mengel chose UCLA. 

Read the full story here.


Video of the Day - BYU hits the links

Recent News

Three and out - The Titans are hiring a Wi-Fi...

Mizzou DC Dave Steckel teaches us all how to do...

Photos: Eastern Washington reveals new all black...

The Scoop | HS Scoop
Hot | New | Must Read