Aug. 13, 2013
Sports Network Poll
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - Lehigh will start the 2013 season ranked in both of the official FCS polls as the Mountain Hawks earned the No. 22 spot in the preseason Sports Network Top 25 on Tuesday.
Lehigh previously received the No. 17 ranking in the FCS Coaches Poll last week. Defending Patriot League champion Colgate finished high in the receiving votes category in both polls, coming in just two places away from the FCS Coaches top 25 and three from The Sports Network rankings.
Lehigh has finished in the top 20 nationally in each of the last three years, and concluded the 2012 campaign at No. 14 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 16 in The Sports Network top 25. The Mountain Hawks started last season at No. 11 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 16 in The Sports Network top 25.
Colgate came in at No. 25 in the final Sports Network poll in 2012, and finished just one spot out of the top 25 in last year's final FCS Coaches Poll.
In the Patriot League preseason poll, Colgate finished with 58 points and eight first-place votes to come in just ahead of Lehigh with 56 points and six first-place votes.
Lehigh has put together an outstanding three-year run, winning Patriot League titles in 2010 and 2011 and finishing 10-1 overall and in the top 20 nationally last season. But last year's campaign ended with the disappointment of missing out on the FCS playoffs, and the Mountain Hawks will have to overcome a lot of personnel losses to get back to the postseason. Quarterback Mike Colvin and wide receiver Ryan Spadola are among the stars gone on offense, where running back Keith Sherman, wide receivers Lee Kurfis and Sergio Fernandez-Soto and offensive lineman Ned Daryoush have the most returning experience. The defense undergoes an even bigger makeover with eight starters gone, including five who earned first-team All-Patriot League honors. Nigel Muhammad returns as an All-League selection at linebacker, while Rickie Hill is a standout at defensive back.
Colgate loses some key players from last year's championship team, but it returns the biggest piece in senior quarterback Gavin McCarney, the Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and a candidate for the Walter Payton Award. Fullback Ed Pavalko and offensive lineman Andrew Scarmardo are also preseason All-League picks on offense, but five All-Patriot League players from last year's record-setting group have departed. Colgate's defense gave up nearly 32 points per game last season, but has key players back including linebacker Kris Kent and preseason All-League defensive back Mike Armiento. Colgate is trying to repeat as Patriot League champion for the first time since 2002-03.
Patriot League teams will play five non-League games against teams that rank in the top 13 of the two FCS polls., with four of those coming at home. Both Colgate and Lehigh will take on No. 8/10 New Hampshire, with the Raiders visiting the Wildcats on Sept. 14 and the No. 17/22 Mountain Hawks hosting UNH on Sept. 28. Fordham hosts No. 5/9 Villanova and Holy Cross welcomes No. 11/12 Towson on Sept. 7, while Colgate faces another top 25 opponent when No. 13/16 Stony Brook comes to Hamilton on Oct. 12.
Two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State took the top spot in The Sports Network rankings, followed by Montana State, Sam Houston State, Eastern Washington and Villanova in the top five. Unlike the FCS Coaches Poll, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State were included in The Sports Network rankings even though they are transitioning to FBS and are ineligible for the FCS playoffs.
See the full Sports Network top 25 and read the poll release.
The Patriot League football season kicks off on Aug. 29 when Fordham hosts Rhode Island, with Colgate at Air Force, Holy Cross at Bryant and Georgetown at Wagner to complete the opening weekend two days later. Lehigh hosts Central Connecticut, Lafayette welcomes Sacred Heart and Bucknell hosts Marist in season openers on Sept. 7. The Patriot League schedule begins on Oct. 5 with Lehigh at Fordham and Bucknell at Lafayette, with the League champion earning an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.