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College football: Bulldogs are preseason favorites in NSIC

For the sixth time in seven seasons, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football coaches have picked Minnesota Duluth as the preseason favorite to win the league championship.

UMD was picked to finish first in both the NSIC North Division and overall standings. The Bulldogs were 11-2 (10-1 NSIC) while returning to the NCAA Division II playoffs a year ago. They received eight first-place votes and 215 total points in Thursday’s poll, a notch ahead of defending conference champ Minnesota State-Mankato, which garnered seven first-place votes and 212 points.

The Bulldogs, who commence the regular season with a home game against Concordia-St. Paul on Sept. 6, have won each of the past six North Division titles.

Also Thursday, UMD senior running back Austin Sikorski was chosen the North Division’s preseason offensive player of the year. Sikorski rushed for 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. He is the first Bulldog to claim the preseason honor since quarterback Chase Vogler in 2011.

Sikorski was released from a hospital Thursday almost a week after he was stabbed in the abdomen during a late-night street fight on West Superior Street, near Lake Avenue. It is unclear if he will play football this fall.