Top 'Dogs: Coaches pick UMD to win conference football title
Minnesota Duluth football coach Bob Nielson doesn't put a lot of stock in polls, to the point where he didn't know where the Bulldogs were picked to finish in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference preseason coaches' poll released Wednesday ...
Minnesota Duluth football coach Bob Nielson doesn't put a lot of stock in polls, to the point where he didn't know where the Bulldogs were picked to finish in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference preseason coaches' poll released Wednesday morning.
The Bulldogs are favored to win their fourth straight league title with 167 points and 11 first-place votes. St. Cloud State, which fell 20-17 in overtime to UMD in last year's playoffs, is picked to finish second with 155 points, including the three remaining first-place votes.
The Bulldogs, winners of two of the past three NCAA Division II national championships, begin practice Saturday, while Monday's practice will serve as a media day.
"It's nice to be recognized, but we've obviously got a lot of work to do," said Nielson, who was reached by phone on Wednesday night as he drove back from hockey meetings in the Twin Cities. "We have to understand we have to play our best football every week, because everybody we play is going to play their best. It's a good position to be in, but at the same time, it's a challenging one as well."
Augustana (145 points) is picked to win the South Division and is third overall. Winona State (125) and Minnesota State-Mankato (115) round out the top five.
UMD opens the season Sept. 3 at Augustana in a rematch of last year's regional championship game, won 24-13 by the Bulldogs.
"If you look at our schedule, we play the rest of the teams in the top 5," Nielson said. "I think it's safe to say our conference schedule is pretty tough."
UMD senior outside linebacker Rob Huberty, who will serve as team captain this fall with senior left tackle Cory Flesch, was chosen North Division Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and junior quarterback Chase Vogler was named North Division Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
The Bulldogs enter the season riding a 30-game NSIC winning streak, just four shy of the league record.
"The places where we were concerned last year are the places where we have experience this year," Nielson said. "We've got all five starters back on the offensive line, so hopefully that's a great place to build upon."