The South Atlantic Conference Announces 2018 Football Preseason Poll

The South Atlantic Conference Announces 2018 Football Preseason Poll

ROCK HILL, S.C. (TheSAC.com)Carson-Newman has been voted as the conference favorite by the South Atlantic Conference football head coaches, the League announced today.  The Eagles collected four first-place votes and 52 points in the poll.  

After a second place finish in 2017, the Eagles return 10 of 11 starters from a defense that led the SAC in rushing defense and produced the Eagles' second best rush defense since 2000. Carson-Newman allowed just 95 yards per game on the ground and had the best total defense, allowing just 278 yards per game, and they had the second best scoring defense in the SAC, allowing 19.3 points per game. The Eagles will enter the 2018 ranked in two preseason polls. They are picked No. 20 by Lindy's Sports and are No. 22 according to Street & Smith. 

At No. 2 in the poll was Wingate.  The Bulldogs captured their second SAC Football Championship in program history in 2017, finishing the season with a record of 9-2 overall and 6-1 in conference. In addition to winning the SAC, the Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA postseason for the second time in school history. The Bulldogs return 19 starters from last year's squad, including All-American BJ Muckelvene. The Bulldogs finished the season ranked No. 24 in the nation according to the AFCA Division II Coaches Poll and they will open the 2018 season as the No. 24 team in the country according to College Football America.

Catawba checks in at No. 3 in the 2018 preseason poll.  The Catawba Indians finished in a tie for second with Carson-Newman a year ago, closing out the season with a 9-2 record overall and a 5-2 mark in the SAC. Head coach Curtis Walker and his staff will have 16 returners for the 2018 campaign, including seven on a defense that led the SAC in scoring defense, allowing just 17.6 points per game in 2017. Also returning for the Catawba Indians will be six starts from an offense that was second in scoring, averaging 31.6 points per game in 2017.

The Newberry Wolves came in at No. 4 in the preseason poll as they finished the 2017 season tied for fourth at 5-6 overall and 3-4 in conference play.  The Wolves are looking for their second SAC title in three years as it claimed the 2016 SAC Football Championship.  The Wolves will have a strong core of players returning for the 2018 season with six All-SAC performers, including first team picks Jamarcus Henderson, Keito Jordon and Joe Blue on defense. As a team, Newberry posted the second best total defense numbers in the SAC last year, allowing 314.5 yards per game.

Tusculum landed at No. 5 in the preseason poll.  The Pioneers went 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the SAC during the 2017 season.  Another strong defensive team, Tusculum led the Conference in pass defense during the 2017 season, allowing just 170.1 yards in the air. On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Alex Ogle returns to lead the Pioneer offense. He was third in the SAC in passing last season, throwing for 14 touchdowns and 2,056 yards.

At No. 6 in the poll was Lenoir-Rhyne.  The Bears finished the 2017 campaign with a 3-7 record, going 2-5 in the SAC, but under the direction of new head coach Drew Cronic the Bears will be looking to return to their winning ways.  Also returning to lead the Bears are a pair of All-SAC defenders, Kyle Duggar and Sherrod Williams. Duggar led the Conference in solo tackles last season with 59 and was fourth in tackles per game with 8.5, while Williams was fourth in fumble recoveries with two and was seventh in assists with 37.

Rounding out the poll with a tie for No. 7 were associate member Limestone and Mars Hill.

In their first year of SAC competition, the Saints went 4-6 overall and posted a 3-4 record in SAC play. The Saints earned wins over Tusculum, Mars Hill and Newberry and had one of the top passing offenses in the Conference, with 2,248 passing yards and 15 touchdowns through the air. Under the direction of first-year head coach Tony Ierulli, the Saints will be looking to make their presence felt in year two in the SAC.

Mars Hill closed out the 2017 season with a record of 3-7 overall, going 1-6 in conference action. The Lions have 13 starters returning for 2018, including All-SAC offensive lineman Brandon Berridge who helped Mars Hill lead the league in passing with 3,029 yards last season.

The 2018 South Atlantic Conference football season gets underway on Thursday, Aug. 30 with Carson-Newman, Lenoir-Rhyne, Tusculum and Wingate all in action.  The remainder of the SAC teams kick-off their seasons on Saturday, Sept. 1.

2018 SAC Football Preseason Coaches Poll 

Rank

School

Points

1.      

Carson-Newman (4)

52

2.      

Wingate (3)

49

3.      

Catawba

44

4.      

Newberry

40

5.      

Tusculum (1)

32

6.      

Lenoir-Rhyne

23

T7.

Limestone

20

T7.

Mars Hill

20

  

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