Carroll (Mont.) will begin the 2011 season as the No.-1 ranked team in the NAIA Football Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Monday. Since 2000, the top billing marks the sixth time (2011, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003) the Fighting Saints have been ranked No. 1 and the first since 2008. The defending national champion will begin the season with 314 total points and all 14 first-place votes in the Top 25 poll.
The rest of the top-five squads go unchanged from the Spring Top 25 Poll, that was announced on April 18. Second-ranked Saint Xavier (Ill.) is followed by No. 3 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), No. 4 Saint Francis (Ind.) and No. 5 Morningside (Iowa).
The Fighting Saints are looking for their seventh National Championship, which would tie them for the most in NAIA history. Behind Van Diest, Carroll has gone undefeated in four of his 12 seasons, won 11-straight Frontier Conference titles and taken home six National Championships since 2002. The team from Helena, Mont., opens up its campaign at Rocky Mountain (Mont.) on Sept. 3.
The only newcomer from the Spring Top 25 Poll is No. 25 Grand View (Iowa) with 22 points. The Vikings, out of the Mid-States Football Association Midwest division, garnered their first Top-25 ranking since being ranked 20th in the 2010 Preseason Top 25 on Aug. 9.
The Heart of America Athletic Conference boasts the most teams in the Top 25 with four: No. 3 MidAmerica Nazarene, No. 11 Missouri Valley, No. 22 Benedictine (Kan.) and No. 23 Baker (Kan.). Four other conferences, and the Independents, all claim three teams each. One of the big change among membership is the Independents adding several members, such as No. 7 Dickinson State (N.D.), due to the disbandment of the Dakota Athletic Conference.