Sporting-News ranks ACU 5th
ABILENE -- The ACU Wildcats, who return three of the top skill-position players in the country in 2008, have been ranked No. 5 in the nation in the Sporting News' NCAA Division II top 25 pre-season poll.
The Wildcats finished 10-3 in 2007 and reached the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs before falling to Chadron State (Neb.), 76-73, in triple-overtime. ACU's 10-win campaign was the program's first 10-win season since the 1977 team went 11-1-1 on its way to the NAIA Division I national championship.
The Wildcats return quarterback Billy Malone, running back Bernard Scott and wide receiver Johnny Knox in 2008, three of the top players at their respective positions in NCAA Division II football. Scott rushed for 2,165 yards and finished as the runner-up for the Harlon Hill Award in 2007, while Malone set ACU single-season records for yards passing (3,914) and touchdowns (37). Knox set the LSC and ACU single-season record with 17 touchdown receptions in 2007.
Three-time defending Lone Star Conference champion West Texas A&M is ranked No. 11 in the poll, while Tarleton State -- another ACU rival in the LSC South Division -- is ranked No. 25. The Buffaloes return their own potent offensive trio in quarterback Keith Null, running back Keithon Flemming and wide receiver Charly Martin.
The Texans return their own potent offensive quartet in quarterback Scott Grantham, wide receiver Devin Guinn and running backs Roderick Smith and Michael Sampson. The Texans finished 9-2 last season, but were third in the LSC South Division behind West Texas A&M and ACU.
NCAA Division II powerhouse Grand Valley State (Mich.) is ranked No. 1 in the pre-season poll, followed by 2007 semifinalist California (Pa.) at No. 2. Defending national champion Valdosta State (Ga.) is ranked No. 3, followed three-time defending national runner-up Northwest Missouri State at No. 4. The Wildcats will open their season on Saturday, Aug. 30, in Maryville, Mo., against Northwest Missouri State in what could be one of the top gmaes in NCAA Division II football in 2008.
Other teams in the NCAA Division II Southwest Region that are ranked are Nebraska-Omaha at No. 9 and Pittsburg State at No. 19.