Northwestern State was selected sixth in both polls. In the coaches' poll, the Demons received in 17 points, while in the SID poll they earned 18 points. The Demons finished with a 2-5 mark in conference play but return 16 starters and 58 letterwinners. Northwestern State will be under the new direction of coach Jay Thomas, who returns to Natchitoches where he was the defensive line coach and assistant head coach for the Demons in 2010 and 2011.
Sam Houston State, which reached the national championship game for the second consecutive year in 2012, was picked as the favorite heading into the 2013 season as voted on by the league's coaches and sports information directors, the conference Wednesday at its annual football media day at L'Auberge Resort.
Sam Houston was picked by both the coaches and the SIDs, receiving six out of a possible eight first-place votes and 48 points total in each poll. Central Arkansas picked up a first-place vote from the coaches and the final two from the SIDs while Stephen F. Austin received the final first-place vote from the coaches. Coaches and SIDs could not vote for their own team.
The Bearkats, who claimed their second consecutive conference title last season, return 11 starters and 40 lettermen, including the reigning two-time conference player of the year Tim Flanders and two-time first-time all-conference selection Richard Sincere. Five starters return on the offensive side for the Bearkats, five on the defensive side and one on special teams.
Central Arkansas, which advanced to the Division I postseason for the second consecutive year after winning a share of the regular-season title with Sam Houston, was picked second in both polls, receiving 44 points from the SIDs and 42 from the coaches. The Bears return 20 starters and 44 letterwinners to a team that finished 9-3 last season. Leading the way for UCA is quarterback Wynrick Smothers, the 2012 offensive player of the year, and defensive lineman Jonathan Woodard, last season's top freshman in the Southland.
McNeese State, which is coming off a fourth-place finish last year, was tabbed third in both polls, garnering 37 points from the coaches and 33 from the SIDs. The Cowboys return 62 players with on-the-field experience, including 16 starters. The Cowboys will be paced offensively by preseason all-conference wide receiver Diontae Spencer and running back Marcus Wiltz.
Stephen F. Austin was tabbed fourth by the coaches with 32 points and fifth by the SIDs with 27 points. The Lumberjacks, who finished tied for fourth last season with a 4-3 mark in league play, return 16 starters and 49 lettermen. First-team all-conference junior running back Gus Johnson will lead the Lumberjacks on the offensive side while first-team all-conference lineman Darren Robinson will anchor the SFA defense.
Southeastern Louisiana, which had one of its most successful seasons a year ago with a 5-2 league mark and a third-place finish, was picked fifth by the coaches with 26 points and fourth by the SIDs with 30. In his second season year as head coach, Ron Roberts will welcome back 49 letterwinners including 17 starters. The Lions will have to replace NFL second round draft pick Robert Alford on the defensive side of the ball and will look to preseason all-conference defensive back Todd Washington to fill the role.
The remaining spots include Lamar and Nicholls. The Cardinals were picked seventh by the coaches with 14 points and eighth by the SIDs with 15 points while the Colonels were tabbed eighth by the coaches with eight points and tied for sixth with Northwestern State with 18 points in the SID poll.