Sam Houston State received all possible first-place votes to earn the top spot in the 2017 Southland football preseason poll. Returning the spearheads of both their record-setting offense and defensive line, the Bearkats are favored to repeat as conference champions after an undefeated run through the league in 2016.
Leading the way for Sam Houston State is 2016 Walter Payton Award winner Jeremiah Briscoe. The senior quarterback rewrote more than one record book last season behind 4,602 total passing yards – a school record and second-best in the nation in 2017. He threw 57 touchdown passes, breaking the 32-year old single-season record of 56 to move into first place all-time in the FCS.
Briscoe returns with his two top receiving weapons in senior Yedidiah Louis and sophomore Nathan Stewart. The pair combined for 2,156 receiving yards and 26 receiving touchdowns in 2016. Junior receiver Davion Davis also returns, who tallied 960 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
Senior defensive lineman P.J. Hall also comes back to lead the Bearkat defense. The 2016 Buck Buchanan Award finalist and Southland Defensive Player of the Year was a force on the front seven, notching 56 tackles (24.5 for losses) and 13 sacks last season.
Sam Houston State earned a total of 11 spots on this year’s preseason all-conference teams. The Bearkats open the 2017 season with a home matchup against FCS foe Richmond on Sunday, Aug. 27, at 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
Central Arkansas is picked to finish second in 2017, entering the season with a conference-best 12 preseason all-conference selections. The Bears finished second last season, finishing with a record of 10-3 (8-1 SLC). The Southland’s stingiest defense enters this year with seven total preseason all-conference defense team selections. Central Arkansas held opponents to a league-best 21.7 points per game and 72.8 rushing yards per game.
McNeese is predicted to finish third, having earned eight spots on the preseason all-conference team. The Cowboys finished fourth in 2016 with a 6-5 (5-4 SLC) record. They also return with 2016 Southland Newcomer of the Year, junior quarterback James Tabary. After transferring from Arkansas State, the New Orleans native threw for 3,036 yards last season.
Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls were picked to finish fourth and fifth, respectively, to round out the top five preseason poll selections. Stephen F. Austin was selected as sixth, followed by Lamar, Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Northwestern State and UIW.
The preseason poll is voted on by head coaches and SIDs from each Southland football school. Voting for one’s own team is not permitted.
Team (First-place votes)Total
1. Sam Houston State (20) 200
2. Central Arkansas (2) 177
3. McNeese 163
4. Southeastern Louisiana 136
5. Nicholls 133
6. Stephen F. Austin 114
7. Lamar 68
8. Abilene Christian 66
9. Houston Baptist 56
10. Northwestern State 49
11. UIW 48