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In the FCS Huddle: Should the Bison remain No. 1?

<p>Athlon College Football. The Sporting News. Lindy's.</p>

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Athlon College Football. The Sporting News. Lindy's.

College football annuals have hit the newsstand, and no matter the source (even any Joe Fan's unoffficial website), it appears Eastern Washington is the pick to win the FCS national title this season, and not the three-time defending champion North Dakota State Bison.

Even those who enjoy the fun of knee-jerk reaction, as In the FCS Huddle did just three days after NDSU was fitted for the 2013 crown (http://tinyurl.com/q8cp5x8) in early January, placed the target on Eastern Washington's back.

Come Jan. 3, 2015, the talk won't matter and the championship answer will be determined where it should be - on the field, and in this case, in Frisco, Texas (some may call it Bisonville South).

But one of the good questions going into the season is, shouldn't North Dakota State be the top-ranked team, and not Eastern Washington, or any other team, for that matter?

It creates interesting debate, especially one the national panel that comprises The Sports Network FCS Top 25 will be asked about in its preseason poll, which will be released in just over two months.

Many voters, and fans across the FCS, will say that until some team knocks North Dakota State off its perch, the Bison should remain No. 1, just as they were last season from the preseason poll on through a 15-0 campaign.

It's hard to argue against that logic.

Until, that is, you debate what a preseason poll is really about.

When voting within a season, you obviously can base the selections on what has happened leading up to the vote. If Team A from the FCS handles an FBS team and Team B squeaks by a sub-Division I team, the results are fairly concrete and can't be ignored.

But voters stepping up to the starter's line of a preseason poll can't process any weekly results. They know what happened the previous season and what they suspect about the upcoming season.

So while the word "preseason" may throw off some people, the voters should be taking a shot at how they believe the season will end.

In the case of the FCS, a No. 1 vote in the preseason should go to the team that voters say will win the national championship.

Make no mistake, North Dakota State has the chance for a four-peat this season. Sure, the Missouri Valley power lost a ton in a 24-player senior class as well as head coach Craig Bohl. But the defense will still be outstanding and there's quiet confidence that Carson Wentz will step in and do a credible job replacing the winningest quarterback in FCS history, Brock Jensen. Plus, the running game will be bruising again.

The last team to defeat the Bison in the playoffs was Eastern Washington in overtime in the 2010 national quarterfinals as the Eagles were on their way to their first FCS championship.

This year's EWU squad features the 2013 Walter Payton Award runner-up in quarterback Vernon Adams and a wide receiver, Cooper Kupp, who won the Jerry Rice Award as a freshman, as well as a plethora of other standouts. So there's no denying the Big Sky power could have the best team.

Someone may feel the same way about Southeastern Louisiana out of the Southland Conference, or some other team. But whatever team he or she believes will win the 2014 FCS title deserves the No. 1 vote going into the season.

It's the time of year that one has to live in the future, not necessarily the past or present.

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