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Carson-Newman was voted by the South Atlantic Confernce head coaches as the favorite to win the conference title in 2013.
The Eagles went 9-3 overall and finished tied for second at 5-2 in the SAC last season. They earned a first-round bye in the NCAA Championship and defeated Lenoir-Rhyne the following week before falling to eventual-National Champion Valdosta St. in the quarterfinal round.
Carson-Newman was the nationâ€™s top rushing team in 2012, averaging 378.6 yards per game on the ground. That attack was led by All-Conference First Team selection Brandon Baker, who returns as a BSN Preseason All-American at running back in 2013.
Baker is joined on the BSN Preseason All-America Team by placekicker Curt Duncan.
The Eagles received four first-place votes in the preseason poll for a total of 59 points.
They are followed in the poll by 2012 SAC Champion Lenoir-Rhyne, which also earned four first-place votes and finished just behind C-N with 55 total points.
L-R earned a selection to last yearâ€™s NCAA Championship after going 6-1 in the SAC. The Bears won their postseason opener over Fort Valley St. before falling to Carson-Newman, finishing the season 9-3 overall.
Lenoir-Rhyne ranked second in the nation in rushing offense and led the SAC in scoring defense by allowing just 17.3 points per game in 2012.
Among the Bearsâ€™ key returnees this season is linebacker Tanner Botts â€” an All-SAC first team selection last year and a member of the 2013 BSN Preseason All-America team â€” and running Back Isaiah Whitaker, a 2012 Don Hansen All-American.
Wingate is third in the SAC preseason poll with 48 points. The Bulldogs â€“ last yearâ€™s SAC leader in total defense â€“ went 6-5 overall and 5-2 in conference play in 2012.
Robbie Nallenweg returns under center for WU after finishing last season with 3,644 passing yards â€“ the sixth-highest total in league history.
Mars Hill is fourth in the poll with 39 points, followed by No. 5 Newberry with 34 points.
MHU went 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the SAC last season, while the Wolves finished 5-6 overall and 3-4 in the league.
Mars Hill finished second in the SAC in total defense last season, anchored by the leagueâ€™s co-Defensive Player of the Year in Troy Harris. The lineman returns in 2013 as a member of the BSN Preseason All-America Team.
Newberryâ€™s returnees, meanwhile, include 2012 All-SAC first team wide receiver Corey Washington and All-Conference second team defensive lineman Letavious Williams.
No. 6 in the preseason poll is Tusculum, which went 2-9 overall and 1-6 in the SAC in 2012.
The Pioneers will once again be led by quarterback Bo Cordell, who became the conferenceâ€™s all-time leader in passing yards and total offense last season. Cordell enters his final year on campus 2,388 yards shy of breaking Div. IIâ€™s career passing yards record.
Completing the preseason poll is No. 7 Catawba with 19 points and No. 8 Brevard with eight points. Catawba forced the second-highest number of turnovers in the SAC in 2012 and welcomes back BSN Preseason All-America return specialist L.J. McCray to this yearâ€™s roster.
Brevard â€“ despite finishing 2-9 overall and 1-6 in the SAC â€“ was the nationâ€™s least-penalized team in 2012.
The Tornados return All-SAC First Team linebacker Michael Gruber, who helped BC limit opponents to just 162.7 passing yards per game last season â€“ the second-lowest average in the conference.
2013 SAC Football Preseason Coachesâ€™ Poll
Team, Points (1st-place votes)
1. Carson-Newman, 59 (4)
2. Lenoir-Rhyne, 55 (4)
3. Wingate, 48
4. Mars Hill, 39
5. Newberry, 34
6. Tusculum, 26
7. Catawba, 19
8. Brevard, 8