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August 06. 2013 6:13PM

UNH football team ranked 8th nationally

The University of New Hampshire will hold its first practice Saturday as the highest-ranked Colonial Athletic Association team in the nation.

The Wildcats are ranked eighth in the FCS Coaches Preseason Poll, which was released Tuesday. The Wildcats were ranked No. 12 last season before the season started and finished the year ranked 13th.

UNH has been ranked in every poll since Sept. 13, 2004. The Wildcats were ranked as high as No. 7 last season, on Nov. 5. They finished with 8-4, including 6-2 in the CAA and a share of the league championship.

The Wildcats have qualified for the NCAA Division I Championship tournament nine straight years, the nation’s longest streak.

Two-time national champion North Dakota State is the preseason No. 1 team for the second straight season.

Montana State is second, followed by Eastern Washington, Sam Houston State and Wofford, which defeated UNH in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season. Central Arkansas is ranked sixth and South Dakota State is No. 7.

UNH will have five ranked opponents on its 2013 schedule, beginning with a Sept. 28 road game at 12:30 p.m. against No. 17 Lehigh.

The Wildcats will host No. 9 Villanova on Oct. 9 at noon and hit the road to play No. 12 Towson (Oct. 5, 12 p.m.) and No. 13 Stony Brook (Oct. 26, 4 p.m.). James Madison, ranked 15th, travels to Durham on Nov. 9 for a 12:30 p.m. contest.

New Hampshire opens the season on Saturday, Sept. 7, at Central Michigan (3 p.m., ESPN3). Central Michigan, a Football Bowl Subdivision team, won the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

UNH plays its home opener against defending Patriot League champion Colgate on Saturday, Sept. 14, at noon at Cowell Stadium. For season and individual game tickets, visit www.unhwildcats.com or call 862-4000, Ext. 5.

Below is the Top 25 FCS Coaches Preseason Poll with the team’s record from last season.

1. North Dakota State 14-1 1; 2. Montana State 11-2; 3. Eastern Washington 11-3; 4. Sam Houston State 11-4; 5. Wofford 9-4; 6. Central Arkansas 9-3; 7. South Dakota State 9-4; 8. New Hampshire 8-4; 9. Villanova 8-4; 10. Illinois State 9-4; 11. Cal Poly 9-3; 12. Towson 7-4; 13. Stony Brook 10-3; 14. Richmond 8-3; 15. James Madison 7-4; 16. Northern Iowa 5-6; 17. Lehigh 10-1; 18. Northern Arizona 8-2; 19. Eastern Kentucky 8-3; 20. Bethune-Cookman 9-3; 21. Coastal Carolina 8-5; 22. Montana 6-2 (final six games vacated); 23. Eastern Illinois 7-5; 24. Youngstown State 7-4; 25. Chattanooga 6-5


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