AP Photo
August 25, 2015

(STATS) - The final Saturday of the Pioneer Football League season has the makings of a thrilling end to a championship race.

The two PFL programs to appear in the FCS playoffs the last two years will square off when Butler visits San Diego; rivals Dayton and Drake, who always seems to be a part of the title picture, will clash at Drake Stadium; and Campbell, which at midseason a year ago thought it would be playing for the conference title, will host arguably the league's most talented team in Jacksonville.

Strap on your seatbelt, everyone.

"I'm the old man of the conference," Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin said. "I've been with this conference since it started back in 1993 with six teams, and I can honestly say the competitiveness, the challenges that our conference has against each opponent is as strong as it's ever been. And I've felt like that for the last three or four years, it's been that way."

It would be refreshing for the 11-member, coast-to-coast PFL to have a terrific title race considering its off-the-field woes. Jacksonville may have the best returning squad, but it is ineligible to win the league title for a second consecutive year because it incorrectly awarded financial aid during the 2010-14 seasons. The school would have represented the non-scholarship league in last year's FCS playoffs had it been eligible, but the automatic bid fell to San Diego.

Similarly, San Diego would have been the PFL's first playoff representative in 2013, but it incorrectly awarded financial aid and was deemed ineligible in the season's final week, which led to Butler gaining the bid.

The PFL's preseason coaches poll suggested the title race will be tight this season. San Diego led the way with 89 points, and Dayton and Drake were right behind with 87 and 86 points, respectively.

"A team that can kind of get on an early roll and have some success and then continue to build on that generally ends up being the leaders," Stetson coach Roger Hughes said. "I would also say those teams that have the most upperclassmen generally tend to be the leaders of the league as well."

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PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH=

1. San Diego

2. Drake

3. Dayton

4. Campbell

5. Butler

6. Stetson

7. Marist

8. Morehead State

9. Valparaiso

10. Davidson

Ineligible: Jacksonville

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TEAM CAPSULES=

1. SAN DIEGO TOREROS

LOCATION: San Diego

STADIUM: Torero Stadium

COACH: Dale Lindsey (17-6 in two seasons at San Diego)

LAST SEASON: 9-3 overall, 7-1 PFL (1st)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (6 offense/6 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Keith Williams, WR Brandon White, WR/PR Reggie Bell, LB Troy McClelland, LB Una Hamala, S Matt Miller, PK David Last

OFFENSIVE STAR: Jonah Hodges, RB/KR, R-Jr., 5-9, 185 (221 carries, 1,214 yards, 6 TDs; 20 receptions, 154 yards)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Jamal Agnew, CB, Jr., 5-10, 185 (41 TT, 1 TFL, 4 INTs, 19 PBUs)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Trey Wheeler, QB, Sr., 6-1, 205; Dallas Kessman, RB, R-Sr., 5-9, 205; Chris Campano, FB, R-Sr., 6-0, 243; Justin Priest, WR, So., 6-2, 195; Ross Dwelley, TE, So., 6-5, 240; Jeff Starr, OL, R-Sr., 6-4, 325; Pono Keni, OL, Sr., 6-3, 290; Luke Meyer, OL, R-Sr., 6-3, 280; Steven Oliver, OL, RS-Sr., 6-1, 270; Josh Williams, DL, R-Sr., 6-0, 269; Jamal Newman, DL, Jr., 6-2, 285; Brandon Pulealii, DL, R-Sr., 6-0, 320; Jonathan Petersen, DE, So., 6-1, 230; Nic Henson, LB, R-Jr., 6-2, 220; Devyn Bryant, CB, Jr., 5-11, 185; Ryan Belden, P, Jr., 6-2, 195

OUTLOOK: USD has the favorite's role again despite losing significant contributors off last year's league championship club, which reached the FCS playoffs for the first time, losing at Montana in the first round. The departures included QB Williams, who sought a transfer after his sophomore season. His replacement, Wheeler, previously was a starter at Simon Fraser and played in three games for the Toreros last season, throwing for three touchdowns. The losses of WRs White and Bell also are big to the offense, with TE Dwelley (23 receptions, 219 yards, 3 TDs) the top returning pass catcher. Opponents know the ball will be going to All-PFL RB Hodges, who's coming off a breakout season, including a 273-yard rushing performance against Stetson. LB Hensen was second on the team in tackles (90), but is the only player back from the top six in that category. Agnew led the FCS with 23 passes defended (19 breakups, four interceptions), so opposing quarterbacks need to shy away from him. The schedule includes a rarity, a PFL team facing an FBS program - San Diego State - and the Toreros don't have to face Jacksonville.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at San Diego State

Sept. 12 - vs. Western New Mexico

Sept. 26 - at Valparaiso*

Oct. 3 - vs. Marist*

Oct. 10 - at Dayton*

Oct. 17 - vs. Drake*

Oct. 24 - vs. Warner

Oct. 31 - at Stetson*

Nov. 7 - vs. Campbell*

Nov. 14 - at Davidson*

Nov. 21 - vs. Butler*

* - PFL game

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2. DRAKE BULLDOGS

LOCATION: Des Moines, Iowa

STADIUM: Drake Stadium

COACH: Rick Fox (7-4 in one season at Drake)

LAST SEASON: 7-4 overall, 6-2 PFL (Tie/2nd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

KEY LOSSES: TB T.J. James, OL Troy Whitmer, DL Brett Park, DL Matt Acree, LB Alec Recker, LB Sean Conerty, RS Drew Ormseth

OFFENSIVE STAR: Conley Wilkins, RB, Jr., 5-10, 194 (163 carries, 669 yards, 13 TDs; 13 receptions, 117)

DEFENSIVE STAR: John Hugunin, LB, R-Sr., 5-11, 232 (89 TT, 4 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 BLK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Andy Rice, QB, R-Sr., 6-3, 219; Gary Scott, RB, R-Sr., 5-9, 192; Brock Reichardt, RB, So., 5-8, 195; Michael Hudson, WR, R-Sr., 6-2, 217; Keegan Gallery, WR, Jr., 5-10, 169; Eric Saubert, TE, Sr., 6-4, 242; Lee Snell, TE, R-Sr., 6-5, 241; Aaron Melton, OL, R-Sr., 6-1, 284; Aaron Johnson, OL, R-Sr., 6-6, 293; John McMahon, OL, R-Sr., 6-3, 283; Jack Beck, OL, R-Sr., 6-5, 292; Mack Marrin, DE, Jr., 6-1, 246; Michael Vankat, DE, R-Sr., 6-2, 236; Taylor Coleman, LB, Sr., 6-2, 215; John Bloss, CB, R-Sr., 6-0, 187; Bob Quilico, FS, R-Sr., 6-0, 204; Caz Zyks, SS, R-Sr., 5-9, 186; Brad Duwe, CB, R-Sr., 6-0, 192

OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs are an annual title contender, having finished with at least five league wins in six consecutive seasons. With a veteran team, there's a great opportunity for Drake to win the championship. A stout defense will lead the way again after allowing just 318 yards per game. The top five in tackles return, led by LBs Coleman (95) and Hugunin (89). Although the defensive line lost pass rushers Acree and Park, DE Marrin (12.5 TFL, 5 SK) is highly skilled at it and coming off PFL freshman defensive player of the year honors. The Bulldogs will rely on fifth-year seniors, and one of them, QB Rice (11 TDs, 11 INTs), has to be more consistent in his final season. The offense will feature the run game, including Wilkins, who rushed for 13 touchdowns. But Scott led the team in rushing in 2012 and '13, and Reichardt seeks to break out this season. The tight ends (Saubert and Snell) are exceptional, but the wide receivers must provide more production because they totaled only 630 of the team's 2,428 receiving yards last season. It doesn't help Drake to miss Davidson and Marist in the league's unbalanced scheduling.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - vs. William Jewell

Sept. 12 - at North Dakota

Sept. 19 - at South Dakota

Sept. 26 - vs. Stetson*

Oct. 3 - at Campbell*

Oct. 10 - vs. Valparaiso*

Oct. 17 - at San Diego*

Oct 24 - vs. Jacksonville*

Oct. 31 - at Morehead State*

Nov. 14 - at Butler*

Nov. 21 - vs. Dayton*

* - PFL game

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3. DAYTON FLYERS

LOCATION: Dayton, Ohio

STADIUM: Welcome Stadium

COACH: Rick Chamberlin (55-23 in seven seasons at Dayton)

LAST SEASON: 8-3 overall, 6-2 PFL (Tie/2nd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Will Bardo, WR Ross Smith, WR/PR Gabe Macis, OL Soern Osborne, DE Pat Dowd, DB Zach Elias, DB Mitch Yinger

OFFENSIVE STAR: Connor Kacsor, RB, RS-Sr., 6-0, 211 (255 carries, 1,547 yards, 17 TDs 21 receptions, 122 yards)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Christopher Beaschler, LB, Sr., 6-0, 226 (101 TT, 5 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Blake Bir, QB, R-So., 6-1, 210; Luke Johnson, QB, R-Sr., 6-3, 210; Cory Stuart, WR, Sr., 6-1, 200; Jack Euritt, WR, R-So., 6-4, 205; Ian Palin, TE, Sr., 6-4, 251; Shane Toub, C, Sr., 6-3, 272; Zac Morgan, OT, Sr., 6-7, 280; Jimmy Vogel, OT, Sr., 6-4, 290; Robert Delaney, OL, Sr., 6-2, 265; Nate Sudnick, DE, Sr. 6-2, 245; Austen Alber, DT, R-Sr., 6-3, 268; Miles Ashelman, DT, Sr. 6-2, 265; Matt Brown, DT, R-Sr., 6-2, 265; Jack Crain, LB, R-So., 6-1, 215; Ryan Schwenke, Flyer, Sr., 6-0, 195; Cameron Stubbs, CB, Sr., 5-10, 201; Christian Searles, CB, So., 5-9, 178; Danny Leach, S, Sr., 5-11, 201; William Will, PK, Sr., 6-0, 190

OUTLOOK: No program has won as many PFL titles as Dayton (11) and the Flyers could add to the total this season. League offensive player of the year Kacsor is coming off a monster season and already is the school's all-time rushing leader. But the offense has lost a four-year starting quarterback in Bardo, so there may be an early transition period for Bir. At least he has an experienced offensive line and a go-to receiver in Stuart (35 receptions, 383 yards, 3 TDs). Don't overlook the defense, though, as it returns 16 players who made at least 10 tackles last season, led by All-PFL LB Beaschler (101). DE Sudnick is quite productive up front (64 TT, 11.5 TFL, 5.5 SK) and Schwenke (three interceptions, six pass breakups) holds down the coveted Flyer position in the secondary. Place-kicker can be a difference maker on the non-scholarship level and Dayton has a reliable kicker in Will, who went 14-for-19 on field goals with a long of 49 yards.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at Robert Morris

Sept. 19 - vs. Duquesne

Sept. 26 - vs. Kennesaw State

Oct. 3 - at Stetson*

Oct. 10 - vs. San Diego*

Oct. 17 - at Valparaiso*

Oct. 24 - vs. Butler*

Oct. 31 - vs. Jacksonville*

Nov. 7 - at Morehead State*

Nov. 14 - vs. Marist*

Nov. 21 - at Drake*

* - PFL game

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4. CAMPBELL FIGHTING CAMELS

LOCATION: Buies Creek, North Carolina

STADIUM: Barker-Lane Stadium

COACH: Mike Minter (8-16 in two seasons at Campbell)

LAST SEASON: 5-7 overall, 4-4 PFL (Tie/4th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (6 offense/9 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Dakota Wolf, WR Jabri Ridenhour, CB/KR Isaiah Howard, LB Luke Hill, P Adam Lutz

OFFENSIVE STAR: Dalton Dillon, FB, Sr., 6-1, 225 (17 carries, 139 yards)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Ugonna Awuruonye, DE, R-Sr., 6-5, 260 (68 TT, 12 TFL, 8 SK, 5 PBU, 4 QBH, 3 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: David Salmon, QB, R-So., 6-1, 210; DeShawn Jones, RB, Jr., 6-0, 205; Jared Joyner, RB, R-Jr., 6-0, 195; Ben Bolling, WR, R-Sr., 6-0, 190; Trey Sanders, WR, R-Fr., 5-11, 185; Austin Fleming, TE, Jr., 6-4, 235; Jacob Brewer, RG, R-Sr., 6-1, 300; Josh Hutto, LT, R-So., 6-4, 290; Greg Milhouse, DT, Sr., 6-3, 295; Dwan Hanshaw, DE, Sr., 6-2, 285; Andrew Yost, MLB, R-Sr., 6-1, 235; Jake Barr, OLB, R-Sr., 6-1, 225; Daniel Bostick, LB, Jr., 6-1, 225; Brandon Mobley, CB, 5-10, 175; Aaron Nichols, FS, R-Sr., 5-10, 185; Tyler Rhyne, CB, R-Jr., 5-10, 190; Alan Hart, SS, R-Jr., 6-1, 195; Mitchell Brown, PK, So., 5-7, 170

OUTLOOK: With their program on the rise under Minter, the Fighting Camels had a lot to motivate over, and stew about, during the offseason. They won their first four PFL games last season … and then lost their last four (three by seven or fewer points) to fall out of the title race. Their hope is to have a stronger finishing touch this year. Nine starters are back on defense, with DE Awuruonye and DT Milhouse anchoring a solid D-line. But the Camels allowed 405.5 yards per game and can improve there. It's not as though their offense is overwhelming, but QB Salmon (57-for-138, 739 yards, 4 TDs, 5 INTs) hopes to be more efficient as a sophomore. The Camels should have a decent run game with their superb FB Dillon leading the way for Jones. The schedule includes 11 straight games without an off week. Should they start strong again in the league portion of it, games versus San Diego and Jacksonville loom in November.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3 - vs. Pikeville (Ky.)

Sept. 12 - vs. Chowan

Sept. 19 - at Presbyterian

Sept. 26 - at Butler*

Oct. 3 - vs. Drake*

Oct. 10 - vs. Marist*

Oct. 17 - at Stetson*

Oct. 24 - vs. Morehead State*

Oct. 31 - at Davidson*

Nov. 7 - at San Diego*

Nov. 14 - vs. Jacksonville*

* - PFL game

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5. BUTLER BULLDOGS

LOCATION: Indianapolis

STADIUM: Butler Bowl

COACH: Jeff Voris (54-48 in nine seasons at Butler; 69-82 overall)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 2-6 PFL (Tie/8th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (8 offense/4 defense)

KEY LOSSES: WR Derek O'Connor, LG Greg Ambrose, DE Bret Shannon, CB JoJo Ciancio

OFFENSIVE STAR: Sam Schrader, RB, R-So., 5-10, 185 (74 carries, 604 yards, 9 TDs; 11 receptions, 157 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Sean Horan, LB, R-Jr., 5-11, 225 (80 TT, 9 TFL, 1.5 SK, 2 PBU, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Matt Shiltz, QB, R-Sr., 6-2, 195; Malcolm Weaver, QB, R-So., 5-11, 180; Guy DiBalsamo, RB/KR, R-Jr., 5-11, 195; Rico Watson, RB, Sr., 5-8, 200; Marquese Martin-Hayes, WR, Sr., 5-11, 180; Brandin Collins, WR, R-Jr., 6-3, 210; Zack Wolfe, TE, Sr., 6-3, 230; Max Brodbeck, C, R-Sr., 6-2, 285; David Tiwari, LT, R-Sr., 6-2, 280; Josh Willis, DE, Jr., 6-2, 220; Curt Beckman, DE, R-So., 6-4, 215; Jordan Ransone, DT, R-Jr., 6-2, 270; Kyle Payne, LB, Sr., 6-1, 210; Jordan Massey, LB, R-Sr., 6-1, 210; David Starkey, LB, Jr., 6-1, 225; Ethan Brunhofer, LB/S, So., 6-2, 210; Jake Balder, CB, R-So., 5-10, 180; Zachary LaRoche, FS, R-Jr., 6-2, 185; Isaak Newhouse, FS, So., 6-0, 195; Brian Akialis, P, R-Sr., 6-2, 190

OUTLOOK: After becoming the PFL's first playoff representative in 2013, the Bulldogs fell backward a year ago. They started with a 3-2 record, but dropped five of their final six games after QB Shiltz (106-for-171, 1,324 yards, 10 TDs, 4 INTs) was lost to a hand injury. Yet in the second half of the season, they developed their rushing attack, and Schrader averaged 8.2 yards per carry with 11 total touchdowns as a freshman. Add in RBs DiBalsamo and Watson and the Bulldogs will try to grind out wins this season. The biggest concern is that the defense lost six players from its line rotation, which will make it hard to lead the league in rushing defense (110.7 ypg) again. Top tackler Ciancio is gone, but the next six return, led by LB Horan. After a tough opening assignment at Indiana State, the Bulldogs could return to success in the first half of the schedule.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at Indiana State

Sept. 12 - vs. Franklin

Sept. 19 - at Taylor

Sept. 26 - vs. Campbell*

Oct. 10 - at Morehead State*

Oct. 17 - vs. Davidson*

Oct. 24 - at Dayton*

Oct. 31 - at Marist*

Nov. 7 - vs. Valparaiso*

Nov. 14 - vs. Drake*

Nov. 21 - at San Diego*

* - PFL game

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6. STETSON HATTERS

LOCATION: DeLand, Florida

STADIUM: Spec Martin Memorial Stadium

COACH: Roger Hughes (7-16 in two seasons at Stetson; 54-68 overall)

LAST SEASON: 5-7 overall, 3-5 PFL (Tie/6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 22 (11 offense/11 defense)

KEY LOSSES: OL Fletcher Eldemire, OL Charles Wallace, DT Cory Staud, LS Mitch Lane

OFFENSIVE STAR: Ryan Tentler, QB, Jr., 5-11, 203 (153-for-274, 1,833 yards, 17 TDs, 15 INTs; 85 carries, 207 yards, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Donald Payne, S, Jr., 6-0, 215 (185 TT, 19 TFL, 5.5 SK, 4 INT, 8 PBU, 6 QBH, 2 FR, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Cole Mazza, RB, Jr., 6-1, 222; Mike Yonker, FB, Jr., 5-11, 233; Chris Crawford, WR, Jr., 6-1, 188; Kegan Moore, WR, Jr., 6-0, 176; Darius McGriff, WR/PR, Jr., 5-9, 168; Ryan Selimos, WR, Jr., 5-10, 177; Matt Wawrzyniak, RT, Jr., 6-4, 300; John Post, LT, Jr., 6-3, 282; Patrick Fogarty, LG, Jr, 6-3, 290; Davion Belk, DE, Jr., 6-0, 282; Zane White, DT, Fr., 6-1, 264 ; David Lazear, LB, Jr., 5-11, 212; Ignacio Madrid, LB, Jr., 5-11, 229; Glenn Adesoji, CB, Jr., 5-11, 197; Chris Atkins, CB, Jr., 5-9, 185; Marlin Hall, S, Jr., 6-0, 196; Ryan Powers, S, Jr., 5-11, 189; Eric Fogle, P, Jr., 6-2, 210

OUTLOOK: There are 19 seniors and 31 juniors on the roster as the Hatters become an experienced team in Year 3 of their start-up program. Despite having a tough opening stretch in their league schedule, they feel ready to make waves in the title race. Their All-America leader is S Payne, who earned top PFL defensive honors and posted some of the gaudiest stats in college football last season, including 30 tackles in a road victory over Campbell. Although they lost some defensive linemen, the defense should jell nicely. With each season, QB Tentler gets better, and he put on weight in the offseason to be more ready for the grind. He will work behind a veteran offensive line and has his share of weapons in RB Mazza, who rushed for 922 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and emerging WR Moore, who averaged 26.4 yards on 26 receptions with six TDs. The next step for the Hatters is to start beating some of the better teams on their schedule.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - vs. Webber

Sept. 12 - at Mercer

Sept. 26 - at Drake*

Oct. 3 - vs. Dayton*

Oct. 10 - at Jacksonville*

Oct. 17 - vs. Campbell*

Oct. 24 - at Valparaiso*

Oct. 31 - vs. San Diego*

Nov. 7 - at Marist*

Nov. 14 - vs. Ave Maria

Nov. 21 - vs. Davidson*

* - PFL game

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7. MARIST RED FOXES

LOCATION: Poughkeepsie, New York

STADIUM: Leonidoff Field

COACH: Jim Parady (119-120-1 in 23 seasons at Marist)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 4-4 PFL (Tie/4th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (6 offense/5 defense)

KEY LOSSES: RB Atiq Lucas, WR Armani Martin, LB Mike Kagafas, LB Paul Sakowski, S Matt Semelsberger

OFFENSIVE STAR: Matt Tralli, WR/PR, R-Sr., 5-10, 190 (69 receptions, 626 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Zach Adler, FS/PR, R-Sr., 6-1, 202 (78 TT, 2.5 TFL, 7 INTs, 6 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Anthony Francis, QB, Jr., 6-1, 209; Ed Achziger, QB, Sr., 6-0, 202; Garrett Clay, RB/KR, Sr., 5-11, 190; Marcellus Calhoun, RB, Jr., 5-11, 190; Leon Cummings, RB/RS, Jr., 5-10, 193; Lawrence Dickens, WR, So., 5-9, 157; Joe Jordan, WR, Jr., 6-4, 203; Seamus Ryan, LT, Jr., 6-3, 277; Mike Mangino, C, R-Sr., 6-2, 297; Sean Foley, RG, R-Sr., 6-3, 279; Ryan Schneider, LG, Sr., 6-5, 261 (injured last season); Nick Foster, NT, R-Sr., 6-5, 278; John Brennan, DE, Sr., 6-3, 244; Demetrius Williams, DE, R-Sr., 6-2, 269; Landon Moore, DE, Sr., 6-3, 244; Ruben Avalos, LB, Jr., 6-1, 213; Miguel Sandoval, LB, R-Sr., 5-11, 221; Willie Barrett, LB, So., 5-11, 210; Zach Quarles, CB, Sr., 5-9, 161; Cameron Gibson, CB, Jr., 5-9, 176; Mike Maccarone, PK/P, Jr., 6-0, 176; Lawrence Dickens, KR/WR, So., 5-9, 173

OUTLOOK: The defense kept Marist in games last season and now the Red Foxes need their offense to catch up as the unit averaged only 17.1 points and 245.9 yards per game a year ago. Achziger and Francis split time at quarterback and both return seeking a higher level of play. The starter will have a go-to target in possession WR Tralli, but the Red Foxes have lost top RB Lucas. Three starters return to their offensive line, a plus as the unit seeks to build continuity. On defense, the return of fifth-year seniors Williams (DE) and Adler (FS) is huge. They are All-PFL talents, with Williams collecting 14.5 tackles for loss and Adler seven interceptions last season. In between them, the Red Foxes are replacing three starters at linebacker. It was only two years ago that the Red Foxes tied for the PFL title. They'll know right away where they stand by starting league play against Jacksonville and San Diego.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at Bucknell

Sept. 12 - at Georgetown

Sept. 19 - vs. Sacred Heart

Sept. 26 - vs. Jacksonville*

Oct. 3 - at San Diego*

Oct. 10 - at Campbell*

Oct. 24 - at Davidson*

Oct. 31 - vs. Butler*

Nov. 7 - vs. Stetson*

Nov. 14 - at Dayton*

Nov. 21 - vs. Morehead State*

* - PFL game

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8. MOREHEAD STATE EAGLES

LOCATION: Morehead, Kentucky

STADIUM: Jayne Stadium

COACH: Rob Tenyer (7-17 in two seasons at Morehead State)

LAST SEASON: 4-8 overall, 3-5 PFL (Tie/6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (7 offense/9 defense)

KEY LOSSES: RB Rees Macshara, WR Cyrus Strahm, WR Brandon Bornhauser, DL Timothy Dysart, S Mike Jackson, PK Luke Boyd

OFFENSIVE STAR: Austin Gahafer, QB, Jr., 6-0, 187 (288-for-451, 2,840 yards, 23 TDs, 13 INTs; 89 carries, 207 yards, 3 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Luke Keller, ILB, Sr., 6-2, 222 (87 TT, 11 TFL, 6 SK, 1 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Rob Harden, RB, R-Sr., 5-10, 220; Quintin Bailey, RB, R-Fr., 5-10, 195; Kitaro Lewis, WR, R-Sr., 6-4, 209 (injured last season); Justin Cornwall, Slot/RS, R-Sr., 5-10, 166; Jake Raymond, Slot, R-Jr., 5-9, 174; Alex Hey, RT, R-Sr., 6-8, 294; William Currie, LT, R-So., 6-2, 301; Todd DeWoody, LG, R-Sr., 6-3, 281; Ronald Cooper, DT, Sr., 6-4, 271; Dustin Casey, DE, R-Jr., 6-2, 224; Matthew Brewer, OLB, R-Jr., 5-11, 202; Ryan Bennett, OLB, Jr., 6-1, 210; Justin Grier, CB, Sr., 5-11, 187; Trey Watkins, CB, Sr., 5-8, 193; Braylyn Cook, CB, So., 6-0, 180; Eric Pugh, FS, R-Sr., 5-10, 183; Brandon Louder, SS, R-Jr., 6-0, 189; Dominic Iori, SS, Jr., 6-3, 200; Pat DiSalvio, PK/P, Jr., 5-9, 173; Jakey Dunagan, LS, Sr., 6-2, 255

OUTLOOK: Thoughts of a breakout season are evident with the offensive-minded Eagles, who return 16 starters. QB Gahafer, the starter in each of his first two seasons, will put up big numbers again after ranking second in the PFL in passing yards and passing yards per game. Among the deep corps of receivers, Raymond is coming off a 71-catch season and Lewis caught 49 passes in 2013 before missing last season. Also, RB Jones (84 carries, 415 yards, 3 TDs) appears ready for the top job after playing behind Macshara. It's not quite the same on the other side of the ball. The defense, under new coordinator Dontae Wright, must improve behind its veteran players. The Eagles were a league worst in scoring defense (43.6 ppg) and total defense (474.8 ypg), but the unit comes back more experienced behind their leader in the middle, ILB Keller.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at James Madison

Sept. 12 - at VMI

Sept. 19 - vs. Kentucky Christian

Sept. 26 - vs. Davidson*

Oct. 3 - at Jacksonville*

Oct. 10 - vs. Butler*

Oct. 24 - at Campbell*

Oct. 31 - vs. Drake*

Nov. 7 - vs. Dayton*

Nov. 14 - at Valparaiso*

Nov. 21 - at Marist*

* - PFL game

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9. VALPARAISO CRUSADERS

LOCATION: Valparaiso, Indiana

STADIUM: Brown Field

COACH: Dave Cecchini (4-8 in one season at Valparaiso)

LAST SEASON: 4-8 overall, 2-6 PFL (Tie/8th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (5 offense/6 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Ben Lehman, WR Tanner Kuramata, WR Andrew Cassara, OL Stuart Barkley, DE John Giovenco, DE Nick Moffitt, LB Ryan Mundy

OFFENSIVE STAR: Brandon Hall, RB, Sr., 5-8, 230 (173 carries, 855 yards, 10 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Alex Green, LB, Sr., 6-3, 225 (108 TT, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Scott Staal, QB, R-Jr., 6-4, 215; Dalton Stokes, QB, R-Fr., 6-0, 185; Ryan Clarke, QB, So., 6-5, 220; Jake Hutson, RB, R-Sr., 5-7, 180; Jarrett Morgan, WR/KR, So., 5-10, 185; Frank Catrine, WR, So., 6-0, 185; Ryan Shea, WR, R-So., 5-11, 170; Nate Koeneman, C, R-Sr., 6-1, 255; Brian Lang, OL, R-So., 6-4, 255; John Guilford, DE, Sr., 6-4, 240; Cody Cotton, LB, Sr., 5-11, 210; Kye Hall, LB, So., 6-0, 205; Vincent McPherson, LB, R-Fr., 6-1, 200; J.J. Nunes, DB, Jr., 5-10, 180; Melvin Graham III, DB, Sr., 5-9, 160; A.J. Bradley, DB, Sr., 5-9, 190; J.J. Nunes, DB, Jr., 5-10, 180; Jacob Newman, PK, Jr., 6-0, 160; Alex Kozlowski, P, R-Jr., 5-11, 190

OUTLOOK: A strong end to Cecchini's first season has created a different feeling within Valpo's longtime struggling program. The Crusaders hope to build on the momentum. One of the bigger changes last season was the improvement on defense. The unit cut down their opponents' scoring by nearly 17 points per game to 28.1. It has its standout back in LB Green, an All-PFL preseason pick. Senior DE Guilford (74 TT, 13 TFL, 5.5 SK, 5 PBU) also seeks a strong finish after a banner campaign. Cecchini's specialty is offense, and he has some work to do after losing QB Lehman and productive WRs Kuramata and Cassara. That means a big workload for RB Hall, who scored 10 touchdowns last season despite having a nagging ankle injury which required offseason surgery. Special teams will be a strength as Morgan averaged nearly 35 yards on 12 kickoff returns and PK Newman was 12-for-15 on field goal attempts.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3 - at Eastern Kentucky

Sept. 12 - vs. Sacred Heart

Sept. 19 - vs. College of Faith

Sept. 26 - vs. San Diego*

Oct. 3 - at Davidson*

Oct. 10 - at Drake*

Oct. 17 - vs. Dayton*

Oct. 24 - vs. Stetson*

Nov. 7 - at Butler*

Nov. 14 - vs. Morehead State*

Nov. 21 - at Jacksonville*

* - PFL game

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10. DAVIDSON WILDCATS

LOCATION: Davidson, North Carolina

STADIUM: Richardson Stadium

COACH: Paul Nichols (1-22 in two seasons at Davidson)

LAST SEASON: 1-11 overall, 0-8 PFL (10th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB J.P. Douglas, TE Trey Huelskamp, LB Colin Merrill, LB Matt Casey, LB Craig Stevens II, DB Bryant Bednarek

OFFENSIVE STAR: William Morris, WR, Sr., 6-1, 179 (98 receptions, 1,224 yards, 7 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Chris Woods, DE, Sr., 6-2, 234 (26 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 SK, 1 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Taylor Mitchell, QB, So., 6-1, 191; John Cook, QB, Jr., 6-1, 222; Jeffrey Keil, HB, So., 5-8, 175; Austin Wells, HB/KR, So., 5-9, 178; David Rogers, HB, Sr., 6-1, 219; Tom Scheper, WR, Jr., 6-0, 189; Chase Davis, LT, Jr., 6-5, 252; Josh Daryoush, RT, Sr., 6-2, 304; Caleb Krause, C, Jr., 6-1, 295; Tom Bucka, DE, Jr., 6-3, 241; Grant Polofsky, DT, Jr., 6-2, 282; Ricky Tkac, OLB, Sr., 6-2, 228; James Gessner, OLB, Jr., 5-10, 202; Ben Hart, MLB, So., 5-10, 227; Ben Rowell, CB, So., 5-10, 221; William Curran, CB, Sr., 6-0, 175; Ryan Felice, S, Jr., 6-0, 203; Ryan Leak, S, Jr., 5-11, 185 ; Jaylen Mize, S, Jr., 5-9, 185; Trevor Smith, PK, So., 6-3, 188

OUTLOOK: Nichols has yet to win a PFL game, but he's been building young depth in his program and there are some winnable home games on the schedule this year. RBs Keil (153 carries, 725 yards, 8 TDs) and Wells were a terrific 1-2 punch as freshmen after Rogers was injured. QB Mitchell (81-for-161, 769 yards, 2 TDs, 11 INTs) was turnover-plagued and needs to be more efficient. The offense's best player is a senior, WR Morris, who was two receptions shy of 100 last season. The Wildcats utilized many players on defense in Nichols' first two seasons and expect it to begin paying off. DE Woods and OLB Tkac will provide the senior leadership. Smith is one of the league's good young kickers. It helps that the Wildcats don't have Dayton and Drake on their conference slate.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at The Citadel

Sept. 12 - vs. Catawba

Sept. 26 - at Morehead State*

Oct. 3 - vs. Valparaiso*

Oct. 10 - vs. Kentucky Wesleyan

Oct. 17 - at Butler*

Oct. 24 - vs. Marist*

Oct. 31 - vs. Campbell*

Nov. 7 - at Jacksonville*

Nov. 14 - vs. San Diego*

Nov. 21 - at Stetson*

* - PFL game

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Ineligible: JACKSONVILLE DOLPHINS

LOCATION: Jacksonville, Florida

STADIUM: D.B. Milne Field

COACH: Kerwin Bell (57-33 in eight seasons at Jacksonville)

LAST SEASON: 9-2 overall, ineligible for PFL title

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (7 offense/8 defense)

KEY LOSSES: WR/TE Andrew Robustelli, WR/PR D'Andre Randle, OL Montavis Mack, LB Mike Klein, DB Jordan Dewhirst, DB Schon Thomas

OFFENSIVE STAR: Kade Bell, QB, R-Sr., 6-1, 185 (227-for-376, 3,181 yards, 31 TDs, 12 INTs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Grady Redding, LB, Jr., 5-10, 190 (79 TT, 7 TFL, 3 SK, 2 INTs, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Ulysses Bryant, RB, Jr., 5-7, 170; Frantz Caudio, RB, Sr., 6-0, 205; Andy Jones, WR, 6-2, 200; Damien Strange, WR, Jr., 6-0, 175; Orlando Thomas, WR, R-Sr., 5-9, 175; Terrance Bryant, WR, Sr., 6-2, 190; Logan Williamson, C, R-Sr., 6-2, 290; Travion Wallace, LT, R-So., 6-5, 280; Kevin Battle, LG, R-Sr., 6-4, 315; Tyler Adrian, RT, R-Sr., 6-6, 275; T.J. Jenkins, DE, R-Sr., 6-5, 260; Jareeq Crenshaw, DE, R-Jr., 6-0, 205; Maroa White, DT, Sr., 5-11, 260; Josh Gilmore, NT, Sr., 6-0, 230; Malik Slater, LB, So., 6-0, 220; D.J. Howard, LB, Sr., 5-10, 205; Tre Davis, LB, R-Sr., 6-0, 215; Brandon Roe, DB, So., 6-0, 185; Armani Sampson, DB, R-Jr., 5-10, 170; Terrance Bryant, S/PR, Sr., 6-2, 190; Dallas Jackson, S, Sr., 6-0, 180; Andrew Hooks, DB, Sr., 5-10, 170; PK Brandon Behr, PK, R-Jr., 5-11, 185; Ryan Giaranto, P, Jr., 6-1, 195

OUTLOOK: The Dolphins were expected to be the PFL favorite, but ineligibility for the title for the second consecutive season has cost them again (they would have tied for the league title and played in the FCS playoffs had they been eligible last season). They lost 17 seniors from last season yet may still have the league's best talent. Their offense averaged 499.9 yards per game (where was that one yard?) and will put up huge numbers as veteran QB Bell leads it one last season. The lefty will challenge for PFL offensive player of the year honors, working behind an O-line which will start three fifth-year seniors. Bell gets back WR Jones (46 receptions, 684 yards, 7 TDs) and RB Bryant, who rushed for 1,005 yards and is a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, totaling 10 touchdowns overall as a sophomore. Known for their explosive offense, the Dolphins also led the PFL in scoring defense (17.5 ppg) and the FCS with 24 interceptions. Their secondary is a strength, anchored by safeties Bryant and Jackson (five interceptions), who join linebackers Redding and Howard to give the Dolphins their top four tacklers from a year ago. The Dolphins have some big road tests ahead, beginning with Delaware, and can have a big impact on the PFL race even if they can't win the title themselves.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 4 - at Delaware

Sept. 12 - at Newberry

Sept. 26 - at Marist*

Oct. 3 - vs. Morehead State*

Oct. 10 - vs. Stetson*

Oct. 17 - vs. Edward Waters

Oct. 24 - at Drake*

Oct. 31 - at Dayton*

Nov. 7 - vs. Davidson*

Nov. 14 - at Campbell*

Nov. 21 - vs. Valparaiso*

* - PFL game

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