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September 07, 2015

(STATS) - The prospect of a wide-open national race reflected Monday in the STATS FCS Top 25.

An unusually high 10 teams gained first-place votes, but none more so than the new No. 1, Sam Houston State.

The diverse voting occurred after six of the preseason top 10 teams opened with losses to FBS opponents and only two won opening games - both by three points.

In the absence of a decisive No. 1 was a deep mix that is jockeying for elbow room in the national media poll.

Sam Houston State, the Southland Conference favorite, collected 31 of the 144 first-place votes and 3,132 points. The Bearkats, third in the preseason poll, began their season Saturday with a 59-45 loss to Big 12 member Texas Tech despite gaining 671 yards - the third-highest single-game total in school history. Donovan Williams rushed for four touchdowns and Jared Johnson and Jeremiah Briscoe split 36 pass completions in the defeat.

"I told the kids there are no moral victories for us ... (that) you are as good as they are in our eyes," said Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler, whose team has a bye this week before playing its conference and home opener Sept. 19 against Lamar.

Sam Houston last held the top ranking in the poll released Sept. 3, 2012.

While the Bearkats won't want to give up the top spot, perhaps the tone for the FCS season was set two weekends ago when Montana knocked off four-time defending national champion North Dakota State. Or perhaps it occurred Saturday when Montana fell to Cal Poly one week after its big win.

North Dakota State (0-1) fell from the top spot in the preseason to No. 2, slightly behind Sam Houston with 22 first-place votes and 3,123 points. The Bison, off this past weekend after the 38-35 loss to the Grizzlies, return to action Saturday by hosting Weber State.

Coastal Carolina (1-0) moved up two spots to No. 3, garnering 24 first-place votes and 3,115 points. The Big South power beat Furman 38-35 in its opener.

Illinois State (0-1) got 20 first-place votes but fell two spots to No. 4 following a 31-14 loss to Iowa. Jacksonville State (1-0) moved up two spots to fifth on the heels of a 23-20 win at Chattanooga in a meeting of top 10 teams. The defending Ohio Valley Conference champion had 24 first-place votes.

Also receiving first-place votes were No. 6 Villanova (0-1), six; No. 7 Eastern Washington (0-1), six; No. 8 Montana (1-1), two; No. 9 South Dakota State (1-0), eight; and No. 18 Cal Poly, one.

Tenth-ranked Chattanooga (0-1) was the highest team not to have a first-place vote.

Montana State (1-0) led the next 10 at No. 11, followed by New Hampshire (0-1), James Madison (1-0), Northern Iowa (0-1), Liberty (1-0), Fordham (1-0), Youngstown State (0-1), previously unranked Cal Poly at No. 18, Eastern Kentucky (1-0) and Southeastern Louisiana (1-0).

Rounding out the Top 25 were Indiana State (1-0); Richmond (0-1); Idaho State (1-0); Portland State (1-0), which was unranked in the preseason but beat Pac-12 member Washington State 24-17; and Harvard (0-0).

Stephen F. Austin and McNeese State, among the contenders with Sam Houston State in the Southland Conference, fell from the rankings.

The Big Sky and MVC tied for the national lead with six Top 25 teams. CAA Football had four, and nine of the 13 conferences had at least one team in the rankings.

A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the STATS FCS Top 25. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.

The Top 25 is released every Monday afternoon during the regular season, except for Sunday morning, Nov. 22, prior to the selection of the 24-team FCS playoff field. A final Top 25 will follow the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 9 in Frisco, Texas.

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