1. North Alabama
The Lions ran for touchdowns on their first and last plays from scrimmage last season and in between scored in 53 of 56 quarters, as they won the national championship. With 15 starters returning, North Alabama will once again win its final game at home—Braly Stadium, site of this year's title game.
2. New Haven
The Chargers averaged 54.7 points last fall in reaching the national quarterfinals. With tailback Roger Graham (page 108), the Harlon Hill Trophy winner who scored 14 points per game by himself, Tony Sparano is assured of a playoff appearance in his first season as coach.
3. Texas A&M-Kingsville
Primed to win their third straight Lone Star Conference title, the Javelinas—i.e., small, wild hogs—have 13 starters back. Everyone ever connected with this team is tough: R.B. Cousins, school president from 1924 to '32, lived to tell the tale of the time in 1929 when he was bitten by a rabid javelina (a pig, not a player).
4. Pittsburg State
The winningest team in the nation over the last nine years (100-12-1), the Gorillas will appear in the playoffs for the sixth straight season. Their only test will come against Fort Hays State on Sept. 10, but the game is in Pittsburg, where the Gorillas have not lost in 10 years.
5. Indiana of Pennsylvania
Bill D'Ottavio, the Indians' defensive coordinator and a fledgling artist, will pull double duty this year designing defensive schemes as well as the weekly game-plan books. D'Ottavio's defense will be challenged early—on Sept. 17, by New Haven.
6. Portland State
Houston transfer Kyle Allen is the latest rifleman at Quarterback U. Five All-Americas, including former Cardinal star Neil Lomax and Falcon coach June Jones, have come before him at the position. With his team facing five Division I-AA teams. Allen will have to match his predecessors' success if the Vikings are to make the playoffs.
7. North Dakota State
In honor of this, the Bison's 100th year of football, fans can buy commemorative rifles, belt buckles and beer steins. With sophomore quarterback Rob Hyland, who set a school record for total offense last season, it should be a year worth remembering.
As good as the Pirates are—they have 14 starters back from a team that was ranked No. 3—they won't make the playoffs. That's because in 1995 they will ascend to Division I-AA, and NCAA rules prohibit teams from taking part in the playoffs after they petition to make a jump in class.
9. Valdosta State
The only award left for senior quarterback Chris Hatcher, who holds seven NCAA passing records, is the Harlon Hill. He meets his chief rival for the honor. New Haven's Graham, on Oct. 8. If Hatcher prevails in that matchup, he could clinch the award on Nov. 5, when the Blazers travel to North Alabama.
10. Fort Hays State
The Tigers now have Pride, and at least one member of the team is Earnest. Running backs Emmett Pride, a transfer from Indiana, and Earnest Williams, a transfer from Oklahoma, key a dominating ground game. But if it stalls, Fort Hays can always turn to its kicker—Ryan Achilles.
THE TOP TEN
1 North Alabama
2 New Haven
3 Texas A&M-Kingsville
4 Pittsburg State
6 Portland State
7 North Dakota State
9 Valdosta State
10 Fort Hays State
*Projected regular-season record.