ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon University football team won't need record-shattering performances this season to get the NAIA's attention. If a national ranking is any indication, the Raiders already have it.
At No. 14, SOU was included in the NAIA Football Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll for the first time since 2004, the national office announced Monday.
The Raiders, in their third year under head coach Craig Howard, began fall camp on Saturday and will host their season opener on Aug. 31 against Frontier Conference foe Rocky Mountain (Mont.). Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Mel Ingram Field in Grant Pass.
The Raiders went 9-3 to land at No. 5 in the final poll of 2012 after sharing a Frontier Conference championship, making an appearance in the national quarterfinals and averaging 642 yards of offense per game to establish a collegiate record. They broke into the rankings at No. 23 following a 4-2 start and went on to win their next five games.
Morningside (Iowa), which needed overtime to eliminate SOU in a 47-44 quarterfinal decision and went on to play for the national title, was voted into the NAIA's top spot with 280 total points and four first-place votes. Second-ranked Marian (Ind.) received eight first-place votes but just 267 points.
At No. 7, Montana Tech will start the season as the highest-ranked Frontier Conference squad. Carroll (Mont.), which with Tech was tabbed by coaches as the conference's co-favorite, is No. 12.
SOU will make its Raider Stadium debut against Montana Tech on Oct. 5.