The UNI Panthers earned top five rankings in both preseason football polls, it was announced on Monday (Aug. 8, 2016).

The Panthers landed at No. 5 in the STATS and FCS Coaches polls, continuing a streak that began 32 years ago. Since 1985, UNI has been the only Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) team ranked in a pre-season or regular-season poll every year.

The team hosted its annual media day on Friday. The Panthers return eight offensive and four defensive starters to the field this season, giving UNI fans a veteran group of student-athletes to keep an eye on.

Two seniors have already earned spots on National Player of the Year watch lists, with Karter Schult landing on the STATS Defensive Player of the Year watch list and Aaron Bailey on the STATS Offensive Player of the Year watch list.

Bailey made an immediate impact on the Panther squad in 2015 as the starting signal-caller, setting a school record for rushing touchdowns in a season and a MVFC record for rushing scores in a season by a quarterback. The 2015 MVFC Newcomer of the Year now sits at No. 2 all-time at UNI in career rushing yards per game, averaging 95.3.

Schult, a Tripoli, Iowa, native, set UNI records in tackles for loss in a season and career quarterback hurries in 2015, anchoring a defensive line that will have three of its four returning starters. Schult earned STATS FCS All-America honors last year along with CoSIDA Academic All-America first-team, showing Panther fans that he is reliable on and off the field.

The Panthers also bring back one of the most experienced staffs in the league, hauling in a staggering 20-plus years of NFL experience. Head Coach Mark Farley added two new assistants in UNI alum Ryan Mahaffey as the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach and former Heisman Trophy Award finalist Collin Klein as the quarterbacks coach.

UNI opens the 2016 season on Sept. 3 against the Iowa State Cyclones in Ames. The game is set for a 7 p.m. kick-off and will be shown live on Cyclones.TV. Tickets are available here.


STATS FCS Preseason Top 25

RANK TEAM VOTES (1st PLACE)
1 North Dakota State 3941 (152)
2 Sam Houston State 3636 (2)
3 Jacksonville State 3569 (4)
4 Richmond 3418
5
UNI
3413
6 Chattanooga 2758
7 Charleston Southern 2734
8
South Dakota State
2554
9 William & Mary 2517
10 Illinois State 2303
11 McNeese State 2151
12 James Madison 2037
13
Montana
1921
14
Eastern Washington
1879
15 Citadel 1535
16 Coastal Carolina 1397
17 Portland State 1262
18 Northern Arizona 1189
19 North Dakota 977
20
Western Illinois
876
21 Colgate 767
22 New Hampshire 657
23 Villanova 652
24 Towson 428
25 North Carolina A&T 395

FCS Coaches Preseason Top 25

RANK TEAM Points
1
North Dakota State 625
2 Sam Houston State 555
3 Jacksonville State 547
4 Richmond 539
5
UNI 515
6 Charleston Southern 455
7 Chattanooga 433
8 Illinois State 426
9 McNeese State 377
10 William & Mary 636
11 James Madison 349
12 Portland State 305
13
Montana 264
14
South Dakota State
263
15 Citadel 261
16 Colgate 195
17
Eastern Washington
187
18 Northern Arizona 129
19 Harvard 127
20 Fordham 111
21 North Dakota 104
22 Villanova 89
23 Southern Utah 85
24
Western Illinois
81
25 North Carolina A&T 79

Others: Eastern Illinois 70, Eastern Kentucky 70, New Hampshire 60, Towson 56, Bethune-Cookman 51, South Carolina State 49, Youngstown State 40, Dartmouth 37, Montana State 31, Liberty 25, Jackson State, 24, Southeastern Louisiana 17, Southeast Missouri State 17, Monmouth 16, Samford 16, Penn 10, North Carolina Central 8, Alcorn State 8, Stephen F. Austin 5, Duquesne 5, Weber State 5, Dayton 4, San Diego 3, Prairie View A&M 3, South Dakota 3, Grambling State 2, Wofford 2, Bryant 1.

*Bold indicates 2016 opponents