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

RANKTEAMVOTES (1st PLACE)
1North Dakota State3941 (152)
2Sam Houston State3636 (2)
3Jacksonville State3569 (4)
4Richmond3418
5
UNI
3413
6Chattanooga2758
7Charleston Southern2734
8
South Dakota State
2554
9William & Mary2517
10Illinois State2303
11McNeese State2151
12James Madison2037
13
Montana
1921
14
Eastern Washington
1879
15Citadel1535
16Coastal Carolina1397
17Portland State1262
18Northern Arizona1189
19North Dakota977
20
Western Illinois
876
21Colgate767
22New Hampshire657
23Villanova652
24Towson428
25North Carolina A&T395

FCS Coaches Preseason Top 25

RANKTEAMPoints
1
North Dakota State625
2Sam Houston State555
3Jacksonville State547
4Richmond539
5
UNI515
6Charleston Southern455
7Chattanooga433
8Illinois State426
9McNeese State377
10William & Mary636
11James Madison349
12Portland State305
13
Montana264
14
South Dakota State
263
15Citadel261
16Colgate195
17
Eastern Washington
187
18Northern Arizona129
19Harvard127
20Fordham111
21North Dakota104
22Villanova89
23Southern Utah85
24
Western Illinois
81
25North Carolina A&T79

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