Consistently one of the top programs in the FCS, the UNI Panthers once again will start the season ranked among the best in the country.

The STATS Perform FCS Top 25 has Northern Iowa ranked the number 21 team in the nation after going 6-6 last season and falling to Eastern Washington in the first round of the playoffs.

UNI is the fifth team out of the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) to find itself in the top 25. The other four are North Dakota State (1), South Dakota State (2), Missouri State (5), and Southern Illinois (9).

Another MVFC team, South Dakota, finished just outside the rankings.

North Dakota State is the No. 1 team in the nation by far, receiving 52 first-place votes. The only other team to receive any first-place votes was South Dakota State with 2.

The Bison have won nine of the previous 11 FCS National Championships.

Head coach of the Panthers, Mark Farley is entering his 22nd season leading UNI on the gridiron. He is the winningest coach in school history and leads the MVFC in wins as a head coach with 162. His winning percentage of .644 ranks him 12th in the entire country.

The Panthers return a bevy of talent from last year's squad, including several preseason All-Americans returning in Spencer Cuvelier (linebacker), Benny Sapp III (defensive back), and Matthew Cook (kicker).

On offense, starting quarterback Theo Day returns, as well as All-MVFC Honorable Mention wide receiver Deion McShane.

Northern Iowa will open its season in Colorado Springs against Air Force on September 3 at 12 pm CT. The Falcons went 10-3 last season, including taking the Servpro First Responder Bowl over Louisville, 31-28.

Coach Farley spoke with the media on an MVFC Coaches' Call last week, and UNI Football media days will be this Wednesday at the UNI-Dome.

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