Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
BELTON- D3football.com released the most well-recognized D-III football ranking of the preseason on Tuesday morning, unveiling its highly-anticipated Top 25. The team sitting atop the poll? It was not much of a surprise. The reigning national champion, UMHB, picked up 23 of the 25 available first-place votes, and is the nation’s No. 1 team to open the year.
No. 3 Mount Union was the only other program to be selected No. 1 on a voter’s poll, with two first-place votes. The Cru had 619 points once all ballots were cast, 32 more than second-ranked North Central, who was the 2021 Stagg Bowl runner-up. Mount Union was 10 points behind NCC in third, with Wisconsin-Whitewater and St. John’s coming in at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.
UMHB is riding a 20-game win streak after cruising through an abbreviated five-game spring season and following that up with a 15-0 record in the fall. But that streak is certain to be tested early and often this upcoming fall, with three opponents ranked in the nation’s Top 15 on the schedule within the first month of the season.
No. 11 Muhlenberg, last year’s Centennial Conference champion, visits Belton for the first time on Sept. 3, opening both teams’ seasons.
The Crusaders then board a flight north to Wisconsin, battling a familiar opponent in UW-Whitewater on Sept. 10. Ranked No. 4, the Warhawks won the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), and were the last team UMHB defeated prior to the Stagg Bowl. In fact, the two opponents faced off during the 2018, 2019 and 2021 playoffs, but last met during the regular season in 2007.
Two weeks after that contest comes another road duel much closer to home. The highly-anticipated rivalry between UMHB and Hardin-Simmons is set for Sept. 24 in Abilene, with the Cowboys coming in at No. 6.
The complete D3football.com Top 25 can be seen here.