BELTON-The 2023 D3football.com Preseason Top 25 poll was released Monday morning, with UMHB entering the season ranked third in the nation.
The Crusaders earned 553 points from voters after posting a 12-2 record in 2022. UMHB reached the national semifinals before falling to eventual national champ North Central, 49-14. North Central earned 22 of the 25 possible first-place votes and took the No. 1 ranking. Mount Union, the national runner-up last season, came in at No. 2 and garnered the remaining three first-place votes.
The preseason ranking also gives context to UMHB’s aggressive non-conference slate in 2023.
UMHB’s season opener–on the road at UW-River Falls–will be a Top 25 showdown, marking the second straight season The Cru have debuted against a nationally ranked opponent. Last year, UMHB welcomes No. 11 Muhlenburg to Belton, and came out with a 62-13 victory over the Mules. UWRF enters 2023 ranked No. 23, after going 7-4 a year ago. The Falcons are one of four WIAC teams that begin the fall in the D3football.com Top 25.
Week 2 gets tougher for The Cru, who will be on the road again. UMHB makes a trip to San Antonio for a showdown with No. 4 Trinity (TX), whose only loss in 2022 came in the Second Round of the D-III Playoffs against UMHB. That matchup is being considered by many experts as one of the best D-III regular season games of 2023.
Week 3 pits UMHB at home against No. 11 UW-Whitewater, who will be under the direction of new head coach Jace Rindahl, upon the retirement of Kevin Bullis. The Warhawks took down The Cru in Week 2 of last season, 28-24, so UMHB is seeking a bit of revenge in its home opener on Sept. 16. Kickoff will be at noon in Belton.
Once into ASC play, the Crusaders will get at least one more Top 25 matchup, and be on the road yet again. Conference rival Hardin-Simmons hosts UMHB on Oct. 28 in Abilene, and the Cowboys enter this season ranked No. 8. ASC foe Howard Payne also earned six points from the panel of voters.