CLEVELAND — Wittenberg University emerged as the preseason favorite in balloting by North Coast Athletic Conference football coaches for the 28th annual preseason football poll.
The Tigers, who collected their second-straight NCAC crown in 2010, garnered four of nine first-place votes from the coaches to total 74 points. Last season’s runner-up, Wabash, also earned four first-place votes, but finished just below Wittenberg in the poll with 73 total points.
Wooster, which last won the conference title in 2004, accumulated the final first-place vote and finished third in the balloting with 66 points, while Allegheny (56) and Denison (37) earned the fourth and fifth spots, respectively. Ohio Wesleyan (34), Oberlin (32), Hiram (19) and Kenyon (14) rounded out the bottom four slots in the poll.
DePauw University, which posted a 9-2 record in 2010, will not officially join the NCAC as a football playing member until the 2012 season; however, the Tigers will get their first taste of NCAC competition this season as they will take on Allegheny, Ohio Wesleyan and Wabash (Monon Bell Game) in non-conference contests.
Wittenberg is entering its 16th season under the leadership of head coach Joe Fincham. Fincham holds an overall record of 136-31 at Wittenberg, including a mark of 91-14 in North Coast Athletic Conference games. The Tigers, who were eliminated from the 2010 NCAA Playoffs by Ohio Athletic Conference member Ohio Northern, 37-14, are led by the reigning NCAC Offensive Player of the Year Ben Zoeller (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier). Zoeller, a quarterback, led the conference in passing yardage (272.5 per game), passing touchdowns (25), pass efficiency (161.6) and total offense (272.9).
The 2011 season opens on Thursday, Sept. 1 with Wooster hosting Baldwin-Wallace at 7:00 p.m. NCAC play begins Saturday, Sept. 10.