From Harding University
The head football coaches in the Great American Conference have named Henderson State University as the preseason favorite to win the league's first ever football championship and placed Harding second.
The Reddies received seven of the nine first place votes and one fourth place vote for a total of 61 points, 10 points ahead of second place pick, Harding University, which received one first place vote, three second place votes, three third place vote and one fifth place vote.
HSU went 7-4 in 2010, finishing the year with a share of the Gulf South Conference Championship in the last season as a member of the league, but was left out of the NCAA playoffs despite boasting the best offense in the league and an undefeated record at home. The Reddies also became the first team from Arkansas to claim a share of the GSC title since 2005. The Reddies will turn to junior quarterback Nathan Nall to replace the void left by Nick Hardesty, who passed for more than 4,000 yards in 2010.
Harding returns six starters on offense and five starters on defense that finished 2010 with an overall record of 6-4. The Bisons easily held the GSC's best rushing offense last season with an average of 272.2 per contest, led by returning senior running back Kale Gelles, who led the league with an average of 109.9 yards per game.
Arkansas Tech University (4-7) and Ouachita Baptist University (6-4) tied for third in the preseason poll with an equal total of 44 points. Each team has two second place votes and two third place votes. ATU received three fourth place votes and one sixth place vote, while OBU tallied two fourth and fifth place votes.
East Central University (5-6) and Southwestern Oklahoma State University (3-8) hold the fifth and sixth place spots, respectively. Both teams received votes in six of the eight possible places. ECU received the final first place vote, and also had one vote for second, third and eighth, while having two votes for fourth and sixth. SWOSU tallied one vote for second, third, fourth and fifth, and two votes for fifth and sixth. ECU shared the Lone Star Conference North Division title in 2010 with a 5-1 league record.
Rounding out the final three, in order, are Southern Arkansas University (1-9) with 17 points, Southeastern Oklahoma State University (3-8) with 17 points and theUniversity of Arkansas at Monticello (4-7) with 16 points. UAM will be led the league's only first-year head coach after Hud Jackson took over the helm of the Boll Weevils in December of 2010.
Despite not all teams playing the same number of conference games in 2011, the GAC will crown a league champion in football based on win-loss percentage against conference teams in the regular season.