North Central College has been selected as the favorite to win the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) Championship in football for the eighth consecutive season, as the Cardinals received the No. 1 spot in the CCIW's annual preseason poll of the conference's eight head coaches.
North Central received five of the eight first-place votes and totaled 47 points in the voting, while Wheaton College received 45 points and three first-place votes. Illinois Wesleyan University showed up third with 35 points, followed by Augustana College (28), Elmhurst College (27), Millikin University (20), Carthage College (15) and North Park University (7).
The results of the poll were prior to the CCIW's fifth annual live online coaches' chat. North Central head coach John Thorne participated in the chat; his responses can be viewed by clicking here.
The Cardinals have gone 45-4 in CCIW play and 68-15 overall in the past seven seasons, going undefeated in conference games three times. North Central returns eight players who earned All-CCIW honors last season in senior defensive backs Shane Dierking and Connor Douglas, senior defensive linemen Josh Fick and Alex Tripp, senior offensive linemen Jace Werkheiser and Greg Whalen, senior wide receiver Chad O'Kane and junior wide receiver Peter Sorenson.
Dierking and Werkheiser were cited as Preseason All-America selections by D3football.com, and Dierking also made the Preseason All-America list published by Lindy's Sports. The Cardinals were ranked ninth by Lindy's Sports and 10th by The Sporting News in their national preseason publications and start the season ranked sixth in the nation by D3football.com.
North Central opens the 2013 season on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The Cardinals play their first home game on Sept. 21 against the University of Wisconsin-Stout before opening CCIW play on Oct. 5 at Elmhurst.