McNeese State preseason No. 1 in Division I-AA poll

Updated: August 11, 2003, 1:20 PM ET

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - McNeese State, which lost to Western Kentucky in the 2002 championship game, is the No. 1 team in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Division I-AA coaches' poll released Monday.

McNeese State (13-2) received 23 first-place votes and 1,389 points.

The Cowboys were the top-seeded team heading into last year's playoffs after only losing to Nebraska. But they were stunned by Western Kentucky, 34-14 in the championship game.

Western Kentucky (12-3) received 17 first-place votes, but is fifth in the preseason poll. The Hilltoppers entered last year's playoffs 15th out of 16 teams, but defeated the top three seeds en route to their first national title.

Georgia Southern (11-3), which lost to Western Kentucky in the semifinals and finished third in the poll, is the preseason No. 2 team with eight first-place votes and 1,311 points.

Montana (11-3), the 2001 national champion, is third with seven first-place votes and 1,288 points, and Western Illinois (11-2) is fourth with six first-place votes.

Northeastern (10-3) and Grambling (11-2) also received first-place votes and are ranked sixth and seventh, respectively. Grambling does not participate in the playoffs due to its annual game against Southern, which attracts a huge crowd to the Superdome.

Appalachian State (8-4) is eighth, Furman (8-4) is ninth and Idaho State (8-3) completes the top-10.

Villanova (11-4), which lost to McNeese State in last year's semifinals, is 11th, followed by Bethune Cookman (11-2), Fordham (10-3), Maine (11-3), Montana State (7-6), Wofford (9-3), Massachusetts (8-4), Delaware (6-6), Eastern Illinois (8-4) and Pennsylvania (9-1), which does not participate in the playoffs due to its Ivy League affiliation.

Southeast Missouri State (8-4), Nicholls State (7-4), Northwestern State (9-4), Eastern Kentucky (8-4) and Gardner-Webb (9-1) round out the poll.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index