By BRIAN LESTER
The University of Findlay football team is coming off its first winning season since 2004 and is expected to finish in the upper half of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2010.The Oilers, who went 7-4 overall and 6-4 in the league in 2009, are picked sixth in the conference's preseseason poll, which was released Wednesday morning.
UF was picked ninth last season and finished tied for fourth in the final standings.
For the ninth consecutive season, Grand Valley State is the team to beat. The Lakers received 13 of the 14 first-place votes. Coaches cannot vote for their own team.
The Lakers, ranked second in the nation, won the league title last season and played for the NCAA Division II national championship. They lost 30-23 to Northwest Missouri in the national final.
Hillsdale, coming off its first ever playoff trip, is tied for second with Saginaw Valley State.
The Chargers received the other first-place vote. Hillsdale was 10-3 overall and 8-3 in the league. It beat Minnesota Mankato, 27-24 in overtime, in the opening round of the playoffs, before falling 44-27 to GVSU.
SVSU is coming off a year in which it went 9-3 overal and 8-2 in the league. The Cardinals lost 35-20 to Nebraska-Kearney in the first round of the playoffs.
Ashland is fourth in the poll while Northwood is fifth.
Northern Michigan, Wayne State, Michigan Tech and Indianapolis round out the top 10.
Ferris State and Tiffin are 11th and 12th, respectively, while league newcomers Ohio Dominican (13th) and Lake Erie (14th) fill out the poll.
UF spent most of last season in contention for its first ever D-II playoff. It was ranked as high as 18th in the country at one point before back-to-back losses to end the year wiped out any hope the Oilers had of making the postseason.
UF averaged 368.1 yards per game last season and allowed 319.1.
The Oilers return 43 letterwinners, including 22 on the offensive side of the ball, and will open the season Sept. 4 against Tusculum (Tenn.) at Donnell Stadium.
A complete story will follow later in the day.