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Eastern Washington tops FCS preseason Top 25


North Dakota State has won the last three Football Championship Subdivision national championships, and the Bison machine seemed to have gained speed the longer it churned - North Dakota State's undefeated march to the 2013 national title was perhaps its most dominant yet.

But 43 wins in their last 45 games were not enough to earn North Dakota State the No. 1 ranking heading into 2014.

Perhaps it's the loss of head coach Craig Bohl. Maybe it's the graduation of quarterback Brock Jensen - the rich man's A.J. McCarron - and 23 other seniors. Or maybe it's Tom Hanks syndrome - no matter how good they are, voters are just ready to see someone else on top. More than likely it's a combination of the three.

Either way, North Dakota State will have to suffer the indignity of beginning their quest for a fourth straight national championship with a preseason No. 2 ranking. 

Eastern Washington, the last team to beat North Dakota State in the FCS playoffs, and the last team other than the Bison to win the FCS crown, grabbed the top spot in The Sports Network's 2014 preseason Top 25 poll, which was released Friday. The Eagles narrowly edged out the Bison for the top spot, garnering 3,589 points to North Dakota State's 3,540. Southeastern Louisiana, New Hampshire and Montana rounded out the top five. 

Head coach Beau Baldwin and Eastern Washington will begin the defense of their No. 1 ranking a week earlier than everybody else, opening the entire college football season by hosting No. 17 Sam Houston State in a nationally-televised game on Aug. 23 (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The full list breaks down like this:

1. Eastern Washington 
2. North Dakota State 
3. Southeastern Louisiana
4. New Hampshire
5. Montana
6. Jacksonville State
7. Coastal Carolina
8. McNeese State
9. Northern Iowa
10. South Dakota State
11. Fordham
12. Villanova
13. Towson
14. Chattanooga
15. Tennessee State
16. Eastern Illinois
17. Sam Houston State
18. Montana State
19. William & Mary
20. Richmond
21. Furman
22. Bethune-Cookman
23. Northern Arizona
24. Youngstown State
25. Maine