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Defending champ Sam Houston tops 2021 FCS preseason Top 25

After a once-in-a-lifetime spring season that crowned a first-time champion, FCS opens fall 2021 in a different place than it was in the fall of 2019.

Sam Houston is the 2020 FCS national champion. After all of, oh, two and a half months to enjoy the program's first Division I crown -- the Bearkats also claim the 1964 NAIA crown -- KC Keeler's team will go about defending their long-awaited and newly-won jewelry.

The Bearkats enter the fall campaign as a near-unanimous No. 1, earning 39 of 50 first-place votes in the STATS FCS poll. 

The 2021 campaign represents a return to normalcy in the subdivision following the least normal season in the sport's post-World War II history. Most everyone in the FCS played last season, but hardly anyone played the same season. No. 10 Jacksonville State played 13 games; No. 9 Montana played two.

James Madison, No. 1 in the polls for most of last season until a second half collapse to SHSU in the semifinals, checks in at No. 2, while runner-up South Dakota State is No. 3. 

North Dakota State, fresh off a 7-3 record, a fourth-place finish in the Missouri Valley and a quarterfinal exit, checks in at No. 4. 2020 would represent a pretty good season for most everyone else in FCS, and an abject failure in Fargo. The hunter instead of the hunted for the first time in a decade, the Bison will be among the most interesting teams to follow this fall.

1. Sam Houston -- 1,228 total points (39 first-place votes)
2. James Madison -- 1,180 (8)
3. South Dakota State -- 1,156 (3)
4. North Dakota State -- 1,116
5. Delaware -- 1,017
6. Weber State -- 927
7. Southern Illinois -- 888
8. North Dakota -- 886
9. Montana -- 778
10. Jacksonville State -- 744
11. Eastern Washington -- 659
12. Montana State -- 654
13. Monmouth -- 618
14. Central Arkansas -- 561
15. Southeastern Louisiana -- 559
16. Villanova -- 440
17. VMI -- 397
18. Chattanooga -- 295
19. Kennesaw State -- 255
20. Austin Peay -- 227
21. Northern Iowa -- 219
22. Nicholls -- 173
23. UC Davis -- 172
24. Missouri State -- 168
25. North Carolina A&T -- 159