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Norfolk State reigns in preseason coaches poll

                                   Boxtorow HBCU Coaches Poll
 Rank  School  W-L  Pts      2011
Final Rank
 1  Norfolk State (8)  0-0  118  1
 2  Bethune-Cookman (3)  0-0  115  3
 3  Grambling State  0-0  106  4
 4  Jackson State  0-0  94  2
 5  Alabama State (2)  0-0  87  5
 6  South Carolina State  0-0  78  6
 7  Alabama A&M  0-0  59  7
 8  Florida A&M (1)  0-0  56  8
 9  Hampton  0-0  21  9
 10  Tennessee State  0-0  11

By// Donal Ware

The Norfolk State Spartans, the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion, will start the season as the No. 1 ranked football team according to the 2012 Boxtorow Coaches Poll.

The Spartans finished first last season and received eight first place votes; Bethune-Cookman received  three votes, Alabama State received two and Florida A&M garnered one.

The votes separating the Spartans and the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats was the closest margin ever in the preseason.

This also marked the first time — since the Black college sports talk show, Boxtorow, began administering the coaches’ poll in 2009 — that the previous conference champion did not receive a first-place vote.

The Grambling State Tigers won the SWAC championship last year; they finished third in the  poll — nine points behind Bethune-Cookman and 12 points ahead of No. 4 Jackson State.

The MEAC, which has five teams represented in the top 10, has finished No. 1 in the previous three polls. The Southwestern Athletic Conference has four teams represented; Tennessee State represents the Ohio Valley Conference.

Norfolk State returns 13 starters— nine are offense and four are defense— as well as a total of 41 letter-winners from last year’s team, which finished 9-3 and won its first MEAC championship title since moving into the conference in 1998.

Among the returning starters are wide receiver Xavier Boyce and offensive lineman Blake Matthews; both of whom are Boxtorow All-Americans.

(Note: First-place votes are in parenthesis; other teams receiving votes are Arkansas-Pine Bluff 8, Morgan State 6, Prairie View A&M 6, North Carolina A&T 5.)

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The Boxtorow HBCU FCS Coaches poll is administered by FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW and is voted on by the HBCU Football Championship Subdivision coaches.