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2018 MEC Football Poll

The Mountain East Conference will begin its sixth football season this fall. The MEC has had four different teams advance to the NCAA Playoffs in that time, including sending two teams in both 2015 and 2016. The MEC has also won Super Region I championships in three of the last five years.

While Shepherd is once again the preseason favorite, there are several teams that will be making a push to take the top spot. The 2018 Mountain East Conference champion will have to navigate the most challenging league slate to date.

2018 Preseason Poll

  1. Shepherd (94)
  2. Fairmont State (88)
  3. Notre Dame (87)
  4. Charleston (63)
  5. West Virginia State (61)
  6. West Liberty (45)
  7. UVa-Wise (44)
  8. West Virginia Wesleyan (42)
  9. Glenville State (35)
  10. Urbana (34)
  11. Concord (12)

Shepherd, the three-time defending MEC champions, will have a new look this year as Ernie McCook takes over the reigns for the legendary Monte Cater. The Rams will also need to replace prolific quarterback Connor Jessop as well as the school's all-time sack leader Myles Humphrey on defense. Shepherd does have several key playmakers back, including wideout Ryan Feiss who had nearly 1,400 yards receiving last year and has an experienced defensive backfield that will try and free up the defensive line and linebackers to stop opposing offenses.

Fairmont State checks in at No. 2 in the preseason poll with 88 points, just a single point ahead of their Falcon counterpart, Notre Dame. Both teams had postseason hopes all the way until the final week of the regular season in 2017 but were left on the outside looking in. Fairmont State brings back nine starters on offense and seven more on defense as it looks to make a push for a conference championship. Notre Dame graduated productive quarterback Malik Grove, but running back D.J. Greene and wideout Marvelle Ross provide playmaking ability behind the steady offensive line led by Michael Kyle and Austin Treneff.

FSU's Falcons are No. 2 while Notre Dame's Falcons check in at No. 3 in the preseason poll.

The campuses of the University of Charleston and West Virginia State are as nearly as close as the two are in this year's preseason poll with UC in fourth (63 points) and West Virginia State in fifth (61 points). Injuries at quarterback last year prevented the Golden Eagles from building any consistency throughout last season, but the defense was among the best in the country. Defensive lineman John Cominsky is back for his senior season after finishing second in the country in tackles for a loss last year with 23.0.

The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 6-5 season -- the program's first winning season since 2008. WVSU's offense was one of the best in the country last year, and quarterback Austin Hensley looks to pick up right where Matt Kinnick left off. The key in head coach John Pennington's second season will be improving last year's defense that gave up over 400 yards and 34 points per game.

West Liberty leads the next group in the poll coming in at sixth with 45 points, just ahead of UVa-Wise (44) and West Virginia Wesleyan (42). The Hilltoppers were just 2-5 in games decided by 14 points or less last year as they finished with a 3-8 record. WLU has stalwarts Cliff Clark and Logan Deri to help lead the way on defense, and has added Mike Kellar to the coaching staff as offensive coordinator to help spark that unit.

After a 6-5 season in Dane Damron's first year at UVa-Wise, the Cavs slipped to 5-6 last year. As opposed to West Liberty, UVa-Wise was able to come through in the clutch going 5-2 in games decided by 10 points or less. UVa-Wise will have an experienced starter under center with Jarome Johnson and Brycen Lee each seeing time last year, and will have the talented Kaian Duverger to throw to. Donavan Montague will lead the defense after earning second team All-MEC honors a year ago at linebacker posting 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss.

West Virginia Wesleyan continued to make strides last season under coach Del Smith improving to 5-6, including an impressive late-season win on the road at Notre Dame. The Bobcats were steady on defense all year long and will be led by Aman Speed heading into this year. Quarterback Luke Casey has split time in each of his first three seasons but will be called upon to produce for an offense that averaged just 17.5 points per game.

Glenville State is ninth (35 points), Urbana is 10th (34 points) and Concord is 11th (12 points) in the preseason poll. The Pioneers got off to a slow start last year but still finished 4-7. Quarterback Jaylen McNair showed flashes last season and will look to build off that experience. The Blue Knights have continued to improve under Tyler Haines with the team's five wins being the most in a season since the first year of the MEC (2013). UU will rely on several key defensive players to lead the way in Duray Hall and Mikal Toliver. Concord will try to make strides under third-year head coach Paul Price. The Mountain Lions will be strong in the defensive backfield, but will have to improve on an offense that averaged only 15.9 points per game.

The 2018 season begins with three games on Thursday, Aug. 31: West Liberty at Urbana, Glenville State at UVa-Wise and West Virginia State at Charleston. The first week of the regular season concludes on Saturday, Sept. 1, with Shepherd at Notre Dame and Concord at West Virginia Wesleyan.

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