BELTON, Texas — The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team will open the 2019 season ranked #1 in the country in the D3football.com Preseason Top 25 Poll. UMHB is the defending national champion after closing the 2018 season with a 24-16 victory over Mount Union in Stagg Bowl XLVI.

The Cru claimed 24 of the 25 first-place votes and totaled 624 points in balloting of coaches, Sports Information Directors and media members from across the country to nab the top spot. Defending national runner-up Mount Union is in second place with the other first-place vote and 599 total points. 

Saint John’s (MN) totaled 566 total points for third place, Wisconsin-Whitewater is picked fourth with 555 total points and North Central (Ill.) rounds out the top five with 482 total points. UMHB is joined in the top 25 by American Southwest Conference rival Hardin-Simmons University. The Cowboys are picked ninth with 397 total points.

“We are proud of what we accomplished last season and it is a nice reward to be ranked #1 going into this year,” Cru Head Coach Pete Fredenburg said. “We have such high expectations for our program and we are anxious to get back to work building a team that can live up to that type of a ranking. We can’t think about polls right now, our focus needs to be on what we can do to get better as players and as a program.”

The Cru went 15-0 in 2018, capping its second national championship in the last three years with the victory over the Purple Raiders. The Cru made its third straight appearance in the national title game and won the ASC with a 9-0 league mark. 

UMHB expects to return six offensive and six defensive starters from that team, along with 39 total letter winners this season. The Cru will open the 2019 season with a non-conference home game against Albright (PA) College on September 14th.