COLUMBUS, Ohio - The University of Northern Iowa football team has been tabbed as the No. 15 team in the Phil Steele FCS Preseason Top-40 poll it was announced today by the Phil Steele's FCS College Football Preview magazine.
UNI won back-to-back MVFC titles in 2011 following a 7-1 run through league play. UNI sealed a part of the MVFC title with a 23-20 double-overtime win at Illinois State to close out the regular season. The Panthers also achieved Farley's sixth 10-plus win season since taking over in 2001.
Six of the teams in the top-40 poll are representing the Missouri Valley Football Conference during the 2012 season. Youngstown State came in at No. 4 in the poll with FCS Champions North Dakota State following closely at the No. 6 spot. Illinois State rounds out the top-25 for the MVFC at the No. 21 spot with Southern Illinois at No. 26 and Indiana State landing at No. 33.
Sam Houston State, the FCS runner-up during the 2011 season, comes into the poll ranked No. 1 with James Madison finishing at No. 2 in the poll. Montana State, Youngstown State and Wofford close out the top-five in the preseason poll.
Phil Steele also announced his preseason All-American teams and All-MVFC teams, with UNI landing one player on the All-American squad and five on the All-MVFC teams.
Junior place kicker Tyler Sievertsen was named to the preseason All-American second team and the preseason All-MVFC first team. During the 2011 season, Sievertsen went 39-39 on extra points, only missed two field goals during the season finishing 18-20 and averaged 61.9 yards per kickoff.
Senior cornerback Varmah Sonie was also named to the preseason All-MVFC first team. Sonie finished the 2011 season with 70 tackles including 37 solo tackles and 33 assisted. He also accumulated one forced fumble, three interceptions and seven pass breakups.
The Panthers had three athletes named to the preseason All-MVFC second team including Misha Danilov, Brian Palangi and Garrett Scott.
Danilov started all 13 games for the Panthers at offensive line during the 2011 season, helping UNI average 167.8 yards on the ground and 166.7 yards through the air per game. Palangi started alongside Danilov on the offensive line in all 13 games during 2011, helping UNI to a total of 2,400 yards on the season.
Scott started all 13 games for the Panthers at safety for the Panthers in 2011. He recorded 105 tackles, nine pass breakups and two interceptions. He was part of a UNI defense that ranked first in the MVFC in pass defense.
The Panthers open the 2012 season on Sept. 1 against Wisconsin in Madison, Wisc. The game is set to kick-off at 2:30 p.m. CT.