PARKERSBURG - Defending West Virginia Conference football champion Concord wasn't picked as the team to beat in 2012.
That honor went to veteran head coach Monte Cater's Rams from Shepherd while Glenville State College second-year head man David Hutchison's Pioneers were picked sixth, just behind Fairmont State University.
"From top to bottom, it just doesn't matter," said FSU head coach Mike Lopez of the WVIAC. "There are great coaches in this league and some great assistant coaches in this league and great players in this league.
Glenville State Schedule
"On any given Thursday and Saturday anyone can win and it has been proven year after year after year. Everyone has the objective of winning the West Virginia Conference. It's easier said than done."
Following is a breakdown of Glenville State's WVIAC opponents.
The Falcons have a new quarterback this year in Bobby Vega and he will look to energize a unit which ranked 117th out of 152 Division II teams in total offense. FSU also will be looking to shore up its pass defense (104th) and net punting (108th) if they hope to challenge for a conference crown.
WVIAC freshman of the year running back Daniel Monroe was a yard shy of 1,000 and scored 13 TDs in 10 games. He ranked 25th in D-II in rushing yards per game.
The Rams did have the sixth toughest defense to run against last year, allowing less than 100 yards a game and All-American Matt Wilmer is back after leading the nation with a 23-plus yard per punt return average.
Two-time first team all-conference safety Dewey McDonald returns to lead the secondary while fellow all-WVIAC first team pick Garrett Davis is back at linebacker after posting a team-high 101 stops.
Only four teams in the country had a worse rushing offense than the Hilltoppers in 2011 as WLU rushed for an average of less than 50 yards a game. West Liberty also will be looking to improve upon respective ranks of 145th nationally in turnover margin and sacks allowed.
First team all-WVIAC wide receiver Brandon Schroeder was the biggest bright spot last year after snaring 76 receptions for more than 1,000 yards. He tied for 11th in D-II in catches per game (6.91) and his 91.55 receiving yards per game average was good for 21st in the land.
West Liberty, which has 42 returning letterman and 17 returning starters, has been slowed by some preseason injuries. The defense is led by senior linebacker Kyle Agustin, whose 91 total tackles ranked him sixth last season in the WVIAC.
CU, which returns signal-caller Zack Grossi (2,541 yards, 17 TDs) and top receiver Ryan Stewart (44-831-10 TDs) has won 21 games in the past three years and will hope to better a 7-4 overall mark from a year ago that ended in the playoffs following a 17-14 loss to Kutztown.
Coach Justice's team will try and improve upon a ranking of 109th in scoring offense after the Mountain Lions put up just better than 23 points a contest. The solid season was helped out greatly by having the seventh best turnover margin in the land.
Defensively, Jake Lilly made 115 total stops last year and his average of nearly 10.5 a game placed him in the top 20 of all D-II tacklers.
W.Va. State blew a 16-3 cushion entering the fourth quarter at Morris Stadium last year as Glenville State rallied for a 30-23 overtime triumph.
The good news for the Jackets comes from the fact they have a lot of returning lettermen and head coach Earl Monroe's squad dropped four games by a combined 22 points.
Ricky Phillips, who finished 20th nationally in total offense last season, will try and improve upon his 2,460 passing yards and 18 TD passes.
Former George Washington star Felix Mollett is expected to compete for backfield carries along with junior LeFloyd Phillips and senior Aubura Taylor.
While NFL Hall-of-Fame quarterback Joe Montana's son Nate Montana is expected to call the shots behind center for new offensive coordinator Tommy Ziegler, there's little question he'll have a tough time replacing the nation's total offense leader and conference player of the year Adam Neugebauer. Although the Bobcats did bring former Pittsburgh Steeler running back Willie Parker on board to help coach the offense, Wesleyan returns just three starters to that unit.
The Bobcat defense did finish in the top 40 overall last year and ranked sixth in pass efficiency defense. All-American defensive end Jonas Celian will try and have another huge season after finishing his junior year ranked tied for fifth nationally in sacks and tied for 14th in tackles for loss. Senior linebacker Jesse Robertson also returns and finished 22nd in D-II in tackles for loss.
Head coach Pat Kirkland's squad started 0-5, but won five of their final six games. Roberts' efforts will be bolstered by the return of All-American candidate George Davilla on the offensive line.
Although senior defensive lineman Jeff Green is back after registering 11 sacks to finish tied for 29th in the nation, any upward movement in the WVIAC for UC is going to depend on whether or not the defense can slow opposing teams down. A year ago, the Golden Eagles gave up better than 445 yards a game (135th) and had the eighth worst pass defense in the country.
One thing which could help the defense is the fact first team all-conference punter Puma Nuredini returns after averaging nearly 40 yards a boot last year.
Coach Cater's squad enters the season not only picked to dominate the WVIAC, but the Rams are also ranked 19th nationally and for good reason.
Shepherd led all of Division II in total defense (254.64 ypg) and rushing defense (63.91 ypg). The Rams were also third in scoring offense (43.55 ppg) and third in tackles for loss with an average of nearly 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage an outing.
Bobby Cooper will look to better his 2,161 yards passing and 16 TDs from a year ago and Kenny Williams could be poised for a 1,000-yard rushing campaign after going for 842 stripes and 14 scores in 2011.
Defensive end Howard Jones is one of many stalwarts back to punish opposing offenses this season. All Jones did as a sophomore was finish third nationally in tackles for loss and tied for fifth in the land in sacks per game.
There's plenty of room for improvement for the Pennsylvania squad after ranking 144th in rushing offense and 143rd in total defense.
A bit of good news is Ryan Morris (1,600 yards, 9 TDs) returns at quarterback. Seton Hill's top wideout is expected to be DJ Carter while linebacker Calvin Mason and safety Darius Turner will try and help bolster the defense.