The college football season is a month away but the Central States Football League, annually one of the best in the nation, has announced that Northwestern Oklahoma State University, the two-time defending champions, is once again the team to beat.

In its annual pre-season poll, comprised of the league’s coaches, sports information directors and selected members of the media, Northwestern picked up eight of the 10 first place votes to total 41 points. Southern Nazarene University (Okla.) garnered the other two first place votes and racked up 34 points to earn the nod for second.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University was chosen to finish in fifth in the CSFL, which has six teams. The Lions return a host of key players, including senior quarterback Jason Rice (Katy, Texas / Texas State) and could be an offensive force. The start of fall camp begins on Aug. 15.

Langston University (Okla.), a perennial power, is the choice for third with 30 points, while Bacone College (Okla.) is the fourth place pick with 24 points. SAGU had 16 points. Texas College (11) was chosen sixth.

The league’s six constituents are in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Oklahoma Panhandle State University, a CSFL scheduling partner, is in Division II of the NCAA.

Northwestern has been unbeaten in league games the past two seasons. Last year the Rangers were 8-3 overall, qualifying for a berth in the NAIA playoffs. Southern Nazarene assembled a 7-4 regular season. The Crimson Storm’s only CSFL setback was a 62-42 loss to NWOSU.

Only 10 points separated Langston from wearing the crown. The Lions, 6-4, ended their 2010 campaign by coming up short at Southern Nazarene, 30-27. They also lost to NWOSU, 20-13.

SAGU had a disappointing 2-8 campaign last season. However, seven of their losses looked like anything but defeats early in the second half of those games.

The Lions were on the short end of a 28-6 season-opener, limiting Austin College to just 201 yards. Turnovers allowed the ‘Roos to score four times with drives of 30 yards or less.

The Purple Pride had a 7-0 second quarter lead at Howard Payne until a two-and-one-half hour delay due to a major thunderstorm. Their outstanding play and mojo suffered when the game restarted around 10 p.m.

A 13-7 lead in the third quarter at Southern Nazarene became a 35-21 loss after some costly turnovers. SAGU held a 27-22 advantage at Langston with just eight minutes to go, but fell, 41-27. Despite outgaining Oklahoma Panhandle 450-335, SAGU came up short to the Aggies, 35-31.

During a 44-7 defeat at the hands of Northwestern, the Rangers’ powerful offense was shut out until the third period. The Lions’ defense held them to only 273 yards. Knotted 7-7 at intermission, SAGU miscues allowed the game to get away.

Leading Texas College 7-0 late in the third quarter in the finale, five turnovers took their toll in a 27-13 loss. The Steers could gain just 238 yards.

Contact Mark Warde, Southwestern Sports Information Director, at mwarde@sagu.edu or at 469-658-2847.