Defending MIAA football champion Hope will be the team to beat this fall according to a pre-season poll of the league's head coaches.
The Flying Dutchmen, who last fall won their first outright football championship since 1987, received four of the possible five first place votes. (Coaches could not vote for their own team.) Albion, which has been league champion or co-champion 10 of the last 12 seasons, received the other two first place votes.
Hope ended with six points in the poll followed by Albion 8, Alma 14, Kalamazoo 18, Adrian 19 and Olivet 25.
This is the 34th year of the pre-season poll. The eventual league champion has not been correctly picked since 1996. Hope was picked to win the championship in 1998, but the Flying Dutchmen ended second. Hope last won the championship when it was the pre-season favorite in 1987.
After losing its season opener, Hope won eight consecutive games and gained a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Coach Dean Kreps will welcome a squad of nearly 160 players for pre-season practices on Monday, Aug. 20. The season opener is Sept. 8 at Valparaiso, Ind.