ABILENE -- The unbeaten ACU Wildcats are ranked No. 1 in the first NCAA Division II Super Region IV poll of the season, which was released Monday afternoon.
The Wildcats – 6-0 on the season for the third time in the last four seasons – are ranked ahead of No. 2 Central Washington (6-0) and No. 3 Northwest Missouri State (5-1).
ACU's signature win of the season came on Aug. 27 when it beat defending national runner-up Northwest Missouri State at Shotwell Stadium in a game that was nationally televised.
Earlier this season, Central Washington knocked off defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth and a nationally ranked West Texas A&M squad. Northwest Missouri State, meanwhile, has reeled off five straight wins since the season-opening loss to ACU to get its season back on track.
Missouri Western State – which lost to Northwest, 49-35, last Saturday – is No. 4 in the poll, followed by Washburn (Kan.) at No. 5 and unbeaten Texas A&M-Kingsville at No. 6. The 6-0 Javelinas are right now in the last playoff spot, despite not having lost. They are sitting right behind three one-loss teams from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
Angelo State – which hosts ACU at 6 p.m. Saturday in a game that has huge post-season implications – is ranked No. 7, followed by Fort Hays State at No. 8, Midwestern State at No. 9 and Central Missouri at No. 10.
The top six teams in the final regional poll of the season (released Nov. 8) will advance to the NCAA Division II playoffs. ACU is trying to reach the post-season for the fourth straight season under head coach Chris Thomsen. The Wildcats were the No. 1 seed out of Super Region IV last season, advancing to the national quarterfinals before falling to Northwest Missouri State.
The other No. 1 seeds across the country are Bloomsburg (Pa.) in Super Region I, North Alabama in Super Region II and Minnesota State-Mankato in Super Region III. The Mavericks of Mankato are a bit of a surprise at the No. 1 spot as they edged out Grand Valley State (Mich.) for the No. 1 spot in the region. The Lakers of GVSU are the nation's top-ranked team.
The defending national champion Bulldogs of Minnesota-Duluth are ranked No. 5 in Super Region III. In Super Region II, perennial national powerhouse Valdosta State (Ga.) is unranked after opening the season 2-3. The North Alabama Lions of first-year head coach Terry Bowden are 6-0 on the season.
In the American Football Coaches' Association poll, ACU remained at No. 2 in the nation behind Grand Valley State with North Alabama sitting at No. 3. Central Washington and Bloomsburg flipped spots with Central Washington moving up one spot to No. 4 and Bloomsburg dropping a spot to No. 5.
Texas A&M-Kingsville is ranked No. 9 in the country, while Tarleton State – which lost to the Javelinas, 34-20, last Saturday – is No. 15 and Midwestern State is No. 18. Angelo State – which hasn't been nationally ranked since the final poll of the 2005 season – is ranked No. 23 in this week's poll.
With both teams in this week's national rankings, Saturday's game between the Wildcats and Rams marks the first time the game has featured two nationally ranked teams sicne Oct. 18, 1997, when the fourth-ranked Rams beat No. 19 ACU, 42-10, in San Angelo.