The University of Central Arkansas Bears were the top pick in the 2020 Southland Conference football preseason poll released Wednesday amid the “Virtual Media Day” activities for the 11 football-playing schools. The SLC preseason team is presented by Hercules Tires.

The Bears, SLC co-champions in 2019, received 12 of the 22 first-place votes and 190 total points. Sam Houston was second (170), followed by Nicholls (169), Southeastern Louisiana (157), McNeese (113), Incarnate Word (104), Abilene Christian (101), Stephen F. Austin (60), Houston Baptist (59), Northwestern State (49) and Lamar (38).

“We are excited and honored to be picked No. 1 in the pre season poll,’ said third-year UCA head coach Nathan Brown. “We also know that the preseason poll means nothing and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us.

“The Southland conference is as deep and talented from top to bottom as I have seen it in my 14 years of being in the conference as a player and coach. Anything can happen on any given week.”

The Bears had a league-high 13 players named to the preseason All-SLC first and second teams released last week, and return nine starters on both sides of the ball from a team that finished 9-4 overall and 7-2 in league play a year ago.

“We look forward to the challenge ahead and also feel like we have as talented and deep a team as we’ve had in recent years,” said Brown, whose team has reached the FCS Playoffs in three of the past four seasons.

UCA is scheduled to open the 2020 season against Austin Peay on Saturday, Aug. 29.

in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.

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