St. Thomas repeated as the preseason pick atop the 2018 MIAC Football Coaches' Poll released Thursday. This is the 10th year in a row Coach Glenn Caruso's Tommies have been picked first or second in the coaches' summer voting.
St. John's, Concordia, Bethel and Gustavus again took the 2-3-4-5 poll spots. The Johnnies took two first-place votes, while St. Thomas received the other seven.
The Tommies have to travel this fall to face those four teams that are picked 2-3-4-5 in the poll, and get them all at home again in 2019.
Led by more than 50 juniors and seniors, St. Thomas is also ranked No. 3 nationally by D3Football.com.
UST will play its first three 2018 games -- and six of its first eight -- at home at Palmer Field in O'Shaughnessy Stadium.
A key three-game stretch from Sept. 29-Oct. 13 starts with a road game at Concordia (the Cobbers' Homecoming); continues with a home game against Augsburg (UST's Homecoming and Family Weekend); and concludes with the annual Tommie-Johnnie showdown (this season back in Collegeville).
The Sept. 1 opener is against Trinity International, an NAIA school located in Deerfield, Ill. It will be Tommie Football's first non-NCAA Division III opponent since 1997 (Concordia-St. Paul). Concordia (then known as the Comets and now Golden Bears) was in NAIA before it joined NCAA Division II in 1999.
The Tommies graduated four players who received All-America honors during their Tommie career. But they return 32 of their 50 players listed on last year's postseason two-deeps, led by 2017 All-America center Matt Beck. That includes at least 14 players with starting experience -- including eight on offense -- from an 11-2 squad of 2017 that reached the NCAA playoff quarterfinals.
St. Thomas football returns 85 career touchdown runs or receptions from these seven backs or receivers: Tucker Trettel (31), Josh Parks (22), Stephen Wagner, WR Gabe Green, QB Jaques Perra, WR Vinny Pallini and WR Emitt Peisert.
Over the previous eight seasons, the Toms have a 60-4 record in conference play. That includes six MIAC championships and five 10-0 regular-season records in the span since 2010.
Overall in 11 seasons under Caruso, the Tommies are 110-17, including a 92-12 slate this decade.
Over the last 13 seasons in Division III, just four programs have made multiple trips to the Stagg Bowl title game: Mount Union (11 times), UW-Whitewater (nine times), and St. Thomas and Mary Hardin-Baylor (two each).
St. Thomas has been ranked in the D3Football.com top 25 for 118 of the last 119 polls.