Coming off a second-straight share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title and an appearance in the FCS playoffs for the third time in the past four years, the Illinois State football team was picked to finish fourth in the 2016 Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason poll.

Five-time defending national champion North Dakota State was selected first in the annual poll voted on by the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media.

The Illinois State football team is once again ranked nationally heading into a new season, as the Redbirds are ranked No. 10 in the STATS FCS Preseason Top 25. To no surprise, North Dakota State will enter the 2016 season as the FCS favorite. Having won an NCAA-record five straight national titles, the Bison earned 152 of the 158 first-place votes from a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.

Led by head coach Brock Spack, who begins his eighth season at the helm of the program (56-29), the Redbirds are working toward making the playoffs in three-straight seasons for the first time in program history. The 2016 squad returns 15 starters (nine offense, six defense) from last year’s team and features five players who were selected to the MVFC preseason team. Included in the group are 2015 All-MVFC First-Team selections Anthony Warrum and Mark Spelman, and they were joined by Kyle Avaloy, Brady Tibbits and Alec Kocour. Spelman, Avaloy and Warrum were also selected as preseason All-Americans by STATS.