Salukis drop to third in poll

By Gus Bode

Only a week after taking the number one spot in the Division I-AA top 25 poll, the SIU football team dropped to third Monday, following a 34-28 loss to Division I-A Western Michigan.

The Sports Network, who releases the weekly poll, announced the Salukis’ Gateway Conference rival Western Kentucky (2-0) as the new number one team, with New Hampshire (2-0) taking second.

Normally, a loss would mean a further drop in the polls, but Sports Network’s executive director for I-AA football Matt Dougherty said the voting committee, which is made up of the media, sports information directors and radio play-by-play announcers, usually is lenient with losses to I-A teams.


“In I-A games, posters are much more lenient because it doesn’t really count too hard against you as far as a playoff birth goes,” Dougherty said.

Last year, after SIU attained the number one ranking in the second week, the Salukis lost to I-A Northern Illinois but still maintained the top spot in the poll.

Dougherty said it is common for a team not to lose any spots despite an I-A loss if the team plays well. Western Carolina (2-1), a I-AA team, moved up three spots from 22 to 19 despite losing to I-A Cincinnati by the score of 7-3.

Despite playing Western Michigan to a close score, Dougherty said SIU (2-1) dropped in the polls because of the caliber of the Broncos from an I-A standpoint.

“It was a pretty expected drop,” Dougherty said. “Western Michigan isn’t one of the better I-A teams, so I think that’s why they dropped a few spots.”

Montana (2-1), the fourth ranked team behind the Salukis, suffered their only loss of the season to I-A Oregon Sept. 10. Though Oregon is a statistically better team than Western Michigan, Dougherty said Montana did not surpass the Salukis on the poll because they played poorly against the Ducks and in a close win against South Dakota State last weekend.

Montana head coach Bobby Hauck said he agrees the Salukis deserve the higher ranking.


“We may be ranked higher than we deserve right now,” Hauck said. “We are not playing great football in all facets.”

Western Kentucky, who was ranked number two behind the Salukis last week, spent the weekend in a bye but will travel to Alabama Saturday to take on perennial I-A powerhouse Auburn.

If the Hilltoppers are able to keep pace with Auburn, they will likely be secure in the number one spot regardless of win or loss. If the Tigers run over them, however, the top spot may be up for grabs with SIU in a bye for the upcoming weekend.

SIU won’t face the Hilltoppers until Oct. 29 at Bowling Green, Ky. Western Kentucky head coach David Elson said he isn’t entertaining the possibility the match-up may be between two top ranked teams. The Salukis have won the last two games between the two.

“There is a lot of football to be played between now and then,” Elson said. “I don’t know that we can even begin to discuss that. We got a handful this week, and that is all I’m really concerned about.”

Reporter William Ford can be reached at [email protected]